ALERT: Flash Flooding Havasu Falls area

Attention – Alert

There are reports coming in that Flash Flooding has occurred in the Havasu Falls area.  All campers have been evacuated from the campground. The campground is closed until further notice.

The road into the Hilltop Trail Head parking area is also closed to incoming traffic.

The trail to and from the Trail Head and the Village is closed. They are not allowing anyone to hike out.

Do not attempt to call into Supai. That includes the Lodge and Camper Check-in office. They want the phone system open for emergency services.

We are hoping members eventually get photos and video to us. Have friends and family subscribe to our email to get the latest notices direct into their inbox. Subscribe to our Email list

Photos, Video’s, and your stories can be submitted to info@toponautic.com

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Touring Grand Canyon Caverns

Wow touring the Cavern [Near Peach Springs, Arizona on Old RT 66] was a great side trip.  I am sorry we never did it sooner!

If you are intending to camp, or even considering camping, at the Grand Canyon Caverns Campgrounds, or simply passing by on old RT 66.  Be sure to allow time for the Cavern Tour!

Did you know you can have your meal down in the Cavern?  The combo meal & tour is very reasonably priced.  When we looked at the menu and the tour, as individual prices.  Having the experience in the cave, was a no brain’er!

Follow the link over to the full article.  In the article there are links to other points of interest.  Also our experience camping in the campground.  Grand Canyon Caverns Article.

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GATOR & THE CHAIR

Gator & the Chair is a comical reminder for planning any backpacking trip. Reducing Carry Weight, while gathering gear, food, and necessities for a trip is probably the most important goal to be working toward. Way in advance of any upcoming trip.

I have gone pack heavy on some previous backpack trips. I can assure you, overloading your pack can really ruin, or at least dampen your thoughts, of ever backpacking again.

Click here to view our expanded discussion on Pack Weight & Total Weight

Here is our comical discussion about gear you don’t need. Titled “Gator and the Chair”. Our friend Brian (a.k.a Gator) is a good sport and always has us laughing.  It’s sometimes hard to tell whats really true.  This video is for you that want everything along on your back. We may laugh, but we have all been right here. At one time or another. Or to some degree.

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CAMPING AT THE TRAIL HEAD PARKING AREA Can I do it?

Technically no. But to date, and to my knowledge, there are no official rules prohibiting it.

There are no camping facilities, no water source, no electric, no lights, nor the room to place things like tents. It can be noisy. No shade.

Hotter than blazes during the summer months. Many complain it is noisy throughout the night. Cold nights during the cooler months.

There is only a pit toilet near the trailhead.

The parking area fills and people start parking along both sides of the narrow road.

Some self centered people think it is OK to park, then set up chairs or sleeping bags in the parking space next to them. They are actually posting it on social media as the way to start the trip. Come on people…that is not OK to be fair to others. This is the kind of behavior that ends up creating rules and restrictions.

There are often not enough parking places to go around just for vehicles.  Starting in 2018 it appears they are upping the headcount allowed to visit on a given day.  So parking will become even a bigger hassle.

The reservations in recent years have been completely sold out. The parking lot overflows as it is. If you take extra parking spots to set up sleeping space or gear, and say “to H&LL” with others, be prepared to deal with belligerent people trying to find a parking space. This is a good way to put yourself in a bad situation with escalating conflicts.

Some people are silent complainers. This is the kind of stuff that gets your vehicle messed up once you hike away from it.

That doesn’t even count the chance of getting run over/backed over accidentally in the dark if camping on the pavement. We are all here to enjoy this area. Be courteous and think of others. Don’t cause a situation. None of us are here for a negative experience. Plan better and please do not subscribe to this thinking.

Sleeping in a Van and Truck is certainly doable.   Depending on the season of course.   Even then this area is my last choice for sleeping accommodations.   I have slept in my van once in the parking area.  There are way better options for a more enjoyable adventure.

In some cases you might be able to park along and off the side of the road and stretch out between your vehicle and the guard rail….or your vehicle and the canyon wall on the other side. Or the other side of the guard rail.

Once you get there and see the situation most have the same recommendation I have.  Check Google Earth to appreciate the recommendation not to sleep over here.

On the rising canyon side, I would be concerned about falling rocks. On the dropping canyon side…falling kids, if you have them along. On the dropping canyon side there is often not even enough room to park a vehicle off the pavement.  Below is a photo off Google earth to indicate what I am referring to.

Click LINK to Activate Google Maps for the Hilltop Trail Head Parking Area

Its a tough way to start out this trip if you are tired.

During, Spring, Fall, Winter, at least the heat won’t be much of a factor.  More likely the cold will creep in on you.  Ideally, if this is your option for an early start, you have a van or can sleep in the back of a PU Truck.

