For those who worried about me hiking ‘The Grand Canyon,” I did as my kids planned, and I survived. Actually, I came home feeling exhilarated, invigorated, and much younger. Of course. that high didn’t last forever. All the stress of having a fantastic time on three separate ‘vacations’ all in July (with a week to spare on each end) seemed to bequeath me a nose that yesterday and today drips with the annoyingly consistent frequency of a faucet leaking into a stoppered sink. But this, too, will pass so don’t worry. It gives me the joy of having something to complain about.
After I lay in bed at the ANWA retreat, talked with Joan, my second cousin three times removed, until well after three o'clock Saturday morning, slept until six, took a short hike with Liz Adair, joined in a long conference with the very oldest woman at the retreat, taught a class and finally critiqued all the way home with Lorna, Liz and Kay, I was almost tired and sleepy enough to want to back out on the Havasupai hike, but my kids wouldn’t hear of it. (Wow! Would you like to count words and diagram that sentence?)
“Mom, we’re only doing this for you. You’ve got to come!” they said. So I did.
Three of us ladies went down to Supai Village by helicopter. Sixteen more of my family (in age between six and pushing sixty) hiked it. It took us ten minutes, while they hiked maybe five hours. Though I stayed in an air conditioned lodge about like the hotel room we had in Colorado City, the rest hiked on down to the camp grounds and endured a gentle but steady three hour rain on many of them who slept ‘under the stars’ rather than to have added a tent to their back pack.
I found Supai to be a village full of friendly people, friendly dogs, and tired mules and horses. Havasupai Canyon feeds into the Grand Canyon of the Colorado farther downstream from the National Park. This canyon is part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation that also includes Peach Springs. The cliffs are high and interesting, with lots of color, but neither as wide or as colorful as those in the Park.
The village fascinated me. There are maybe two or three four-wheelers, and at least one front-loading tractor, but mostly everybody walks a slow, ‘Havasupai Shuffle.’ In the village there is a medical clinic, a school, and a ‘head start’ school with a playground that’s off limits during the summer. The one restaurant had lots of tables, inside and out, and featured fry bread and other fast-food items. The two stores sold mostly convenience foods, including ice cream and cold drinks. There’s a small museum, a civic center and a couple of churches, but that’s all the public buildings I identified.
The pathways are deeply sandy, and the children are fascinating. Mostly shy, both young and old warm up to smiles and greetings.
Sannette (about seven years younger than I) hiked the two miles plus down to the camp ground on Tuesday. The sky was overcast and a cool breeze kept the heat from bothering us. I hiked considerably slower than Sannette, who is not only my son’s mother-in-law, but my second cousin two or three times removed. It undoubtedly must have annoyed her to have to wait for me, but she was kind.
We swam for perhaps half an hour in the cold water beneath beautiful Havasu Falls, and I loved posing for the dozens of pictures my amazed family took. None of them expected me to do nearly as well as I did.
We hiked on down to the campground for lunch (all of which they had back-packed down). My kids point blank refused to let me consider going on to Mooney Falls, so after resting in a hammock (Wayne taught me how to lie down without falling out, but I still didn’t dare doze off) we got ready to start back.
It might have been the irritation of having to wait so often for me, or maybe because she likes horses, but Sannette rode horseback to the village that afternoon. I elected to hike, and I believe I hiked back a bit faster than I went down. Just my oldest son accompanied me back, and he held my hand most of the way; a poignant reminder of when I held his most of his preschool years.
I did not wear a pedometer, but I estimate I hiked somewhere between five and six miles on Tuesday, and strolled a mile or two on each of the other days. I would like to have done better. Maybe next time I will.
Coming out of Havasupai on Thursday, I rode in the front seat of the helicopter, which is immensely better than behind. The view is almost unimpeded, and I felt rather like an eagle soaring above the canyon walls. That could get addictive.
I got home on Thursday evening, in plenty of time to rest up for the baptism Saturday morning of the great-grandson who, like a real trooper, had joined his grandparents for the grand canyon hike. Pretty neat.
I think next time I'll try the Bright Angel Trail.