Thankfully, Nina kept her balance and made it safely to the riverbank. We cheered, then started off down the trail towards a nearby natural spring to refill our water bottles.
There was something magical about this spring. It was little grotto on the canyon wall, surrounded by a lush growth of ferns and aspens, with a gushing stream of naturally filtered water pouring out of a crack in the red sandstone. Our thirst quenched and packs feeling heavier than before, it was just after 4 AM when we finally hit the trail, waving goodbye to the beautiful, thundering Havasu Falls which were nothing but a dim blur in the darkness.
The threat of the desert heat made us hike quickly and we were soon breathing hard and shedding layers. We were determined to reach the top of the canyon by 10 AM, when temperatures could reach above 100 degrees and the shade diminished to tiny slivers. It was going to be a close race with the sun.
Choose your own adventure
The idea of this all-girls backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls, an enchanted waterfall located on a Native American reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, had started out because my boyfriend traveled to Bali on a surf trip, and I was jealous of his adventure. I’ll have my own adventure, I decided, and I’ll do it with my girlfriends. I recruited Nina and Kate and we set off on an epic week-long trip to Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Havasupai. There was no one I would have rather shared the adventure with.
After scoring last-minute permits to Havasupai Falls, we camped at the trailhead before starting off on the 10-mile trek at 5 AM. Watching the sun rise over the canyon walls was indescribably beautiful; the shadows slowly creeping lower and the red cliffs lighting up with golden early-morning sunlight.
The last few miles of the hike were agony; the sun was almost directly overhead and the trail turned to soft sand. We passed through the Native American reservation, a small village above the falls. The trail wound along beside a succession of waterfalls, each more spectacular than the last. The color of the water was a vibrant turquoise, contrasting beautifully with the red rock of the canyon.
- Beautiful Havasupai Falls; warm turquoise water surrounded by red rock.
Below the falls, we had our pick of campsites along the river. Each campsite offered awesome perks; but we were determined to find one where we could hang our hammock beside the river. Finally, we discovered a precarious bridge crossing the river to a secluded campsite with a picnic table and two trees perfect for hanging up our hammock.
While Nina relaxed in the hammock at camp, Kate and I spent the following day exploring downriver to several of the lower falls. I won’t give away any secrets, but if you make it this far, you can’t miss this surreal day hike –it’s like the Goonies meets Pirates of the Caribbean, in the Grand Canyon, in real life!
I decided to spend the night cozied up in the hammock like a butterfly in a cocoon. As I listened to the rushing water and gazed up through the leafy trees at the stars twinkling overhead, I reflected on how alive I felt after hiking all day to this beautiful destination. I was filled with gratitude for the time spent with two of my best friends, away from social media, our boyfriends, and the constant distractions of work and school.
Real life was waiting for us when we returned; Kate was applying for medical school residencies, Nina was preparing to move to Santa Cruz and start a new chapter in her career, while I was struggling with some challenges in my relationship and my desire to move back to northern California.
While we hiked, Nina, Kate and I shared our various challenges, insecurities and and empowering each other