There are Hotels and Camping about an hour, to an hour and a half, before the intersection of RT#66 and IR#18.  Check Peach Springs Arizona, Seligman Arizona, and  Grand Canyon Caverns Campgrounds that also has lodging.

Many people opt for these…and they fill up too.  So reserve early.  Then get up and on the road right as it begins to get light. (Before actual sunrise)  Make this last hour or so of the drive and arrive just before or around full light.

The switchbacks will remain in shadow and be the coolest of the day for about 2 hours.  You should have no problem making it down the switchbacks before the sun gets high enough to shine on you.

Don’t travel that last 60 mile stretch of road in the dark.  It is “open range”.  Lots of dark cattle, elk, deer, etc.  The road is desolate and no lights.  Failing to heed this warning might very well result in a very damaged vehicle or something worse.  Don’t be in that big of a hurry,

Though I have never personally had issues with vehicle break-ins, from time to time there are reports this occurs.  Be it a local or some tourist, I have never heard.  But this is like any other parking lot situation.  Do not leave valuables in your car.  Things you do leave behind stash out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk.

ONE DAY TURN AROUND HIKES Not Allowed

A one day hike in/out, “Day Hikes” in an attempt to see and visit the area or waterfalls are not allowed. You must either have a confirmed overnight reservations for the campground, or Lodge accommodation reservations, to enter the area.  On top of that you have to pay an Entrance Fee as well as an Environmental Fee…..plus 10% Tax.

You must check in at the Camper/Tourist Office in the village of Supai.  That is located about 9 miles into your hike.  You are given a personal Tag or Wrist Band indicating you are paid and checked in.  You can then proceed beyond the village once you have your wrist band or pack tag.

Some of us that live near the general area have asked if we can hike down the first day of reservations (February). Secure reservations rather than going through the nightmare of the phone calling system. Then hike back out that same day. We were told that is a no-no and not allowed either. It would be a long round trip not to secure your reservations you thought you might get.  Or get turned away at some point on the trail because you lack a reservation.

In 2017 visitors hiking in, were challenged at several points along the trail by a local/ranger. You are asked about your reservations and the name of the person the reservation(s) were made under. They have a paper list of all the names for that day. They were turning people around that didn’t match their list.

NIGHT HIKING

One of the Tribal rules is no night hiking.  There is also no one day turn-around hiking.

Night hiking applies to the Main Trail, and any other areas.  This applies to hiking in from the Trail Head.  Also Hiking out to the Trail Head.  This applies to hiking the area when set up in the campgrounds.  This also applies to the village.  A walk to the campground pit toilets at night is an exception, if you are camping there.

Even though this should be mostly common sense, you will find some who disregard the rules.

Between the hours of 6pm and 4am you are not supposed to be walking/hiking/backpacking through, or in, Supia Village. You will more than likely be confronted by tribal law enforcement and not allowed to pass into or through the village.  Some apparently are never confronted because we sometimes see stories of people hiking at any given hour.  If you are one of these types you need to be more considerate of others.  If that isn’t possible please at least follow the rules.  This rule was confirmed by one of the locals that works in the Camper/Tourist Check-in office, in the village of Supai.

Should you come into the village at night, at a minimum you will be unpopular with the locals.  It might not be just tribal law enforcement that confronts you.  Be respectful, this is their home.

Some people have no respect, and will more than likely ignore this warning. The main walking path through the village wanders through the locals housing area.  About the time you get their dogs barking after dark, you won’t be too popular. Can you imagine your house right on the path?  Then at night, people  hiking through, with no regard for waking the locals up?

As for tourists wandering off the main path in the village, this is a no no at any hour!  Stick to the main trail.

Please have respect for the people that live in Supai, so they have respect for us that have visited for years without trouble. There seems to be more and more people with no common sense, and someone has to spell things out.

In addition, you must stay on the main trail when hiking during normal hours.  Other trails are off limits and require special permission from tribal authorities to be on them. Remember you are not suppose to be wandering through the residential area off the main trail.

Other area’s such as Tribal Burial Grounds are off limits, at all times.  The locals do not want you taking photos of the Burial Grounds.

If in doubt find Tribal law enforcement or a Tribal ranger to ask.

 

FOOD & CRITTER PROTECTION – RATSACK

A sure sign of a rookie backpacker/tent camper is leaving food or smelly things like soap products, toothpaste , etc in their tent.  Critters of all sort will destroy your gear trying to get to it.  The Havasu Falls area campground is well known for this problem.

This includes packs and sleeping bags.  Anything left on the ground or simply hung on a tree.  Anything with a “Smell” no matter how well sealed or even unopened, needs to be removed from your gear when unattended or when your are sleeping.  Then other prevent measures taken.

Though this is not bear country there are numerous critters that have had generations worth of training in this area due to visitors not practicing food storage protection.

