Doing hard things. And chasing waterfalls.

whitagram-image-6A little over a month and a half ago, The Gang headed west for the third installment of ‘Dirtbag Adventures’.  Before I go on, and considering I haven’t written a single solitary word about either The Gang or editions 1 and 2, I probably should define a few terms. See? This is what happens when you don’t blog for shit. It’s time to play catch up.

The-Gang
proper noun. The Gang.

  1.  Two couples, 4 friends, who find each other completely hilarious and laugh and hike and run and ride and eat pounds of tacos and drink gallons of delicious IPAs TOGETHER whilst adventuring and exploring uncharted territory. “Hey, this ridiculously hot and long hike would be way more fun if we were with The Gang!”
  2. synonym:  BFFs. chums, buds, pals, Poodles, homies, amigos, pisans, brahs, posse, squad, crew, #squadgoals

Dirt-bag-Ad-ven-ture
noun. Dirtbag Adventure.

  1.  an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity shared with The Gang.  “The Gang just got back from their third Dirtbag Adventure to Havasu Falls and lived to tell about it!”
  2. synonym:  exploit, feat, escapade, episode, really fucking good time. 

It all started back in February of 2019 when The Gang decided to try their luck at getting a permit to Havasu Falls in Supai, Arizona. Supai, and all of the falls – there are five – are within Havasupai tribal lands that are located in the Grand Canyon. The only way to access the Falls is through a permit which become available on-line in February. After a series of unfortunate computer crashes and a string of expletives involving 2 laptops, 2 iPads, Facetime and an iPhone, WE GOT THROUGH! And got our permit! But then reality set in. Pro-Tip: Be at the READY on the day the permits become available. We had two of us working the website. Stay the course. You’ll get there. But don’t dawdle. Game face- ON!

Wait. What’s the date? When are we going? Oh. Hang on. Shit. THAT’S TWO DAYS AFTER OUR MARATHON!!!!

After a moment of dancing around signing WE GOT THE PERRRR-MIT like giddy fools, we realized we had a slight problem. We had booked our Dirtbag Adventure complete with Escape Campervan Rental and Havasu Falls Backpacking Bonanza of a Life Time TWO DAYS after running a marathon we’d been training for. How are we doing this?  Havasu Falls was to be followed by limping hiking adventures in Sedona, Flaggstaff and in Zion National Park. We had places to go and trails to hike! This was going to be interesting. Yikes!

But back to the start of our adventure and our pulverized quads….

We ran Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine in a torrential down pour in May. It was also 40 degrees that chilly, wet morning. Sugarloaf is a great net downhill course.  It’s super off-camber towards the end and peppered with several decent hills throughout. It’s a quad buster. It’s a good race. I probably would have loved it more had I not breast stroked to the finish line. It POURED and damn, I got super cold.

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The medals are made of wood!

My Other Half ran a sub-3 (2:50 to be exact. WOWZAH!) and I ran a respectable sub-4 (3:57). Cheers all around! When we were done shivering and battling hypothermia, we hopped in the car and drove 6 hours back home to pack and get stoked for our Dirtbag Adventure THE NEXT DAY.  No rest for the weary! Sweet Jesus. No really. How are we doing this again? To say we were both beat up was a gross understatement. And it only got worse come Monday morning. We were rough. We looked at each other, shrugged and stuffed desiccated camping meals and headlamps into our bags. After all, we did this shit to ourselves. We had no one to blame. Nary a complaint or grunt was made. Just head shaking. And laughing. Lots of nervous, hysterical laughing.

Off we go!

