Do you backpack and use Dehydrated Freeze Dried Meals?  Here is a concept to help lighten your load. Freezer grade Zip Lock Bag cooking for virtually no clean-up eating.

I have tried several brands of dehydrated freeze dried meals over the years but my favorite is Mountain House. This is my own personal preference and not a paid endorsement.  There are several meals that are truly my favorites, and none I would turn down.

I buy the 4.8 oz size dehydrated meals that are in the $6 to $7 range. You can often get a 10 pack for around $40 to cut down on your expenses.

If you check the label, these are the 2.5 servings size bags. When I was younger I could down the whole meal. Now I find half is very satisfying. If you are a couple backpacking or camping together it is easy to cook the one bag and share.

I solo backpack, or travel with friends that have a partner to share their own with. So I have found a great way to handle the meal sizes, plus cook in such a way I have no dishes to clean up.  I use the “Zip Lock Bag Cooking” technique.

I am also not pitching uneaten portions of the meal and wasting it.

At home before a trip, I take the 2 1/2 serving size bags and open them. I pour them out on foil and divide the ingredients in half. Paying attention to make sure equal amounts of seasoning, noodles, veggies, and meat are roughly equal in both piles.

I pour one of the two piles into a gallon size freezer grade zip-lock bag. I pour the second pile into a second gallon size zip-lock. I take a sharpie and mark the zip lock with the appropriate amount of water (half remember) and the cooking time. I only open just enough for the trip. Once the manufacturers foil pouch has been compromised, these  meals no longer have the shelf life they originally had.

Each one of these zip-locked meals get put inside an additional gallon zip-lock that I have placed one clean paper napkin, and a folded up piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to fold a complete pocket over the “cooking” zip-lock bag. You could actually skip the double bag and napkin if you need to cut weight.

To use, I boil water in my Jetboil stove (No food ever goes in my stove/pot). Once boiling I pour the appropriate amount of hot water into one of the zip-lock food bags containing the dried meal.  I then seal the bag, slip that into the foil pouch I have constructed, and seal the foil all around.

The foil helps retain heat and re-constitute the food. Shake and knead the bag several times while being re-constituted with the hot water to make sure the freeze dried food all gets mixed with the water. Let the foil pouched zip-lock “cook” for the prescribed time.

Once ready to eat, remove the zip-lock from the foil, open the zip lock bag and eat directly from the bag. Save the foil for the next meal if need be. Your dirty spoon can be cleaned using boiling stove water.

You don’t need to carry soap, dish cloth, or dish towel. Your napkin can be used to dry your spoon and stove pot. Any cooking/food waste goes in the used zip-lock including the now used napkin.

Seal the waste zip lock and place it inside the other zip lock. This trash can be put in the bottom of your pack and packed out for Leave no Trace camping. You won’t be dumping soap or food particles on the ground. Save your foil for the next meal if you only brought 1 piece. I usually make sure I have at least two meal packs with folded up foil in them.

Bon Appétit !


HACKBERRY’S GENERAL STORE – Old RT 66 – Road Trip stop

Hackberry’s General Store is a “must do” road trip stop. If you are traveling on Old Route 66 between Kingman, Arizona, and Peach Springs, Arizona.  This is a great spot to stop.  No gas available that I know of, but a fun place. Photo ops in every direction.

Hackberry’s General Store is a trip destination in itself. If you have the time, travel old Route 66 heading northeast out of Kingman, Arizona driving toward Peach Springs. Time it so you are in the area during the day. Hackberry is roughly midpoint between Kingman and Peach Springs.

This building has featured photos appearing in numerous advertisements. It’s iconic image is known worldwide. It is a favorite stop for many enjoying a trip on old Route 66.

Also a popular stop on any trip people are making to Havasu Falls for backpacking trips.  Especially if traveling in from the west.  Just allow yourself some extra time for this stop. You might think a few minutes is all that is necessary.  No so.

