Havasupai Falls (part 2)

6 03 2017

Click here for part 1.

The Havasupai campground was spread for about 200 meters along the stream. We set our camp beside the stream right at the beginning.  There was cool spring drinking water available. It was delicious. No hassle with filtering. No campfire allowed though.

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We spent the next morning taking pictures of all the three falls.

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Little Navajo Falls

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Fifty Foot Falls

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Havasu Falls

We encountered a wolf-like dog, who accompanied us along the way, stopping where we stop, following us, and at times leading us up and down the trail. It’s a wonder how I kept my cool without freaking out or paralyzing with feat at that proximity of such a ferocious looking animal. I pat myself on the shoulder but I think I derived my courage from the others in the group. Can’t imagine my plight if I were alone. 😛

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We headed to Mooney falls in the afternoon. It’s a very short walk – about a quarter of a mile – from Havasu Falls on the other side of the campground. They have the same aquamarine look as the Havasu Falls. In my opinion, Mooney Falls are even more beautiful and magnificent than Havasu Falls. But these are hard to reach. The climb down to the foot of the falls is a little bit dangerous, requiring one to pass through tunnels and hold on to the chains and use the ladders installed while climbing down the mountain. But there were strong foot holds, so it wasn’t totally risky. I was trying to compare this with Zion’s Angel Landing climb and at first was very reluctant to take the risk.

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But I’m glad I pushed my boundaries and moved on. Experiencing the falls from the bottom was heavenly. I had a great time.

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The distinct aquamarine color of the water is a result of a chemical reaction between the minerals in the soil and the desert weather. The details of the involved chemistry might sound a little boring, but the result is nonetheless magical.

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Mooney Falls

There were one more falls 5 miles down the stream – Beaver Falls, but were told that at that time it requires wading through waist-deep water to reach them. So, we called the plan off. Maybe next time. 🙂

There were a few, including me, among our group who decided to use the mule service to carry our backpacks back to the hilltop. I’m glad I made that decision as I enjoyed my hike back a lot taking in the beauty of the surroundings. You don’t have to take the hard path. 😉

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Havasu Falls, and Mooney Falls are undoubtedly the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen so far. It was a splendid trip made more memorable by the entire group. Lots of teamwork and camaraderie. I’m so grateful for the whole experience.

 





Heavenly Falls – Havasu

5 03 2017

It’s only a few months ago that I came to know about the amazingly beautiful Havasu falls close to Grand Canyon. My love for waterfalls meant that I had to visit these for sure. The catch though is that since it’s part of Indian reservation area, one needs to apply for and get a permit. This process itself isn’t very easy, usually requiring one to contact the office through phone, which would be too busy to be reached at, requiring one to try at least for a few days to succeed.  I heard that, given the popularity of the falls, the permits for the whole season would be finished with days of opening the reservations for the year (Feb 1st).   It’s a 10 mile hike to the falls, which is not bad. However, day hiking is absolutely not permitted and you have to either camp in the campground, just beside the falls or stay at the lodge in the Supai village, two miles from the falls. When I gathered all this information, I decided that I wouldn’t want to do it alone, uncomfortable with dealing with all the hassle myself. Luckily, some of the people I met through a meetup planned for backpacking to Havasupai this year and I was super delighted. After several members of the group calling the office for a couple of days, it was discovered that they have opened up online applications for the permits this year. Hurray! The permit was obtained and we were all set to go. The timing too was perfect for me.  It was as if the entire universe conspired to make me go.

Since rain was forecasted during that time, I tried to prepare my backpack for rain and wetness. I thought 25lb is a good weight. I’m a newbie to the backpacking world, having done only a couple of short weekend backpacking trips earlier.  But I don’t know why, the hike down was challenging. Maybe the backpack wasn’t fit properly or maybe the last few extra pounds were too heavy for me. The 10 miles seemed to stretch forever. Especially the last 2-3 miles.

We started on the hilltop at around 10 am. It was cold and windy at the top. The first 2 miles was downhill, not as steep as I have imagined. The rest of the hike was all flat, with only minor elevation changes. Given the forecast of rain, I dressed myself in weird suit and poncho for the hike. I’m sure I looked hilarious, like someone from a science-fiction movie. 😉 The weather was pleasant for the hike notwithstanding the rain and showers on and off along the way.

We reached the village after about 8 miles  where we got our wrist bands at the registration office. These we had to wear throughout our stay. The campground is a little over two miles from the village.

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Entering the Supai village

We came across Little Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls along the way beyond the village. We went back the next morning to savor the beauty of these falls in leisure. They are truly spectacular.

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Little Navajo Falls in the front; Fifty Foot Falls at the back

But of course  the true stars of the show are Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls.  When I first glimpsed Havasu Falls, just before reaching the campground, my reaction was one of unbelievability.  They were totally ethereal.