A Ratsack or other food protection method is necessary when backpacking the Havasu Falls area.  There are a variety of critters lurking, waiting to snack on what you transport in.We have made the trip to Havasu Falls numerous years. We have hit all seasons. From blistering summer heat, to bone chilling times of the year with snow. We have found all seasons have critters looking for easy food pickings. Namely your backpacked food.

While the squirrels are the most prevalent, there are also ring tailed cats (similar to a raccoon), mice, rats, roaming horses, and the local dogs. While all times of the year have their hazards, the warmer months see the highest activity.

You want to protect your tent, packs, and sleeping bags from damage. While in your campsite, keep all food and smelly items such as toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, lip balms, etc out of your tent, sleeping bags, and packs that at left unattended. Forget for even 5 minutes and it may be too late. Some of these critters have been conditioned more than likely from generation to generation. They will chew through tents (the rodents), drag your pack away (ring tails and dogs), and trample your tent (horses).  The horses can also stand on their hind legs to rip packs down that are hung on tree’s.

The first line of defense it to get your food and toiletries away from your expensive gear. Many use tupperware containers and things like that. At times there are 5 gallon plastic pails with lids available at the campground entrance. But you can’t depend on the pails being available.

Our most successful method of prevention so far, is to purchase a Ratsack to stash our stuff. Then use a length of 100lb test mono-filament fishing line over a high tree branch. Hoist up the sack high enough. Keep in mind horses will stand on their hind legs to reach up and try to snatch goodies.

All of our items are first put in ziplock freezer bags. Even our “Pack it out Trash” is ziplock bagged and kept in your Ratsack too.

We ordered our “Ratsack”off Amazon. Only the large size was available at the time. When it arrived it looked overly large. It probably is too large for a single person. In hindsight I am glad that was the one we purchased. For two people it is very ample. We hadn’t thought through the trash issue until we were actually on the first trip with it. Then we were glad for the larger ratsack. We had plenty of room for both food and trash, times 2 people, for a 3 night backpacking trip.

Other successful suggestions: At times there are 5 gal plastic buckets with lids available from the ranger building at the entrance to the campgrounds. These are effective. People that have used them suggest sliding them under the picnic table seat anytime you are not into your food. The only problem is you can’t depend on them being available. Especially when there during busy times.

Bear proof containers are another option if you have one and don’t mind the additional weight. I would opt for the Ratsack in lieu of the Bear proof container. I have both to pick from.

 

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HACKBERRY GENERAL STORE ON OLD ROUTE 66 – Willem Bor

Today I stumbled into information related to the Hackberry General Store along Old Route 66, and an artist named Willem Bor. The route is often referred to as the “Mother Road”.   The artist, fascinated by the route and old structures, set off to recreate them in model form.

If you are making a road trip from the west to Backpack Havasu Falls you will mostly likely pass right by the Hackberry General Store.   Be sure to factor in some time to make a stop.

The artist info linked further in this article becomes so much more if you stop, get out, and explore the Hackberry General Store area.


Have you ever gotten to a page on the internet you have no idea how it happened? Suddenly into some obscure website that piques your interest? Subject related to something you would have never thought to go searching for it? Ah, the pleasures of modern technology. It allows you to travel the world in micro-seconds.

I have driven old sections of Route 66 over the years. I know I have been on numerous parts of it across the U.S.  Chopped up pieces.  Parts now off the beaten path of the much faster Interstate Highways.  Though at this stage most of my recollection is isolated to some Arizona sections.  Many small towns are locked in time.  Seeming to stand unchanged since the time the Interstates bypassed once vibrant travel stops.

On the the subject I really wish to share. I stumbled into a blog of an artist (Willem Bor).  His blog was created to show his craft of model making. Oddly he did not live in USA. But fell in love with the buildings along Old Route 66 during a visit. Many which are disappearing with time and decay.  Willem Bor set off to recreate them in miniature form.  In detail you may find hard to believe.

One building in particular is currently still standing and called “Hackberry’s General Store”. I have actually been there on numerous occasions, and have done my own photography.

Check out his blog link below. You can find the Hackberry General Store built in model size.  Compare it to our photos on this page.  Visit it in person should you have the opportunity.  Then you judge how cool these model buildings are. I also love the history that is provided with each piece.

Sadly, in researching and going to his Facebook page I believe he is no longer with us since January 2017? His work and website lives on, at least for now. We can only hope he is traveling along Route 66 and comparing his work.

Link to:  Route 66 Model Art – by Willem Bor

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GRAND CANYON CAVERN CAMPGROUNDS

For those of you venturing to Havasu Falls.  Grand Canyon Cavern Campgrounds offers an excellent alternative to sleeping in your car at the Hilltop Trail Head parking lot.

Late night Milky Way Photo Op at Grand Canyon Cavern Campground

I have done the Havasu Falls trip on numerous occasions. More than once some years.  Once I trail camped up off the trail below the switchbacks (I don’t believe it is allowed any longer?)

