Backpacking Havasupai Falls Featuring Brian Lorrigan Photography 11

What can I say… Ok… yes you know I ALWAYS have something to say BUT… this has to be seen by your own eyes to truly appreciate the beauty.  A picture is worth a thousand words…  however this is an attempt not to make you feel like you have been there, but to encourage you to GO THERE and witness something truly unbelievable.

I am so pleased to include an extra special guest post for this entry- you all get a break from my futile attempts behind my iPhone camera to capture the sights my eyes get to feast on but rather get to see some incredibly unreal images taken by our trip photographer!  Brian from Brian Lorrigan Photography and his wife Erin joined our group and we were so fortunate to have him chronicling this indescribable beauty.  I can’t wait to show you his work!!  But first a few logistics of course..

LOGISTICS:

I have had an enormous amount of interest from others about doing this trip next year.  I have had many also already commit to going next year with me.  I used several sites to do my initial research.

I have had the fortune of meeting some really awesome outdoor experts and always like to get suggestions from people I personally know.  I used my friend Tim Miner’s blog Trail Sherpa as my guide and for my packing lists.  This had the most complete list I could find and now that I am back from this adventure I am so glad to know it was spot on- well done TS!

You must call many months in advance for a reservation and permit by contacting the Indian Reservation directly by via this website.  For 2 nights it was $81 per person for all access and permits required.

 

Supai Supplies

GEAR:

I went with an ENO hammock for the first time this trip.  What an experience that was… more to come on that later!  I also brought along a Snow Peak Gigapower Auto Stove, REI backpack cookware, Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter and Goal Zero Solar Charger.  I used every single one of them with the Sawyer Water Filter as the most used item.

The most exciting new addition to my repertoire was a new Teton Sports Canyon 2100 pack with a dry bag.  That pack worked perfectly for this 3 day journey.  I also had my ComfortLite Sleeping Pad and Pillow in tow from Teton that I used in Kilimanjaro.  As always they performed excellent, were lightweight, comfortable and rugged. To get my hammock set up correctly I utilized a fantastic resource in the website The Ultimate Hang.

 

 

 

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Teton’s pack The Canyon 2100’s included dry bag went with me everywhere once we set up camp and held all the essential items like phones, cameras, wallets and the water filter.  It folded up into a little ring, I could loop my Nalgene bottle and Solar Charger on it and looked like a perfect and stylish purse for a chick like me!

FOOD:

You guys know me… the food was going to be an issue so that portion of the list I changed up a bit.  We each brought something on the list to share and had a smorgasbord on our picnic table.  It worked out so great- as a matter of fact it was said to be one of the best meals ever by Chris!

Here is what we brought:

 

  • Date, Fig, Almond, Pecan Protein Bars made by my friend Emma from the blog VEGAN ALA MODE.  These were paleo friendly and out of this world delicious! Click here for the recipe.
  • Homemade Jerky compliments of my Kilimanjaro pal Ron aka Yeti Jerky
  • Go Raw Super Cookies
  • Just Pure Foods Veggie Chips
  • Canned/Bagged Tuna
  • Trail Mix / Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Eggs
  • Cooked Bacon
  • Avocado
  • Electrolyte mix or tabs
  • Honey
  • Hot Tea Bags
  • Instant Starbucks Single Coffee Packets
  • Fruit

 

TRAVEL TO HAVASUPAI:

Havasupai is 5 hours from Phoenix via the I-17 to I-40 through Seligman and onto the reservation, click here for exact directions.  5 of the 6 of us met in Flagstaff the night before and planned to hit the road between 5:30 and 6am.  We had one person driving up from Phoenix that morning and got a later start than anticipated.

We arrived at the trailhead Friday morning the 20th of September and headed down the canyon by 9:45am. It was fun to spend a night in Flagstaff but definitely an earlier start would have been beneficial.  Some sleep in their cars the night before at the trailhead.  That seems like a great way to go.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Had we went a couple weeks earlier it would have been to warm or we could have been in a flash flood.  This was also a weekend with a full moon- a photographers dream and a campers nightlight!

 

FINALLY we are ready to GO!!!!

 

 

The Crew

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

I had this Motley Crew with me.

Far left is my fellow mountain climbing junkie and incredible friend Terah.

Next to her is my pal from Kilimanjaro, Chris- my travel buddy!  He took my husband’s spot at the last minute when duty called too loudly and he had to bow out.

