That Time We Almost Died In The Desert

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The reason we decided to hire a car and explore the West Coast while we were in the US was because of Havasu Falls.

For those of you who don’t know, about a 70 mile drive from the nearest civilisation, and a further ten miles on foot, is the small town of Supai, home of the Hualapai tribe, one of the most remote communities in America. Around 600 people live there, and they are the last remaining village in the country to still receive their mail by mule, as a result of not having cars or roads in or out of the town.

Reservations to camp down on their land are few and far between, with the entire year’s worth selling out in a matter of minutes every February. We spoke to people on our visit who had been trying for years to get a reservation with no luck, so we were fortunate to have snapped two up at the first time of asking.

If you haven’t already seen the photos I’ve put up, there is a reason to hike all the way down to this remote area, and it isn’t to have tea with the locals. Roughly two more miles from the village is an oasis of bright blue waterfalls, heavenly pools and cool, pristine streams that run through a mile-long campsite.

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We began our journey by sleeping in our car. Due to the heat in the canyon all are advised to begin their journey early, so we arrived at the trailhead (a dusty car park with vile compost toilets and some scary wild horses), around 8pm, and “slept” in our car, waking up at 4:30 to pack up and begin the hike.

The walk down was surprisingly enjoyable, and as the sun was slowly rising, the canyon walls were lighting up from the top down, revealing the different layers and colours previously hidden in darkness. The first mile and a half was a 2000 feet descent on windy switchbacks which gave us great vantage points for photos, but already made us dread the hike out.

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Around 3 hours later, we arrived in the village. Given its location and isolation, we weren’t expecting luxury, but the cafe we visited (the only one down there), wasn’t bad, and the mass of tourists made us feel like we were on an excursion, rather than in a tribe’s home. We filled up on breakfast bagels and headed off on the final two miles into camp, passing Fifty Foot Falls, where we climbed down and had a paddle, Navajo Falls, and a constant, beautiful stream.

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With tired, muddy feet and wet, sandy clothes, we finally arrived and set up our tent just a few feet away from the bright turquoise stream. Surrounded by high canyon walls, almost 100 miles away from a proper town or city or flushable toilet, I felt completely free of stress. No phone signal, no plug sockets, no work, it was a paradise in the middle of the desert, and despite the dehydrated food not being all that edible, it was amazing.

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The day of arrival, we went to see Havasu Falls, the main attraction, and got an early night. Our first full day started early, awoken by the sound of running water, crickets and hikers who were leaving that day (slightly less relaxing). We were going to attempt what was a further eight mile round hike to Mooney and Beaver falls, two more features further into the canyon, but when we discovered that the climb down to the former was some chains and small foot holes on the side of the 300 foot cliff face, we (I) decided against it. Instead we lounged by the incredible but oh so cold waters of Havasu, where we took plenty of photos and video, and I found a spot to jump off a small fall.

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After another poor night’s sleep, we got packed up and began our hike out. Having taken around 3 and a half hours in total on the way in, I predicted 4 to 5 hours out, taking the ascent into consideration. Oh how wrong I was. SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS LATER, we reached our car, saved by a native who gave us four bottles of water when we’d completely run out and had that last mile and a half climb I mentioned earlier, in the hot midday desert sun. If he, and a lovely couple from L.A., hadn’t given us water, I honestly think the next few days would have been spent criminally dehydrated and in need of medical help. However, it was totally worth it.

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The hike out was the hardest thing either of us had ever done, and being that isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world was so out of our comfort zone. But the falls, the canyon, everything was near impossible to describe and something I will never see anything like ever again.

But in the moment, leaning against the car downing a cold Gatorade with weak legs and sunburnt nose, I was glad to be out and close to normality. Our next stop was the Grand Canyon, and although we were missing a little enthusiasm, weight and the rear floor mat of our Kia Sorento (long story), we were grateful for what we’d experienced and excited for a hot shower, comfy bed and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

One thought on “That Time We Almost Died In The Desert

  1. Wow what an amazing experience and adventure. Glad you made it out with the memories and story to tell. Looking forward to hearing more about your amazing holiday when I see you Saturday

    Like

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