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. 😐