Archive for the ‘Arizona’ Category

Surprise! You have two hours to pack.

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Sorry to disappear without a word, but Jo and I whisked Karen away to the Southwest on a surprise birthday trip! We managed to keep it a secret all summer, so I had to make sure I didn’t spill any sort of beans on my blog.

Zion zquishie

We hiked through freezing water and endured the traumatizing smell of wet rental neoprene booties…


…drove down an absolutely mental “road” of deep sand and sharp rocks to see some of the most beautiful rock formations in the world…

She's always got her nose in a book

…slithered (some more gracefully than others) through muddy slot canyons…

K2 Kanyoneers Canyon crud

…and backpacked in the desert with only one minor quicksand incident.

Gulch girls

I’ll write an installment of trip reports when I get all my photos up, but for now I just want to thank mah ladeez for one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on.

Happy birthday Karen!

I’m still smiling.

Road Trip part five: Havasu Canyon

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, so in order to think of something else I’ll write about the next (and the best) leg of our road trip: Havasu Canyon.

Sometime around Christmas, I had a show about the Grand Canyon on the Travel Channel on in the background while working on my computer, and I caught a glimpse of a spectacular, turquoise waterfall. Being a hiking geek, I immediately got online to get the details – thus the idea of the road trip was born.

Havasu Falls is located on a reservation outside of Grand Canyon. To get there, you either have to hike 10 miles (slackers send their packs in on mules) or take a helicopter into Supai, a tiny village a mile away from the falls. Young and sprightly as we are (hah!), we backpacked in.

Hualapai Canyon

Mule train:

Jules and her new friends ..or are they horses?

The hike itself is beautiful, but nothing compares to the first sight of the turquoise waterfall after ten miles of red rocks and desert. I have never seen anything like it.

Wii gl'iiva; the Watchers Havasu Falls Huzzah!

We were pooped after the hike in (hiking in that heat with a full backpack = gaaaah), so we found a campsite (there’s room for over 300 campers; this is not the place to go if you’re looking for solitude), slept, slept some more, and then got up in the morning to swim and explore.


On the other side of the campground you find Mooney Falls, notorious for the sketchy trail you have to descend to get to the bottom.

The trail down to Mooney Falls

It’s not really a trail at all, just an old miner’s route blasted into the wall. Julia and I made it down the first part and through the tunnels (eep) before freaking out and turning back. JK lacks the vertiginous gene, so he made it all the way down. If you keep hiking even further, you’ll see even more waterfalls and eventually reach the Colorado River. I’ve already promised JK that I’ll do it if we ever go back…

Descend at own risk Ladder Going back up

Luckily, you get a great view of Mooney even if you don’t go all the way down:

Mooney Falls

In the evening, we tried to take some exposure shots of Havasu Falls, had dinner (the dehydrated camping food you get here in the US is surprisingly tasty), played cards with a new friend we met, and I got my first spider bite – huzzah! It wasn’t a black widow or a brown recluse, so I could breathe easy – desert life amongst poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions is quite intense for a gang of Norwegians!


We headed back the next morning. Because we’re total idiots, we started around ten, hiking out during the hottest hours of the day. I have never ever been so tired in my entire life. By the time we reached the hill up to Hualapai Hilltop, where our car was parked, I was spent. Even though we had three liters of water each plus two bottles of Gatorade that we picked up in Supai, we all ran out of water before we hit the switchbacks. I ended up having to sit down for a couple of minutes any time I could find some shade.

Eventually we dragged our asses up to the parking lot where gallons of lovely water awaited us in the car. Now tell me how you really feel

The worst part is that I would totally do this again. :D

Havasu Canyon must be one of the most beautiful places on earth, but it was a completely different experience than what I’m used to as a backpacker. First of all, there are so many people. Many send their stuff in by mules or helicopters and many don’t even hike in, so the place is full of people who have never heard the term “leave no trace”. We saw huge groups of people living it up with full-sized barbecues that they had sent in, people washing themselves and their clothes with soap in the creek, and the most disgusting toilets I have ever experienced (including that toilet in Poland (ugh) and all the ones in India).

Backpackers are usually very nice and helpful, but here people were pushing other people’s tents out of the way so they could take their spots (and a group of “women” (they were acting like they were 13) took the table from our camp and refused to give it back). I hope the area gets a tighter permit system soon, but since the tribe needs tourists to survive I doubt it will happen.

