Monday, May 21, 2012

4 Days in Havasu Canyon

A long overdue trip to one of Arizona's most spectacular canyons finally became a reality this weekend thanks to my good friend Brian and a few other guys looking to do a little exploring in the Grand Canyon. Here's the recap from our weekend in Havasu:

Day 1 (Friday) - The group met in Seligman, AZ on Thursday evening at a small hotel along Route 66.  Brian organized a "guys trip" that consisted of Mark, Slade, Pat and myself after a few people dropped out last minute for various reasons.  Anyways, we woke up and drove to the trailhead (or Hulupai Hilltop as its called) on the Havasupai Reservation, arriving around 9:00am and began the initial descent at 9:45.  The wind literally pushed us around before the hike even started, and carrying a huge backpack didn't help our cause.  That wind also created problems later on by way of blowing sand and dust!  Not to worry. Even with the weight of my pack, the sheer excitement completely trumped how uncomfortable it was carrying 50+ pounds on my back down steep switchbacks and across several miles in a sandy wash.

Before noon we arrived at the travel office in the village of Supai and picked up our camping permits.  Slade and I waited for Pat while Brian and Mark went to claim a spot.  Upon leaving the village, the sound of rushing water enticed me to hike faster, and minutes later I caught my first glimpse of Havasu Falls. As impressive as it was, there was so much more in store for us this weekend! Camp was set up by mid-afternoon so the 5 of us spent a few hours at Havasu Falls before making dinner and turning in for the night.

Day 2 (Saturday) - Saturday we ventured downstream for the much anticipated hike to the Colorado River, and let me tell you, it didn't disappoint.  Waterfall upon waterfall in the bluest water I've seen since a trip to Glacier National Park back in 2004.   I originally thought the 13 mile round trip journey was going to consist mostly of wading through Havasu Creek to it's end at the Colorado, luckily there's a trail to follow making travel quite swift.  I had a feeling this was going to be a nice trek, after factoring in all the sights, sounds, ease of travel, and the fact that you can stop to swim in a picturesque waterfall whenever you please, this has to be one of the Grand Canyon's best hikes! 


Day 3 (Sunday) - This was undoubtedly the "lazy day." Most of us stayed in our tents as long as possible and then slowly began moving in an attempt to make breakfast.  Once everyone was ready, we hiked up to the Supai village and sat down for some coffee.  The idea was to wait for the morning sun to heat up the canyon so we could swim at Rock Falls without shivering the entire day.  As far as the hiking and camping went, temperatures were perfect.  Swimming, on the other hand, not exactly.  Although, we spent a little time at Rock Falls where Brian and I initiated a cliff diving frenzy!  Mark and I made our way back to the village for a Supai Burrito and people-watched if you will.  I wanted to get a feel for how the town operated and talk to travelers making their way into and out of the canyon.  There was definitely a lot to take in down there.  Back to camp we went to make one last dinner and prepare our gear for the hike back to the hilltop in the morning.  Before dusk, Mark and I took a stroll over to Mooney falls for one last look before dark.  All the sudden something caught our eye near the bottom of the falls.  A swarm of bats (possibly 400-500) flooded out of a small crack in the travertine wall and filled the sky!  What a sight to see!

Day 4 (Monday) - Time to get moving! We decided on departure times and tried to get our entire group out of the canyon before noon.  Mission accomplished!  All things considered, the hike went pretty well and we made it out safe and sound.  The hike out took less than 4 hours and driving 5 1/2 hours back to Phoenix on Memorial Days seemed effortless. 

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to visit such a special place so close to home.  Besides having the most unique collection of waterfalls in Arizona (possibly on the planet), the canyon itself is visually stunning and at times resulting in a sensory overload.  It's just too hard to describe.  I highly recommend taking an extra day to explore the area beyond Mooney Falls to the Colorado River if you can handle the mileage, just be sure to pack a good pair of water shoes!


Mileage Stats

Hulupai Hilltop to Supai Village - 7.5 miles
Supai Village to Havasupai Campground - 2.6 miles
Havasupai Campground to Colorado River 6.5 miles

Total Trip Mileage - 42 Miles with 5437ft of Elevation Gain in 17 Hours of Hiking

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Angel's Landing - Zion National Park

Angel's Landing Hike
Zion National Park
Springdale, Utah
Mileage 6.61
Time - 2:51
AEG - 1796ft

Mother's day weekend in Zion National Park was a quiet one, and the weather was just too perfect not to take advantage of our time in Southern Utah.  Brittney and I had breakfast and took the shuttle from Springdale to the visitor's center and then into the actual park.  My legs felt surprising good after the race so we decided to hike Angel's Landing, a 1.1 mile hair-raising climb that follows a narrow ridge to the summit.   

Don't look mom, I'm about to crawl up the edge of that cliff!  A chain rail guides you up an exposed section of the mountain with a drop off of over 1,000 feet on either side in route to the top.  Since 2004, 6 people have died attempting this very hike, as stated by the National Park signage.  There's nothing better than a huge payoff after a tough trek, and our reward was an incredible view of the park and river valley below.  A quick bite to eat, and back down we went in hopes to get ahead of the crowds making their ascent.  Once we reached the trailhead, Brittney and I continued hiking past the Grotto to the river near Zion Lodge where I stopped to soak my legs in the icy water.  Talk about refreshing!  We had lunch at the lodge, then headed back to Springdale for a relaxing afternoon by the pool.  Once I had a chance to really think about what we had accomplished, I would have to put the Angel's Landing hike in my all time top ten treks next to Mount Whitney, Cactus to Clouds, Rim to Rim, Cochise Stronghold, Pioneer Peak, and the Mount of the Holy Cross.  It's a true American Classic, and we enjoyed every minute of it.   

Angel's Landing Summit

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weekend in Flagstaff

The weekend started off right with sushi on Friday at what may become our new favorite place (Masa in Gilbert, AZ).  I stayed in town this week for my long run, for the sake of saving time as Brittney and I were heading to Flagstaff for a little camping trip in the high country.  My plan this week was to run for 3 hours and try to log approximately 18 miles with a bit of elevation in preparation for the big race.  As far as running is concerned, I've been able to train consistently for the past 4 months and feel better than ever.  I'm definitely ready to put in a solid effort at my next ultra; the Zion 50M.  

Driving up to Flagstaff couldn't have gone better.  Perfect weather and very little traffic seemed to be the theme for the weekend.  OK, so waking up to a 30-degree morning wasn't perfect, but the daytime temps were very pleasant.  We spent the afternoon downtown walking around, shopping, eating, and of course I stopped for coffee!  Then it was back to our campsite and we went for a nice hike in the pines before settling in and making dinner over the fire.  Sunday morning was freezing.  Literally, it was below freezing when we woke up in the tent! Nothing a hot shower, oatmeal, and some coffee couldn't fix. We broke camp and drove North through Sunset Crater National Monument to the main attraction for the day; Wupatki National Monument.  According to the NPS website "For its time and place, there was no other pueblo like Wupatki. Less than 800 years ago, it was the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around. It was home to 85-100 people, and several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. And it was built in one of the lowest, warmest, and driest places on the Colorado Plateau."  Check out the pictures below.

San Francisco Peaks from Wupatki

Main pueblo at Wupatki