If you enjoying shooting photos your better factor in at least an hour. Tons of old cars and car parts are scattered across the property. Old gas pumps, old metal signs, and broken down machinery.

Stop in and browse the interior too. The place has an old time staged soda fountain. The bathroom decor is a hoot. There are dollar bills plastered on the ceiling and walls by travelers from all over the world.

Bring your camera because the building and all of the “old iron” scattered around is a photographers dream.
11255 E Hwy 66
Hackberry, AZ 86401


TOOTH PASTE DOTS – Lighten your pack weight

Tooth Paste Dots will help a true ultra-ligh backpacker shaves off weight where ever it may be found. While looking at your toothpaste may seem utterly ridiculous, you can save well over a 1/2 ounce.   A 1/2 ounce may seem minuscule, but it all adds up to pounds.  Add this weight savings to sawing off your toothbrush handle and you will cut over 1 ounce with this little project.

A little travel tube of tooth paste, including the tube itself, weighs 1 ounce.  What is marked on the tube is .75 ounce, others .85 ounce, but that didn’t factor in the plastic squeeze tube.

Toothpaste dots can be made using the below method.  Once dehydrated store in a small zip lock such as a 3 inch size.  The type of ziplock jewelers, or people selling beads or small gemstones use.  Some arts and crafts stores carry them.  Once you have the dots made count out how many you need to carry.  Don’t take extras.

This also avoids a ruptured tube of tooth paste messing up items in your pack.  Squirrels and mice are famous for chewing holes in the tube and making a mess.  Plus remember you are dehydrating the past so it will even get rid of the weight of the moisture.

To Make
Squeeze out a little dollop of toothpaste on a piece of wax paper.  Continue and make as many as you need.
Some people sprinkle with a small amount of baking soda to make them non stick
Place uncovered in your refrigerator for 3-4 days, or until dried out.
Once dry, pull off wax paper and store in a zip lock.
They will look like a white chocolate chip  (don’t start baking with them LOL)

To Use
Place one Dot in your mouth and chew
Wet your toothbrush with water
Start Brushing

Watch for more weight savings ideas.  Send us your favorite hacks and tips.


MOONEY FALLS TRAIL – VIDEO – Tunnels Chains & Ladders

Mooney Falls Trail Article and Still image by: Rick Beach.
Video by: Nataliia Sheianova.

Mooney Falls is about 200 ft high. The trail from the top to the bottom is not for some with a fear of heights.

The last half of the climb down is normally bathed in mist off the falls.  For some this part is very scary.  You are grasping chains to secure yourself.   Rock footing is wet and slick.  You are on a near vertical cliff face.  Descending first.  But the only way back out, is to take the same route back up.

There is often 2 way traffic.  Some people have no courtesy to wait.  This is even more intimidating to those that are timid and not real sure they should be attempting this climb.  Maintain 3 point contact at all times! For many it is the highlight of the trip.

Once down at the base of Mooney Falls it opens you to a vast area of more water falls.  Beaver Falls several more hours of hiking downstream is a “must do” also.

Mooney Falls Trail Video: Courtesy of Nataliia Sheianova

Photo and graphics by: Rick Beach



Trip Report – Havasu Falls-Supai, AZ June 3, 2012

Written and Submitted by: Brian Johnson

The trip had been planned since December 2011, when Rick “Southwest Rick” and Brian “Gator” were sitting around drinking a Coffee on a cold day in the desert of Las Vegas. Talking and reflecting about their last backpacking/camping) trip they had taken together the previous May. They had gone on a week long backpacking trip then to Havasu Canyon, AZ with 2 others guys.

“Let’s go again in the summer.  This time so that we can swim under the huge waterfalls at the bottom of the Canyon”, said Rick. Gator agreed to return since he had a great time 6 months prior and couldn’t wait to get back.

Brian suggested something different this time. He asked, “Can we split the ‘Crew’ into (2) groups this time? Each group was hoping to start and finish, at the same time and place?” Both groups sharing the experience at the bottom of the Canyon together?”

