Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Havasupai - Part 3

The nights down in the campgrounds of Havasupai were magical. With no light pollution, you could see alllllll the stars. The magic wasn't just in the stars though, it was in the movement and power of outer space.

**Life Lesson on Peripheral Vision from a Shooting Star**
Use it.

While I was glancing down at the trail on my way back from the bathroom, I saw what was probably the brightest shooting star I've ever seen; bright enough for my peripheral vision to catch it and pull my gaze up and away from the trail at my feet. It made me grateful for peripheral vision, and I wondered a little about how much attention I give to my spiritual peripheral vision. Because, things are happening around me all the time that have power to enlighten and uplift, but in order for them to work that way, I have to see them- and if my spiritual peripheral vision is developed and trusted, the chance of me seeing those things is opened to so. much. more. When light streaks across the canvas of my own life, I want to be able to catch it and let it pull my focus from terrestrial viewpoints to something celestial.

**Life Lesson on Wondering from a Shooting Star**
Do it.

After the bright star alerted me to the heavens, I found a rock slightly off the path that was just big enough for me to sit on with my feet tucked up underneath me. And as I watched searched the sky for more movement, I was rewarded with the most beautiful night-sky event I've seen in my life this far. It was a meteor that sailed through the sky and remained bright for 7 seconds or more (count it... it was a long time!). I could see the burning rock/ice/whatever it was in the heart of the bulb, a halo around it, and a tail as long as the canyon was wide trailed behind.

It was spectacular, and I literally gasped out loud to no one but myself, and then let out that gasp with an audible wow.

A week later my choir sang about the angels singing at Christ's birth, and it kind of made me wonder what that would have been like. If a shooting star could fill me with so much wonder, I can't imagine what it would have been like to hear actual angels in the sky.


The second day we all awoke, heated up our breakfast meals, and prepared to go on a 6 mile round trip hike to Beaver Falls.

(It was fun to see my dad with his brother ๐Ÿ‘†๐Ÿป.) Multiple people tried to convince my Uncle Roger not to go on this particular hike. The first mile or so is grueling with a slippery descent down a steep cliff. The words "rock climbing" and "chains" and "slippery" were used heavily, with a punctuated statement from his son: "Dad, the penalty for failure is death."

But Roger wouldn't have it. He laced up his hiking shoes, grabbed his poles, and led the pack.

We scaled rocks and climbed through caves as we made our descent down the cliff next to Mooney Falls.

After about 1/3 of the way down, we hit a bottleneck of people who were wisely taking their time to descend the rest of the way.

I didn't mind the brief pause because we had this to stare at:

When it was our turn, we all put on our gloves (to provide more grip on the wet, slippery chains) and cautiously watched each step.

Chains and wooden ladders and foot hole sized chunks chiseled out of the rock. I couldn't get my cousin's words out of my head: the penalty for failure is death. He wasn't wrong.

Thankfully we avoided that penalty and all made it down safely.

We peeled our gloves off, took a quick snapshot of the falls from our new vantage point, and continued along the creek on our way to Beaver Falls. I was so grateful that the leaves had decided to start changing just before we arrived. It made a beautiful hike so much more beautiful.

There were multiple river crossings, each one more spectacular than the last. We took our hiking shoes off, strapped our hiking sandals on, and waded into the water, hoping earnestly that the crystal clear, gorgeous, freezing water wouldn't get any deeper than mid-thigh because: cold.

We were lucky. Most of the water only came to knee level, and nothing got deeper than my mid-thigh. 

Before the hike, I had decided that I was going to leave my hiking poles behind. It was only 6 miles, after all, and I didn't want them to hinder me. But as we began to leave our camp, my cousin Jamie convinced me that I would want them. 

And she was so right. Have you ever hiked with poles? I was pretty sure it was for old folks, so I guess I'm officially old. But it's a game changer. On the slippery rocks and sand, those poles provided so much stability- and the river crossings were a breeze even when the current was a little grippy. I'm starting to understand why mountain goats are such good hikers... 4 anchor points are wayyyyy better than 2.

We wound our way down the river, pausing countless times to take pictures in an effort to somehow capture the brilliance and beauty of what we were seeing.

For six miles we played with that river. Sometimes alongside it, other times above it, and occasionally in it. But always we could hear it. Always we could see it. Always we could feel its strong and calming energy. At one point I stood at a viewpoint and felt the depth and brilliance of Leif Enger's book title: Peace Like a River




These are my favorite kinds of hikes. The one where your brain has to engage and solve obstacles (well, not really because the people beforehand who went through and built the ladders were really the ones to solve the obstacles).

Don't get me wrong, I like to walk along a well-maintained path with nary a tree branch or rock to step over; those are the hikes where I do some of my best thinking. But these hikes keep me fully engaged in the present. Watching my steps, searching for the safest way down, breathing in the energy and wisdom of the rugged(ish), beautiful earth all while feeling the shape of it underneath my feet.

Surprisingly, we saw a palm tree in the canyon's bottom.

