My eyes strain into a valley of red and yellow rock as I toss my backpack over my shoulders, nod my head at a man leading a pack of mules and then take my first steps on my hike to Havasu Falls. My knees buckle and feet shuffle as I try to control the speed in which I descend down the switchbacks into one of the world’s greatest, and most famous, canyons. The sun feels sharper than usual as it pierces through my thin hair and warms my shoulders. The path begins to flatten and the canyon narrows tighter as the trail finds a canyon within a canyon. Red rock walls surround me as the sun is overwhelmed by a wall of shade. Cold air follows suit as my now reddening skin rises with a trail of resulting bumps. There is something powerful about this canyon, I can sense it.
After a couple hours of hiking alone through desolate terrain and under the cover of a canyon featured by an insurmountable wall I begin to see signs of life: a creek flowing under a dancing sun light, a green strip of trees, and a dog barking in the distance. My feet carry me into a car-free village seemingly lost in time and far too quiet to feel comfortable. I kick dust as I pass a group of cows playing in a dry bit of sand and a pack of curious horses wondering if I have feed. Before long, Supai starts to come alive in activity. A child learning how to ride his bike without training wheels flies by being pushed by his older sister, an organized game of basketball is played at the community center, and a couple old cowboys sleep with their hats over their eyes on a nearby bench in the shade.
My wandering shoes take me through the village and into a valley consumed by vegetation, contrast and excitement. The sound of falling water takes hold of my imagination as I being to push my sore feet a little faster than usual. I scamper using my hands as a pivot as I turn through the clay rocks unconcerned about getting dirty or falling or worse. My view is soon filled with a mirage or waters so blue they look radioactive. The water dances in a series of waterfalls that seem to get bigger and more powerful as the walk continues. It’s hard not to feel tiny among natural such power.
“This is one of America’s hidden treasures” I think to myself as I race to capture photos as if the place is about to disappear, “how do more people not know about this place?”
I set up camp for the night before heading back out to watch the stars rise up from behind the falls. Still in shock as to why I had never heard of this place until just weeks ago, I walk through an empty campground and realize that I’m not the only one to have been kept out of the loop about this place of beauty. The Havasu Canyon and Havasu Falls should not only be more visited, they are one of the must see destinations of this part of America.
The dark begins to take over the canyon as my flashlight provides the only light other than the stars above which sparkle as bright as anywhere I have ever seen. The stars, like the canyon itself, makes me realize how small I am. It makes me feel insignificant, weak and vulnerable. However, unlike most, these moments are the ones I live for. These are the moments that humble me and make me realize how powerful the world we live in is. I am alone in a land of wonder, and my spirit feels lifted, liberated and energized. As the old Native American tales describe, I have just had my spirit journey, and I didn’t even realize I was having it.