My grandfather introduced me to the outdoors. He asked me to write a story that could be published in an outdoors magazine like the ones he always had in his living room. This is that story.Read More
Later in life, a microcosm of my friends developed an interest in the outdoors. It started with four boys heading to Arizona to test our mettle against the almost 50 km challenge of Havasu Falls, including a major day hike to Beaver falls down towards the Colorado river.
For our next adventure, we wanted to include canoes. Immediately, Brian, had a vision of us completing a Deliverance style trip. Unfortunately, at that point, only Brian had actually seen the movie so we vowed to each watch the movie and regroup.
There were a few things that I learned from Deliverance, the most important being that Burt Reynolds is totally badass!
We regrouped to compare notes the next weekend. Everyone agreed, first of all, that Burt Reynolds was totally badass. That established we could move on to more specific details of the trip.
The key elements to consider were that: we needed a route that allowed us to start and end at different places; we needed to find some kind of outfitter that would move our vehicle so that it would be waiting for us when we landed; we needed a route that would provide some adventure; and we needed to either rent, borrow, or buy some gear since we didn't have canoes.
The first night of planning was all talk although, we did settle on the trip being three days and two nights. We were planning for fours guys with two canoes. the next few times that we got together we didn't get much farther.
Brian came to the table a few days later with a recommendation from someone at work that is an accomplished outdoorsman: Kevin Callum:
Earmarked, was a route that this gentleman highly recommended, given our theme of Deliverance. Unfortunately, we were unable to find an appropriate outfitter that could supply us with two canoes and move our vehicles for us. sure, we could have rented canoes somewhere else and then negotiated with some locals to have our vehicle moved but, we didn't have much confidence in any of our vehicles to transport two canoes, and, logistically, taking 2 vehicles was also undesirable.
So we moved on to another idea. Next, we considered what we thought would be our master plan. We would go into Algonquin Park. To ensure that the terrain was unfamiliar to all of us, we would start at Access Point #3, along the Tim River, and exit the park at Access point #4. We would follow the Tim River all the way into Big Trout Lake, then wind our way back along any number of routes until we hit Gate #4.
All we needed was a date. We settled on a weekend in August. This way, we only needed to take one vacation day for the entire adventure.
The local outfitter had just what we needed. They would provide two kevlar canoes and all of the gear that we needed. They would even move the vehicle on our behalf, for a fee of course. We just had to meet them the morning that we were going in and sign the paperwork. The canoes would be waiting for us at Gate #3.
Now we could get excited. We had a date, route, and had logistics down. We could now make the list of things that we needed for this trip. By making a few upgrades to our gear before each trip, we had come to a point where we had a very good idea of what each guy could bring to the table and what we needed to buy or rent. The one piece of gear that we decided to rent to see if it would be beneficial to our gear set was a bear proof food barrel. We had never considered one before but figured that, if we did tip a canoe, it would be less likely to sink because it was air tight and waterproof.
As the day approached, one of our crew dropped out. He had a major software implementation to oversee so we were left with three. Despite our efforts, we couldn't come up with a fourth so, as we drove north, we had to decide between three guys in one canoe or three guys in two canoes. Two canoes would mean that one man paddled alone. We figured we would leave it up to whatever the outfitter thought best.
As we pulled in to the outfitter, we had all but decided to go three men in one canoe. Unfortunately, that size of a canoe was not available. We were able to switch to a more agile canoe for the single. one look at my SUV and the outfitter also confirmed that we could have easily fit two canoes on top. This would be a good lesson for next time. We wouldn't need two vehicles for the route that Brian's work mate had suggested. We handed over one set of keys to the outfitter and headed out.
The last stop we had to make was at the park office to check in. We carefully laid out of plans for the two women who were working in the office. They shot us down immediately. The route that we had chosen was only doable with two canoes with very experienced paddlers. A group of rubes like us would take 5-6 days to accomplish the same. They talked us into a much less aggressive thirty or so kilometres. Having not been on this type of canoe trip in many years, I couldn't make a strong argument.
We drove the last leg towards Gate #3. The road went from paved to dirt, to forest tracks before we reached our final destination. This access point was even more simple than Brent. There was no shop and no beach. Just a parking lot and a dock to put in from. We unloaded our gear and started to get ready. I had one surprise that the boys did not expect; I had gone out and purchased a wetsuit vest, as close as possible to the one worn by Burt Reynolds in Deliverance. I quickly slapped it on as we were loading the canoes. As expected, it reminded everyone of Burt Reynolds and how badass he was on that trip. It was a perfect start to our trip.
