The Grand Canyon is one of the most magnificent places in the world. Visited by thousands of toursits every year, it is one of those locations you have to see in your lifetime. In the summer of 2009, I rented a car in Seattle and drove down the West Coast on my first road trip. Naturally, one of my stops was the Grand Canyon. However, instead of visiting the South Rim like most people do, I headed to the Havasupai Tribe.
Havasupai is home to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the United States, Havasu Falls. Yet, since the tribe limits the number of people that can enter each day, it is not very well-known. In addition, the ten-mile hike down the canyon is a strenuous one. Reaching the village is a challenge that deters most people. The starting point is a parking lot approximately 150 miles away from the nearest town. Gearing up at 5:00 a.m. to avoid the morning heat, I started down the canyon.
The trail is not for the faint-hearted. The road is covered with rocks and gravel. The route is unclear, and the only indication of a path is the large amounts of horse droppings littered along the way. Ten miles probably does not sound so bad at first, but if you take into consideration the heavy backpacking supplies normally carried, it is actually quite terrible. In spite of my great discomfort, people’s encouraging words such as, “You are almost there! It is totally worth it!” helped me to persevere to the end.
“It better be!” was my reply every time.
After four hours of hiking, I heard the sound of raging waters. Finally! I increased my pace and before I knew it, I was standing in front of the waterfall. It was the most amazing sight I had ever seen. But what is this remarkable waterfall doing in the middle of the hot and dry desert canyon?
Surrounded by the red canyon walls, Havasu Fall is an oasis that is too beautiful not to be a mirage. The water is clear blue, sparkling in the sun light. I wasted no time taking my sweat-drenched shirt off and diving into the cool, refreshing water. The feeling was incredible, probably because I had just hiked ten grueling miles to get there.
It was then that I saw a guy climb up the cliff behind the waterfall and leap into the falls. Intrigued, I immediately swam over to do the same thing. Filled with fear, anxiety and adrenaline, I took a leap of faith and found myself pushed underwater by the immense power of the waterfall. With all my strength I swam out of the current, and as I emerged from the water, I felt like a new man.
Havasu Falls looks amazing in the photos, but in all honesty, you have to see it for yourself to understand its full beauty. I remember thinking on the way to the falls, “This is a once in a lifetime thing. I will never put myself through such torture to see this again.” But, later as I sat by the rapids, soaking in the waterfall’s true splendor, I set the date for my return.
I will be back. Definitely.