Day 3: THE SCARY DESCENT
It was cold inside our room as we awoke at 7am. Julie went to start up her shower when she gave this disturbed cry.
“There’s no hot water!” she exclaimed.
When we tried to turn on the lights, they wouldn’t come on. So apparently I wasn’t dreaming after all. The lights and generator going out last night was because the village had lost electricity!
So Julie had to put up with a lukewarm bath and she couldn’t even get to use her blow dryer.
The morning started off on a promising note with sun light between the quickly moving patchy clouds before us. The trail was quiet and even Havasu Creek provided reflections in certain parts of its watercourse.
It was nice and quiet during the hike, and we were able to pay attention to some of the subtleties of the canyon from the smell of sagebrush to the skies in the reflections of the creek. We even noticed some of the trees turning color as we were well into Autumn.
By 9:30am, Julie and I were back at Havasu Falls. This time, we opted to scramble towards its top just to see what it was like. Once again, we were met with warning signs saying the area was unstable so we didn’t linger here for too long.
After having our fill of the top of the falls (noticing the travertine dams and cascades down below), we then followed the familiar trail back down along more conventional views of the impressive Havasu Falls. Of course there were fewer butterflies as we got our views from here.
With the falls still mostly in shadow in the morning, the lighting was even and we could really see some of the color come out of the water of the creek. I could only imagine just how much more insanely colorful it would’ve been if the sun had shone directly into this canyon (November didn’t seem like the right time of year to avoid the shadows and get the full extent of the colors).
Afterwards, we immediately continued past the campgrounds and were right at the top of Mooney Falls at 10:15am.
Mooney Falls had gotten its name after prospector D.W. “James” Mooney fell to his death here while looking for a way down. It wasn’t until Mooney’s compadres noticed a Native American boy donning Mooney’s boots did they learn how to get down to the base of the falls.
The route involved going down a pair of tunnels while constantly hugging the cliff. And today, the trail more or less goes down this same route.
We immediately went down a rocky stairway that passed through a tunnel. The tunnel then opened up into a sheltered cove with a gorgeous look at Mooney Fall. Chains were bolted near the dropoff to assure us we wouldn’t go over that cliff. Then, we entered another tunnel.
As we left that tunnel, the really steep part began. At that point, I took the lead and made sure my foot was on something solid before I would put weight on it. All the while, I was holding on to the chains bolted onto the cliff. Clearly, this part of the trail was practically vertical, but my back was to the exposure so I wouldn’t let the mental fear factor take over from constantly staring at the depths below.
Finally, we had reached one of two ladders which forked away from each other at the base of the cliff. By now the rocks were wet from the mist of the falls – just as that girl said yesterday. But both of us had no problems getting down the ladder and to the base of the 190ft waterfall.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Julie contended.
And with that we took photos of the falls then proceeded to walk down the trail. With each step, we could appreciate the height of the falls as well as see travertine dams creating smaller cascades before it.
We would eventually get to a part on the trail where we could see a fair-sized cascade tumbling before the main falls further upstream. Both Julie and I checked out the scene as we managed to avoid a few spiny cacti near the overlook.
After we had our fill of the falls, we continued further downstream until we were stopped by Havasu Creek as the trail ran right into it. Neither of us were in the mood to wade across the swiftly flowing creek and so we turned back towards the base of Mooney Falls.
When we returned to the climbing part, there were lots more people heading down the cliff. We patiently waited for these people to take their time cautiously going down. In the mean time, I took a photo of the scene just to convey somehow the steepness of the trail.
Then, Julie and I climbed back up the trail. It was much easier going up than down. In no time, we were back on top of the falls. And not much later, the skies started to rain so we donned our ponchos to protect ourselves from the wet weather.
At 12:30pm, we continued up the wet trail and past the campsites. Many of the tents that were there yesterday weren’t there anymore. Perhaps they already started their climb back up to the Hualapai Hilltop.
We proceeded to check out Havasu Falls again. This time, we watched from a travertine shelter that protected us from the rain. The rain was coming down pretty hard and so I figured the weatherman was right after all. But by now, we had comprehended the Havasu Canyon scenery and it wasn’t all that bad. We had our good weather and now we were getting the bad one. But it was all good.
At 1:30pm, we were back at Navajo Falls. Not satisfied with my previous view of the falls, I opted to take a noticeable spur that led to its base. When I got to the falls’ base, I took photos of the falls through the obstructing foliage. I didn’t feel like wading through the creek to get better photos of it in the rain.
I did notice a scary-looking singular log bridge that traversed a part of the creek, but I wasn’t in the mood to test my high-wire balancing act abilities nor did I have confidence that if I scooted my way on the log that I’d still be sitting upright all the way through.
We returned to the village at 2:15pm. They were still without electricity so the cafe was closed. We were bumming that we couldn’t have more Navajo Taco.
Instead, we went to the village store, which was like a liquor store. Most of their food was of the junk food variety. Since Julie and I didn’t bring any of our own food (taking for granted there was food in the village), we had no choice but to buy some of the super expensive munchies and munch on them as we killed time the rest of the day.
No one looked happy going into nor out of the store – especially the locals. Apparently, having no electricity was bad for everyone down here.
So after we took our lukewarm baths and tended to our dental hygienes, we had nothing better to do than to sleep the rest of the night away. Just for good measure, I went back through the cold and bitter darkness to see if the cafe was open.
Actually, they were! But when Julie and I learned that they didn’t serve any hot foods, we turned back and eventually went to sleep.