Root Family

Root Family

Aug 18, 2014

Havasupai - August 2014

This place had been on the radar for quite some time, but always seemed such a big endeavor because of the distance to get there (Southern side of the Grand Canyon).

Alene was originally going to be going on this trip, but due to the amount of time she had already spent being away from the kids this year she ultimately decided to stay home. On the trip was me (Tyler), Bill, April, Bill's sister Whitney, and April/Bill's son Lanik. The drive down there was a good 12 hours with stops, gassing up, etc. We got out at Hoover dam to stretch our legs a bit before continuing on. We were in no rush to get to the trailhead, so we took our time. 
We arrived at the trailhead later that evening once the sun had set (around 10pm or so). We spent the time sorting out our backpacking gear and getting prepared for an early rise to avoid the heat hiking in. We slept on the ground next to our car and woke up around 4:30am. Packs were finished and we were off by 5am. 

The hike in is relatively easy, almost all down hill. We didn't see much of it due to hiking in the darkness with head lamps. About half way down we started to see a few groups here and there on their way out. By the time we arrived at the junction of the main canyon (where Havasu creek starts) it had become pretty light. From there it was a few more miles to the main village, then another couple of miles to our campground.

The campground area is a "first come, first served" basis and you just kind of find your spot. We picked a spot not too far from the fresh water spring they have set up. Since we arrived on a Thursday the campground was not too full. A few small groups here and there, then a couple of large boy scout groups (more on that later).

The first set of falls you see after passing through the village is 50' falls, then little navajo falls. Once you enter the campground area, you're first met with Havasu Falls, which is stunning. by the time we got to camp it was pushing close to high noon and it was hot. We quickly got our things set up and ran back up to Havasu falls for some soaking and swimming. The blue water there is so surreal, you look as if you're in the caribbean. We spent a bit of time jumping off some small rocks nearby, then headed back to camp.

After resting a bit we strolled about 3/4 mile down to Mooney Falls, which is also just as stunning as Havasu. This one required the infamous climb down a set of some really slippery rocks with nothing more than a slippier chain to hold onto. I'd venture to say the climb down was a good 200', if not longer. Kind of scary, but makes it worth it.

Mooney falls was beautiful and directly below it was a fun little set of falls with a small rope swing. Under those falls was a tiny alcove you could swim under and out of. We spent the rest of the day at Mooney, then headed back up to camp for dinner and some shut-eye.

The next day we trecked on down to Beaver Falls, which was about a 3 mile hike from our campground. The first part of the hike was pretty much down the creek, but eventually the canyon widens and you're wandering through lush greenery in scense many people have described like being in a tropical canyon. The trail crosses the creek one more time, then eventually you're at Beaver falls. We spent quite a bit of time there swimming and jumping off some rocks above the falls (jumping from the actual falls are restricted).

Eventually we headed back to camp and as we sat around and talked about "what else" we all kind of decided that there wasn't much more to see/do, so we planned to hike out that night, instead of spending another day there. I know many people would be just as happy to lounge around the canyon, but that wasn't something our group really cared to do.

We attempted to head to bed around 9:30, but a group that arrived that day decided it would be a great idea to set up their camp about 40' from us, which seems like a big distance, but in a canyon even a general conversation at that distance can seem loud. There were TONS of other available campsites in the area, why that close to us? When we went to bed was about the time they all decided they wanted to get really rowdy. We all kind of thought they would follow the campground rules about "quiet time" after 10pm, but being that the locals don't really seem to care about what goes on in the campground, we knew it wouldn't be enforced. We all patiently waited in our tents, trying to sleep, but when 11pm came around Bill decided to yell out at the top of his lungs about how people were trying to sleep, but it didn't seem to do much. I was sleeping in my hammock and witnessed two women in their group nuzzle up even closer to our campsite and decide to do their business not more than 20' from April and Bill's tent. Eventually I got out of my hammock and walked over to their campsite and assertively told them that I hated to be the guy to break up the party, but we had to get up in 2 hours to hike out and we are not getting any sleep because of how loud they were being. They seemed really cool about it and immediately broke things up and headed to bed. Honestly though, who are these people that have no regard for others when camping? I don't mind being loud and up late when I know there is no one nearby, but it's just basic consideration when you have neighbors, especially when you decided to camp close to them.

We awoke around 1:30am with intentions on being on the trail by 2. We wanted to hit the parking lot at sunrise and we knew we would be gaining elevation the whole way. On our way out we noticed a pack of dogs rummaging through a large pile of garbage bags that one of the scout troops had left behind (there were tons of feral dogs in the area). One of them saw us hiking out and casually just came up to join us. We thought it was cute and figured he would eventually stop at the village but he just kept following us. Hiking out in the dark was much different and there were a few areas where the trail would split. It wasn't as if we would get lost, but this dog would always stay out in front of us and end up taking the correct trail. We knew he had probably done this hike 100's of times. Eventually we started calling him Marcus (I have no idea where that name came from), but he was an awesome dog. Stopping when we stopped, snacking with us, just being a good companion. He was even smart enough to know where to fill up on water as the trail left the canyon next to Havasu creek.

