Hiking The Havasu Canyon, Arizona



Credit: Thinkstock – lightphoto

by Anne Dimon

A vacation takes on a whole new perspective when you allow yourself the challenge of discovering the adventurer within. My trek down into the bowels of the rugged “centre of the earth,” was a self-affirming, soul-inspiring, life-enhancing experience.

It’s early morning when we begin our 10-mile trek down to floor of Havasu Canyon, one of many found within the deep folds of the Grand Canyon. There are 12 of us: two guides, a party of nine including four children under 16 and one newbie “adventure woman.” Today, there are a number of trekkers and backpackers trudging the narrow Hualapai Trail (the only trail maintained for public use), but it’s the packhorses and mules ridden by Havasupai wranglers that have right of way.

Anything that can’t be carried by these four-legged transportation trucks – including portable toilets – is lifted in and out by helicopter. “Twice a week during high season, two toilets fly in and one flies out,” explains Brian Jump, of Arizona Outback Adventures. “Campers risk life and limb,” he jokes, “to be first in line for a fresh toilet.” There are no washrooms along this trail, and very little shade — just a wide expanse of dry terrain studded with tuffs of dessert grasses, wild junipers and scattered boulders contained within canyon walls.


Tonto’s Bench turns out to be the appetizer for the next day’s more “extreme” outing that includes a climb down and back up the 200-foot Mooney Falls. Jump tells us that he always picks the route to suit the physical capabilities of the individual group, and this one, he says, is for “the fit and fearless.” You’ve heard of the proverbial “slippery slope?” Well this is the real thing.

A crawl though an old miner’s tunnel chipped through the travertine rock, then straight down using thick iron chains and giant spikes imbedded deep into the rock for hand holds. Steep, narrow steps chiseled out of the cliff wall offer foot holds as Mooney showers the scene in a cool white mist making some sections extra slippery. Don’t look down. Lean into the wall. Focus. “We can do this,” I keep telling the adventurer within me. The little pep talk does the trick because we all make it back to camp in one piece to relax, dine on delicious food and imbibe the magic that resides within these steep red canyon walls.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan from his Last Thoughts on Woodie Guthrie — “whatever you’re looking for in life, you may find it at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at sundown.” He may be right!

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For information on these inspirational Grand Canyon treks see Arizona Outback Adventures.