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Havasu Canyon Trail
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mini location map2014-12-12
18 by photographer avatarhippiepunkpirate
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Havasu Canyon TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Dec 12 2014
Backpack38.50 Miles 4,475 AEG
Backpack38.50 Miles3 Days   3 Hrs   30 Mns   
4,475 ft AEG30 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Tim, Dustin, Derek, Tanner, Marius, and Nick joined me on a 4 day trip down into Havasupai. I've always wanted to get down there during the fall colors, and while some areas were definitely past peak, it definitely didn't disappoint. I was also excited about a substantial decrease in crowds, which didn't disappoint either. The weather going into the trip looked interesting, with a storm rolling in the afternoon of the first day. We had a pretty uneventful hike down in the mid-day, and we only saw four other hikers on the trail down to the village. From the village, we had a dog accompany us (Tanner dubbed him "Guide Dog", "GD" for short). When we reached the campground we had it all to ourselves. We setup shelters (three of the others and myself were hammock camping!) well before the rain fell. Tim and I went up and hung around Havasu Falls before dark, met a couple dudes from L.A., the only other people in the campground with us that night. Rain started falling in the evening and it was off and on through the night. Guide Dog slept with Tim in his tent.

Day 2, the tentative plan was to hike all the way down to the Colorado River. The group wasn't real quick getting going, so Tim and I went down the Mooney Ladder ahead so I could get some shots. Forgot how much it terrifies me to go down that thing. Guide Dog barked at us from atop the ladder, begging us to come back up. The whole group made it down by 10:30, and we headed to Beaver. Nick turned back at the first creek crossing due to foot issues. Arrived at Beaver Falls around noon, and had the whole thing to ourselves. Fall colors were peak at Beaver. Some of the guys went cliff jumping until a squall came in with some rain. It was a fast mover though and the rain stopped in a few minutes. Tim and Tanner decided to head back, and the rest of us pressed on. I set a quick pace for us, as it was already 1:00pm. Some of the creek crossing/route finding slowed us a bit, but we were cooking it down the trail. It was farther than I thought to get to the river, however, and I wanted to get back up Mooney before dark. At 2:30, the end was in sight, but I called turn around time. Derek wanted to drink a CAG, so him, Dustin and Marius took a rester as I headed upstream to snag a couple photos. I had a feeling they were going to try to go to the river anyway, and although I didn't know it for certain, that was the case. I made it back to Beaver around 4:15, and I had felt like I had been taking my time, so I was getting worried that I hadn't run in to the other guys. About then another squall pressed though. I shouted down canyon a couple times, but got no response. I hoped that they had passed me without me knowing, but I grew more and more worried as the sun got lower and lower. I booked it upstream, ascending the ladder just before dusk. I was really hoping that I was the last one back to camp, but camp was dead quiet when I returned. Nick and Tanner were apparently asleep, but Tim was lounging in his tent. I said, "Tim, please tell me I'm the last one back." Negative. We headed back to the ladder to wait for the others. Dusk was upon us and the light was fading quick. We turned the on red lights on our headlamps as beacons. Our eyes and ears would play tricks on us. Both of us thought we saw brief glimmers of a light down canyon. At one point I thought I heard voices at the bottom of the ladder. We contemplated descending the ladder in the dark, but decided that it wouldn't help anything. We wondered if someone was hurt. We expected that if that was the case, someone would stay back and the other would return for help. Then it went pitch black. It was in those minutes that I saw the "dark" side of the Canyon. I've spent I don't know how many hours telling canyon new-comers stories of Canyon deaths, warning people not to get too close to the edge or carry plenty of water when hiking. Yet it was standing on top of that cliff, squinting into the black narrow mouth of Havasu Canyon, worrying to death about the safety of my friends, when I truly understood how dangerous it could get out there. Tim emphasized patience, but I was about 10 minutes away from running like hell up to Supai village to make the phone call, when we saw the distinct movement of headlamps in the distance. Two of them. We hollered with glee. We knew that all three guys had to be down there, no way they'd leave one person for dead. When they got close enough I lit them up with the high beam on my lamp and we saw three silhouettes. We went down the tunnels and met them at the top of ladder. Relief overwhelmed me. Apparently Tanner and Nick had awoken and gotten worried too because as we came out of the upper tunnel, they were there awaiting. Apparently after sitting around at the turnaround point for 20 minutes drinking beer, they decided to make a push for the river, with success. I'm glad they made it down there, but Good Lord did I get the bejesus scared out of me. As a side note, after returning to camp earlier in the afternoon, Tim hiked with Guide Dog up to Havasu Falls, and happened to run into Guide Dog's owner, returning him to his master. We never did learn Guide Dog's real name.

After a thoroughly exhausting Day 2, we were all pretty happy that I had wisely planned Day 3 to be a rest day. We all would've been hurting like crazy if we had to hike out at that time. Despite it being a "rest" day, I still ended up hiking about 4 and 1/2 miles. When I got up in morning, I hiked up to Havasu, and then up to Fifty Foot Falls to take photos. When I was on the way back, I ran into Tim who was hiking up to Supai to check things out up there. When Tim got back from Supai, we all went up to Havasu Falls to hang out. After that, Tim and I went back down the ladder one more time so I could get a few more shots down there, and we also explored just a bit up Watahomigi Canyon. No rain all day, but still nice clouds. The December sun was basically behind the cliff all day, and we never really got sunshine at camp, although I got a nice dose on my morning solitary hike.

Day 4 was the hike out, and it was relatively uneventful. Nick was really hurting on the climb up, so I loaned him the cash to fly in the chopper back up to the trailhead. The rest of us made pretty good time getting out, going from camp to car in 4 to 4 and 1/2 hours. What a blast this trip was! Especially enjoyed having the place to ourselves. I didn't want to leave on the last day, especially with the great view of Havasu Creek that I had from my hammock...
Maidenhair Fern
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Autumn Foliage Observation Substantial
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