We land in Vegas. I am using every muscle I have in my upper body to hoist myself up out of my seat on the plane. Other Half is laughing whilst wearing NEON compression knee socks. I am neither laughing nor wearing knee socks on a plane. I had to pull myself up 10 times to hit the loo. I have a bad belly.  NOOOO! At this point Dear Reader, had we both been starring in a telenovela, this would be the scene where the camera zooms in on a close-up of my panicked face and the music swells to a crescendo {Pause….End scene!}. Yup. I’m a mess. Fantastic. Because I’m not already having enough trouble functioning on a basic level,  let alone squatting and hovering over an airplane commode ten times. This is 5th Layer of Hell stuff right here. How am I hiking with a 35lb pack on my back, equipped with all supplies conducive to life for 4 days WITH POST-MARATHON DYSENTERY????  It’s not like we’re staying in a major metropolis with a CVS and Chipolte on every corner. No, no. There is fresh water, compost toilets and a first come, first serve campground but that’s about it. The village of Supai has a very small market and members of the tribe also sell Fry Bread which is a DELIGHT but otherwise, you are on your own for food. Have Jetboil, will cook. The village is several miles from the campground. There’s no Wifi, no service, no nothin’ – to us, that was even part of the allure – to unplug.  However, this is well beyond my comfort zone. Even my legs and belly know it. Pro-Tip: You will need a Jetboil or some type of camping stove to “cook” your meals with and make coffee. #priorities We purchased prepared camping meals of the “just add water” variety to eat. Remember, you can not fly with camping fuel. You’ll need to purchase it before you get to your final destination. We bought ours in a Walmart outside of Vegas after we landed. 

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And so it begins: Havasu Falls or BUST!

The Head of the Trail, The Belly of the BEAST…

We pick up our van in Vegas and drive right to the trail head. From Vegas it’s roughly a 4 hour drive, give or take. We are out there! We are so excited we are giddy. The trail head is 60 miles off of the “main” road on tribal lands. Our plan is to regroup in our Escape (shameless plug) Campervan and sleep at the trail head so we can wake up fresh as daisies and hike on in, skipping and laughing and holding hands and shit, our backpacks weightless, buoyed by our hopes and dreams of waterfalls. Yeah. Not so much for me. Reality: A 13 mile trek on some super sore legs with a back pack half my size AND ISSUES. (Yes. I woke up with issues.) I’m not even going to get into the belly saga just to say that if on the day you hike into Havasu Falls you are popping Imodium and Pepto like they’re Tic Tacs YOU’D BETTER LOVE THE PEOPLE YOU’RE WITH because they’re gonna get to know you way up close and personal. At some point during the trek I just gave up. I no longer gave a shit. Gang, just leave me. I live here now…. I was powerless to the Belly. Gah. Pro-Tip:  The only way into the canyon is to hike on in from the trail head with enough supplies for 4 days and 3 nights. That’s how long your permit is good for. I’m not even going to mention renting mules because I would never pay anyone or any animal to carry my shit 13 miles into a canyon when I can damn well do it myself. And if I couldn’t, I shouldn’t go. So there. I think you can also take a helicopter in but *see mule tirade. Hike in People. It’s gorgeous and all part of an amazing experience. Don’t rent mules. Don’t hire a helicopter. Just hike. You can do it. I did it. Even with a rotten stomach and dead legs. 

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Hiking into the canyon is glorious.

Needless to say, I soldiered on stoically, willing myself to get there without IV fluids. Dysentery and tired legs aside, the trek was gorgeous. And I will tell you this: the hike, a giant pack, super sore legs and my ‘issue’  made me realize that I am made of goddamn titanium. I have no idea how I made it. You guys, I felt awful. And backpacking? Dude, this was so far out of my comfort zone it was on another planet. I will run marathons in the pouring rain and hike for days, but backpack in, not shower daily, eat out of a bag and sleep in a tent? Not so much. I’m a Dirtbag, but Girlfriend does enjoy amenities and clean sheets. However, I’m always willing to try something. And where there is a will, there is a way- even if it doesn’t involve a super cute boutique hotel. The waterfalls were calling and I fucking went. Pro- Tip:  If you go, leave super early. Or you will bake and a difficult hike will become super hard face-melting one. The hike is long and on the way in, it is downhill.  It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. Bring plenty of water (and Immodium, Pepto and wipes if you’re me). Be prepared! And remember – LEAVE NO TRACE. That means….well. You get the point. Pack your biohazardous wipes and snack wrappers right on out with you. Everything you bring in, you take out. Hard stop.