The last bag to be packed was the bear proof food barrel. I should mention at this point that Susie and I had been hosts on a television program called Dinner Party Wars the previous night. As such, because of the theme of that particular dinner party, we had been left with a cooler half full of dry ice. Using a trick I had learned years earlier from my grandfather, we had packed a frozen steak for our dinner on the first night. On the way up, we loaded all of our perishables into that cooler and figured that the dry ice would keep it even fresher than regular ice would have. When we loaded the bear proof food barrel, we carefully transferred all of the food, then dumped the dry ice on top. We hoped that this would last all day and looked forward to that steak dinner.
Everything was loaded into canoes and we were off. For the first leg, we decided that Jon and I would be in a canoe together and that Brian would be alone. As two men, we made significantly better time than the one man, despite the more agile canoe. After about 30 minutes, we were at our first portage. We unloaded and prepared for our first hike of the trip. Once Brian's canoe was unloaded we realized that the distance for this portage did not agree with the distance for our planned first portage. It turned out that we had paddled 30 minutes in the wrong direction.
After kicking ourselves for making such a rookie mistake, we decided to head back and start over. Suddenly, "BOOM", an explosion shocked all of us. Immediately, Jon and I blamed Brian, who had insisted on bringing along a couple of handheld airguns "for fun". But Brian stood in shock just as much as the rest of us. We looked at the fallout from the explosion. There were white powder and bagels strewn across the portage and into the woods beyond. It was then that we remembered that dry ice was frozen carbon dioxide and that, since frozen carbon dioxide simply sublimates rather than spending time in a liquid state, our food barrel had been turned I to a ticking time bomb. We laughed at first, then realized that, if that explosion had happened just 10 minutes earlier, Brian could have been killed in the middle of the lake! Again we laughed while picking up the pieces of whatever we could find. The bagels were fine, but the Shore Lunch we had brought along was food for the trees. I was able to find the gasket for the food barrel about 30 yards into the bush. Most of our pasta survived, but all of the sealed packages inside the barrel were ruptured. We had thought that bananas were a good idea but, with ruptured skins, we were forced to have a banana feast on the spot.
After loading the canoes back up we were able to get back on track. At least we knew for sure that we were now heading the right direction.
We paddled back past the few campers that had chosen Tim Lake as their home for the night. We paddled past the Gate #3 access dock. It turned out that we were only 5 minutes from the first portage when we had landed. As we approached the landing site, a canoe with two younger men advised us to keep our eyes open on the left-hand side of the portage as we approached. There, we would see a dead moose. When we were close enough, it was obvious to see the poor animal. It was a young moose, not much more than a yearling. Its head was under the water, but there were no signs of injury as we floated by. This would be the only moose that we would see this trip.
The first portage was easy, only a few hundred yards. We didn't even unload the canoes because we figured that three strapping lads could muscle out a small portage like this without unloading. It's true, we did it, but would never attempt it again! The sheer weight of two canoes full of gear, spread between three men, was as much as we could muster. Each of the following portages would, necessarily, be a full unload.
When we reached the second portage, the map advised that we might be able to make it through via water if water levels were high enough so we went for it. We got lucky and skipped the second portage altogether with some fancy manoeuvring. The third portage was a completely different matter. At first, we tried to pass by via water, but we all got stuck in thick mud. We worked our butts off to make it back to the portage landing. This time, we had a good system. I would take a backpack and a canoe. Brian would take a backpack and a canoe, and Jon would take two backpacks and all of the loose gear, such as paddles, life jackets, and fishing rods. This portage was a doozy. It was fully 700 yards and it was like climbing a small mountain before climbing back down. To reach the end was a huge win for all of us.
The next lake was an upwind paddle so I volunteered to be the lone paddler. It was calm enough that I dared to drop a hook into the water to try my luck at fishing as we progressed. It seemed that the gods of fishing did not look down at me with much favour so, eventually, I gave up and just paddled. When we reached the next portage, we came across two park rangers who had set up camp for a few days. Since we hadn't seen much of anyone for a number of hours, we stopped to chat with these kindred souls. They told us how they were out in the park for two to three weeks at a time to make repairs to portages and to assess water levels for the folks at each of the gates. We told them our story of the exploding bear-proof food barrel and, really made their day.