As we headed out on the hilltop trail away from the main canyon I fell behind a bit because I was doing a little re-packing. As the group got about 1/4 mile ahead I heard a loud growl and started to double time it back. Eventually I heard Bill yell back to see if I was OK and I responded. As I came to this small climb next to a dry fall I looked off to my left and noticed one of the locals crouched in a fetal position off the trail about 10' from me, as if he was trying to hide from me. It was really weird and kind of scared me for a second. I caught up to Bill a few minutes later and asked if he heard the growl, he said he did and he was pretty sure it was a horse (which made sense after I thought about it). I then mentioned the dude crouched and hiding on the side of the trail and he said he did, but the guy was trying to avoid us somehow. It was just weird. We carried on, watching our back a bit here and there, but all was good.

It began to get a tiny bit light and with every break we took we were more and more tempted to just fall asleep right there; we were that tired. Marcus would continue to stop with us, then move as we moved. He was such a good dog and we could not believe that a local dog would be so nice to move along with us like that.

Eventually we came to the steep climb out. We trudged our way out, one foot after the other until we all made it out. Marcus was funny because he'd see us doing these long routes following the switch backs, then he'd just take the straight shot up the hill and cut off the switch back, looking at us like we were stupid for not following him. Once we made it to the top, Marcus ditched us for greener pastures (we assumed). We felt kind of used, but were happy he kept us company.

Getting back to the hilltop was a relief. It was nice to get back, high-five, etc. but we had a long drive ahead of us. We worked our way back to Kingman, AZ and made a well-deserved breakfast run at a Cracker Barrel, then began the rest of our long journey home.

A few comments on trash and I promise I'm not trying to be a blow-hard. I know I'm preaching to many in the choir regarding trash, but I was shocked at how much garbage there was the minute we reached the hilltop to prepare to go into the canyon. It was full of non-stop litter the entire way. Plastic water/gatorade bottles, cans, paper, plastic bags, cardboard, etc. everywhere. It was sad and overwhelming because I know I could have carried my own large trash bag and filled it up within a few hundred feet, but there was no way I would have had the strength to continue to carry it out without dropping and possibly ripping the bag again. In order to clean the canyon up you would definitely need someone to helicopter in large 30-yard dumpster after dumpster until it was done.

The question though is where is it coming from? These conditions persisted through the canyon and into the village. I have to wonder if it's just not a priority for the locals? I'm positive blame is placed on both (locals and visitors) so I hope that someday efforts can be made to improve this. I'd imagine due to the fact that people can pay to be helicoptered in or you could do the hike, but pay to have a mule pack your stuff in, maybe it's telling me that lazier people are dirtier?? I have no idea, but I had many thoughts running through my head about this.

One thing that impressed me and angered me at the same time. Two boy scout troops in the canyon and two different spots. The first group was preparing to leave the day after we got there. It appeared they were all from Arkansas and one thing I noticed was this HUGE pile of trash in their campsite, but I could tell it was not their trash; it had been trash they picked up in the canyon. Large piece of scrap metal, even a tire, along with bags full of trash. The next morning when they left the trash was gone. I was impressed that they took it upon themselves to live the true code of leaving the place better than when they arrived. This impressed me.

The next troop was from Southern California and being that many of them wore BYU hats or "Mormon Dude" shirts (in the shape of a Mountain Dew logo), I assumed this was an LDS scout troop. This troop packed in tons of stuff and decided it was a good idea to bag all of their garbage (about 4-5 large garbage bags full) and leave it behind in their campsite for the dogs to come through and rip apart and spread all over the area (which is what our beloved "Marcus" was enjoying). This angered me.

Overall the experience was awesome, but honestly the trash really left me with a bad taste in my mouth and somewhat of a downer. I really hope someone or a group can enact an effort to clean up the canyon. I think it would make the experience for everyone more enjoyable.

With that said, some pictures from the trip:

Havasu Falls

The climb down to Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls

Small waterfall below Mooney Falls. You can swim behind the falls on the left

View from under the falls

Small waterfall terraces further below Mooney Falls

Hiking back to our campsite. This is a picture of some of the campsites right along the river

The green hike down to Beaver Falls on day 2

Heart shaped cactus. Made me think about Alene and Bailey

Beaver Falls. We jumped off the falls at the very top (behind Beaver Falls)

A typical scene as you hiked back up from Beaver Falls

Trash in the canyon hike out. This was what you typically saw the whole way

Our dear friend Marcus.

Video from our trip

Aug 17, 2014

Donut Falls - August 2014

I had just returned from a backpacking trip to Havasupai and Alene was understandably jealous and needed desperately to get out and into nature. We opted to head up to Donut Falls located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The kids love getting out, especially when there is a trail to follow and several "picture spots" along the way. This hike is short and quick and because of that you'll see more people than you would want if you like a little solitude, but still fun none the less. 
At the beginning of the trail

Several picture spots

Alene and Bailey hiking up closer to the falls. This place had changed a lot since the first time I hiked up here about 10 years prior. You could actually see the full falls from the bottom. Now you have to hike up to see them.