By: Barbara Lilley
HAVASU CREEK - WINTERTIME
Marginal skiing conditions inspired B. Lilley, H. Hickman and G. Harr to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend in Havasu Canyon.
Driving time from L.A. was approximately 9 hours; the last 60 miles were on a dirt road (turn off Highway 66 - 6 miles east of Peach Springs, Arizona), which is generally in good condition except right after a heavy rain. From the end of the road it was an easy 10-mile backpack down to the surprisingly crowded National Park campground. The Havasupai Indian Reservation is crossed enroute, for which a $2 fee is collected by the Tourist Bureau in Supai (8 miles from the end of the road); where there is also a small store and post office. Although temperatures at the campground remained above freezing, lack of sunlight during all but a small portion of the day inspired lots of illegal wood fires (no ranger after Sept. 30) and down jackets are recommended. There is only one place to obtain safe drinking water below Supai village, so extra water containers are useful. (Bring stoves, of course.)
From the campground, after an interesting descent via tunnels and steps carved into an otherwise Class IV cliff to pass Mooney Falls, the 4-mile hike downstream to Beaver Falls require 4 stream crossings. Tennis shoes are recommended but it is worth changing back to boots each time except between the first and second crossings. Going all the way to the Colorado River (an additional 5 miles) is probably not practical this time of year due to short days. Even though the sun barely reaches the narrow canyon below Havasu Falls this time of year, the beauty of the blue water, the waterfalls, and lush green vegetation is still evident. Fortunately, Havasu Creek emerges at 70° so the water is not too cold for wading, even this late in the year.
The last afternoon they packed out 3-1/2 miles and camped where the trail leaves Havasu Creek completing the remaining 6-1/2 miles to the car the next morning. This area would be a much better place to camp (rather than the Park campground) between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1 as it receives considerably more sunshine - but it is on a flood plain and not recommended during a heavy rain!! The round trip from here to Beaver Falls would still be a reasonable one-day hike (approximately 15 miles).
For those who could arrange it, a 3 or 4 day weekend in October would be much more suitable for photography and for swimming in lovely blue pools; yet still not interfere with the ski or Sierra climbing seasons.
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