They recommended pushing through past the portage at hand, then through the next lake to get to Timberwolf Lake, where we would likely have the entire lake to ourselves.
The next challenge was to determine where we wanted to camp for the first night. We took a look at each of the sites that we passed on Misty Lake, but none seemed to be right for us. We conferred over the map once again and decided that there were two choices. We could either paddle a long way and do a short portage, or we could paddle a short way and do a relatively long portage. It wouldn't be our longest of the day, but it was no slouch. We opted for the longer portage. At this point, we were getting tired and needed a good rest, but we negotiated with each other. We would complete the long portage, then find somewhere to rest.
We switched things up this time. I took the two backpacks and loose articles and each of the other each took a canoe and a backpack. I decided to run this one out because the ground was relatively flat. I made it through in no time and doubled back to help the others.
We put in and tried to find a campsite. I pointed out a high area that I thought would be perfect and, gladly, it was an official site. It was elevated so bugs would be kept away by a small wind. It had a great fire pit with fallen logs to use as chairs and a flat spot to use as a kitchen prep area away from the fire.
We chose to place the canoes up above the fire on the hill in such a way that we could also have a flat surface to work from above the fire pit. Brian's latest upgrade was a Sil tarp and a set of nylon guide lines. This would stretch out over the common area behind the fire, all the way back over the canoes so we had a perfect shelter in case it rained. The tarp would also make a perfect marker for identifying our home base from afar.
We set about setting up the rest of our camp. Jon and I would be sharing my Hubba Hubba NX tent and Brian had borrowed a sort of hammock shelter from his work-mate. Our tent was up with sleeping bags and mats in place quite quickly, but Brian struggled with his hammock-tent for a while. Between us, we were able to figure it out eventually, as the sun started to set.
The next step, in my eyes, was to be food so I rooted through the bags for the stuff needed to make the traditional first-day steak dinner. Meanwhile, Jon set about building a fire from the plethora of dead and dry wood nearby. Brian was also very busy, in rooting through his own bag, moments later I would realize why.
Brian had brought along two air handguns. They looked mean and very real but were indeed air handguns. He even had non-lead pellets that were safe to leave in the woods. We took turns target shooting as dinner was prepared and as the sun went down. Jon had even thought to bring music along to set the mood.
The potatoes were already wrapped in aluminium foil so they went right down into the coals of the fire. I laid my small handy grill across the thick grill that was built into the fire pit so that our meat was separated from whatever had touched that thick grill in the past. The built in had a perfect wow into that allowed all four corners of the handy grill to sit on top, creating a small chasm below. When the coals were perfect, I placed the steak on the grill. I should mention that I had procured this particular rib steak from McEwan's, where their butcher had suggested this beautifully marbled specimen as what would both freeze best, and produce the perfect flavour when grilled over an open BBQ pit. I was planning to bring two steaks, but when the boys saw them, we opted to leave one behind. Each was about 30 oz so we could easily be satisfied with one-third steak and a potato. And, of course, we had brought along chocolate pudding cups for dessert.
That night, I slept hard. So hard that I barely remember getting up in the middle of the night to pee. Jon and I were comfortable and snug in our tent, but poor Brian was freezing cold. It turns out that the hammock doesn't hold heat so well and, with the -3 spec sleeping bag alone, he froze his ass off over night.
By the time we got up and ate breakfast, it had really started to warm up. We talked about our plans for the day. Originally, we planned to pack up camp and move along to a new location. our route had taken us to a point that we had two choices: either we could travel out and back towards where we had already set up camp, or we could start towards our way home and make some distance so that it would be easy to get back to the car.
In the end, we decided to leave the camp set up and just bum around Timberwolf Lake. That way we could do whatever we wanted for the second day and then have the time to exit the park the next morning as planned. Since we had gotten a pretty late start to the day we were at lunch time before long and, after a solid meal, we decided to make our afternoon a little more interesting. I wanted to do some fishing so I took the single canoe, my tackle, and a life jacket and headed out. I fished for a few hours and didn't get a single bite. I don't care what anyone says, there are no fish in that lake to be caught. I did, however, manage to fall out of my canoe when I got my lure stuck on a log near shore near the south end of the lake. It was blazing hot, so the dunk felt pretty good, but I lost my sunglasses in the lake. The worst part was that I could see them through the crystal clear water, but it was far deeper than I would ever be able to dive after them.
