To get to the Havasu trail head from Williams, you drive north through two hours of nothingness. After that, you make a right turn and drive for an hour more. Permits for this trek sell out within hours of opening for the season, and we were able to get just one night. We arrived exactly when we weren’t supposed to, early afternoon, and a large thunderhead had rolled in. The tribe members stood ready with mules and horses to take supplies and packs down to the village. If I had known you could have your bag ferried for you, I would have played this shit differently. We secured ourselves and began our descent. Going down is easy enough, as you basically begin on a lower rim of a southern part of the Grand Canyon and head in. For the first two miles, it’s about a 2,000ft drop down to a wash that you follow to the village. Very beautiful, and although always with a seasonal caution of flash flood, the hike in is gorgeous. We only had one night, and the hike is ten miles. Eight to the village, another two to the campground. The place has become popular, and the village has done well enough that they have been able to purchase a helicopter that regularly transports less adventurous patrons in and out (for a fee of course.) Considering that they are known as America’s most remote tribe, they have done an incredible job of capitalizing on this tourism, and have a griping history of fighting for their land. Walking through the village is walking through a different country. Not to mention the signs everywhere stating that all forms of alcohol and weed are illegal. Oops.
At campsite arrival, and much cursing later, we once again found ourselves in the land of the white. Everyone was either a spring breaker in quest for adventure, or an older traveler who had flown in on helicopter, and walked down to a pre-set up tent and personal chef. Other people who had their supplies brought to them set up mini encampments with strobe lights and music. Welcome to club Havasu! Then again, it’s a certain kind of demographic that will hike ten miles down into the Grand Canyon and pay $160 per person a night to camp. It turns out I’m one of them. Meanwhile, the tribe members who rode the horse trains through puffed on joints they had picked up from outsiders along the way and half the place was permeated by the smell of weed. The campground was packed and unfortunate for a misanthropist. We found a tent space close to the main trail, and called it an early night. Jason offered to work on my shoulder because my backpack hadn’t fit quite right, and I was all for it. When he first started to move my shoulder, it reminded me of moving a raw roast chickens wings around when you prepare it for the pan, and the fact it’s kind of fun to make them kick their legs out and do the Can-Can. I tried to explain this to Jason, but his reply was “Well, no, I don’t know what you’re talking about exactly, but I know your obsession with making dead animals dance, so in a way, yeah.” I didn’t know what he was trying to get at, so I ignored his comment and focused on the pain in my shoulder. OH GOD YES RIGHT THERE. NO, PUSH HARDER! GOD DAMMIT UGH YEAH. FUCK IT’S REALLY STUCK, GET UNDER IT and so on. It was only later that I realized the flashlights walking by our tent were speeding up and past when they got closer. My shoulder felt much better.
At dawn we decided to start back the direction we had just come 12 hours earlier as we woke up to rain. It was chilly leaving, but I wore shorts knowing better for the later hours to come. Backpacking is an endurance sport, and it’s not one I’m trained for. Or interested in. Just, fuck backpacking. Eight miles later, as we neared the last two miles, being a two thousand foot ascent to the car, one of the supply mule trains came by us. I had $20, two beers, and two edibles, and I was damn sure they would have taken my pack up to the top in trade. I am all for bartering, especially using other people’s things. Unfortunately, that mule train was full, with the last donkey giving me a “bitch please” look and snorted at me as he passed by. Stupid donkey. Jason muttered something about the “experience,” and I was like “whatever.” 20 miles, 2,000ft gain, 24 hours. Even better, a thunderstorm rolled in just as we began our climb. Literally, as we got to the top and made it to Hilde, it started to snow. Namaste bitch.
Part 3 to follow