Some of Brian’s group would camp too, but stay in the Lodge their last night. Rick’s group would be camping in the campground. All agreed but suggested one change…..schedule the trip during a Full Moon week to enjoy the night time moon reflections, and light on the trail. It was announced to friends and the Facebook Group Facebook Backpacking Havasu was created. The trip was “On” and would start in 23 weeks; the first week of June.

The group quickly grew to 10 friends and family members that all had an interest either in backpacking, camping, adventure, photography, nature, or the Great Outdoors. There were also other friends and family members that could not go, but were interested enough to join and follow the weekly discussions and planning.

The main group was subdivided into two smaller groups. The seven (7) members that wanted to backpack the first (and toughest) 9.5 miles down into the village were to be nicknamed “The Bighorns”.

The three (3) members that wished to bypass that stretch of the trail and avoid hiking to the village were to be called “The Blackhawks” (Since they would be travel in by helicopter).

An AirWest Helicopter flies into Havasu Canyon onto the Indian Reservation 5 days a week to transport the Locals, Officials, Tribal Members, and Backpacking Tourists down on a seven (7) minute flight between the Village from the Trail Head parking lot. This “Bypass” avoids the 9.5 miles of hiking to the village. (GPS actual walking miles)

Early June temperatures here are in the 90’s. July and August temps often exceed 100 degrees. The Sunday afternoon the Bighorn crew set off to backpack down the canyon wall switchbacks, the temperature had exceeded 100 degrees.

All water has to be carried in personal water bladders or canteens on this trail for 9.5 miles until resupply can be purchased at the Indian Village.

The Supai Village Store and Café are supplied daily by pack horse teams that carry nearly everything into the settlement to sustain 500 inhabitants year round.

The General Store here looks like your local 7-11 with ice cream, soda, snacks, frozen burritos, canned goods, meat, and fresh bread. These pack horse “trains” work hard 12 hours a day and pass backpackers on the trail with great speed and determination.

On Sunday June 3, 2012, Gator and his cousin Rhonda, from Georgia, departed Las Vegas around 9 am. They drove over the Hoover Dam southeast towards Kingman, AZ while enjoying the trip in Phil Hall’s pickup truck. He allowed them to use his vehicle since he and his son Carter would be riding back to Las Vegas with them on Thursday. The two travelers stopped at a Tourist Attraction known as Hackberry’s General Store for photos and drinks around 11 am.

Eventually (Sunday Evening) the three Blackhawks settled into their hotel room in Peach Springs. Backpack gear was reduced in hopes of minimizing weight. They also talked and shared thoughts of menus, camera gear, and foods. They finally fell asleep around 9:30 pm.

The Bighorn group had already hiked down the switchbacks and had set up an overnight bivouac camp up above the trail in the rocks.

Monday morning June 4, 2012 started out for the “Blackhawks” with cold air conditioning, hot showers, and front desk checkout. Another visit was made to the motel’s restaurant for a free breakfast that awaited them. Continental foods, fruits, and coffee were consumed in mass quantities for energy.  Phil’s pickup truck was loaded; canteens filled, as well as water bladders for the backpacks. The 3 departed Peach Springs around 9 am for the one hour drive to the “Starting” point/Parking Lot on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. There they would board the helicopter.

Monday morning June 4, 2012 started out at first light for the “Bighorns”.  With cereal, hot coffee, and some trail mix.  Tents were broke down, sleeping bags rolled up, gear packed, and the backpacks strapped on.  They hit the “long” half of the trail, to the village, shortly after sunup. They had the memory of the awesome full moon of last night, still fresh on their minds. On a totally clear night the Moon had lit up the entire canyon. There was no man made light for miles around. It lent a spiritual element to those on this part of the trip.

