Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trip Out West--Part 1 --Las Vegas, Boulder City, Hoover Dam,and Havasu

Common Sunflower bloomed along the roadsides in Arizona.

Trip Out West--Part 1 --Las Vegas, Boulder City, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead

Dana & Kenny Koogler

Saturday September 17 and Sunday September 18, 2016

Pictures are here: Grand Canyon Pix

   Kenny and I had long talked about taking a trip out west.  We both came to recognize that
if we didn't get moving with it, that was all it would end up being... talk.  Another one of those dreams that is never realized because we don't plan it and act upon it.   He was really keen on seeing
the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.    I figured since it was so important to him we'd do that trip first.  I wanted to see things too, but admittedly the desert did not interest me as much as the Pacific Northwest.    We both wanted to see Havasu Falls.  It is a hard thing to get a permit to go there.
The entire rest of the trip would have to be planned around that event so that was our starting point.
We got the reservations for Havasupai Lodge and with that we were assured a permit to see 
the falls.  The planning process for this and reservations were done seven or eight months ahead.
Before I forget to mention it..  Denise Doyle of Doyle Travel.. an American owned and run business... was our travel agent.   She helped us save money, avoid many pitfalls of travel, and even
lit a fire under United Airlines when we missed a flight.  She indirectly helped a fellow traveler
get his flight situation remedied at the same time as she fixed things for us!  Hit her up if you need 
help planning a trip or booking anything.  You will be glad you did!

             Trip Overview & Highlights

    Rather than write an exhaustive, lengthy trip report detailing every single thing ...
I am just going to hit the high spots.   We arrived in Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport.  We got a rental car and drove immediately to Boulder City and stayed at the  historic Boulder Dam Hotel. It was beautiful and very comfortable. We had dinner at Evan's Restaurant down the street within easy walking distance.  I highly recommend it both for the excellent food and the atmosphere.  The following day we had breakfast at the hotel in their dining room.  The food there is outstanding.  We packed up and headed to see Hoover Dam.
We wanted to get there as soon as it opened to avoid the lines.    It was a wise plan, and put us
ahead of the curve all day.  

        Hoover Dam tour was much more interesting and fun than I anticipated.  It was Kenny's big thing he had always wanted to do.  I liked it a lot myself!  I enjoyed the structure as well as the scenery and the history.  The Pat Tilman Bridge was astonishing to see.  Photos do not adequately show the scope of the bridge or the dam.   Both are immense!  Impressive feats of engineering.   

Hoover Dam


Mike O' Callaghan--Pat Tillman Bridge

Winged Figures of the Republic at Hoover Dam.  They are the artwork of Oskar Hansen.
I had often seen them in photos and on television.  I did not know that there is more to this than just the winged figures.   The entire artwork before them on the ground is set up so that should an alien civilization arrive here in years to come this would leave a clue to them and to people of the future what the sky was like at the time this was constructed. See the brief telling of it on the photo below.

Story of the structure of Winged Figures and the star chart constructed with them. This was one of my all time favorite things about this tour.

        We grabbed a quick bite of lunch at the Hoover Dam cafe and headed to Lake Mead next to take a boat tour.   We got there and it was hot and the line was on the long side. They only offer these twice a day so we made sure to get on the noon cruise.  It was pretty and kinda fun, but not that great and I would not do it again.  The scenery is rather bland around Lake Mead.

Two shots taken on the paddle wheeler cruise of Lake Mead.  The water was a very pretty blue.
Lots of fish and turtles!

      Once we were done with the boat tour we headed on toward Peach Springs, Arizona.
We were to stay there for two nights and three days.   It was because we had to plan our trip around
one main activity... visiting Havasu Falls.   It is hard to get a permit and go see it and you have to take what you can get.   Peach Springs is the nearest settlement at the top of the canyon to Hualapi Hilltop .. and the trailhead.  We had thought it would be quaint to see some Route 66 scenery and a little Americana kitsch.   We stayed at the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn along historic Route 66 just outside Peach Springs.  It was clean, quiet and affordable.   It had a pool, mini golf course, horse back riding stables, hiking trails, the caverns tour, free breakfast, free wi fi,  cable tv, a nice store, a bar, a patio.
It was not a bad place to stay, but for any return trip I would stay in the Hualapi Lodge and just drive the extra 15 miles.  The Hualapi Reservation was better than the joint the white people ran by far. We joked with them about it when we were having dinner at the lodge.  Live and learn, eh?
The caverns tour was not that great. They charged full price, but gave us an abbreviated tour and the bums rush.   Staying out here was the weirdest experience. It was like living a full two days in an episode of the X-Files.   No kidding.  The silence and the isolation and the desolate landscape were a strange experience. IMG_8649_1
                    Grand Canyon Caverns Inn

A   desolate landscape across from the Caverns Inn.