Also, the story of the Havasupai tribe is, as with most Native American tribes, really depressing. I recommend reading the book I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People and this article from Backpacker Magazine.

Anyway, enough whining. Next stop: Route 66, Vegas and Goldstrike Hot Springs!

Road Trip part four: Grand Canyon – South Rim

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

I just realized that I never finished blogging about our road trip. Since it happened in April, this is getting somewhat ridiculous…so, without further ado, our next stop on the trip: the Grand Canyon!

On our way from Page, we hit our first ever sandstorm – it was pretty intense for us non-desert dwellers. (Also intense: all the squished bugs on our windshield.)


Driving towards the national park, we could see the ground opening wider and wider…


…and finally we could see the famous Desert View Watchtower:

All along the watchtower

We also got our only sizeable wildlife sighting of the trip (the rest were all chipmunks, squirrel-type things and lizards):

Mule deer

Jules posed for her favorite soccer team:

Heia Lyn!

After setting up camp and eating a quick dinner in one of the lodges, we just ended up playing cards and going to bed. This sounds horrible, but we were all really underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I think it was partly because we had already seen so many beautiful places on our trip (I know, we’re spoiled), but I have to say that the South Rim lacks some of the charm you can find up by the North Rim…in other words, there were just too many tourists and too many fancy buildings. I would probably like it much better if we had time to actually go for a hike and explore it without busloads of loud humans around us.

Anyhoo, enough whining. If the Grand Canyon is the low point of your trip, it means your vacation has been pretty freakin’ awesome.

Sunrise (sort of)

After a freezing (literally – we were somewhere around 7,000 feet, so it dropped below freezing) night in our tents, we got up early (ugh, really early) to see the sunrise. We all looked amazing:


Afterwards we quickly stuffed all our crap into the car and drove on to our main adventure of the trip: Havasu Canyon. Huzzah!

Road Trip part three: Page, Arizona

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

I seem to have neglected my road trip recap, so here’s part three. After our beautiful hike in Zion, we drove southeast to Page, AZ. The main goal for our stay there was to see Antelope Canyon, probably the most famous (and certainly the most photographed) slot canyon in the world.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located in the Navajo Nation, so if you want to see it you will have to go with a Navajo guide. Unfortunately, there are 5-6 different guide services and they all cram as many people into the canyon as possible. Instead of getting to explore this amazing canyon on your own, you’ll spend most of your time waiting in line and looking at this:

Slot canyon paparazzi



By the time our tour was over, we were so sick of other human beings that we decided to go where they weren’t – the beach! Lake Powell was formed by the damming of the Colorado River and is the second largest man-made lake in the U.S…and apparently it is insanely cold in April. No wonder we were the only ones there :o)

Lake Powell

JK captured our looks of horror/hypothermia as we braved the water:


Before driving on the next morning, we stopped by Horseshoe Bend. I have to say, this is one of the most awesome things we saw on the entire trip – even more breathtaking than the Grand Canyon. The drop-offs are insane though – if I ever bring kids here, they’re all going to be on leashes!!

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Next stop: Grand Canyon South Rim!

Grand Canyon (September 21-22)

Monday, November 5th, 2007

We reached the North Rim of Grand Canyon in time to pitch the tent (heeh) and find a good place to watch the sunset.





As it got darker, we could see the rain closing in on us. So cool.


It’s hard convey the height in photos, but I think this one does a good job. There were a couple of times I got really dizzy and nauseous and just had to close my eyes and run (generally not a good idea in Grand Canyon..) across certain evil parts of the path out to the lookout point. Ugh.


Killing time in the tent :)


Watching the not-so-spectacular (it was too cloudy) sunrise…


In the morning we started hiking down into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. The canyon is so green and fertile! I thought it was going to be dry and barren, but it was full of trees and plants. And mule poo.


There is one big difference between Zion and Grand Canyon. In Zion you’re scuttling about at the bottom of the canyon and hiking up into them like you usually do on mountain hikes. In Grand Canyon, however, you start at the top, looking down into this amazing gorge below you. So when you start walking down, you don’t think about the fact that you have to turn around at some point and walk back up. Heh.

JK had no problems at all and was just skipping merrily along with me and my lardiness staggering breathlessly behind him.

Must start doing lunges again.

Anyway, by the time we got back to the car it was pouring down and we had to drive back to Vegas to catch our plane the next morning. Great vacation, but we really really really have to go back someday when we’ll have more time!

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