The AirWest helicopter could be heard coming up the Havasu Canyon around 10 am….right on time! It hovered over the boarding pad, near the Trail Head parking area.  A worker crouched down and ran under the whirling blades.  A  drag line and hook where attached and the chopper quickly departed downhill WITHOUT passengers! It was strictly a cargo run.  It appeared at that moment that the “Blackhawks” would NOT be boarding on time for the 7 minute flight to the Supai Indian Village.   It was soon evident “time” was not a priority in this part of the world.

The Bighorn crew by this time had hiked all the way to the village and was sitting in the café patio (In sight of the village landing pad). The Bighorn team was waiting for the Blackhawks to get dropped off at the village. They witnessed the helicopter make several passes but instead of landing at the pad, veering off a short distance away. It was delivering bundles of roofing material to several of the homes.

Some of the homes had their shingled roofs stripped clean to the wood. The helicopter lowered the material right to the workers on the rooftops. Then like a dragonfly or bird, it buzzed up the canyon and over its rim…gone from sight and sound.

Alas, the chopper returned. The “Blackhawks” hopes HOWEVER were again short lived, when they noticed a young local man wearing an orange jumpsuit exiting a waiting van. He was handcuffed and his ankles were shackled. The “prisoner” was being prepared to be transported by 2 Reservation Correctional Officers. He was, surprisingly enough, not in a bad mood, but rather, laughing, cursing in his native language, and smiling behind mirrored sunglasses as if he were going to the Grammys.

The “Blackhawks” watched in awe as his chopper took off. Were they going to get on board that day? They had an appointment to “meet up” with the “Bighorns” around noon.

The “Bighorns” meanwhile were enjoying another iced beverage!  Sitting in the shade relaxing while keeping an eye on the landing pad a short distance from the cafe.

The “Blackhawk” group FINALLY boarded the chopper at 11 am after each paying $85.00 for their quick flight. They took photos as fast as they could out the chopper’s windows and attempted to shout over the loud noise made by the rotor blades. When they landed 7 minutes later, they quickly ducked their heads and gathered their 3 backpacks, camera bag, and clothing bag and headed for the gate at the fence.

As they walked towards the fence, they were passed by 3 MORE prisoners in orange jumpsuits heading uphill. As the 3 “Blackhawks” exited the gate, they were enthusiastically met by Rick!. He explained to them that the 5 “Bighorns” had been waiting for them in the Supai Indian Village for 3 hours. They had broken camp early to beat the heat of the day. Mark and Chris (2 Bighorns visiting from Phoenix) had already departed for the Havasu Campground several hours earlier to secure camp sites.

The 3 Blackhawks walked over to the Camper Reservation Office to check in and pay their entrance fees. Upon payment, the 3 were each given an orange tag to place on each of their backpacks.

After buying large bottles of cold water, ice cream, and Gatorade at the Village General Store, the Blackhawks took their small clothing bag 1 block to the Supai Lodge and dropped it off in the lobby. After telling the front desk clerk that they would be returning in 2 days (on Wednesday), they departed on the trail for the 2.5 mile hike to the campground.

Along the dirt path, they took photos of each other as well as the creek and waterfalls that flow beside the trail. The highlight of the hike from the village to the campground is the 100 foot Havasu Falls beside the trail. It is created by the small creek as it cascades down into a large swimming pool. Photo opportunities abounded here.

Rhonda, being an avid photographer, was in heaven as she was clicking away as fast as she could. Four other members of the large group of 8 were also avid photographers. Gator, knowing this, didn’t feel the need to bring along a camera. Besides, the previous year, he had taken many photos.

At the bottom of the trail at the base of the Havasu Waterfall, was the entrance to the Havasu Campground. As the group approached the gates, they saw a local woman behind a folding table. On the table could be seen a gas stove, foil, gas canisters, and a cooler was on the ground beside her. She was cooking and selling fry bread.

The group bought hot, fresh “fry bread” and cold Gatorade from her and quickly departed to enter the Entrance gate where another local woman was checking orange tags on backpacks. Each backpacker had to squeeze through iron posts to gain admission into the campground.  Posts arranged to let people through, but keep horses out.