It was huge- obviously thriving in terms of its health- and I wondered how it got there and if it was happy being the only one of its kind. I feel like that sometimes... different than the masses around me, seemingly thriving, and perhaps lonely. This tree became my favorite of the trip because I felt a kinship to it. I would have hugged it if it was a little more reachable (another parallel? ๐Ÿค”)

Anyway- finally the intensity of the river's noise changed and we turned a corner to see it. Beaver Falls.

The only thing that could have made it any more magical would have been if there was a rainbow soaring from one side to the other and colorful, smiling, singing fish jumping from one pool to the next. I couldn't wait to get down there. Next time I might even find a way to pack my big camera all the way down there because it was just so spectacular, but my iPhone tried its hardest. I have pictures from above ๐Ÿ‘†๐Ÿป, pictures from below๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿป

Pictures from inside

And pictures from behind the waterfall:

Which was very brave of me, you know. The water, as mentioned before, was quite cold, and there was no getting behind the waterfall without... well... getting behind the waterfall.

We finally felt cold enough that we were ready to go. Well, one of us was ready to get out of the water but stay on the bank and stare at it for another twelve hours (๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿผ‍♀️), but everyone else was ready to go. And we didn't want to be hiking in the dark, so that was a factor, too.

We used our towels rags to dry ourselves off,

Took a final picture, and bid goodbye to Beaver Falls. 

I do hope to see it again sometime soon.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Havasupai - Part 2

Havasupai means "people of the blue-green water," and I bet you can figure out why. The village we hiked through in my last post is called Supai, and if you continue down the trail for another 2 miles, you come to the most beautiful waterfall I've ever seen in my life. Not joking. This picture is almost unedited, my friends (just a little contrast and clarity bump). The water is actually that color. I almost died when I saw it.

Havasu Falls.

Here you can see my pack and feel some sort of admiration for me that I WENT BACKPACKING! I've always, always wanted to do it - starting back when I was a teenager and feeling all the jealous feelings that the young men got to do all the fun stuff.

Put me in as a young women leader, 'cause I wanna take those girls BACKPACKING!

Anyway, back to the turquoise water, because that's the real star of this post. 

Like I said, Havasu Falls.

Havasu Falls marks the entrance (kind of) to the campsite. Once you pass the falls, the creek meanders for about a mile with open camping all along the banks. You pick a spot, drop your packs, and make it home.

Exploring the campsite was just as amazing to me as the waterfalls themselves. 

A full mile of this, you guys. A mile.

You just can't even imagine. I tried and tried and tried to get my iPhone to capture the fairy-tale, but it couldn't. You may look at these pictures and think they're beautiful, but I'm telling you... these pictures are a shadow. It felt like I was walking along in a Disney animation and kept expecting fairies and unicorns to come out from around the corners. 

At one point I considered calling out in song to the animals to see if they'd come running, but I didn't want to press my luck.

But if you can just imagine yourself sitting on the bank here... it's not something that just overwhelms your visual senses, though it does do that, but also the sound! Oh, the sound was delicious enough to calm every whit of stress and anxiety and worry. All of those little cascades- like a dream. 

If you walk through the whole campsite, you eventually get to the end of it. And it's quite clear it's the end because the river stops its meandering and tumultuously launches off another cliff to become Mooney Falls. Here's the cliff (notice the tent!):

And here's the water getting ready to launch from a couple of angles:

And then launching, roaring, and falling.

I know it looks the same as Havasu Falls on first glance, but it's not. I'll write more about Mooney Falls next time, because there was a pretty epic hike that took us down there. 

But to wrap up this post, we explored the campsite, ate the most delicious fry bread made by the natives

And swam in the pool at the base of Havasu Falls.

Well, one of us did, anyway.

You might be wondering why there are no pictures of me in the pool? But if you're wondering that, you probably don't know me all that well. I don't do cold water without some intense, intense peer pressure and a promise of warmth afterwards.

They say to come back in the summer. The air is warm and the water is perfect. Deal.

(Although, it was nice to have pictures of the water without it full of people).

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Havasupai - Part 1

Four years ago in the earliest month of 2020, my dad called and asked me if I'd be interested in a 4 day, 3 night adventure hike into Havasupai Falls. It's a 10-mile hike into an unbelievably serene and fairy-tale like campsite with waterfalls of turquoise water (stay tuned for more descriptions and pictures of this magic), 3 nights of camping, side hikes, and the 10 mile return hike to get out. My cousin had just won the lottery (the Havasupai lottery, ofc) and had 15 slots to fill with hikers' names and credentials, and my dad +1 was on her list. 

I thought for a total of .32 second before I jumped in and (perhaps over-) enthusiastically became his +1.

Enter pandemic, yada yada yada, and here we are four years older and finally cashing in on that lottery ticket.