It was around this time that I noticed something out in the middle of the lake. It was Brian. He had swam out to the very centre and was just treading water casually. Watching him out there for almost an hour is why it eventually became important to me that you be able to swim well. I was never that strong of a swimmer. Eventually, we all made our way back to camp where we had left Jon to his own devices. He had modified the campsite to include a wooden railed walkway from the tents to the ad hoc living area that we had created with the Sil tarp. We laughed and joked around for a while before settling in for a late dinner of space food.
The next morning we got up and packed our campsite so that we could get back on our way towards the car which, by now, would be at Gate 4 waiting for our arrival. The last day of a trip is never as much fun as the other days because it's all work. The big payoff is getting back to the car and having to drive for hours to get home. This day was no exception. Our modified route ended up being 9 portages ranging from just over 100yrd
When my buddy Sam returned from Arizona earlier this year and showed us pictures and videos of Havasu Falls we all got really excited about making this trip happen. Jon was definitely the driving factor and motivator. Brian was the first man on board, and I was the man who needed to see a bit of a plan before stepping up.
Here is a chronicle of how things shook out. In summary, this was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Day 1 - Kingman, AZ via Las Vegas
We all committed to this trip at different times so Sam ended up taking the morning flight, while Brian, Jon and I took a late afternoon flight. I realized on the way to the airport that I forgot to pack hiking shoes and a hat, probably the two most important things required for a hike in the desert.
On arrival in Las Vegas, the trio picked up a Ford Focus and was off to find Sammy. At first, we were a bit irritated because he was nowhere near the airport, having stowed his bags at the Mirage for the day since he arrived in Vegas 8 hours earlier. We were in town for only an hour so we decided to cruise The Strip and soak in the Vegasey goodness.
We picked up Sam at the Mirage. He was juiced, smelling of vodka and Jack Daniels had already played a lot of Blackjack. He told us the stories of his first 8 hours including the usual Sam-in-Vegas karma philosophy that involves significantly over-tipping people and winning copious amounts of money. So far he was up already and karma was good going into the rest of the trip.
On the way out of Vegas we stopped at Dicks Sporting Goods for Hiking shoes and a hat. I added the following to my gear repertoire. (Amazon Affiliate links)
I have to admit that these pieces were vastly superior to what I was planning to wear and both made this trip much more enjoyable.
We left Vegas at night and the ride to Kingman was really just a highway with dotted lines in the middle for scenery, but we did get a great night-time look at the Hoover Dam. We made a food stop in Boulder City at Jack In The Box for sliders.
When we approached Kingman, we also stopped at In-N-Out for some burgers and fries, animal style.
We stayed in two rooms at Motel 6 in Kingman. This was really a great hotel, very clean and right on Route 66 between In-N-Out and the Basha's grocery store we were hitting first thing in the morning.
By this time it was about midnight so we hit the hay.
Day 2 - Hualapai Hilltop
We got up at 5:30 am, showered and out the door to get groceries. We had a loose plan of what food we needed, but we really made the final menu standing inside Basha's. After getting back to the hotel by 6:30 am we got everything packed up and were able to get on the road by 7:00 am.
We decided to stop for breakfast at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs before hitting Indian Road 18. Lucky we did because that was the last chance for food until Supai. Expectations were low going in, but it turns out that the make the BEST breakfast steak and eggs ever. I'm talking about a proper 8oz steak, grilled to perfection. Great service and they really cater to hikers in that they prepare bag lunches for those making the trek to Supai.
Shortly we were on Indian Road 18 on the final stretch towards Hualapai Hilltop. We climbed up to over 5,000 feet of elevation through every type of weather possible.
It was very interesting to watch the helicopters take off and land. Apparently, a pair of choppers is brought in to transport people and supplies to Supai 4 days per week. We parked and loaded up for the hike into Supai.
The hike in was through sun, rain, hail, but mostly overcast sky. Lunch on the trail was pre-made turkey sandwiches and trail snacks. We had no idea what we were getting in to, but fortunately for us, each of us had brought something that the others had not to make the trip go smoothly. Bone was in charge of tunes, Sam had the garbage bags that we could use to keep our gear dry in the rain and hail, and Brian and I had the food.