The Blackhawks quickly found a shady campsite and quickly laid out their gear on the picnic tables provided. They ate the fry bread and gathered their water bottles and bladders for a 5 minute walk to the fresh water spring back towards the campground entrance. Upon returning to the campsite, they hung their 3 hammocks and relaxed until time for sleep around 8:30 pm.

The next morning (Tuesday) was spent boiling water for Starbucks instant coffee and eating granola bars and cereal. The 3 discussed the prior night’s sleeping arrangements and concluded that the campsite selected was a poor choice due to its closeness to the main trail.

All night long backpackers walked by as they shined their flashlights and awed and commented on the “coolness” of the 3 hammocks. Needless to say, the 3 Blackhawks slept poorly. The 5 Bighorns had selected another location, off the trail, but in close proximity to a large group of scouts that starting moving in. They also had the same complaint about the scout group.

The 5 Bighorns joined the Blackhawks campsite and daypacks were packed with snacks, water, and camera gear for the 20 minute hike to Mooney Falls below the campground. After several hours and many photos taken at Mooney Falls, the group returned to camp and washed up in the creek about 20 feet away.

Clotheslines were strung, towels hung, and shirts and socks were washed in biodegradable soaps. Several of the crew members took off for another hike to Havasu Falls and for a day of swimming in the 90 degree heat.

It was here that member Phil experienced the group’s ONLY injury. His toes were stepped on underwater causing a bruise and swelling of his large toe. This led to concerns of his ability to hike out of the canyon the next day. First Aid bandages were administered and his foot was kept elevated. This also went into a discussion of the hazards of open toed footwear on such a trip. We all learned a valuable fact for our next adventure.

Dinner was prepared of dehydrated meals using boiled water from Fern Spring. Both groups fell to sleep early to start the final day the next day as soon as possible.

The third day (Wednesday) morning June 6, 2012 started out very chilly. Even though the deserts in the Southwest get very hot during the day, the nights are very cool. Each crew member crawled out of their warm cocoons of fleece sleeping bags reluctantly and prepared the morning ritual of hot coffee. Phil had given Rhonda a dehydrated pouch of scrambled eggs and bacon which she gloriously ate.

Today was to be the day that both groups hiked uphill towards the Village. As the sun rose, Rick (the Bighorns Guide) assisted Phil and Carter Hall up the canyon to the village.  Not only were they concerned for his swollen foot, but the heat as well.  Chris and Mark agreed to hike up next graciously carrying Rhonda’s and Gator’s backpacks. Rick returned to the campground at 10 am, then hiked back up a 2nd time with Gator.  Michael and Rhonda were the last couple to leave the campground around 2 pm.

When Gator and Rick arrived at the village around 11am, Phil and Carter were pleasantly surprised. They thought that they would have to wait ALL day for others to show up so that the group could check in at the village lodge. The 3 unloaded their gear inside room #22 at the end of the lodge building. Even though this lodge is basic and has limited amenities, it seemed like a Hilton to these backpackers. Hot showers, running water, flushing toilets, soft beds, air conditioning, and clean clothes awaited them. Also a nice nap was had by Gator, Phil, and Carter.

Rick headed back down to the campground for the second time.

At approximately 3 pm a loud knock was heard at the door. It was Rhonda and Moe! It was now THEIR turn to shower, change clothes, and freshen up. At 5 pm the 5 departed for the Village Cafe for a steak dinner.

The reason that 5 stayed at the Lodge was to hop on the chopper the next morning (Thursday) in the village. After the steak dinner (wasn’t great, but at least it was adequate), the 5 went to sleep early wearing earplugs that Gator had provided for everyone.

The next morning (Thursday June, 7th) Rick, Mark, and Chris would start their journey the total distance of 12 miles (Center of Campground to Parking Lot Trailhead)

At about 4:30am the group remaining in the campground (Bighorns) had been up since 4am. A quick breakfast and gear packed. This group was setting out on the trail before light. The backpacking group was hoping to reach the Parking lot, 12 miles away, before noon and the heat of the day.

