Memorial Day weekend 2018, a group of 6 of us packed up our bags for what would undoubtedly be a weekend we would never forget: the hike from Hualapai Hilltop into (and a couple miles past) Supai, AZ to Havasupai Falls. We were right. We will also never forget the things that we learned.
ONE: You will be checked for your permit.
We were checked twice, in fact. Once right at the bottom of the massive decline, and again right before reaching Supai. It’s not worth trying to sneak in without a permit. Day hikes aren’t permitted, and the unanticipated hike out would be sorely disappointing when you’re turned around.
TWO: You start seeing falls before you get to the campground.
Which makes the last couple of miles rather enjoyable. Below is the first glimpse you get into the paradise you’re about to reside in. It only gets better from here.
THREE: People are slobs.
No matter how much faith I try to have in humanity, there are always the surprising few who have little to no regard for what actually makes nature beautiful and enjoyable. Hint: it’s not the trash that was left behind. If you’re not sure what the outdoor ethics are, refer to the Leave No Trace’s Seven Principles. Or take my dad’s advice: always leave a place better than you found it.
FOUR: There are bathrooms.
Sure, they’re outhouses, but they’re composting outhouses which greatly reduces the unpleasant bi-product surrounding most outhouses. Most are stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring some. You know, just in case.
FIVE: The squirrel problem is real
Before heading in to Havasupai, I had read that the squirrels were ruthless. We took heed and tied all of our food up into trees and hung our packs thinking that would keep these hungry little predators at bay. Spoiler alert: these guys are not hungry as they’re extremely crafty, and they don’t care how much you tried to keep them out of your stuff, or how much your backpack cost, or how durable it’s supposed to be. They will get in. Make sure you tie anything edible far enough away from a tree that it can’t be easily accessed. Odor-proof bags won’t stop these rodents – they seem to be accustomed to chewing through things for rewards, so will try their luck if they can reach.
SIX: The squirrels aren’t the only thieves you need to worry about
One thing I wasn’t anticipating was having to worry about things getting stolen from non-animals. Our camping gear that we left near our tents was safe, but some of the “extras” that we brought disappeared with no trace. Keep in mind that Havasupai is a little different backpacking experience than when you hike back into the woods on your own. The folks around you (or passing through your camp) might not have the same appreciation for the whole “you only have what you brought in” concept. I doubt this is a widespread issue, but something to keep in mind.
SEVEN: There’s a natural spring in the campground
If you’re not gung-ho about drinking from the creek (like I was), you’re in luck. The campground has a natural spring hooked up to a faucet of sorts that will quench all of your thirst needs. It’s constantly running and it’s cold, so stock up on agua before hitting the trails.
There are a couple of things that I’ve learned throughout the years of hiking: first is that you should learn from other’s mistakes. The other is that you will always learn something. And no matter how prepared you think you are, nothing will ever go as planned.