To Chris’ left is our photographer extraordinaire Brian Lorrigan and his lovely and adorable wife Erin.

I am to her left, and on the end that leggy blonde is Emma another female adventurer and fellow foodie blogger from Vegan Ala Mode that I adore!

I was very adamant about this being a genuine backpacking trip.  I wanted us to be sustainable and carry our own in and out of the canyon.  I am a stickler about this because I truly believe you get so much more out of an experience when you have to earn it.  You can pay to have pack animals take your gear and food down for you or you can also opt for a helicopter.

I truly believe the beauty we saw would have been muted had we chosen either of those options.  I am not sure everyone was as happy as I was about this in the beginning, at the end of the first day… and certainly not after hauling it all back out on day three!  We had a strong group and each one was capable of this task, in the end I am certain they all had a genuine experience and considering it was everyone’s first legitimate backpacking trip we all had this feeling of accomplishment and awe.

We all suffered.  We all sustained injuries.  We all cursed.  We all felt pain.  We all survived and were stronger after for doing so.  Emma was attacked by a cactus and dislocated her shoulder during a fall.  I lost a toenail and was hit by a falling water bottle in the face giving me a bloody nose.  Brian had some leg cramping and knee issues.  Terah was fighting a recurring painful knee problem.  We all came out of there doing the “Supai Shuffle”.  We also got to view some incredible otherworldly sights and earned those views.  Win, win… WIN.

 

 

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Photo Credit: Terah Alexandra

We descended the 7 miles down to Supai Village.  The trail descended down steep switchbacks into the box canyon then went through slot canyons with dried rocky riverbeds, then began to shuffle along wet rocky and red rock riverbeds.  The canyon is narrow and tall so gets plenty of protection from the sun to help you keep your cool and it is of course so strikingly beautiful.  Chris had never been in the canyon and kept proclaiming in his extremely young hearted and enthusiastic way … it’s.. it’s… SO GRAND!  I suppose that description held on for good reason over many generations and it certainly has no other explanation that fits it any better.

It can still be rather toasty down by mile 5-7.  It is a bit of a grind while hauling a 40-50lb pack through 7 miles sand and pebbles.  When you pass mile 6 you began to see heavier greenery and can no longer hear your boots lazily shuffling through pebbles and rocks- you can now hear Havasu Creek as it whispers encouragement to go on.  Just when you want to throw your pack on the ground, kick it (if your feet didn’t already hurt so bad), curse it and leave it there, you see it- the fabled turquoise water.

 

 

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Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

You begin to cross the creek and can’t believe your eyes.  How could water in the middle of this canyon in Arizona rival the most impeccable beaches in the world?  People have talked about it, you have seen photos, but you think they must be manipulated.  They aren’t- it is really that incredible and we are only to the village.

From the village you check in and get your campsite marker and wristbands, you see the pack animals carrying other supplies as they are very malnourished for the most part, this makes your giant pack seem a little less evil.

 

 

 

BLP

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

It was another 2-3 miles to the campsite from the village depending on where you set up camp.  Of course the further you go, the better campsites you get and the more privacy you will have.  It is hard to think about taking one more step with that pack trying to take you down with every step but it is worth it.  We found a perfect spot after crossing the river 3/4 of the way down the campsite and it was one of the few sites that people didn’t have to walk through to access the falls.

About a mile before the campsite you see the first set of falls- Lower Navajo.  We couldn’t believe our eyes and we were only at the first set.  We wanted to go down and jump in the falls immediately but we still had to find a campsite and get set up.  It was already pretty late in the day.  We continued on.

As soon as you finish marveling at Navajo Falls you first hear it- then you see it.  You rub your eyes, smack yourself across the face, pinch yourself, then look again.  Yes… it is exactly as you are witnessing.  I will let the next set of photos taken by Brian Lorrigan speak for themselves.

 

HAVASU FALLS:

 

descend BL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

 

 

 

 

 

HFBL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

 

 

 

Havasu Falls BL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

 

 

 

HFBL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

 

 

 

 

HFBLPhoto Credit: Brian Lorrigan

 

 

 

 

HFBL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

That moment of silence was full of a thousand thoughts- completely stunning.

We set up camp and spent the early evening swimming in and enjoying Havasu Falls.  We had our smorgasbord and it was an early night for all except Brian who slept part of the night on a picnic table by Havasu Falls to get the nighttime shots.  The commitment he had getting the shot was the work of a true artist and his talent is evident.

