The Supai Journals
Day 1 & 5 - Joseph Rouintree
Day 2 - Cesar Chavez
Day 3 - Harry Do
Day 4 - Kyle Picco
Pictures - Harry Do, Joseph Rouintree, & Kyle Picco
DAY ONE: WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE EASY
4:00am... That is a brutal time to wake up at on a Sunday morning. Not cool, guys. Well, sure, I could have slept on the bus afterwards, but the anticipation was too much. The bus was ridiculously comfortable; with TVs, reclining chairs, a bathroom, and seatbelts! Good thing too, because we were on that bus for a good seven hours.
We had only what we brought with us onto the bus, and what we could grab at the store at one of our few stops. I'm glad we did make stops before we arrived at our destination, otherwise I probably would have forgotten how to use my legs. We all stocked up on any materials we may have forgotten, and grabbed food at one of the nearby stores, like Arby's. Then, back to the bus, for more long hours of travel. Good thing people brought decks of cards. I personally didn't play, but I got to witness some magic tricks, so that was cool too.
At the end of our bus ride, we were greeted by an amazing view of the canyon below us. Then, I realized I would have to climb down all that, and my feeling of wonder went away.
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Packs were heavy for all of us, though the more athletic members of the group seemed largely unaffected. Being out of shape, I quickly found myself near the end of the line. It's mildly disheartening to see person after person pass you by, when you feel that you're moving as fast as you can. Especially when you see them off in the distance, no bigger than an ant. It was a long walk. The canyon was very misleading. Around every corner, I would see light, and think that it would open out into the Supai village, (or at least, somewhere with a river), but every corner lied to me. It was just more rocks. And sand. And... rocks. Well, eventually I arrived at camp. The moleskin I had put on the bottoms of my feet somehow worked their way onto the tops of my feet, and my shoulders were rubbed raw from my pack.
Tent was quickly pitched, and sleep soon followed. Forget food, I'm just gonna grab a snack from my bag and chew it quietly in the dark, nursing my wounds and crying myself to sleep... Okay, I won't do anything that pathetically tragic. I am going to sleep early, though. Today was a cruel day filled with blazing heat, sore feet, and something else that ends in -eet. I'm spent.
DAY TWO: NEW ADVENTURES
I woke up dazed and a bit confused. I had no idea what time it was. What I did know was that it was freezing that morning compared to the previous night. In a nearby tent, someone asked “what time is it?” followed moments later by a soft “5:32” I groaned and rolled over to my side only to notice that my hips seemed bruised. After an unfortunate attempt to rest for a little more, I decided to get up. After sitting up, I realized my shoulders were much more sore than I originally thought. I couldn’t even lift my arms high enough to open my tent properly.
I poked my head out and saw that there were a few people already out making breakfast. Groggily, I got a small stove and a pack of dehydrated eggs. Surprisingly, they weren’t that bad that morning.
As more people started coming out to eat, Sciacca came out and started saying the options of what we could do for the day. He said that he was going to go hike out to Havasu Falls, go up towards Navajo falls, and later at night maybe go to the old mines. Out of everyone, Harry Do was the most excited about going to the mines.
And so, as we were all ready with our small daypacks, we headed out for a small hike towards Havasu Falls. Compared to the five-hour hike the day before, this was a breeze. After a few minutes, we were at the bottom of Havasu Falls and it was amazing! Coming down and looking at the falls from above was spectacular enough already, but up close was even better. We put on our water shoes and sunscreen and hurried for the water.
Immediately after our feet touched the water, some of us were jumping around since we did not expect the water to be that freezing. Some people like Mitchell Grandia jumped in without hesitation and others took their time. After being knee deep already, I just decided to might as well get it over with and dunked myself in. After the initial jolt of cold, the cool water felt great with the Supai heat. We stayed there for a while and it was a lot of fun. There was a waterfall that people could try and get past, a little pool to just relax and after we were done swimming, most of us took some time to relax and just lay in the sun.
After we had our time at Havasu, Sciacca, Kahawai and Kumar started heading over to Navajo Falls with whoever else wanted to keep going. Not too long later, there was small cliff that was approximately 35 feet high that looked promising to jump off of. After James Lewis made the first leap to make sure it was all good, almost everyone hurried one after another to give it a try with some going more than once. While there were minor incidents such as small nosebleeds, everyone who jumped said it was definitely worth it.
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Once people had their adrenaline rush from that first jump, once we got to Navajo Falls people were ready for that jump which was approximately 30 feet high. More than half of us went down Navajo Falls for another swim while the rest stayed on top to relax and enjoy some beef jerky or dried fruit.