On another occasion I attempted sleeping in my vehicle.  That was a negative experience and I vowed not again.

Since then, until a 2017 trip, I have always left Las Vegas and made the drive timed to arrive at the Trail Head right when I want to start hiking.  At times that meant leaving Vegas at 2am.

Traveling in the dark means missing much of the scenery along the way, or fun stops such as Hackberry, Arizona.  Perhaps missing Seligman, Arizona if you are coming in from the east.  Both are interesting and great photo op stops.

The last 60 miles off old route 66, once you start heading north on Indian Rd 18, is a desolate and hazardous stretch of highway at night.  It is not the road to be driving in the dark due to wildlife and open range cattle crossing or standing in the road.

Our Havasu trip planned for mid May 2017 found us debating the early morning departure from Las Vegas.  After recommending the Grand Canyon Cavern Campgrounds on the website so many years we decided to give it a try.

The entrance is a few miles east of the RT 66 & IR 18 intersection.  The view from the road side appears as an old run down gas station, and a small cafe.  Some old vehicles staged around the parking lot up by the buildings.  We stopped in the cafe and the friendly staff pointed us to the road/drive, that snaked around the back of the cafe, and up over a small hill.  We almost got nailed by the cops tucked in behind a tree (Vintage black & white cop car staged along the road) LOL!

The campground is about a mile on this paved road that winds through low growing evergreen trees.  You eventually come to the restaurant first.  This is some distance off the main road RT 66 and not visible from the main road.

Don’t expect RV resort accommodations.  Though they do have power pedestals on many sites.  The campground is typical high desert and appears not well kept.  Sites are dirt.  Some have picnic tables, some do not.  No sites have any type of shade structure.

The Evergreen tree’s peppered about average about 15ft tall.  This is high desert.  So I suspect these are Cedars or Pinon Pine.  They offer relatively little shade except in the late afternoon.  They do provide a little privacy from some neighboring sites.

There are rough graded roads and ample sites tucked into out of the way places if you want to enjoy some privacy.   We saw no site numbers.  Once you pay you simply have squatters rights to any open place you want to make your camp.  Bathrooms/Showers…..not the best.  But they are centrally located at the front of the camping area, and not too far from the restaurant building.

We made reservations at the last minute, the night before.  Mid May there were plenty of sites.  The grounds are large enough I would think you would not have trouble at any time?  You might not get a level site, or one with power, but I think they would be able to accommodate you?

The prices of $32 a night for 2 with a tent.  I don’t remember if that included power or not.  We did find a picnic table that had a power pedestal next to it.  In hindsight a small electric heater and an extension cord would have been nice.  It got real cold that night.

We had a picnic table and lots of 15ft Pinyon Pine or Ceders that offered wind breaks and some privacy.  The campground location makes it near ideal for starting the trip the next day.

We didn’t have time to check out the Cavern tours.  The Caverns are the actual reason this place exists!  That might be another story for another day.

We arrived around 6pm and took advantage of the restaurant that looks like it is open until 8pm.  We can both recommend the Pulled Pork/BBQ sandwich.   We washed those down with several ice cold brews and had a very relaxing visit.  It sure beat driving over in the middle of the night tempting fate driving in the dark.  It certainly beats sleeping in the vehicle at the trail head.   It beats waking up after attempting to sleep at the trail head, being tired and cranky, at the start of the hike down.

We tried to set up minimal gear to head out right at first light.  It was a very cold night for sure.  I believe more so because of the higher altitude.  We survived the cold, and packed gear about 4am to take off.  Several others must have had the same idea because two other groups took off right before us.

The drive up IR 18, the last 60 miles to the trail head, was a pleasant one.  The sun just below the horizon.  Enough light to avoid slamming into black cattle standing on the road,  or wandering Elk.  Both of which could quickly turn a fun trip into a disaster.

At the trail head, in the morning light, we made a breakfast.  A batch of bacon, eggs, and coffee on the camp stove stove out the back of our vehicle.  With some hearty protein in our systems we started hiking near sunrise.

So our recommendation is to allot the time to make this your stop.  Enjoy the restaurant the night before.  Even come early enough to check out the Caverns.  Then give yourself 1 hour of driving time, plus packing up your camp, to be at the trail head right at sunrise.   You will easily be down the switchbacks all in the shade.  All at a much more relaxed frame of mind.

Those leaving after a trip, and after hiking back out, this is also an excellent place to camp over.  Avoid a long drive after hiking out.  If this is your first trip you will not believe how cramped up your legs will get if you hike out, and make a long drive.  Been there, done that too!  Getting smarter and enjoying the whole experience way more.

Summer time may be different, due to heat.  Camping could become unpleasant?  Be sure to check this all out in advance.

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