I have wanted to make this trip from the moment I saw the falls in a picture years ago. I decided it was time. I called in and managed to snag a permit – the only issue was that it was during Arizona’s monsoon season. I took the chance and watched the weather in the week leading up to the trip.
To soon after a rain and the water would be brown with mud. Clouds forming the day before could mean flash floods and slippery rocks. I timed it perfect. The days before the hike were rain less and no storms were forecast for the first two days. The third would be iffy at best.
Packed my backpack and stepped on the scale. 38 pounds. I figured I would burn through alot of that as it was water and food weight. That would make the hike out easier.
I left the night before and drove onto the Indian Reservation – it was one of the darkest roads I have ever been on. On the way I saw deer and a massive bull elk. I decided to slow down even with 1200 Lumins of extra light bars on my truck. Hitting an elk could end poorly in an area with no cell service.
When the sun rose and woke me up in the cab of my truck I got out and got my first look at what I was in for. It was an amazing site to see with the sun turning the red rocks into what I can only describe as looking like a water color painting. As I packed up my gear at my truck horses would just wander by.
The first mile of the hike drops you 2000 feet and leaves your legs a little shaky but then evens out to a normal hike. I tried to get down the first mile quickly hoping to get into the shade of the slot canyon before the real heat of the day started.
No worries about getting lost, its a slot canyon the whole way down and the mules and horses have worn a path through the gravel into the sand below. Convenience at its best, until you realize that they are constantly using it throughout the day and they definitely have the right of way.
You can see the trails worn into the gravel.
The thing about the slot canyon is you forget just how deep you are – you can only see 2-300 feet up. But beyond that is an expanse that is unforgettable – more on that later. There is no sound of cars, no horns and very few people when you start that early. The silence is beautiful.
I burned through 2 liters of water in the first 4 miles and had to stop and swap bladders, I took 5.5 liters and ended up using almost all of it.
After 7 or so miles a sign lets you know your close – the sign is a lie. You still have about 1 mile until the village, but you start to hear water. After the mile the canyon opens up into an Indian village, dogs wander around and some came up looking for a handout.
Once I reached the check in point and paid I realized I still had two miles to go to the camp. Its a dirt / sand road that makes walking a little bit more of a chore. Then you start seeing blue water, that made me move a bit faster. Then faster again when I heard the falls in the distance. You pop over a small rise and then you see it. The teal water that I waited years to see. It was mesmerizing.
I set up my camp and changed into shorts and swapped my water bladder to a smaller camelbak and went to the natural spring – the only water in the camp site and it tasted delicious. I could drink that water all day, I wish tap water tasted like that. I took off down to the larger of the two falls to snap some pics, and spent a while there letting my camera run.
I spent the night in the tent near the river and with its sounds and the exhaustion from the hike I was out in seconds. I woke up to my alarm at 5AM and realized the weather had called for storms the next day. Buy why rush out and hike in the heat when you can take a helicopter? I figured there was no better way to get some amazing photos so I packed up and booked it the 2 miles to the pad to be first in line for some morning shots before the harsh light of afternoon ruined it.
It seemed another group had the same idea. I met a group of doctors and friends from San Diego and we sat around and told stories and jokes for a few hours until the ground crew showed up.
Here is a pro-tip. Have one person of your group at the table they say to check in at and another at the small stainless table on the other side of the fence. The ground crew basically threw the sign up sheet on to the stainless table and walked away.
People who showed up last minute tried to get their name on the sheet first. Lucky for our group on of the woman took matters into her own hands and walked up and took the clip board from the late comers, assertively said that out group was first and brought it back to us. No one tried to argue.
It was an epic trip. I will be going back. The drive home seemed strange, back on the highway it almost seemed like it was a dream. I briefly saw something I always wanted to see and then it seemed like an instant later I was right back where I started… I need a few days down there next time.