After dinner, Sciacca announced we were going to head to the mines. People once again got ready to head out with flashlights and we stumbled a while in the dark towards Havasu with Sciacca semi-leading the way. No one knew where to go from there and Sciacca went back for a bit to see where Kumar was. Nonetheless, several people continued on aimlessly. Moments later I was completely startled by a dog that just bolted against my leg. And then another. We had no idea where they came from or where they were going but there they were. The dogs slowed down once they were in front and actually led the group to the entrance of the mine caves.
The mines were incredibly cool. Once inside, it seemed like a small maze but most of paths led to a dead end. One path however, had a hole with a ladder and rope that someone could go down. A little reluctant and excited as well, Sciacca took small groups at a time down the mine hole.
As people came back up one by one, they would say that it was one of the coolest and scariest things they’ve been down. The floors were wooden and creaked with every step, and wooden beams supported the ceiling. The mine caves were a bit creepy, but worth going to.
After heading back, all I could think of was rest. I got my sleeping bag ready and was glad that today went incredibly well. I was excited for the days to come.
DAY 3: THE WILD RIVERS
Today was an awesome day! We started the day by going down to Mooney Falls, which is a 200 foot waterfall by our campsite. It’s an impressive sight.
We took a river trail down towards Beaver Falls. I didn’t bring water shoes so I had to wear my running shoes. At first, it sucked to have water in your shoes, but then it became natural and then refreshing. We all eventually hit the rope swing, where you would grab onto a rope, which hovered above the river from a tree, and then you could swing around until you jumped into the river.
Eventually after hiking for about three more miles, we hit Beaver Falls. The highlight of Beaver Falls was a 50 feet and 40 feet cliff jump into a deep natural pool of water. As I reached the cliff, I saw James Lewis jump from the 50 feet and I cringed inside. I wanted to jump from the 40 feet one, but not the 50 feet one because when you’re on a cliff, looking down before you jump, and those extra ten feet trip you out.
I remember Mr. Kumar and Taylor Thompson jumped without hesitation, which is great since the longer you wait before you jump, the more mentally challenging it becomes to jump. Me and Kyle were waiting to jump, but it didn’t help since everyone before us was hesitant to jump. When Melissa Michaels jumped, she landed on her butt, which hurt her so much since the impact slams hard on your body. That definitely didn't help my anxiety. When it came down to me and Kyle Picco, I asked him if he wanted to go first, he said yes, but eventually he let me go first.
I remember staring at the cliff and started to run to jump off. I told myself, Okay, just run then the rest is easy. 1, 2, 3... Once I jumped off, I started thinking, Oh jeez, I can’t stop now! The most intense thing about jumping is the fall – 40 feet is a lot, so you have a lot of air time where you can’t do anything but hope you land well. Once I landed, I felt refreshed from the water and everyone ate lunch after.
The teachers had an awesome idea to go back to camp through the river, completely upstream. At least fifteen of us felt up for the challenge. We first had to swim alongside the current of a mini waterfall, so we needed to swim next to the rocks. The teachers and James had gone ahead so they helped us up.
Eventually, most of the group decided it was less annoying to go on the trail, so the rest of us: Robert Blackwell, Chad Webster, Chris Pawinski, Eric Medina, Cesar Chavez, Alex Samprietro, Jake Comer, Melissa Michaels, Kyle Picco, and me decided to go completely upstream. It was so sick! We travelled through white sand, climbed rocks in the water, went through several feet of water, and maneuvered up waves of mini-waterfalls. It felt as if I was in the movie, Anaconda, going up the river, fighting through danger, without the massively large snakes, of course.
The most memorable thing of the day was the upstream river. We joked amongst each other, calling intense currents as “gnar gnar” (I assumed it meant gnarly). I remember Chad, Robert, Jake, and Alex TRYING to swim up some very strong mini-waterfalls.
We had a blast - however, one time, I tried doing it too, but the current was super strong, which pushed me downstream slightly. The current had flipped me over similar to when a wave at the beach wipes you out and you flip around. Chris grabbed my leg and I had no grip on anything. He thought I was fine, so he let me go. I then flipped around again, had no grip of anything, but Kyle then grabbed my leg and saved me from going insanely down the river alone. I almost got swept by the currents a couple times, so I thus was known as the one who nearly died multiple times in the river (although I was never in danger of real death if any administrator is reading this, haha).
Eventually we screwed the river because it took too long and took the trail back, which was a good idea because we found out we barely made progress in the river. Later on that night, we had more great times at dinner time and looking at the stars.
DAY 4: THE TREK BACK
The third day started a lot slower than the rest, since we didn't have a strict schedule. Even though we were allowed to "sleep in" compared to normal most of us woke up early anyway. I ended up going out into the river to bathe and wake up.
