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Our primary destination on this trip was the HAVASUPAI RESERVATION with its Havasu Falls.

 

The Havasupai Reservation is located in a small side canyon on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The village of Supai is at the bottom of the canyon and can only be accessed by travelling the 8 miles by foot, horseback or helicopter. The Havasupai (people of the blue green waters) have lived there since 1300; about 650 live there today. Access to Supai Village is via Hualapai Hilltop, where cars are left and the walk or mule or helicopter ride begins.

 

The big drop in elevation comes right at the beginning as the trail goes down off the mesa, dropping 1100’ in 1.25 miles; the rest of the 8 miles drops only an additional 900’.

 

Supai Village has a grocery store, one restaurant, a guest lodge, a post office, an elementary school. The only combustion engine is for an occasional tractor as they grow corn, beans and squash.

 

It is the only place in the U.S. that still gets mail by mule train!

 

The most amazing features are the three main waterfalls: Havasu Falls, Navajo Falls, and Mooney Falls, which at 190’ feet is higher than Niagara Falls!

 

From the village of Supai, the Havasu Creek descends for another 10 miles to the Colorado River dropping water over the waterfalls as it goes. The creek starts small as it is fed by snow run-off and rain water above the canyon wall and runs about 50 miles until it enters Havasu Canyon. At Havasu Springs an underground river feeds the creek.

 

The spring has a large amount of calcium carbonate that forms the limestone that lines the creek and reflects its color. Every year the falls change their appearance due to the mineralization of anything that falls into the water. Also every time there is a major storm, the surge of water reshapes the canyon.

 

We’d long wanted to visit Supai and its falls, but it didn’t happen until our niece and her family planned their trip and we went along.

 

The majority of the 25,000 visitors a year hike in and camp. We decided to take the simple way and booked rooms in the lodge. We visited in late November so the days were nice but the nights were very cool and very few people were camping. There were very few visitors when we were there.

 

The family hiked both ways, but we decided to helicopter down. We all hiked the 8 miles back out.

 

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The tribe contracts with Sky West helicopters to carry people and mail on a first-come basis. They only take cash. In winter they fly only two days a week; luckily the day we were visiting was one of those days!

 

Hopeful passengers put their luggage on the ground near the landing pad and stand around and wait. We didn’t wait long.

 

It seemed like the round trip takes the pilot about 20 minutes.

 

One guy takes the money (only as it’s your turn to fly) and loads the luggage. If it’s too heavy he takes some off and puts other luggage on.

 

The system worked!

 

The helicopter ride was over TOO fast! What scenery!

 

Here we have dropped down the cliff, crossed a sloping area, and are about to drop over that ridge as it opens for Supai Village.

 

This photo was taken over the pilot’s shoulder.

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The landing pad (the square) is in the center of the village.

 

The building at left is the only restaurant in town, across from it is the little grocery store and post office.

 

The walk to the falls starts by going into the canyon at left.

 

The red-rock scenery (all up!) is beautiful.

 

The Supai village restaurant.

 

They make much of the food from scratch and run out of things.

 

Under the circumstances (like the difficulty of getting supplies – fresh produce comes down on the mule trains) we thought the food was very good.

 

 

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This is the view from the village square towards the church.

 

Beyond that, to the right is the lodge, and beyond that, the trail to the waterfalls.

 

The mule trains bring goods and luggage to the village and on to the campground. The large mules run free and usually travel at a fast trot.

 

Several times we saw a mule train blitzing down this road on their way to the campground.

 

Every house has at least one horse here!

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Havasu Falls is the most famous and most visited. It drops over 100’ and is a hike of only 1.5 miles from the village.

 

This photo was taken from the trail that descends along the canyon wall to the level of the pool.

 

The intense blue color comes from the large amount of calcium carbonate contained in the spring water.

 

These minerals line the bottom and sides of the creek and the waterfall pools reflecting the color into the water.

 

The minerals also coat everything they come in contact with, so the areas where the water has gone over the cliff in the past have unusual shapes – and break off changing the shape of the cliff and the waterfall itself.

 

The area around the bottom of Havasu Falls is like a small park, with rocks and trees.

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Havasu Falls

 

Havasu Falls

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Havasu Falls

 

Havasu Falls

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Havasu Falls

 

View of Havasu Creek as it enters the long campground. When it is hot in summer, the cottonwood trees give welcome shade.

There used to be complaints about the outhouses (which had to be air-lifted out by helicopter for cleaning).

Now they have many new composting outhouses that are very clean.

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Mooney Falls are located 2.25 miles from the village, just past the campground.

 

These falls drop over 190’; the noise is wonderful and the spray fills the air.

 

Yvonne doubted she’d visit this waterfall because she is afraid of heights, but even she made it down the cliff.