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Our site: Two tents, two hammocks and a gorgeous spot.

Chasing waterfalls and not sticking to the rivers and the streams that we’re used to…

Some hard things are just worth it. No matter what. See exhibit A, below. No filter necessary. Yes, that is the actual color of the water. Havasu Falls is absolutely breathtaking. It greets you as you make the final descent into the camping area.  You hear it before you see it. It seemingly pops up out of no where. There are no words. When I got to this point, I’m not gonna lie, I teared right on up. I had a DAY. And I turned to my other half, kissed him and said WOW!  You gotta be kidding me?!?!? What a place! And I would like to state for the record, that we were here BEFORE BEYONCÉ! True story. Word on the street is that she scouted her video location based on my IG posts. #jk

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Exhibit A, Havasu Falls

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My all time favorite picture of us. ❤

This place is otherworldly. Once you secure your campsite- ours was along the Havasu Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River, you can roam, hike and explore to your hearts content. After a rocky start- my gut, a DELUGE after we set up camp and a super cold night requiring wool hats and puffer jackets, we emerged from our wet tents swaddled in gear and ready to explore! We made the “Descend at your own risk” hike down to Mooney Falls which was just as magnificent as Havasu Falls and far more terrifying to get to. Gotta admit, we felt a little bad ass. Speaking of bad asses, I woke up on the second day CURED! Phew. Thank you, Baby Jesus.  Pro-Tip: Bring Chacos or hiking sandals. There are plenty of water crossings. It’s just easier to manage in sandals than trail sneaks or hiking boots. Also, bring a rain jacket and one warm jacket just in case. It saved us.

The Gang survives the trek to Mooney Falls.

Mooney Falls.

They’re not kidding.

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Sheer terror but totally worth every harrowing, slippery step.

After making our way down into Mooney Falls we continued hiking on to Beaver Falls. The hike was stunning. So lush!

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Mega Lush!

So many river crossings! It was incredible. Round trip was roughly 13 miles. We might have taken a few wrong turns here and there. We regret nothing! Our last day was spent enjoying every damn waterfall we came across. It was truly a trip to remember. We hiked out super early – before the mid-day heat. The switchbacks on the way up out of the canyon WERE NO JOKE!  You climb quite a bit on the way out.  By a bit I mean roughly ~1000ft of elevation gain over a mile of switch backs.  But alas, every damn step was worth it. Pro-Tip: I can’t stress it enough- leave EARLY. Even though you’re not going to want to. Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks to hike out with. The hike out is harder than the hike in. On your way out you can chit chat about the 5 falls you frolicked in – Fifty Foot, Little Navajo, Havasu, Mooney and Beaver Falls. And, for the record, yield to hikers coming up the trail. Walking several people abreast on a narrow steep trail is never appreciated. Know that if and when you knock a gal and her mighty pack on her ass, she may turn into Carmella Soprano for a hot minute and howl at you. Awareness people. Awareness.

There are so many places to see, trails to hike and mountains to climb here in the States. Get out and GO! We live in too beautiful a place to not try and get out and explore what you can, where you can, whenever you can.

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Beaver Falls.

It is even possible to do it on a budget. Especially if you’re not averse to camping. I’m proud to report I am no longer backpacking averse! And if I can do it, so can you.  My list of new places to visit gets longer and longer as the years tick on. If you happen to get the chance, add this to your bucket list. It’s incredible. But if you go, remember, you are a guest here- a guest of the Havasupai Tribe. Respect them and their gorgeous, sacred land. It’s truly one of the most magnificent places I have ever been to in the United States. And go quick! Beyoncé was here for cripes sake. I’m guessing the secret is out once and for all. She’s got way more of a following than me. 😉 

Have you ever backpacked in to a remote location and camped? Camping, glamping or hotel? What’s your idea of a perfect vacation? 

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6 thoughts on “Doing hard things. And chasing waterfalls.

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