                Tuesday morning we got up and packed the jeep.  We headed to Hualapi Hilltop after breakfast. It was a 75 mile drive one way.  It is the trailhead for Havasu Canyon.  We were set to ride horses in and out.  We arrived there at eight a.m.  The lady in charge of the horse concession
said it would be several hours until the horses came up from the canyon to ride them back down.
We called the Supai Lodge and asked them if we would be charged for the horses if we chose to simply hike in?  The lady graciously said not to worry about it and that they would not charge us.
We hiked in and I am so glad we did. It was easy and is a much better way to experience the canyon.
The trail is not hard to follow.  We stopped once to eat lunch under a rock ledge.  It was drizzling rain, but we had our ponchos on.  We got to the village hours ahead of the horses.  We found the
lodge and got checked in.  Supai Village and the Havasupai people really got to  us in ways we
never expected.  How could I know that by the time I would arrive back at the hilltop on Thursday I would be crying and not wanting to leave.  A trip here may not change everyone, but it changed me and Kenny in good ways.  I pray we are fortunate enough to return here some day.


Rock platform about halfway down the steepest part of the hike.  Only 1.5 miles of this hike.. the ones near the hilltop.. are steep. The rest is easy.

Hiking down through the canyon on the way to the village.


  We planned to stay 2 nights in the village.  We got there after the eight mile hike rather tired and wet and cold. Weird for a Grand Canyon hike, but this is their rainy season.  It felt good to get in the room and dry off and get warm.  No tv. No wi fi. Not great cell phone service, but it was passable.  We could do without the rest of it.  We brought all our stuff for two days/nights stay on our backs. 
It made me very glad I had gotten over the makeup and the need for so many toiletries and clothing.
The only thing I did not bring that I wished I had brought? A paperback book to read.  One I could have left behind if necessary.  I had a book about Havasu which I devoured cover to cover because it was all I had with me to read.   The village has a cafe, two stores, two churches, a clinic, fire department, police force, school, playgrounds, and the lodge.   We woke the next morning and the weather promised to be perfect.  We ate a quick breakfast and hit the trail.  We stayed out all day long.   We hiked six miles or more today visiting the waterfalls down the canyon.   I could not believe we were here at last.  It is amazingly beautiful.  

Hiking out toward the falls we got a nice view of this rock formation Wigleeva.. the guardians of the canyon.  The Havasupai believe that when and if they ever fall it signals the end of the canyon and the Supai tribe.  The trail rambled on down the village past homes.   We started passing pack mules and horses coming out with their drover far behind.  They are so smart.
Long walk out of the canyon and heavily laden.

Kenny poses by this massive cottonwood tree along the path.  Lots of these giants down here.  They also had lots of pomegranate trees and peach trees.  

The first pool along Havasu Creek. I have done nothing to the color of it. The bottom is just that white and the pool is just that clear!

     We continued down the stream further and came to a point where the roar of water was very loud.  We turned aside and could glimpse a waterfall in the distance.  We figured out how to reach it and it was our first look at Navajo Falls.  It was incredibly beautiful.  Life was abundant here in this spot. Every sort of green growing thing surrounded the stream.  We saw ducks, a great heron, crows, ferns, rushes, moss, and the desert bloomed with color from various flowers.
A look at Navajo Falls with the red canyon walls in the background.  I had tears in my eyes from the tremendous gratitude and blessing of being in this place.  It was incredible.

These are pools in Havasu Creek rimmed with travertine....it comes from mineral deposition.
This is between Navajo and Lower Navajo Falls.

Lower Navajo Falls with the beautiful red canyon walls in the background.