Once things settled down and it started nearing dusk, we started to pack up. The hardest parts were picking up all the trash and realizing that it was way harder to pack for leaving than when we arrived. We took longer than expected to pack and distributed our gear amongst tent mates to make it even, but we finished without much trouble. And so once a few words were shared we went off on our hike out towards the bottom of the switchbacks.
The group was allowed to choose where they wanted to go for the day. Many went down to Havasu Falls again to lounge around and watch James Lewis dive under the waterfall. Others stayed around camp, hiked around, or played in the river. Joseph Rouintree spent a good portion of time overlooking the campgrounds up in a cooled off cave.
After cooling off and napping around, the majority of the group came back to the campsite for lunch and relaxation. A large portion of the group decided to lounge around the part of the river with the log and rope, playing tons of different games. The best being when Everett Brown tied the rope to the inner-tube, making it a game to try and stay on, and when Chad Webster, Robert Blackwell, and Mr. Sciacca sat down on the plank trying to knock each other off. Sciacca proceeded to dominate as he defeated both Chad and Robert with everyone around them laughing at his hilarious tactics.
We were told to stop in the village to shop for a couple minutes. People bought Gatorade, ice-cream, a well cherished burger, and many other well missed items. We, after a couple minutes, started taking group photos. Once all was said and done we started our trek. Right off the bat the group split up based on speed, James Lewis leading the charge. Sciacca gave him time limits on when he should stop for everyone to catch up and stop, usually around every twenty to thirty minutes.
The best part, apart from the star gazing, would have to be the conversations that happened on the night hike. It was pretty much all we could do from just wanting to stop. Once we did finish and stopped at our campsite (which had a gravesite no more than twenty feet away, mind you) everyone set up their sleeping bags (a few tents), and laid down for the night, staring up at the stars.
DAY 5: THE LONG RIDE HOME
Sandy. I feel very sandy. Even now, writing this, I still feel bits of sand. I woke up this morning, out in the middle of a desert, in a sleeping bag. Despite what Sciacca said, we would not start our trek up the switchbacks while it was still dark out. On the bright side, (figuratively and literally), we got to watch the sun start to rise. It was around 5:30am I think, and the switchbacks lay ahead. I was confident, though. I had my hiking poles, my pack was lighter, and they weren't that bad on the way down. How hard could it be?
It was living hell torture. The ENTIRE TIME. Gravity is a cruel, CRUEL thing. You are walking up a 45 degree incline at least. Add a heavy backpack, little water, and no easily accessible food, and you've got a wonderful formula for some grade-a suffering. Of course, this may have been limited only to those of us that are not physically gifted. Some people, after having climbed these things once, decided the best thing to do would be to climb down, grab someone else's pack, and climb back up again. I would question how badly their brains were fried by the desert heat, but they were doing a kind service to some of the other campers, and I commend them for it.
Climbing that final switchback, and seeing the bus waiting for me, with my bus-bag and an ice chest filled with water, Gatorade, and soda made me nearly cry with happiness. I eagerly changed into my pajamas, hopped into my comfortable seat on the bus, and busted out the mini donuts and Gatorade! Such delicious food! My fellow campers also enjoyed the mini donuts, so it was clearly worth bringing. If only the marshmallows I had bought on the way there hadn't melted in my tent... We made only one quick stop at In-N-Out, which was packed to the brim with people. It was well worth the wait, though. Tasting something like that, after a week of “Just-add-water” foods, made it seem as though it was the food of the gods. I gladly engorged myself on the burger, fries, and my chocolate shake while we got back on the bus.
The rest of the bus ride was fairly uneventful, aside from the journal being passed around. Everyone got to write something in it to tell the next year's campers. I made sure to warn them about bringing plenty of water, and gave a tip about putting moleskin on their shoulders. Also, if there was a cave near their campsite, they should hang around it during the hotter parts of the day. That's what I did, and man, am I glad I did. I'll pass on blazing hot sun, thanks; I prefer the shade. Positively beautiful. Anyway, once we got back to school, I stood around for a few minutes, waiting for my ride to pick me and my heavy pack up, as were most of the other campers. Once I got home, I took the best freaking shower of my life and opted to do nothing for the rest of the day. It's been a wise choice so far. Even after all the chaos, near-death experiences, blisters, weird food, and even weirder sense of time passage, I have to admit; this was one of the best experiences I've had. It was well worth all the hardship, just because I feel like I've been able to connect with the people that went. Everyone was always willing to share with one another, and they showed concern if something happened to you. This was a perfect group to go camping with. Right now, though, it's time to rest. I'm still tired. And sandy.