The Bighorns made it to the parking lot, covering the whole uphill 12 mile trek in 4 hrs. The majority of the gear had been arranged for pack horse pick-up back at the campground. Regretfully the gear didn’t arrive for those waiting at the parking lot for nearly an additional 3 hours later, at 11:30am. After grabbing their gear the 3 remaining Bighorns said our goodbyes and headed out with their vehicles. Two of the Bighorns were returning to Phoenix, with the 3rd extending the adventure, traveling by vehicle to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The AirWest helicopter arrived in the village at 9 am. The group of 5 (Blackhawks) were there at 8. Chopper reservations aren’t allowed, so passengers need to stand in line early. The tribal members and officials always get first priority and don’t have to pay the $85.00 per person that the tourists pay.

After about 9 flights up WITHOUT our crew, it was FINALLY our turn. We had to split up however according to our names on the passenger list. At approximately noon, we ALL arrived at the top of the canyon to our awaiting vehicles. The Blackhawks departed for Peach Springs to return Moe to his truck, and the remaining left for Vegas while discussing plans for our next journey.

Our thanks to Brian Johnson for submitting this trip report. Brian is an avid outdoors person, and former professional guide.

Havasu Falls is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in North America. The trip is definitely worth the necessary preparations needed to visit this area.

Come prepared. Reservations are required from the Havasupai tribe. This is in a desert environment. Though there is water once you reach the village, it is 9.5miles from the trail head. Here are some simple cautions:

· Secure reservations prior to making the trip. Check-in is at the village which is 9.5 miles one way downhill. It would be a bad day if you get turned away.
· Be sure to check in at the “Camper Check In” office in the village before proceeding the next 2.5 miles to the campground. You need a wristband or tag to enter the campground.
· Carry plenty of water (More during summer months)
· The is no water available at the parking area
· The parking area is 70 miles from any community other than the village below. Nearly 80 miles to the next gas or small store.
· It is not recommended that you camp at the trailhead parking lot, though some do or sleep in their vehicles. There is no water and no shade. The parking lot is congested with vehicles and horse and hiker traffic
· Summer daytime temps often exceed 100 degrees F
· Spring, Fall, Winter night time temps are cold and can drop into the 20’s.
· Watch weather prior to trip and be prepared for the extremes
· Be sure to carry rain gear (can double as a shell in case of cold)
· Take cash money. There is a store and a café. Be prepared to pay high prices though. Remember it’s packed in on horseback



Our initial trip was organized under our former trademark business.  This all started back in 2010.

At at the time TOPONAUTIC was a business under another name and trademark. This was written up in one of our old newsletters.  We have gone through and changed the name to our current business name of Toponautic.

Yes, the TOPONAUTIC Staff and Friends made the trip. We basically shut down operations for 4 days so we could all join in. This was our first trip to Havasu Falls. It was to be a short trip since we only secured reservations for one night of camping. It was to be more of a recon mission.

This trip is not for the poorly prepared, nor poorly conditioned. Not if you are backpacking it both in and out. We found the backpack trip fun, difficult at times, but so rewarding for the experience, the beauty, and peace found in the area.

We left out of Las Vegas, driving some 4 hours or so, headed for the trail head. We passed through Kingman, Arizona and headed generally Northeast on an old section of Route 66.  Along the way, just beyond Peach Springs, Arizona we made a turn north on Indian Road #18.

IR#18 is a desolate 2 lane road with absolutely no services. From there we traveled another 60 some miles to a dead-end at the Trail Head.

Our group was made up of an age group from 35 to 61. All of us had prepared in advance by doing conditioning hikes with backpacks. Nothing can prepare you for the real thing we found out.

All of us read as much info as we could find, and spoke to people that have made multiple trips to Havasu Falls. We had all chosen our equipment, packs, and the weight we were going with. The lightest was a pack weight (minus water) of 20 lbs. The heaviest in the group was 40 lbs (minus water). So, add 7.5 lbs. of water to find our actual pack weights. Mine was 30 + 7.5 or 37.5 lbs. I found out the hard way this was way too heavy to enjoy the trip!