We spent the night before our hike in a little run-down motel out in the serious middle-of-nowhere, Arizona, where the kind old lady on the phone had previously assured me that they had a place to charge my car in their RV park overnight (free of charge, no less!) but had failed to mention that in order to get to the RV park, we would need to drive one and a half miles away from the motel down a dusty road (which was so dark it swallowed everything except the narrow path our headlights cut) and then somehow find our way back. Without the car.

Thankfully we knew some people. My cousin dropped everything she was doing to follow me out there in her hybrid, wait for me to figure out how to plug in my car (flip the breaker, Linds), and drive me back to the motel. And then she did it all in reverse the next morning. Thanks, Jamie. 

That night, my dad and I packed and unpacked and repacked our giant backpacks a few times as we took in the last of the weather forecast - removed an extra pair of long underwear here, added more rain gear there - before we finally shrugged our shoulders and hoped we were ready. 

The next morning, ready to load up on protein at the continental breakfast before the hike, we found 6 things: a jug of orange juice, a jug of milk, two types of bran cereal, muffins, and bagels. Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it fit the vibe of the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn at mile marker 115.

After our starchy meal, we gathered together with the rest of our group and made the introductions. We were an assortment of characters, largely strangers, with a common tie to my cousin, Jamie.

Jamie and her ob/gyn wife, Melani (whose stitching skills came in veryyyyy handy. Stay tuned for that fun story)
Her 76-year-old father, Roger, who was back for a second try after having been carted out of Havasupai on a mule when he was a teenager because of a busted leg
Her pilot brother, Jeremy (who, as a pilot, was quite helpful in predicting the weather)
Her sister-in-law and nephew, Janina and Landon (who were always eating apples. How did they pack in all those apples?!)
Her uncle, Mark (who was a man of few words, and when he used them had the sweetest southern drawl that somehow made me feel like home)
Her swimsuit model/middle school teacher cousin, Tiffani and Tiffani's husband, Mark - (who were both so beautiful and strong that I felt like a plumpy teenage boy next to both of them and kind of wished I'd packed at least a single tube of mascara)
And her friends, Aspen (who I bonded with over the beauty of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g), Hilaree and Creed (a married couple), and Michelle (who I actually didn't get to know very well).

Jamie passed out all of our wristbands, and then we hopped into our cars and drove an hour to the trailhead. Which, if the cavern was in the middle of nowhere, the trailhead was off the maps. Actually, literally, it was off the maps. As we drove into the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the map in my Tesla stopped updating, and my little blue arrow simply marched its way along the gray grid. It made me wonder if that's some kind of thing between Tesla maps and Indian (Native American) Reservations?

Anyway - we finally made it to the trailhead, and here's the view.

The first couple of miles was made up of switchbacks to get us into the canyon.

But it wasn't bad at all. All through the hike and in the couple of days afterward we kept saying how easy it was... we were surprised that we hardly broke a sweat, and our muscles didn't complain at all.

Some of the other people in our group needed to stop occasionally to rest, but Poppy and I kept looking at each other with a shrug in our shoulders. 

It mightttttttttt have had to do with the fact that we let the mules carry our heavy packs, lol.

But, I learned a couple of things from this.

1) Sometimes the only difference between a hard hike and an easy hike is letting someone else take your pack. Those carrying their own packs needed to stop much more often and were walking much slower than those of us who let the mules take our packs down. Mules are capable carriers of heavy loads in ways that we are not.

Just like Jesus.

Sometimes I insist on carrying my heavy packs even when Jesus is standing next to me offering to carry it for me. I stubbornly believe I can do it all - and sometimes I can do a lot - but when I share my load with Jesus, it makes my journey much easier. Jealousy. Judgement. Loneliness. Pride. Pack them up and hand them over. It makes me feel so much lighter.

2) It's important to condition yourself. If I had laced my hiking shoes onto a couch-potato body, I never would have made it. But because I put work into preparing myself before the event, my muscles were strong enough and my feet were calloused enough and my brain was prepared enough to complete the task.

Life will take us up and down mountains and hills. Spend time preparing for them so you're ready when they hit. The greatest trainer for me is the word of God. When I let it sink deep into my heart, I feel conditioned and ready enough for any rough terrain.

Speaking of terrain, this one was quite beautiful.

Aspen and I were particularly interested in all of the circular holes in the rocks all throughout the canyon. Maybe the rocks formed around trees? So interesting.

That little plant growing straight out of the rock right up there (pictured with my shoes)... Talk about bloom where you're planted. 

One of the coolest things about the canyon were all of these rocks that were pocketed with dug-outs. Hikers had, over time, filled the holes with smaller rocks, and it made quite a stunning sight.

After 8 miles, we finally made it to Supai village, which was a fascinating place for a few reasons. Number one, it's small. Very small. The latest data I could find says it has about 500 residents, and it only took us about 5 minutes to walk through the whole village. And, largely because there's no road access into the village, it's the most remote community in the continental United States. The only way in and out is that 8 mile hike on foot or mule. Alternatively, you can fly by helicopter. Apparently it's the only place where the U.S. mail is delivered and carried out by mule.

But even in the remotest community in the continental United States:

Talk about bloom where you're planted.