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: Terah Alexandra

The next morning after feeling like I slept on a cloud in my hammock I boiled some water from the turquoise creek below and made some coffee- what a treat to drink the mineral water from the creek below and get a cup of coffee!!  My stove was fantastic.

We then set off for Mooney and Beaver falls.  Beaver was the furthest of all at 4 miles from the campsite, Mooney only a mile away and a decent down a slippery vertical wall with chains and wood ladders.   We headed first to Beaver Falls to work our way back up through Mooney and eventually back to Havasu Falls for a repeat of our previous day’s Happy Hour.

Havasu Fall was what I referred to as the big resort pool.  It was the granddaddy of all the falls and the most friendly to swim and play in, it was a perfect place to meet up at the end of all our adventures.

 

 

BEAVER FALLS:

 

BFBL

4 miles hike down the creek from the campsite is Beaver Falls

 

 

 

Beaver Falls

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

Beaver Falls were absolutely worth the hike down the creek.  If not to see the scenery along the way, but also to cross the creek by wading through it several times made it an absolute must see.  It wasn’t nearly as busy as the other falls.  You could walk all around either side of them and jump from certain areas.  There was also a really cool grotto.

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

Terah on the left, myself in the middle and Emma on the right soaking it all in at Beaver Falls.  We hung out here for an hour or so then began heading back up the creek to spend some time at Mooney Falls.

 

 

 

MOONEY FALLS:

 

MFBL

Photo Credit: Brian Lorrigan

Mooney Falls to me were the most impressive.  The current these falls created along with the mist it made by plunging down twice as far as Niagra Falls made it completely wicked.  The limestone rocks behind the falls looked like thousands of petrified waterfalls that had ghoulish faces in them.  I was mesmerized.

 

 

MFBL

The climb down to the base of Mooney Falls was a wicked adventure of its own.  It was a 500 foot drop down a wall like the one across the canyon in this photo.  Weaving through caves and using chains with some sketchy wooden ladders- all while the wicked mist from Mooney falls dampens the wall making it slippery.

I would rate this part of the entire trail as my favorite- when there wasn’t a line of people trying to get down or people dropping water bottles from above.  This is where I took a water bottle to the face from a person above who dropped it.  Thankfully it wasn’t a Nalgene bottle or I could have come out of there with a broken nose or a few stitches- but would have had an ear to ear grin.

The beauty takes your mind of any ache, pain or suffering you feel and soaking in the refreshingly and therapeutically chilly waters wash it all away.  Nature has a way of doing just that- making you suffer enough to appreciate how worth it she is.

We met up at our Havasu Happy Hour for Sunset then went back to camp to pack up for an early morning departure.  Speaking of camp… How did that hammock work out you ask?

 

 

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Photo Credit: Terah Alexandra

My humble abode.  It was like heaven on earth laying in that hammock.  I would slowly sway watching the stars or the clouds float by.  I was so comfortable being cradled and my body appreciated have no impact for once.

We all had our own plans and itinerary’s to get out of the canyon the next morning.  Each of us had a different level of ability and we all wanted to make the climb out on our own.  We each set our alarms and said goodnight.  I knew the latest anyone would be leaving camp would be 5 or 5:30am.  I set my alarm for 4:45 and had my stove ready to make some coffee.  The plan was to wake up and enjoy a few cups while I leisurely packed up.

I blame the next part on my ENO Hammock.

I woke up and pulled my eye mask down off my eyes to see the Full Moon still brightly shining and it was still dark out.  I knew it was early but I was surprised my alarm had not sounded yet. I reached for my phone to see what time it was but could not find it.  I looked behind me at camp to see it was empty, nobody was there, not a tent, not a pack, NOTHING.  I found my phone.  It slipped under my sleeping pad in my hammock. I immediately looked at the time.  IT WAS 6:35!!! Not only was I not going to have my coffee but I was pumping adrenaline like I just jumped out of an airplane.

I felt that sheer panic from my younger irresponsible days – I immediately realized I was at least AT LEAST 2 hours behind everyone.  I had the car keys, I had planned this trip, I was the one who demanded we carried our own packs.  I burst into tears.  I felt like I had let everyone down.  I spun around like a lunatic and packed up camp as quickly as I could then threw my pack on.  I put everything I would need like sunblock, toothbrush and paste, hats, snacks and wet wipes in my small cooler then hung it around my neck.  I am practically running through camp while people are in their pajamas just waking up seeing this maniac brushing her teeth with a white zinc face from the sunblock that had not soaked in yet.