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Havasu Falls

It was dusk by the time we setup our tents in the campground. Despite the fatigue, we couldn’t resist a quick trip to the falls. We relished the cool aquamarine looking water to our heart’s content. I especially cherish the moments when a few of us visited the falls in the dark. It’s just the cloudless dark sky, falls and absolute silence except the roaring water. Bliss.

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To be continued in the next post.





Death Valley – A brief encounter

10 01 2017

What would you do if you could spend only a few hours in the vast Death Valley? Nothing much beyond just getting a glimpse of its beauty here and there, I would guess. Here is our experience when we drove through Death Valley on the last day of the year (Dec 31st, 2016) on our way to the amazing Zion Canyon in Utah.

We absolutely had no idea about what to expect. Other than the meager planning I did in terms of jotting down the names of a few points of attraction, we didn’t actually look at any pictures. That definitely provided an element of surprise for us. I was completely spellbound.

Death valley is about 9 hour drive from Bay Area.  We started the evening before, and spent the night in Ridgecrest. It’s just over 2 hours from there to the national park. We stayed at Clarion Inn on North China Lake. Had fresh wonderful free breakfast at the associated restaurant – Scrambled eggs, hash browns and all. It was a splendid stay, albeit a very short one. Ridgecrest seemed a nice, quiet town with a few attractions to its credit – fossil falls (sculpted lava flow), Naval Weapons Center (one can visit the museum) etc. Wish we could have spent some time in the town.

It’s little over 2 hours to Death Valley from there. Our plan was to reach Springdale, UT that night. We had only about 5 hours to spend in the Death Valley. Left early after the breakfast for Death Valley. The drive was beautiful and we were enthralled by the expanse of wide space and range of mountains and canyons. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, but not too cold. Short winter day was our only problem. 😛

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Driving on the very straight road amidst the flat land, with mountains on the horizon, was quite an experience.

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And then it’s pretty scenery at every turn!

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It was around 11 am by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells ranger station, and started with our first official Death Valley attraction – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We spent an hour there hiking the dunes and it was loads of fun, especially coming down the peaks!

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After the dunes, we headed down to Furnace Creek, where we had sumptuous lunch of fresh garden burger at Forty Niner Cafe. Food is always important! 😛

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Next stop was the Golden Canyon. With only hours before dusk, we didn’t risk hiking the trail at Golden Canyon.  But the gorgeous golden crests are such a sight to behold!

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Artist Drive, with picturesquely colored hills, is a true feast for one’s eyes. The 9 mile drive provides stunning views of mountains laden with colorful minerals – blue, red, yellow, and more.

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The day being cloudy, darkness seemed to approach fast. By the time we covered Artist Drive, it got a little chilly too. We moved on to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

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We drove along a dirt road opposite to Badwater Basin for a couple of miles to behold the natural bridge. It was a tough ride for our Nissan Sentra. An SUV might have served the purpose better.

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The bridge is a short hike from the parking lot. It’s magnificent, to say the least.

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On our return to the car, we were greeted by a spectacular scene: the evening sun rays streaming through a gap in the clouds on to the basin in front of us.

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At this juncture, it was 4 pm and  we called it a day to continue on our journey towards our ultimate destination – Zion! But the day gave us one more glorious sight before it retired – a beautiful rainbow.

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Pardon the sloppiness of the captures. I actually quickly snapped these while driving. I know, I shouldn’t have. But there weren’t any cars on the road and I slowed down for the pictures.

Thus ends our little affair with Death Valley. We parted, though, with a promise to come back and spend ample time hiking /biking/camping. 😐





Sand dunes and Sea lions

23 06 2010

Well, the weather is really unusual in Seattle this year: June still feels like March. Consequently, my summer sight-seeing plans have suffered a lot. Considering all things including weather, our trips so far have all been far from perfect. In Los Angeles, we broke our camera. In Canada, it rained on two days and we couldn’t go to Whistler at all. Another weekend while Saturday was a scorcher, it rained heavily and consistently on Sunday, thereby adversely affecting our perusal of Historic Columbia Byway. (We still got to see a few beautiful waterfalls though.) Finally, on our visit to the sand dunes on Oregon coast we were met by an unexpectedly strong wind that we couldn’t really spend a lot of time.

But may be I’m just being pessimistic. To view the brighter side of it all, I must say we had pretty good time and enjoyed our little get aways a lot.

In this post, I want to share with you some pictures of the amazing sand dunes and sea lions on the Oregon coast. We took a ride on the dunes in a buggy and it had been a great experience. We had loads of fun at Family Fun Center of  Sandland Adventures.

On our way back, we stopped at the Sea Lions Caves, which offered pretty good views of the animals both in the caves and in the ocean. The caves were gorgeous.