We had our meals figured so we were not packing extra.

We arrived late afternoon with an original plan to camp near our vehicle at the trail head. Probably what many people think might be do-able. Upon arriving we re-thought that plan. This proved to be a large error on our part. But that is why we considered this a recon mission. We had people tell us they set up tents here. Wow, that was misleading. At least to us.

The parking area is basically a shelf cut into the canyon wall. Nearly a straight drop off on the west side. The remaining side is nearly straight up with barely room to park. There was rock fall evidence in the remaining 5 or 6 feet between vehicles and the rock wall. I even feared damage to the vehicle from falling rocks. Pitching a tent or just plain sleeping on the ground in that space was out of the question.

The area is dark and trying to lay out something between vehicles might be hazardous with late arrivals coming in. Plus the parking lot was full, with cars lining the road leading back up the hill.

At the trail head we found horse corrals, composting toilets, a few dogs and a couple locals there to coordinate pack animals. We asked if it was OK to head out and camp along the trail. We were told yes as long as we got away from the trail to camp. (I think if you check now, this is no longer allowed?)

Our objective was to get down the descending switchbacks before dark. We grabbed our packs and hit the trail. The weather was very pleasant and we made the 2 miles of switchbacks in short order (about 45 minutes). We dropped into the wash trail and headed downhill, north, toward the village of Supai.

We estimated we had made about 3 miles in close to an hour, since leaving the trail head. We found a large flat ledge several hundred feet above the trail. We scrambled up some rocks and set up camp. Tents were up and dinner cooked and eaten. It was time to relax and talk about how those switchbacks might be, going up the day of our departure. We knew is wouldn’t be nearly as easy! Little did we know at that time how true this was.

We had planned our trip on the full moon, so as darkness set in, the canyon wall off to our east gradually started showing signs of the moon coming up. Suddenly it peaked above the dark horizon. Then with surprising speed rose higher and cleared the horizon. It lit us up as if we were camped near a street light. We tried for the longest time to capture the moment with our cameras. But nothing can capture what we saw and felt. Those will just be fond memories to us.

Morning came with cool air and a light breeze. We boiled some water, mixed up some oatmeal and sipped on a hot cup of coffee. Food Prep cleaned up, tents and bags rolled up, and we were off heading the remaining miles to the Village. The total distance from the upper trail head to the village is about 9 miles. We had already spent 1 hour hiking the day before, and estimated we had 3 miles behind us. The view from where we had breakfast that morning was totally awesome. It was high enough to see the larger canyon that lay before us, and also the narrower trail canyon down below us in the wash.

The trail had a fairly steady drop, but not that steep, generally meandering along a deep wash that had been cut through steep sandstone walls over eons of time. We were walking somewhat labored since the trail was loose gravel and deep loose sand. At times the trail went to a little higher ground and through some desert vegetation. This went on for several miles. Occasionally we came to a more narrow passage and large slabs of sandstone that had broken loose and fallen from the walls above

We were traveling fairly fast, averaging over 3 mph per our GPS. Suddenly we heard a strange noise. We thought a waterfall at first. About that time several horses came running around the corner, headed up hill, with a rider close behind. The horses were pack animals. Some of the tied down material was the US mail making its way out of the village. This wash is the only way in and out of the village other than by helicopter. No roads exist. Off and on we would meet more oncoming pack animals.

We read, and were also told that this is the only US Post Office that still delivers US Mail via horse back or mule. We made a point of wanting to send a post card home from the village once we arrived.

We moved fast in the cool of the early morning, though the sun was rising we remained pretty much in the shadows of the steep canyon walls. We paused briefly among some huge slabs of rock, ate a snack, and watched another string of pack animals trot by in a cloud of dust.