I should mention that we each took our own gear by backpack on the way down. Brian had the newest and most technical backpack so he took the most weight at just about 40 lb. I was next around 35 lb, then Sam around 30 lb. None of us realized that Jon was carrying about 20 lb of sleeping bag, full queen size pillow, and full size towel until well into the trip.
We hit Supai in good time and paid $79 each for entry to the indian reservation and camping site fees for the two nights. The locals were very friendly and easy going. It turns out that Supai is the only place in the US that still receives its mail via donkey.
We got the final weather forecast and it looked like we were in the clear come morning, but had a wet night ahead of us.
On the way to camp we passed Navajo Falls and got our first look at Havasu Falls which at this time was, in our minds, what this trip was all about. We took a couple of pictures and proceeded down past the falls into the campgrounds. By this time our quads were burning from going downhill for 5+ hours and we just wanted to find a place to call home.
By the time we reached the far end of the campsite it was getting dark. Brian pulled out his 200 lumens Surefire flashlight so we could see the trail and get an idea of what campsites were available. The campground was relatively empty so we took a site on high ground, near the trail.
We set up camp in the rain. By this point in the day we were all miserable and starting to grate on each other's nerves. We were tired, we were hungry, we were wet, we were sore, and we had a lot of work to do before we could rest. There wasn't even a single place to sit without getting soaked through to the bone.
Jon and I started to do tent set up, but Sam needed help with erecting a tarp. What he had purchased was clearly labeled "tarp", but was not by any definition a tarp. It was a crappy, thin, hexagonal piece of plastic that ripped every time you touched it. I learned never to buy anything with the brand name "World Famous" ever again after trying to erect this piece of crap.
I gave up on Sam and left to setup the tent I had left getting soaked on the ground. Brian took my place on tarp detail. (What the hell is the point of a hexagonal tarp? This piece of garbage wouldn't even have been good enough for a groundsheet for a tent of exactly the same size)
At this point, Jon noticed that one of the other sites had a fire and suggested that we make our own fire to warm up a little. I pointed out that fires are banned in the campground at Havasu. He ignored me and started to collect firewood. One by one we all joined in on the search for firewood. It seemed like there had been quite a bit of damage to the trees around the area and it was very easy to find wood that, while soaked on the outside was really dry in the inside. Bone tried to start a fire but nothing was dry enough to start so he headed over to the other campsite and got another camper to bring us some coals to get us started.
The fire turned everything around. Despite the rain and cold, our moods lifted with a little warmth. We laughed about the shitty tarp, huddled around the fire and dried the bench of a nearby picnic table with our asses and warmed our feet. Brian broke out the 96% pure polish vodka that he had smuggled into his pack and, mixed with gatorade powder and the remaining water that we had, passed it around to the crew.
I made dinner of chicken fajitas while Bone made fresh guacamole. We wolfed down dinner and chilled out by the fire as the rain started to let up. The lesson learned by this point was that, when in doubt, fire, food, and polish vodka make everything better. We went to bed when the fire started to die down. It had to be well before 10:00pm which, for a bunch of guys from the EST zone, is pretty late.
Day 3 - Beaver Falls
My new sleeping bag definitely did the trick. The other guys were complaining about the -6 temperature over night but the Merlin -3C held up beautifully. Brian had the same bag as I did, but he couldn't figure out how to zip it up so he froze most of the night.
Sam and Bone got a fire started before Brian and I got up, and they were reprimanded by one of the locals almost immediately about breaking the "no fires" rule. Sam and I cooked breakfast of omelet breakfast sandwiches on toasted English muffins, accompanied by fruit.
We packed up our day packs, including the tools and supplies for a hot lunch and got started towards Mooney Falls. I took the big pack while Bone and Sam took the hydration packs and Brian went pack free.
We didn't realize it the night before because of the dark, but we were only 300 yards from the top of Mooney Falls.
The descent to the bottom of Mooney Falls was the most technical part of our trip so far. Vertical drop is 210 feet beginning with a few switchbacks, followed by a steep descent through caves and finishing with a rock climb aided by ladders and chains that are very slick at all times due to the mist coming off the waterfall.
We continued hiking to Beaver Falls. The trail became much more challenging the farther we went along, hence way fewer hikers.
