Hike To The Blue Waters


The hikers lined up at the edge of Hualapai Canyon and looked into a giant chasm that snaked downward. The iron red sandstone supporting the mesa they stood on was cut away at a steep angle beneath them, and the canyon narrowed as it went down. When he looked around him, Rory could see mile after mile of bare, sun bleached, rocky terrain. However, deep down the canyon, and out of site flowed the blue waters of the Havasupai.

“Okay, let’s go.” Katie urged the group into motion. The gravel crunched under their boots as they zigzagged down switchbacks, and stepped around manure piles left by mules and horses. Initially, the decline was steep and swift, but the path leveled after two miles when the walls closed in on the trail. The rock color changed from bleached tan to the red sandstone more characteristic of the Grand Canyon geology.

They stopped at the four-mile sign and took pictures, celebrating the halfway point. A mule train coming up the trail from the canyon floor could be heard clopping and snorting its way toward them.

“Mules and horses have the right-of-way. You have to watch out for them and move out of their way,” Katie warned.

Five mules suddenly appeared in front of them. The animals were carrying bags covered by a blue plastic tarp, held onto the animals’ backs with yellow plastic rope. The pack animals were working hard, making quick, determined progress. Behind the mules, a fellow riding a horse urged them forward.

“You have to get out of the way!” Katie admonished René; he almost fell off the trail. The horse rider tilted his black felt cowboy hat almost imperceptibly. He was wearing a long-sleeved plaid shirt and blue Levi jeans. His scuffed, brown cowboy boots sat in large, wooden, saddle stirrups. Although the saddle and horse blanket hid most of the horse’s exposed ribs, Rory could tell by the caved in hindquarters it was underweight, probably wormy. The man squeezed his legs, driving the horse forward, and continued past the hikers without saying a word or making eye contact with anyone on the ground.

“What a rude person,” Ellen said. “At least he could nod hello to a fellow Indian.”

“It's no matter, Ellen. We need to stay out of the mules’ way. They get annoyed when you don't.” Katie held her breath as she walked through the dust storm generated by the shuffling equine feet. “Maybe they’re on their way up right now getting our packages.”

Cottonwood, willow trees, and lush low-growing greenery sprang up as Hualapai Canyon widened and merged with another canyon on the right. They could hear the sound of running water.

“That’s Cataract Canyon,” Katie told the group. “This is where Havasu Creek comes in.” A clear, fast-flowing creek with a dark, blue-green turquoise hue flowed toward them out of the green underbrush of Cataract Canyon. They continued and crossed the river on a footbridge passing the corrals and buildings of Supai village. Two natural, gigantic, red sandstone, monolithic rock towers guarded the village.

“Those are the Wii’igliva, or the Watchmen,” Ellen, their guide and cook continued. “They are the male and female protectors of Supai. According to their legends, the day those towers fall will mark the end of Havasu Canyon and the Havasupai people.”

Thank you, Erica, for allowing the use of your pictures.

EricaMeyerPhoto.

You can contact her at AsHerWorldTurns@gmail.com.

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