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Beautiful British Columbia

6 06 2010

Splendor without diminishment

The long-awaited Memorial Day weekend brought along rain to the North-West. Despite the bad weather, we set out on our trip to British Columbia, Canada. We basically visited Victoria and Vancouver. Though we couldn’t get to execute our plan to the letter, the trip wasn’t bad.

It was raining hard on Friday afternoon on our way to Canada. Strangely there was no delay at the US-Canada border and we reached Tsawwassen bay well in time for the 7pm ferry to Victoria. The clouds cleared and sun came out. At last. The ferry ride was amazing. The scenery was breath-taking. The little island and mountains on the horizon were splendid to look at. I just couldn’t stop saying “Wow!” again and again for the most part of my presence on the deck. The hour and a half journey had been an awesome experience. We reached the Swartz bay in Victoria just as the Sun was getting ready to set.

The popular Butchart Gardens were our first destination the next day. The one word that came to my mind as I walked through the garden was “enchanting”. I don’t think I ever described anything “enchanting” before. It’s just not any other word for me. I have got a special vision and feeling associated with it, ever since I first encountered it in my English textbook around 15 years ago. It described the gardens that Aladin saw when he went down the mountain cave to retrieve the magic lamp for the evil magician. I was very much enthralled by the depiction of Aladin’s visual treat(he was forbidden to touch anything) that I couldn’t associate the word ‘enchanting’ with anything else. Not until I entered the Butchart Gardens. The beauty seemed ethereal.

Later in the day, we also visited a lesser known Abkhazi Garden. It was cute, small,secluded and, of course, beautiful. Royal Wax Museum turned out to be an interesting attraction. One thing that drew my attention was the presence of Hitler in the Chamber of Horrors section. It displayed the gory wax figures depicting the scenes of physical torture, bloody murders, dead handing by a rope, rats scurrying through the corpse’s flesh and…hope you got the idea! In hindsight, the presence of the  greatest human tormentor in the whole (at least recent) history of mankind seemed appropriate in that horror section. But at that moment I wasn’t expecting him.

It was so cold and windy that day but thankfully it didn’t rain. The next day, Vancouver greeted us with the prospect of rain all over it. We visited the famous Capilano Suspension bridge and then moved on to Stanley Park. We were frustrated as we didn’t find a parking spot in the whole park even after taking multiple rounds. At last we had to come out of the park and park the vehicle more than a few blocks away in the downtown. The walk back to the park along the sea wall was pretty. I hoped to avail the shuttle service to navigate the park but I was informed that the service wouldn’t start until June i.e. two days hence. My bad luck. We took the expensive Horse Drawn Carriage tour instead but to my disappointment it covered only a small part of the park. By then, it started drizzling. I was adamant in taking the miniature train ride for the benefit of my son and we could just make it to the last trip.

It was almost 5pm and we were tired and a little disheartened by our inability to cover more points in the park. And the prospect of walking back all the way back to the car loomed like a daunting task. My husband and I got into a heated argument as to which path to take and I grudgingly gave in to him at the end. That actually saved our day. 🙂 My husband wanted to take the main road and we reached a point where the footpath ended abruptly and didn’t know what to do. At that moment, as if god sent, a school bus stopped by and gave us a ride to the downtown. God bless the driver!

Encouraged by this good turn of events, we decided to stop by at Chinese Garden before heading back to the hotel. Dr. Sun Ye-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was impressive. I must say, the best thing of the trip happened at this place. Before exiting the garden we visited the gift shop and were just looking around. Naturally, I walked toward the books. My family followed me and guess what! My son demanded to get a book for him. I was so pleasantly surprised. To give you a brief context to the significance of this event – I have been trying for so long to read to my son and actually engage him and to make him enjoy reading books. He always has been impatient to wait for me to finish reading before he turns the page to look at the pictures on the next page.It has always been an effort for me to make him spend more than a few minutes on any book. And he has a tendency to handle books roughly and seems to take pleasure in ripping or tearing the pages off. So, you can guess my joy at hearing my son actually asking for a book. We got him one, brushing aside our skepticism about his motives and sincerity. But his need turned out to be genuine. He made me read the story again and again numerous time in the next few days. He really enjoyed it. And me too! 😀

Sadly, the rain continued to the next day and we didn’t know what to do. We just drove through downtown for a while and went to Canada Place. It’s a ferry terminal and convention center. It offered good views, as much as a cloudy day can allow. Just as we were thinking to return to Seattle, the rain stopped. We had lunch and then got to see the beautiful Vandusen Botanical Gardens before we headed back to home.

My conviction that gardens are most beautiful when wet has been made stronger by this trip. Almost always when we visit a new beautiful place, we vow to come back in future to take in more of its sights. It was no different this time too. But  much to our chagrin , we almost always never go back. What to do, there are many other unexplored beautiful places out there awaiting our arrival. 😛

One thing that struck me about Canada is that – it ‘s so peaceful. There are less people. It felt like a get away destination. Victoria seemed a good place to retire. And yeah, there were totem poles everywhere. 🙂

All in all, the trip was good. There is so much more I can write about my experiences but I guess this will suffice for now.

