Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Days 12 and 13 - Supai, AZ

I doubt anyone would be surprised that I've wanted to see the waterfalls of Supai, AZ ever since I first saw a picture of one. Who wouldn't enjoy seeing the marvel of turquoise waterfalls flowing out of red rock canyons? They're truly unique since desert waterfalls typically have more of a brown, almost muddy color (which doesn't sound pretty, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of these days I'd love to see Grand Falls near Flagstaff, AZ).

Most, however, would opt not to see these waterfalls due to the the effort and cost required to get to them. If you're rich, you can take an expensive helicopter to the village of Supai. If you can afford $94 each way per person, you can take a mule ride. And if you're poor, you can hike 8-10 miles over terrain that's the equivalent of extremely sandy gravel. If you go in the summer you're likely to be hiking in direct sunlight in temperatures over 100 degrees. First cost when you get there is $35 per person just to enter the village. It's 8 miles to the village where the lodge is, which is $145 per night. If you stay at the campground, which is 2 miles further and close to the waterfalls, it's $17 per person per night. If you want to camp, book way in advance. I tried booking a campsite for mid-July at the beginning of April. The entire month of July had been booked for several months already, and there weren't many rooms in the lodge available either. There were a few single nights available, which meant our only option for seeing these falls was by spending 1 night at the lodge. Even if you wanted to do it all as one huge day trip, the visitor's center won't allow it. You must be booked at either the campground or the lodge or they will turn you away. I wasn't thrilled about the expensive room or the fact that we'd have to hike out on the same day that we saw the falls, but since both of us had already become attached to the idea of coming here, I made reservations for one night at the lodge.

I wish we'd had 2 more people to split the cost with us since the $145 room has two queen beds and covers up to 4 people. If you have 4, it's worth the extra $20 per person to stay in the lodge since it means you don't have to carry camping gear with you as you hike. It wasn't quite worth the extra $111 for just the 2 of us, but it was nice to have a bed to sleep in, air conditioning, and a shower after the dusty hike in.

The hike itself wasn't bad as far as difficulty goes. We were also extremely fortunate to have partially overcast skies protecting us from the direct sun and temperatures a good deal lower than 100 degrees. However, Oscar and I made the huge mistake of hiking in the shoes we also intended to wear while swimming in the waterfalls. I wore hiking sandals and he wore his vibram 5 fingers. Though the shoes were great while we were in the water, they were a horrible choice for hiking this particular terrain. Both of us had a lot of foot pain and several blisters, which made the hike feel much more difficult than it was. I wouldn't complain, though, if we hadn't had to hike even more the next day. It was 8 miles in to the lodge, but then 2 more miles in to the waterfalls, and it was definitely too late for us to try seeing the waterfalls on the same day we hiked in. This meant after we thrashed our feet hiking 8 miles in uncomfortable shoes, we then had to hike 12 miles in those same shoes the next day. I was extremely tempted just to pay for a mule. After we hiked out, one of the mule drivers asked for a ride to Peach Springs, saying he'd give us a free mule ride whenever we came back. If only he'd made the offer earlier! We still gave him a ride since it was only a few miles off our route to the KOA in Seligmann, and we ended up eating a yummy dinner at the hotel restaurant where we dropped him off.

We had a pleasant surprise upon arriving in this tiny Native American village that's out of the way of the out of the way (4 hour drive from the Grand Canyon south rim entrance in addition to the 8 mile hike in). The first building we saw was an LDS chapel. I'm impressed that they have enough church members in this tiny village to justify building a chapel for them rather than just holding services in a member's house.

The side pics are what it looked like hiking down into the canyon and the middle pics are what the town looked like from just outside the Supai lodge.

Another unique thing about the Supai waterfalls is that they're constantly changing due to the high amount of flash flooding that occurs in this region. What was once Navajo falls is now a series of multiple cascades. We nearly passed this one since you can't see much of it from the trail. You have to get in the water and walk up the river a bit, but it's totally worth it. I'd highly recommend wearing water shoes since it's extremely rocky (just don't hike in them!).

There are a few more cascades of the former Navajo Falls further down the trail. I've seen a few pictures of the former falls, and I think this is a big improvement. The flooding cleared out a lot of the previously obstructing brush.

And a bit farther down the trail we made it to Havasu Falls. This was always 2 separate drops before the flash flooding of 2010, but it's still gorgeous.

We came back and swam in this one after hiking down to Mooney Falls. It was wonderful and incredibly refreshing! If only we didn't have 10 miles of hiking in bad shoes afterwards...

And lastly we made it to the top of Mooney Falls.

There is a way to hike down to the base and to swim in the waterfall, but we decided not to do it since the hike down several ladders is a bit scary, and a boy scout recently drowned from swimming too close to the drop. If I ever make it back to Supai (taking a mule from our new friend, of course), I'll hike to Beaver Falls. It's 3 miles beyond the base of Mooney Falls, so we would have certainly needed another day to make it there. I was content seeing Mooney from the top since we could at least view the entire drop.

We stayed at a KOA in Seligman, AZ that night. Oscar caught a great pic of the sunrise that morning.

And we stopped at this lovely lookout on our drive up to Zion National Park. 

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