 Here are a couple of my favorite wildflowers we saw.  Mimulus cardinalis.. the Scarlet Monkey Flower grew in abundance in the canyon.

Angel Trumpets bloomed thick around Navajo Falls. All of them were open and in perfect bloom first thing in that morning.  These are in the Jimson Weed family and highly poisonous.

  As we continued down the trail we passed a spot just below the Navajo Falls where springs poured out of the bank.   The little grotto there was covered in maiden hair and other sorts of ferns and mosses and scarlet monkey flower.  It was a little Garden of Eden we were experiencing. 

Maiden hair ferns galore! 

Kenny hiking down the trail ahead of me. Scene like this looks great to a red dirt girl.

 Fifty Foot Falls below Navajo Falls.  No access to the base. The area around it is extremely unstable
ground thanks to the 2008 flood.  Rugged, crumbly, and unsafe! 

A little further on .. a shot of Havasu Creek.  

We hiked onward and a short time after the creek shot... we heard a loud roar.
The trail trended down sharply. I could tell we were coming to a drop off.  There to our right was Havasu Falls in all its glory.  It looks like you have just stepped into a post card scene.

Havasu Falls in profile

Another vantage point of Havasu from the base.  

  We spent a long time hanging out and exploring around Havasu Falls.  There are all sorts of springs, caves, grottoes, and pools around it.   We had lunch here.   I filtered some water from a headwaters spring.   We pulled a picnic table into a grotto to wait out a rain storm.  It was perfect.  Rain in the desert is special.  We had nice cool weather for hiking.  We talked to some very nice fellow hikers throughout the day.  

     Finally we hiked on down the trail through the campground.  It is very large.  They have a ranger station, composting privvies, and a fry bread kitchen.  Lots of folks staying in the campground.
We saw evidence of the old mines in this area of the canyon.  Finally we came to Mooney Falls. We could see part of it from the brink.  I tried getting to the base, but turned back. I was nervous about it
and I knew the climb down was only going to get worse.  I decided to just know my limits and sit this part out I told Kenny to go ahead if he wanted to and I'd wait for him up top. He headed on down.
I planned to sit down and read, rest, and have something to drink.  I encountered a man and woman who had been staying at the lodge across from us.  They had also been at the Caverns Inn. She was upset and did not want to go down. She also did not want HIM to go down to the base.  I tried to talk her into coming to sit down with me awhile.  I went on alone and ran into several more people including one funny Japanese fellow who was telling me he had no desire to climb down. 

       Kenny came back in a very short time which surprised me. He had gotten through the two tunnels and when he came to the chains to lower himself down he chickened out too!  He said it was just too much.   He did talk me into going back down to a ledge like a balcony that provides a great view of Mooney Falls without having to go to the base.   This was a good compromise for me. He also showed Ken and Janice how to get down there.  We spent a good deal of time there and finally climbed back up.   I was satisfied with what I had seen and was getting very tired. We still had a good three mile hike back to the village.  We began heading back in that direction taking our time.
 120 foot tall Mooney Falls.. the most sacred of the falls to the Havasupai.
Kenny got this far.  From here it is another 100 feet down.  lowering oneself on chains. 
Climbing Twin Vine.. a sort of climbing milkweed which I spotted on the hike back.
Very pretty, but not real flashy. 

   The hike back to the village was in the hot sun much of the way. All that cloud cover had burned off.    We hiked part of the way back chatting with two other hikers.. Valerie and Joann.  Very nice ladies.  We made sure they got to see Navajo Falls. They did not realize there was a way over to them.   We took our time and spoke to many of the Havasupai people as they headed toward their homes at days end.  Drovers bringing their horses back down.  School kids and parents going home after school and work.  They are good people and I wanted to know them better.  I later read after getting to the Grand Canyon that one of the things they don't like is for outsiders to come down there and ignore them.  They want folks to learn about their way of life.   I was glad I took time to talk.  
especially on knowing this.   

        We had dinner at the cafe and were very hungry after all that hiking.   After a shower I was pretty quickly ready for sleep.  I stayed up long enough to lay out what I needed for the next day, and I packed the rest.   I slept well and dreamed of all the beauty that had filled my heart and mind that day.  

Below are two videos of the falls in the canyon.

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