Days 1 & Day 2 were a dream, I was certain. We woke up at the CRACK on Day 3 and packed up our things *sigh*. I had my headlamp on as we left the campground, but once outside of the Indian village, it was fully light out. We took a minute to capture our true feelings about leaving. This was probably the only picture that was taken on the way back. No one wants to document leaving.
Despite the uphill grade the entire way back, we set a pretty good pace up the canyon, stopping only once before the dreaded switchbacks. These were a B, let me tell you. Think hybrid of the Stairmaster and the sauna. Once I set my pace, though, I couldn't stop. I knew that if I rested for 10 minutes, I'd rest for an hour. Plus I wanted to capture people's reactions as they emerged from the canyon victorious...or defeated.
Once everyone was back up top, we hydrated, took inventory of battered feet, and then headed to the Stagecoach 66 Motel for celebratory pizza. After PB & Mountain Houses, this sure was tasty! This isn't the full group, but the people that were there signed a dollar bill to represent our trip and hung it on the wall of the restaurant (as per the tradition).
We all walked...limped...Havasupai shuffled...out of the restaurant and drove the 5 hours back to Phoenix, where Ryan graciously hosted us all for the night. John and I flew out at dawn the next day. Driving home from the airport, we agreed that we live a geographically dull place. Seriously, Corn fields have nothing on waterfalls.
The Havasupai trip was my first time multi-day backpacking trip, so I largely relied on the advice of Ryan and the internet. For what it's worth, here's my 2 cents on my gear, what works/doesn't, and some pointers.
- Pillow: I wish I had a small camping pillow! You may think you can just use balled up clothes as a pillow, but don't kid yourself.
- Clothes line: A couple of friends had a small clothes line and some of those small, non-locking carabiners. This was so smart because then you could hang anything from the line, not just wet clothes (think: flipflops, shoees, daypacks, etc).
- Headlamps: These may may seem a bit expensive, but they are so, so worth it. Mine just has two settings: bright and blinding. If I could go back and choose another one, I would make sure that it had another setting with a lower intensity light (they are usually other colors, like red or green). That way you can look at people without being obnoxious
- Shoes: I am by no means a high-mainenance girl, but I brought three pairs of shoes on this trip: hiking shoes, a hiking/water shoe (like this Teva or Keen), and flipflops. I was glad I had each pair. The hiking shoes I used to/from Havasupai, the hiking sandals/water shoes I used for day hiking, and I wore the flip flops around camp.
What I Learned
- Getting stove fuel is a pain: Since Havasupai campground doesn't allow fires, you have to cook over a small camping stove. Here is the one I used. What I didn't realize, though, was how difficult it was to get fuel. You can't ship it out ahead of you, you can't carry it on or check it, and most outfitters will not ship it either. In the end, I had our Phoenix friend, Ryan, pick some up for us ahead of time.
- That I love sports beans: The way to my heart is through sports beans.
What Worked Well
- Not trying to be fancy with food: A lot of websites I read about backpacking encouraged you to get all gourmet out on the trail. I flew nearly 2,000 miles to one of the most remote places in the US. I'm going to remember what I experienced, not what I ate. It was a weekend of beef jerky, Mountain Houses and PB tortillas. Quite frankly, I didn't give a damn.
- Taking my "good" camera: At first, I was decidedly against taking it. It was bulky and would take up room, it could get lost, it could break, I could scratch the lens, etc. You know what, though? If you buy a camera that expensive, it's meant to be used. In the end, I brought it along on the trip and carried it with me everywhere - around my neck while day hiking/wading through the water or tucked away in its case and strapped to my pack. I am so glad I took it - the pictures bring me so much joy.
Now that I'm back in the Chicago area, I'm compulsively monitoring my PTO balance and scoping out some good deals that could determine where I go next. Hiking the Incan trail to Machu Picchu is super high on my list (heck, it's the name of my savings account), but I've also got a heck of a lot more US states to cover before I even come close to all 50. Now that I have all of this backpacking gear, though, I'm sooooo looking forward to using it again...no matter where!