Alex's road trip update: Part 4

Gila National Cliff Dwellings was a fascinating place. We were able to see how and where a civilization had lived for a generation. The homes built into the side of the caves along the Gila River supported the Mogollon people during an intense drought. The dwellings had different chambers for tribal gatherings, preparing food, and living in. The most interesting part to me is how the ranger felt obliged to tell us that many of his facts, were merely his opinion. These people lived so long ago that it is challenging to know exactly what they had done or how they had lived. The only thing historians and I alike are sure of was the fact that these people were hard workers and gifted architects for their time. They built a home for their society that has withstood the test of time, and it was very impressive.

Though they probably were not direct descendants of the Mogollon people, our next destination involved a current tribe of native peoples, the Havasupai. It was rather interesting to see the differences between the civilizations. The main source of revenue for the Havasupai people is tourism, which was why Jeff, Cola and I, among many others, were there. Thousands of people a year make the trek down to the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. The falls are located at the bottom of a canyon, ten miles from the trailhead located on the Hulupai Hilltop, which is just west of the Grand Canyon's south rim. The Havasupai provide a number of different ways to get to the bottom of the canyon, the most luxurious way is to fly a helicopter down and then sleep in the lodge, but people also ride mules down (and have their bags brought down by them too), or the third option is to hike and camp (which was the route we took). This would mark my first real experience with my backpack (actually it's my brothers but I swapped him a golf bag for it), lugging my camp around for ten miles in the desert heat.

The hike down is not bad. The most interesting part of it for me (besides the gorgeous crystal blue falls) was the Supai reservation which was on the way to said falls. It was quite different from the Mogollon cliff dwellings. The farms, which were shacks with some land, were separated by barbed wire fences strung between branches. There was a sign advertising a peach festival in August, but I saw no crops. I am not sure how anything grows in the sandy bottom of that desert canyon. There were horses and wild dogs everywhere though. On the hike down to Supai there were mule and horse caravans carrying visitors and their luggage through the canyon (at least one every mile) . They were followed by a Havasupai cowboy and usually one or two dogs and they would probably run you over if you sat in the middle of the trail, but I never tested them.

After trudging through the village you finally arrive at four crystal blue waterfalls. They are truly amazing. The best part about them is that you can swim in them (which is incredibly refreshing after a ten mile hike). We went from fall to fall and swam in them all. We learned of a safe spot to jump in from the natives at one of them, and then just sat at the base of the tallest one and took it all in.

Though it was relaxing to be able to sit after an exhausting hike in the arid desert, I knew that the hard part had yet to come. I had hiked down into the canyon to see the falls, I still had to make it out. Needless to say it was difficult. You really do not notice the gradual decline on the majority of the trail in until it is an incline on the way out. After 9 miles of a gradual incline, it turns into steep switchbacks for the last mile or so. I stopped after nearly every one of them, but I eventually made it out. I was so tired afterword that I immediately rewarded myself with a nap once we got to the truck.