Excited faces, 40-pound backpacks and enthusiastic attitudes.
This summer a group of us from the Northridge High School Swim Team hiked to Havasupai in a section of the Grand Canyon with our coach as a guide. We had been planning this trip for months and the nine of us were ready for a five-day adventure in July.
Location: Surf 'n' Swim, Layton
The plan was to drive all day and arrive at Hualapai parking lot around 2 a.m. We would then start our five-hour, 11-mile hike to Havasupai campground. In only 14 more hours we would be on the trail -- what could go wrong?
Location: Gas station in Kingman, Ariz.
Ten hours in the car meant tired minds and exhausted bodies but we were still enduring. Our little group was somewhat rejuvenated after dinner in Las Vegas. We now filled up our water bottles, preparing for the hike, and piled back in the car.
Location: Off road leading to Hualapai parking lot
We pulled onto the dirt road which led to the start of our hike -- the home stretch. We turned off the road and were abruptly (and rudely!) halted by a hideous sign: "Stop -- Flash Flood on Supai Trail. Road Closed." Despair flooded the car. We had driven all this way, had equipment, food and money for five days, and the campground was closed? Is this a joke?
Location: On the road, somewhere
After a night of sleeping in the car, our group was up at 8 a.m. calling to find out if the trail would eventually open or if it was wiped out for good. Finally, we found out the campgrounds would open the next day -- the question now was what do we do until then?
Location: Road to the Grand Canyon
Since we were only 100 miles away, why not see the rest of the Grand Canyon? So we did. Then, we would go to Havasupai and condense our 3 1/2-day trip into 2 days.
Location: Hualapai hilltop
After hiking in the Grand Canyon, we drove to the parking lot and spent another sleepless night in the car. Then we started our hike, with high spirits and head-lamps and backpacks in tow.
Location: Indian reservation on the bottom of Havasu Canyon
We had crossed the finish line, after two days of setbacks and confusion. With a victory cry, we let down our now 100-pound packs (that's what they felt like) and sunk to the ground with an enormous sigh of relief.
Location: Rock Falls, 1 mile from village
Despite all we had gone through, we still had energy to jump with full gusto into the cool water, which completely revitalized our minds and our bodies. We jumped off the ledge behind the waterfall and swung off the rope swing through the water. Not only was it fun, but it gave everyone the energy to hike the last mile to our campsite.
Location: Mooney Falls
After setting up camp and eating lunch, we were off to Mooney Falls, and were a little terrified. To get to the biggest waterfall at Havasupai, we had to descend through steep tunnels followed by a direct climb down the rest of the mountain. There were chains and ropes to hold on to -- not that that made it any easier or less scary. However, it was definitely worth the hair-raising climb, for standing in front of the waterfall was nothing short of magnificent.
At dinner that night came bad news: A flash flood was on the way and we needed to move to higher ground -- now. Our little camp burst into action and we set up camp for the second time that day.
Location: Hiking to Beaver Falls
Next on the tour agenda was an all-day hike complete with neck-high bushes, boulders to climb over, and a river to traverse. Beaver Falls featured a multitude of waterfalls that all emptied into a single pool.
Location: Rock Falls
Our last night, we went back to our favorite place: Rock Falls. We spent a good hour splashing in the pool, swinging on the rope swing, taking pictures and just having a good time. We were exhausted but we were happy.
Time for final good-byes and to start our hike back. After a night of little sleep and feasting mosquitoes, we were ready to go home.
Location: Hualapai parking lot
Sheer exhaustion exuded from us as we completed the last dreaded 1 1/2 miles of pure uphill switchbacks. Fortunately, everyone in our group finished and we were now left waiting to recover before we started our drive back home.
Location: Final pit stop
Our expedition was over. We had hiked more than 40 miles in five days with less than 16 hours of sleep. We visited various landmarks from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, slept in a car and on the ground, and witnessed breathtaking waterfalls.
A strong bond had also built among our little group as we had supported one another through the trying week. We had created an amazing memory that none of us would ever forget.
Lynette Randall will be a junior at Clearfield High School. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.