 

Part of the way down the cliff the trail goes into a miner’s tunnel that is nearly vertical. After emerging from the tunnel this is the view of Mooney Falls.

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Near the bottom of the cliff the trail is very exposed. Fortunately there are heavy chains to provide security.

 

Here Yvonne is holding up the rest of our normally faster moving family!

 

The mist covers everything: the chains, the steps, the ladders!

 

Mooney Falls

 

It is difficult to get a photo of the entire height of the falls because it is so very high.

 

Here we attempt to give an impression of how little we felt!

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Our only photo of the full length of the falls.

 

The chunks of travertine-earth in front of us is typical of the breaking apart that happens here.

 

Here we’re starting the cliff climb back up out of the Mooney Falls area.

 

The chains are visible to the top center of the photo.

 

Note the mineralization of an area near top right of the photo where there was a former waterfall.

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This photo was taken on the climb up from Mooney Falls looking down out of the miner’s tunnel to the waterfall’s pool.

 

Havasu Creek and wonderful red-rock country joins the wonderful waterfall areas.

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On our walk between the waterfalls we were joined by “our” dog; at least she acted like she was our dog.

 

When we stopped she did, and when we walked she did too. She stayed with us for a very long time and didn’t need us to give her any attention. She was one of the sweetest dogs we’ve ever encountered. She joined us again for about 3 miles when we walked out to the top the next day.

 

We read a blog on Havasupai about a couple that walked the 8 miles out of the canyon with such a dog walking with them the entire way. At the top, she seemed to say goodbye before heading back home.

 

Navajo Falls is the first falls seen after leaving the village. (We put the falls in order of how famous they are.) The shape of Navajo falls dramatically changed several times due to flooding.

 

The biggest change was in 2008. The falls were 70’ tall then. Those falls were completely bypassed after the flood.

 

Now Havasu Creek goes over two lower falls. These are now called Upper (50’ high) and Lower Navajo (30’ high) Falls.

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Lower Navajo Falls

 

Navajo Falls

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After reaching the top we were lucky and saw the US Mail mule train starting down the trail!

 

We’d hoped to be able to see it.

 

Just like at home, boxes sent by mail are delivered, with letter-mail in the plastic boxes as at left.

 

On a human-interest note: we chatted with our muleteer as he was tying our luggage on a mule.

 

He said that our luggage was the last for him this season as he was going on vacation….Where was he going?

 

Hawaii, where else?

 

We sent ourselves a postcard so we could get a souvenir postage stamp.

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This was our wonderful final view down to the Havasupai Reservation!

 

Ain’t that the American West??

 

 

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After our walk up to the mesa, we drove a couple of hours to Williams, near Flagstaff, where we spent the night. The next day we drove to Farmington, NM, 328 miles in about 5 hours.

After planning to visit the Havasupai, a non-trival destination, we decided to visit other destinations that are not convenient to visit: Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins in the northwest corner of New Mexico.

 

Both are World Heritage Sites. There was a great deal of driving to accomplish these choices!

 

The following day we drove 350 miles in about 5.5 hours to Farmington, NM in the four corners area (where NM, AZ, UT and CO meet).

 

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The Chaco Culture began in the 800s and lasted until the 1100s. Chaco is the largest grouping of great houses of more than 150 similarly built great houses in the region.

 

In spite of being heavily studied for a hundred years, it is still unknown what these areas were used for.

 

What is known is that it was a major center for the ancient Pueblo Peoples where, perhaps, many tribes gathered for trade (from as far as southern Mexico) or dances or to share knowledge. There were no trash heaps found, few artifacts or graveyards. There is no evidence that more than a few caretakers lived permanently in these places.

 

The builders had to quarry sandstone blocks and haul timber for great distances to build these “great houses.” There are fifteen major complexes just at Chaco; each one was multi-storied and contained hundreds of rooms. It appears that many of them have been aligned with solar and lunar cycles.

 

Chaco is remote; there is really only one access road, a dirt road. The access to that road is off a very secondary highway.

 

We stayed in Farmington; we drove about 35 miles SE, then we turned onto the dirt road into the park for another 30 miles.

 

We were told beforehand that if there was any rain at all in the days before we arrived, the road into the park would flood and we’d be unable to drive in with our car.

 

After the distance we’d drive to get to the area, we decided to be safe and rent the vehicle they recommended for the day: this full-size 4x4 Ford F-150 truck!

 

This was a first for us!

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Fajada Butte

 

In the center of everything at Chaco is this rock, which is its spiritual center and can be seen for miles in many directions.

 

 

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Pueblo Bonito was the largest Great House and was the center of the Chaoan World.

 

It covered almost 2 acres and had at least 650 rooms. Parts of the complex were 4 stories high, with walls up to 3’ thick to support the weight.