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A visit to Yellowstone National Park

27 05 2009

I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park this long weekend (Memorial day weekend). It is the first national park of America. It is well known for its geysers, hot springs and wilderness. It’s a huge park (around  9000 sq km) and offers wide range of breathtaking landscape – beautiful lakes, rivers/creeks, mountain ranges, valleys etc.

Everyone who has been there says that one needs at least a week to enjoy the park (there is no maximum limit, though) and at least 3 days in order to cover the top attractions. We had only a day and half to spend inside the park as the rest of the weekend was taken by the long drive to the park from Seattle (12 hours).

Since we are not into any activities like fishing, hiking, camping etc, we could cover considerable number of attractions in that short time. Nevertheless, we felt that 2 full days would have been better.

Unfortunately, the weather on Sunday, the day inside the park, was bad – it was so cloudy in the morning and it rained from the afternoon. Despite the bad weather and short time and other  inconveniences, misjudgments etc, it was a good trip.

Note: I gracefully admit my defeat and stop trying to describe the  beauty of the nature’s wonders in words. I let my pictures do the job.

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Montana Landscape

Even long before we reached the park, the drive in Montana on I-90 was spectacular, especially the Pintler Scenic Loop part.

Our first stop in the park was at Mammoth Hot Springs near the North Entrance. We absolutely loved it. It’s gorgeous!

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Mammoth Hot Springs

Oh, I forgot to mention: We saw a couple of Mountain Goats on the way to Hot Springs.

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Cistern Spring

Our next stop was at Norris Geyser Basin. It was beautiful too. We reached there at dusk just before the sunset and it gave us a memorable experience.

On Sunday, a few Bison greeted us soon after we entered the park (through West entrance).

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Fountain Paint Pots

Our first destination that day was Lower Geyser Basin. There we have seen a few fountain paint pots in addition to many geysers.

Then we stopped at Midway Geyser Basin on the way to Old Faithful.

At Midway Geyser Basin

Firehole River

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Excelsior Geyser

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Turquoise Pool

Firehole river flowed beside this basin, which added to the kaleidoscope.

We loved the Excelsior geyser, with its crater.

Besides a few geysers, Midway basin also consisted of a few colorful springs.

Old Faithful is the most reliable geyser, and hence the most popular, with eruptions spaced around 90 minutes apart.

Watch the eruption below: 

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Old Faithful Lodge

We also took a quick peek into The Old Faithful lodge nearby. It’s a wooden structure built in 1920’s and looks great. We just walked around a bit and spent a few minutes at the Cafeteria inside.

I think the next destination was West Thumb Geyser Basin. Here we could see a herd of deer. More than the geysers (By this time geysers no more excited us), the view of the massive Yellowstone lake was magnificent.

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After we left that point, we saw an Elk by the roadside. It sat calmly as if posing for a photo session, while people were clicking their cameras at it.

We drove along the Yellowstone Lake for around 20 miles.

Some part of the lake was frozen and we paused at a few viewpoints to take in its beauty.

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Frozen Yellowstone Lake

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Dragon's Mouth Spring

The clouds darkened when we were on the way to Mud Volcano and they broke into steady rain while we were sneaking up to the Volcano and Dragon’s Mouth Spring.

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Bison in Hayden Valley

After that we drove along side Hayden Valley and caught sight of a few bison on the way. By that time I had enough of bison and was hoping to see some other species – but not much luck.

Our next stop was the highlight of the park – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It’s stunning.  It’s supposedly much smaller than the Grand Canyon of Arizona, which is one of the World’s top attractions. I haven’t been to Arizona canyon ,so this is my first experience with a canyon.

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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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Tower Fall

We ended the day by taking a look at Tower Fall. We couldn’t go down the trail to the base of the falls, as it was already 8 pm and there were no people around. I was afraid, lest any animal attacks me.. 🙂

The drive to the Tower Falls from the Grand Canyon was very good – actually a little frightening too as we were driving to the edge of the cliff at a very high altitude (around 10,000 ft). There is still lot of snow in the park.

While we were leaving the park, we saw a herd of bison, which are running and playing. It was quite a sight. There were a couple of baby bison too.

Talking about animals, we might have seen some wild buffalos too. It’s a bit difficult to distinguish between bison and buffalo from a distance.

This sounds like a really good trip. Isn’t it? But I have my own list of disappointments and disasters:

  • I didn’t see any bears
  • Couldn’t go to Lower Falls near Grand Canyon
  • Couldn’t get down to the bottom of the Tower Fall
  • Forgot to buy a souvenir
  • My camera broke down Sunday evening

Wah 😦