There are times when a suburban surfer needs a change of scenery from the drive-park-pay-surf routine….or even just the general surf routine. Waves are an amazing and hypnotizing force of nature, but sometimes there is a reason to strike outside of the aqua bubble world and explore parts of nature that offer other forms of incredible beauty.
I CONFESS: I’m not only a wave junkie, but also a nature-loving, granola-eating, outdoor FREAK.
Havasupai–not to be confused with the infamous Lake Havasu–is a Native American reservation located on the north rim of Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon. The Supai tribe is comprised of over 600 members who have lived in this beautiful canyon area for more than 800 years. The tribe’s name, Havasupai, literally translates to “people of the blue green water.” The opaque blue-green rushing streams along with several picturesque waterfalls attract thousands of visitors each year where the water remains a temperate 70 degrees Fahrenheit and weather conditions, at times, fickle. Take one photo of this place and you will feel like a regular National Geographic photog.
A ten mile hike from the hilltop known as “Hualapai” will get you into some of the most breathtaking scenery and peaceful campgrounds.
Here are some tips to consider:
1.) BRING WATER!
And plenty of it. It may be hot and muggy or cool and crisp, but no matter the atmosphere’s conditions, your body will need some consistent consumption of good old fashioned H2O. One liter of water weighs approximately 2 pounds and you will need at least 2 liters for the 8 mile hike into town. We also carried an extra 16 ounce water bottle each and dedicated it to electrolyte dissolving tablets. This was an immense help, especially on the hike back to the hilltop…and it wasn’t even hot.
Unless you are hiring a mule or have the extra Benjamins for the helicopter ride, you will be carrying everything. With all of my gear (clothes/food/water/toiletries etc.), my pack weighed about 20 pounds. This will drain you, especially if you’re not used to the added weight. The terrain varies from soft sandy riverbed to boulders, which will give your calves an added workout.
Case in point: make sure your body is well hydrated–drink, fool.
2.) BUG REPELLENT and MOSQUITO NETTING!!
I couldn’t emphasize these items more! Unless you are wary of the extreme chemicals in bug sprays or you enjoy being eaten alive in small portions, invest in some heavy duty bug repellent. Mosquitoes are a-plenty due to the lush vegetation and water supply among many other factors (Google ‘perfumed lotions’ + bugs). They will hunt you down. If you are camping or sleeping in your car, triple check your mosquito netting application and don’t doubt that these guys will do what it takes to make you their midnight snack.
I discovered sand dollar-sized bumps on my forehead, arms and legs in the middle of the night…eventually, I attempted my best mummy impersonation at 3 a.m. with the mosquito netting.
The only real success? –> Dave smashing the crap out of them against his brand new car ceiling (sorry, sweetie). We lured them towards the dome light while his ninja-like reflexes obliterated their existence.
Well, this is a no-brainer! Any will do because no matter what you bring, you’re going to score stare-worthy pictures no matter where you point and shoot. I recommend a camera that is durable, lightweight and possibly water-proof.
There were times where I was a little worried about slipping on the rocks and sacrificing my expensive lens to the river gods, but alas–my surfing skills paid off. ;) If your feet aren’t scratched to oblivion or resemble truck tire tread (thank you, Uppers!), water shoes are a wise investment for this trip. Save your rock dance moves for low tide at Trestles or when you aren’t toting an expensive piece of equipment. (Note to self: invest in water housing…)
If you are a photog snob and simply can’t live without custom settings and controllable shutter speed, your DSLR’s extra weight on the hike will be justified with frame-able photos in the end. There’s a reason why so many photogs are skinny!
Busting out the smart phone? Invest in a water/dust/shock-proof case for your pocketbook and mental sanity. Just know you will have to save the insta, eff book and tweet posts for later.
4.) HIKING SHOES WITH A GOOD GRIP
There are several different types of terrain once you begin your initial hike. Your shoes not only need to be comfortable, but-more importantly-they need to have a good grip. As I mentioned, the ground varies from soft riverbed sand and ankle-deep pebbles to dirt, boulders and, at times, mud. Conversation among your compadres might become quieter as your focus will shift to the ground–literally. The ground conditions can become slippery, especially when you are hiking down into the canyon. Make sure you maintain a focus–nothing sucks more than a twisted ankle–believe me.
If you have the grapes to hike down the semi-treacherous route to Mooney Falls, not only is your shoe’s grip essential, but you also need think “spiderman” with your hands. One false move could result in a serious injury. Be careful–but know the climb (not hike) to this spot is completely worth the sweat.
Oh, and if your feet are on fire by the time you get to town, I highly recommend soaking those doggies in the rushing creek. It provided me with an uncanny cartoon-like relief.
5.) KEEP SPARE CLOTHES IN THE CAR
Before your hiking adventure commences, remember to leave behind a extra set of clothing inside your car for when you return. After trekking the canyon through heat-or possibly rain!- in addition to working up a considerable sweat while hiking the 2,000 foot elevation climb on those killer switchbacks, everything will be soaking in your own broth. In addition to dust and mud stains, the heat might bake this concoction into your clothes. Wonder why you don’t have to pee as much? The proof is all over your clothes! :)
There are no public showers at the hilltop, so avoid this smelly recipe for perma-car stench. Unless you want your car to smell “eau de you,” have spare clothing on hand for the trip home.
At the very least–> clean chonies!
This is a life-saver, especially if you have a long drive ahead of you.
6.) HAVE FUN!
Havasupai is considered sacred land to the Supai people as they share a close connection to the beautiful water that flows through their village. It is important to always show respect as well as enjoy the natural surround. There are tons of opportunity to not only challenge your body physically, but also kick back and mentally unplug. As in all things in life, work-life balance is very necessary. Take the time to relax, unwind and UNPLUG. There’s no phone signal, internet cafe or wifi for miles, so just accept it and go with the flow. Take photos, make friends, smile at the locals, try some fry bread and contemplate what life was like without the almighty Google!
Cool fact: Supai is one of the only towns that receives mail via horseback.
True story, just ask Charlie Chamberlain!