Rockhounding and Adventure Trips – Supai, AZ Grand Canyon May 2019

I have been lucky enough to go on major Grand Canyon hikes 17 times. Three times in the past I hiked to Supai, the only village located within the Grand Canyon. The first time I showed up at Hilltop Parking to meet a friend. He did not show up. I waited an extra day and finally decided to hike to Supai myself. From Hilltop, it is eight miles to the village and an additional two miles to the campground. I was amazed to find out I was the only person in the campground.

The second time I hiked Supai was with my ex, Chris Sarver. The third time was with my youngest son, Jonathan. I gave him “Supai” for his college graduation present. There was no problem getting reservation any of these first three times. In 2018 when Helen and I decided to try to secure reservations at Supai, we found out how difficult it now is. Campground reservations can only be made online. This year the campground sold out for the whole year in just two hours. I spoke with a woman who said their group was successful in getting campground reservations because they had more than a dozen people trying to access the reservation webpage the second it became available for 2019. A picture of the campground, which is a mile long along the river, is below. What is interesting about this campground is there are no designated sites. First come, first get the best spots.

I have hiked the Grand Canyon twice before with my friend, Helen Riley. We attempted to get reservations at Supai before. One time the bridges were taken out in a flash flood so it was not possible to hike the trail. Another time the lodge was under construction and not available. Also, the campground was already full. So, we decided to try to get reservations at the only hotel in the small village. We talked with a mutual friend, Marcia O’Brien who requested to join our adventure. I began calling the lodge the first day reservations could be made, which is the only way to secure a reservation. It took me over 500 calls and several days to finally get through. When I asked for the confirmation number, they said they would send it to me via US Postal Service snail mail.

We knew the dates for our Supai reservation, so we made airline reservations and booked motel rooms before and after the Supai portion of the trip. Then we waited for the snail mail confirmation to arrive. And we waited. And we waited some more. I even wrote a letter in August and donated money to Supai’s flood recovery program. Still no confirmation. Finally, in January we canceled our airline and hotel reservations and planned a different trip to the Smokey Mountains. In February of this year, we finally received the Supai confirmation letter. We canceled our plans for the Smokey mountains and re-booked our reservations out west.

The first week of May the three of us flew from Detroit to Las Vegas. We rented a car, stayed the first night in Las Vegas, and drove the next day to Peach Springs, AZ, which is the closest town to the hiking trailhead to Supai. On the drive, we stopped and explored Hoover Dam.

The road leading to Supai Hilltop Parking is located around ten miles east of Peach Springs. We left as early as possible in the morning and drove the 60 miles down the access road. There is absolutely nothing on that road except for cows (you must be careful driving) and a security checkpoint when you drive onto Havasupai Reservation land.

When we arrived at Hilltop Parking, I knew things were different. We barely could find anywhere to park. Finally, we got lucky and secured a parking space in the main parking lot. It was a beautiful morning with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 60s. We put on our packs and started down the eight miles to Supai Village.

During our descent, when we were still a couple of hours away from the village, it started to pour rain. We were walking down slot canyons and old riverbeds, so I was extremely afraid of flash floods. For the most part, we were not walking along with active waterways, so we were fine. In fact, you do not even see the river during the hike until you are a half-mile away from the village. We donned rain gear, put away the cameras, and trudged on. We were very happy to finally get to the lodge! There was so much rain, it turned the normally blue-green water muddy brown. Even the locals said that it does not happen very often.

The color of the water in the river is blue due to its high lime content. The lime in the water combines with sticks, mud, and leaves to make terraces in the river as well as amazing travertine formations hanging from the cliffs. All the waterfalls are along a trail that continues north from the village. Fifty Foot Falls and Little Navajo falls are first. Then, the trail snakes around the top and down alongside Havasu Falls. The campground starts just after this falls and continues for a mile alongside the river to Mooney Falls. There is a set of chains, handholds, and footholds to descend Mooney Falls. To get to the Colorado River the trail continues for almost six miles. This is not a well-maintained trail and is very rugged, requiring many river crossings. We decided to not be that adventurous. Pictures of some of the waterfalls are below.

As many of you know, I love my Canon SX 60 camera with its built-in zoom lens. The camera came in handy to get photos of the local fauna and flora. The area had recently received a lot of rain so much of the cacti were in bloom. I have never seen so many flowers in the desert!

While I was training for the canyon hike, I aggravated my right hip. After two and a half days of hiking 22 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation change, my hips were extremely sore. I was afraid of damaging them more (and messing up my golf swing) so I decided to helicopter out for $85. I loaded in some of Helen and Marcia’s weight, they started hiking out at 5:00 am to beat the heat, and I joined them at the top. At least I was able to get some cool photos from the air.

We returned to Las Vegas for a couple of nights, had a good night out with dinner and a Cirque du Soleil performance, and headed home. Thanks to Helen and Marcia for an incredible epic adventure!

NOTE: Helkarcia on our shirts and banner represents “Hel” for Helen, “Kar” for Karen, and “Cia” for Marcia.

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