The trip started so peacefully. We’d traveled from Phoenix to Seligman, Arizona — maybe you’ve seen Cars — and stayed in a clean, simple motor lodge for the night. We rose early (2:30) and drove the 90 miles to this view. We parked, unloaded the bags we’d send down by mule train, and hoisted on our packs. We had 10 miles ahead of us, mostly in a slot canyon, to reach Supai Falls.
The hike down went as planned. It was hot by the time we’d reached the campground next to the falls at 10 am. We had hours to wait for the mules, carrying our tents. So, we changed to bathing suits and jumped in the ice cold pools. I swam with the kids for a couple hours, only exiting to nap in the hammock with a good book.
Soon, our tents were up and dinner was warm. Even though I’d planned ahead and frozen meals for the trip, I didn’t plan well for spoilage. Ice leaked into the food container ruining ten meals. We scrambled to our packs, gathering the trail mix and granola bars we had to plan out the next few days. Others in our group shared with us too; we ate two meals during the next 56 hours, supplementing with handfuls of cashews and peanut M+Ms.
The temperature was around 100. If you were at the campground, you wanted to stay in the shade. Sleeping was a sweaty endeavor; thankfully we were all so tired from the hike, we collapsed the first night, rousing only to hold our breath during a spectacular monsoon thunderstorm crashing down around us.
The next day, we hiked on further to Mooney Falls. I didn’t climb down to the falls this time; the height and lack of ladder made my anxiety jump into my throat. I was fine climbing through the caves on the descent, but once I got a bit down the first section of chain link hand holds, I gulped and climbed back up to the edge. It was too much for me, and I’m sorry I couldn’t summon more courage.
See that path there? Straight down, holding those chains? About 70 feet. Gulp.
Instead, we returned to the previous set of falls and continued to swim the day away. We played cards, napped, read and had a blast. There were a few scrapes and bruises from going over small falls too quickly — but otherwise everyone was in good spirits. We’d just finished preparing dinner when a Havasupai park ranger on a horse came through camp, going tent to tent:
“Pack up. There are flash floods. Everyone must evacuate to the village.”
We were all still in bathing suits, enjoying the cool while it lasted. We scrambled into hiking clothes and boots, packing up tents and gear as quickly as possible. The mess kits were stowed away dirty, no time to wash. We left our bags in a pack in the mule corral and once again slung our hiking packs over our shoulders, headed the two miles to the village. When we arrived, there was space on a tile floor in a community center where they wanted everyone from the campsite to spend the night. We thought we’d try our luck and instead continue on.
We should have listened. We got a mile or so further down the path only to see rushing water and had to quickly turn around and head back to the community center. We slept a couple hours (again, the perk of exhaustion) on the floor, rousing a bit after midnight to try the hike again. Mercifully, the water had receded and we were able to carefully pick our way across what remained of the water and mud to get back to the slot canyon.
Under a full moon, we hiked all night back to the car, arriving at 4:30 am. We slept until the car became too hot. An Indian woman sold cold sodas and watermelon in the parking lot. I ate like I’d never seen food before. By noon, the mules did miraculously arrive and we were on our way home.
The swimming made the trip worthwhile, but I’m still catching up on sleep and calories. And I’ve said more than once, loudly, that our next vacation will include: a cabana, a view, massage, tequila and guacamole on everything.