 

Pueblo Bonito was used from the mid-800s to 1200s.

 

This Pueblo is still sacred to many American Indian groups.

 

Pueblo Bonito

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Pueblo Bonito had 40 kivas, some of which can be seen here in the right of the photo.

 

 

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A large kiva.

 

The builders made wonderful, careful stonework.

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  Pueblo Bonito as it may have looked in the early 1100s. It was the largest structure in the Chacoan System as well as being the center of their “world.” Many of the 150+ great houses were built in this “D” shape, with rooms around the outside and kivas on the plaza in the middle. The rooms on the outside were stacked up to four floors high, stepping down to one floor on the earthen plaza.

 

Hungo Pavi is about a mile west of the visitor center.

 

About 72 ground-level rooms have been discovered; structures were up to four stories in height.

 

 

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Over 400 miles of pre-historic roadway are known of the Chacoan road system. This system linked the communities; one of the roads led north to Aztec Ruins and Salmon (we visited both).

 

These were well-planned and engineered roads that required labor to build and maintain. They are very wide: 24-30’. They sometimes had curbs. All this for a people who didn’t have wheels.

 

In the Chaco area, the roads leaving the site go straight; behind this great house there are stairs going right up between the slabs of rock (not visible in the photo). Research is on-going.

 

 

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Kin Kletso is about .5 miles west of Pueblo Bonito.

 

It was medium-sized with about 55 rooms, four kivas and a two-story cylindrical tower.

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The ranger at Chaco told us we should also visit Aztec Ruins as an archeologist had excavated it in 1921 and rebuilt many structures in 1934. In this way, we’d get a good impression what a great house was like when it was being used.

 

This great house was built and in use from 1000s to the late 1200s.

 

On the right one of the many kivas has been restored.

 

Among its uses, kivas were sanctuaries and community centers.  One room is underground. The next two photos show the interior and the method used for the roof.

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At meetings, Indians sat on the benches around the walls.

 

 

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The largest of the houses had at least 500 rooms and rose to three stories.

 

These great houses resembled the great houses at Chaco.

 

Researchers don’t know why the people moved from this area, it could have been due to drought or social, religious or political issues.

 

They moved south to the better-watered country of the Rio Grande.

 

This is an original tree trunk used in the construction.

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The rangers suggested we include Acoma Pueblo, 167 miles south on the road to Albuquerque to see a modern version. The mesa is 365’ above the desert. The Indians have lived in this place for 1200 years.

 

This San Estevan Del Rey Mission is on the mesa with the dwellings; between 1629 and 1641 Father Juan Ramirez ordered the building of the church by slave labor. The Indians had to bring 60’-high wood pillars from 40 miles away. They had to arrive intact; if they were dropped, the Indians had to start over with new pillars. In spite of this the Acoma consider the church a cultural treasure.

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Typical buildings on the mesa that have been fixed up by their owners.

 

Locals mostly live below on the reservation, but have refurbished their old homes for use during festivals.

 

Water must still be carried up, but there are modern outhouses on the edge of the cliff. 

 

A very different experience to Chaco!

 

This view shows a bread oven below the mesa rim, and the view beyond. The mesa in the left background was their first home in this area. They later moved to this mesa.

 

From 1540-1598, the Indians got along with the Spaniards. When the Spaniards decided to colonize the area, the Acoma killed 11 of the colonizers.

 

The Spanish retaliated by burning the village, killing more than 600 people and imprisoning 500 others. Prisoners were forced into slavery; men over 25 had their right foot amputated.

 

Survivors rebuilt their community but they had to pay taxes in crops, cotton and labor.

 

The Acoma suffered from smallpox epidemics and raiding from other tribes. They practiced their religion in secrecy. 

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We spent the night in Gallup, NM; the next day we drove about 400 miles in 6 hours to Lake Havasu City, AZ.

We stayed in a new hotel right by the London Bridge with this view of the bridge.

The London Bridge was bought for $2.5 million from the City of London in 1968. The bridge was disassembled and the numbered pieces were shipped to Lake Havasu City and reassembled for $7 million.

We camped on the Colorado River often during those years and once walked across the hot sand to where the pieces were lying on the sand. McCulloch eventually got permission to re-route a little of Lake Havasu to run under this bridge.

 

Years ago we used to fly ourselves over to Lake Havasu every November as it was a nice way to “extend” our summer.

We always liked the western theme of this restaurant, the Golden Horseshoe.

Here Juergen backs up to a cowboy! It’s also the “hitiste” pose for males in Arabic countries who have nothing to do, so lean on buildings…

The next day we headed back to San Diego: about 300 miles in 5.5 hours.

Our 9-day trip total was 1972 miles!

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