South entrance Village trail

Dropping down a gentle slope you enter the south end of the village and follow a dirt path between fenced off property lines to eventually come to the general store, post office, school, etc. The village is home to around 500 locals. Nearly every property was fenced with horses or mules staked or loose within the confining fences. It might make you think you were back in time until you see evidence of electrical power and water to the homes. Life here seems way more simple, but more stark and hard.

In a little over 2 hours we covered the remaining miles to the village center. So for our group, the 9 mile trip from the hill top trail head to the village took less than 4 hours, closer to 3. We met few people on the trail. But it was still pretty early.

We found our way to the camp check in office, paid our fees and then wondered over to the store, bought something to drink, and mailed our post cards at the post office. The post mark I found when I returned home is shown below. A memento of the date and time a well as a great trip.

As were started out for the campground area we walked north past the school, then a small church. Then we were out of town heading toward the Camping area another 2 miles from town.

We soon came to Navajo Falls on the way to the campground. Navajo Falls at this time was totally different than what you see today. A flash flood was to later completely alter this waterfall.

The trail constantly dropping, we soon came to a second sight…Havasu Falls. This falls is located just before reaching the campgrounds

The color of the water against the sandstone was breathtaking. What you see captured by a camera will never compare to the real view! Nor the sound of the thundering water dropping over 100 feet to the pool below.

From here we proceeded to the campground area. We replenished our water at Fern Spring. Though it is supposedly safe we pumped it through a filter to insure we had no problem. The water tasted great and was really cold.

This last leg to the campground took about 45 minutes. This would make the total one way trip to be 11 miles. The 11 miles would be from the Trail head to the Campgrounds. Our GPS would later tell us we hiked more like 12 miles. Total hiking time was in the 4 hour range.

We set up camp and proceeded to hike downstream to Mooney Falls, Mooney Falls is 210 Feet high and is quite impressive too. We messed around there too until we thought we should head back to our tent and fix dinner.

We eventually made it back to camp and started to relax. The winds picked up and we could tell weather was changing and the cold front we feared was moving in. Toward dusk the winds kicked up to 50 MPH and gusted even harder.

The cottonwood trees we were under started losing some rather larger limbs. We opted to move all of our tents to a safer location. (Note to self: check what is above you before setting up camp – their can be widow makers above you).

The winds kept up until the early hours of dawn. We had sand in the tents, up our nose, and in our ears. We had slept with T-shirts pulled over our faces. The winds were ushered in with a major cold front.  The temperature had dropped drastically from the 80 degrees the previous afternoon. We were up at first light, having already decided we better head out to beat the rain that was sure to come.

Our plan was to get all the way back to the base of the switchbacks and camp there for the night. Then do the last 2 miles up the switchbacks the next morning.

About half way to the village the rain hit us. The wind kicked up again. We dug out our rain gear and put it on. It was cold enough now we didn’t want to be wet on top of dealing with the cold air.

We made it to the village and looked back to the north. The sky was looking dark and nasty. Raining hard or snowing in the distance.  It was certainly cold enough for it to be snow squalls.

We pushed on hard knowing this time the grade was to be all up hill. We took GPS readings at several points and realized our time was a pretty quick pace. The dark cloud seemed to be moving in just behind us. It did stop raining for awhile. We pushed hard but could not increase our speed much more. The miles clicked by slow and hard. We took only 2 short breaks along the way.

We eventually made it to the last 2 miles. The switchbacks were before us.  The decision to camp or continue up the switchbacks was also facing us.

It was cold and starting to snow on us now. We voted to scrap making camp in the rocks. We all opted to continue on to the top. The switchbacks proved to be brutal, carrying heavy packs. It was painfully slow. We crested the top with it snowing hard and really cold. We were soaked inside and out. We were soaked on the outside from the rain.  Boots socks and everything not covered.  Soaked inside with sweat from pushing so hard. Luckily we all had a clean dry change of clothes in the vehicle.

We crested the summit with stiff calf muscles, and memories for a lifetime! We knew we would return.