I found a place where a small spring joins the main river over a small waterfall. I stripped down and had an impromptu shower. The water was amazing because the 19 degree heat of the sunny weather combined with the dark rock over which the spring ran made for a nice warm flow of water. I was able to walk right under the falls and into a 15 foot deep cave filled with the richest green vegetation. None of the other guys were up for a quick soak so I finished up and started to get dressed. That's when I realized that one of my shoes had been knocked into the river by one of my buddies. The rescue mission was easy, but I was left with a soaker. I was lucky that Sam had brought along some water shoes and I had a spare pair of socks so I could continue in pseudo comfort.
Water crossing became a pain in the ass because we could either take off our hiking boots or find a tricky way to cross using rocks or leaning trees combined with leaps of faith. Eventually, we found a rope swing that was a great place for a break, but decided to push on to have lunch near Beaver Falls.
At this point, we were overtaken by another group of hikers who were planning to hike all the way to the Colorado River. We took the high road, while they took the low road, but eventually they had to come up to where we were as the only viable trail.
At Beaver Falls, there was another group of hikers who had hoped to go to Colorado River, but gave up when they couldn't find the trail so they just stayed at Beaver Falls. Brian wasn't ready to get wet so he actually jumped the waterfall at the point where it was it's most powerful. I watched nervously, but couldn't help but record the video of it ... I debated: if he falls, how long do I keep recording before jumping in to help?
This was our chance to do some low cliff jumping into the river with some solid current. We all jumped, but Brian was the only one who went back for more. Brian was also the only one who could swim through the current without being pushed over the next waterfall. Everyone else left so we had this paradise to ourselves.
It started to rain, but there was a fairly large rock outcrop the we could stay dry under. We decided to make lunch so I set up to boil water to prepare our freeze-dried lunch of sweet and sour pork and kung-fu chicken.
Jon suggested a fire and, once again, I said no, but he went ahead and did it anyway and it was the best idea ever! We dried off and ate lunch standing next to the fire, built in a natural fireplace. We shared the meals directly out of the bags and were thrilled to have the food.
Once we were all warm and dry we disposed of the fire and started our hike home. We decided to take an alternate route home to keep things interesting. Brian had seen the "low route" while we were up top so we started back up the canyon close to the water's edge. As long as we stayed between the canyon walls we couldn't really get lost, we just had to remember that we needed to head upstream.
Eventually, we came to a place where either we were going to need to get really wet, double back, or scale the rock face to climb up to the "high route". While the other guys were debating, I took a chance at testing the rock face and was able to climb up with ease. It was about 15 feet of moderate climb, 5 feet of easy climb, and then 10 feet of very tricky climb. In retrospect, this was a pretty stupid thing to do so far away from any type of medical assistance, but we were all able to make the climb and continue our way along the high road. I really want to test my skill at proper rock climbing when I get a chance. The excitement was like nothing I had ever experienced. The hike back to Mooney Falls from that point was relatively easy in comparison.
At Mooney Falls, Brian and I got close enough to feel the temperature of the water and consider going in to get close to the falls. We went back to regroup with the other guys and consider our options. Sam said no way and I was with him. Jon was in, and since Jon was in, Brian was right behind him. Sam and I started up the ascent to the top of Mooney Falls and as I hit the first rung of the ladder Jon asked me to stay down and take some pictures, so I stayed behind. The boys stripped down and made their way toward the falls. I got some great shots, but I immediately regretted not being part of the action. I got a few more shots with the camera and then stripped down myself and ran in to the incredible power of the waterfall.
The conditions as you approached the centre of the waterfall were terrifying. We never actually made it to be directly under the falls. The closer we got the more it felt like a monsoon. I imagine this was like what it would feel like to be in the worst storm imaginable at sea. The force of the water splashing off the surface at us left red marks for an hour.
There were a few harrowing moments for me in the water. Brian lost his footing and I reached out to grab what I though was his hand and ended up almost drowning him as I held his foot in the air while he flailed in the current. At one point, I got caught in an undertow and, despite 4 or 5 hard strokes, I was trapped and almost got pulled in behind the waterfall.
We climbed up to join Sam and Jon at a lookout above the most technical climbing area to find that the day was still pretty young and that we had time to dry off before nightfall.
We had a quick snack of Hunts chocolate pudding to regain some energy while we discussed our next steps. We decided to have dinner at the base of Havasu Falls since we really hadn't spent any time there during our trip. A quick stop for fresh spring water and we were on our way. We played around a bit and took some photos before settling in to make some dinner.