I continued at this blistering pace thinking horrible thought of my friends exhausted waiting and waiting for me at the Supai Hilltop.  I put my blinders on and hauled ass.  I made it to the Supai Hilltop, 10 miles, 2600 feet of elevation gain, with a 40lb pack on my back in 2.5 hours.

I was exasperated when I saw my group right at the entrance to the trail.  I went over expecting to get a lashing, instead I realized they had only been there for about 20 minutes prior to me.

Nothing makes you move faster than the fear of letting your friends down.  I was so happy to see them, and when I finally had a moment to look at myself I realized I still had toothpaste around my lips- but now it had an enormous smile to go with it.

We stopped at the first place along the road we could and I got myself that cup of coffee.  Finally…

 

 

 

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Thanks to my incredible friends for such an amazing adventure.  A special thanks to Brian for chronicling our trip in a way I could never have imagined.  I can’t wait for the next one.

– Jes the CCC

 

 

11 thoughts on “Backpacking Havasupai Falls Featuring Brian Lorrigan Photography

  1. MikesRoadTrip Dec 27,2013 10:27 AM

    Awesome pics. I’ve been here once before and just loved it! I have really wanted to get back to shoot a video. If you go again, let me know. 🙂

    • Jes Jan 14,2014 5:57 PM

      Thanks Mike! Brian did a fantastic job of capturing the beauty but the video would be a great way to capture it too! I am looking to put together a big group for September 2014. I will keep you posted! Thanks for reaching out and stopping by up in the Wick!

  2. Katherine Baxter Sep 26,2013 6:46 PM

    OMG! How wondrous and stunningly beautiful! I already love the Grand Canyon, especially the North Rim as it’s not so crowded, as well as cooler. Thank you for the fabulous pictures! I am not in any condition to make such a hike. Although I guess, I could be, since age is not an issue, if you’re fit. I’m 67 years young, however I have never been athletic.
    Your reports make me want to be, though! My sister-in-law , 65 years young was an active hiker. You may have read about her. She had a heart attack, causing her to fall off a cliff in Sequoia National Park in August of this year. Her name was Johnnie Jean Daniel. My brother and she had climbed Mt. Whitney together without any apparent problems. I did not know her well. However I would have loved to have had the chance!
    You inspire me to become fit. I would love to be able to hike out in nature!

    • Jes Sep 27,2013 10:10 AM

      You my lady are such a vivid reminder of why I do all this. There is nothing like the great outdoors- NOTHING and the more I can motivate others to get outside and see all our mother earth has to offer the better we all become! Thank you for your always kind words and sharing. I truly hope at your young 😉 age you can get fit enough to start enjoying again! If I can help in any way please don’t hesitate to ask!
      Happiest of trails to you!

  3. Jes Sep 26,2013 8:44 AM

    Hey fellas!!! Thanks for stopping by!

    Yes T.S. your posts helped tremendously- thank you for your good work! I need to get back down there to see more- missed the new Navajo Falls and never got to jump from the lower.

    W.D. I would love to see what you come up with behind your camera down there. It will be a large trip but your both welcome to join next September.

  4. Wilderness Dave (@DavidECreech) Sep 26,2013 6:52 AM

    Hey! They actually have a sign at Beaver Falls now??? Nice! That’s helpful.

    Thanks for the vivid reminder that I need to get back down there.

  5. Tim Miner Sep 26,2013 6:31 AM

    Great trip report! And I’m glad our gear list was helpful. That trip never disappoints.

  6. Jes Sep 25,2013 9:37 PM

    Thanks for the comment Sue! I have had many people who have seen many incredible things say this is their favorite place on planet earth. Top of the bucket list for sure.
    I hope to hear of your visit sometime in the future 😉

  7. Jes Sep 25,2013 9:36 PM

    Joshua thank you!! You’re right it seems as though we did miss the new falls! Yet another reason to go back 😉 next year you can show me where they are!

  8. Sue Sep 25,2013 8:49 PM

    Grand indeed! Have to see that myself someday. Beautiful photos!

  9. Joshua Riggins Sep 25,2013 8:36 PM

    Great write up Jes. Makes me want to go back there. Swimming near Havasupai Falls, jumping off Lower Navajo Falls, and the hike out to Beaver Falls… Amazing. The pics were awesome. But you must have missed the new Navajo Falls? Above the Lower falls?

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