On the advice of a more experienced Multi-day backpacker from MEC, we brought along some extra noodles to supplement our freeze-dried dinner of vegetable lasagna and Italian Pasta with beef. The vegetable lasagna was a huge hit with a little added Parmesan and sliced salami. After having our fill and cleaning up the dishes, we made our way back to camp and pretty much hit the sack around 8:30pm.
Day 4 - Return to Vegas
Getting up and ready to be on the trail for 7:00am was impossible. We split up to fetch water and break camp while making a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee.
Even before we had arrived on our hike into the canyon we had decided that we would do our best to see if we could have our packs hauled out for us by horseback. Lucky for us, a gentleman by the name of Lawrence was happy to do just that for us. We met him at 7:00am and loaded up most of our gear onto the horses backs. We kept a day pack each with Brian taking the biggest load of the day.
We said goodbye to Havasu for this trip and started on the first leg of the hike towards Supai. The first 2 miles went quickly. The day was young, the temperature was perfect, and we had lots of water. In Supai, we hit the generic store and each grabbed gatorade and high calorie snacks. After making some quick Skype calls to let people know we were alive, we checked out with the office and started out of the canyon. The day reached it's peak and we quickly realized that we were short on water.
After putting a few solid miles behind us we took a break and realized that we had been accompanied all the way from our camp by Casino, the camp dog that we had fed a few slices of salami to days earlier. We didn't have any water to spare, but Casino was thrilled to share in our lunch of bagels and peanut butter. I was a little worried about Casino not having anything to drink in the now 26 degree heat, but he was way more savvy than the rest of us. He knew exactly where to jump up onto a cliff to find a puddle of sitting water leftover from the rain a day earlier.
We got close enough that we could see reflections off of some of the cars in the parking lot at the top of Hualapai Hilltop and we were reenergized to begin the trek up the switchbacks in the final mile. Nobody said anything about it, but it turned into a bit of a race to get to the top. We were all very close together and we were completely exhausted, but we pressed on to make the top. In the end Jon took a small lead up the trail on the final switchback so the rest of us used the last of our energy to scale the side of the canyon to compete. In the end it didn't matter who was first, but the race was exhilarating.
At the top there was a sketchy trailer selling cold drinks. After being in the canyon heat and running out of water, we didn't think twice about paying $7.50 for 3 bottles of ice cold tap water in plastic bottles. It was so refreshing! It actually hurt to drink it was so cold. Exactly what we needed.
We got on the road pretty quickly and made for a gas station on Route 66. After a quick stop for drinks we debated on where to stop for food, settling, once again, on In-N-Out burger. Next came the Hoover Dam where we saw a pickup truck pulled over and two guys arrested.
One final stop on the road was to try the famous KFC DoubleDown, but we were only able to share two sandwiches between four of us.
Arriving in Vegas we ended up staying at the uber-inexpensive Motel6 across the street from the MGM Grand. I was starting on a downward spiral that would see me sick for the rest of the week with cold / flu and the complications that follow, but the other guys went out fast and furious.
Day 5 - Travel Day
I was awakened by Sammy when he hit home base at 4:30am followed by a phone call from Brian at 5:00am saying that he was a mess but that Jon was way worse and that he needed help. I talked him down and he promised to pack his stuff, then help Jon and meet us in the lobby for 5:30am. I got Sammy into the shower and made my way over to the other guys room to find Jon passed out, but completely packed and ready to go and Brian undressed, spooning Jon, with everything from his bags spread across the room. Somehow I had to get these guys organized and to the airport on time. The trickiest part was trying to get these guys to "lock it up" enough to be permitted to fly. Brian went with the stoic silent approach which worked great. Sammy is always able to keep it together when he needs to. Jon needed constant supervision. Even on the plane he told the story of this trip to a girl that he just met loud enough that most of the back half of the plane heard it. Lucky for us she found the whole thing endearing and Jon had made a new friend to sleep on.
Sam asked me how far I thought we had travelled, counting the flights, the driving, the hiking, the climbing, and the return and I couldn't even make an estimate on the spot so I went back later and did the calculations. It turns out that our round trip took us over 8,800 km with almost 50 km hiking down and back up almost 3,000 feet of elevation, excluding the trip from our homes to the airport here in Toronto and the miles of walking around the various airports and Las Vegas.
As we were hiking at one point we talked about how we could possibly explain this trip to someone in just a few sentences. I think Brian said it best when he came up with: