Chasing Turquoise Waterfalls

Saturday, April 2nd 3:18am

I wake up from my nap and I’m lying in my tent with my journal beside me. I pull back the covers and I am now looking up at the clear sky, which is covered with stars. You could see each star sparkling on its own- this secluded campground is hidden far away from the city. I don’t remember the last time I stargazed in a night like this without the pollution and distractions of the world. It’s absolutely beautiful.

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30 second shutter speed, high exposure, night shot- Nikon d40

Our trip began with a 10 mile hike through the Grand Canyon, Arizona at 5:30am this morning (Thursday). We had 2 stops- the 1st stop was at 5 miles and the 2nd stop was at the Havasupai Indian Tribe Village (9 miles). The 2nd stop was also where a bird shat on my head when I took off my beanie for THE FIRST TIME IN THE ENTIRE TRIP 🙁

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At this point, I am grumpy, tired, and my shoulders and back hurt from carrying 29 lbs on my backpack. My feet also hurt on the sides from my new boots (My feet are too wide). Okay suck it up.

We continue hiking from the village towards Havasupai Falls (3 more miles) after Amanda lets us try some of her friend’s homemade super spicy garlic habanero beef jerky- SO GOOD.

I felt like I had made a mistake for coming. I wondered why I decided to put myself through this dreadful hike and understood why some people hated going outdoors, hiking, and working out lol.

We trudge along for 2 more miles and and FINALLY, the first signs of water! Then a few turns later, we see Little Navajo Falls- okay I don’t regret this trip at all anymore.

About a mile later, we finally reach the majestic Havasupai Falls and take in the view.

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It’s time to keep going to our campsite, which is about one more mile. FINALLY. I have nothing to say. I let out a sigh of relief as I took off my 29 lb pack. Weights have been lifted off my shoulders.

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After putting all our gear down, we debate whether or not to go back and jump into the water because it’s cold as fuck. After some pep talk with each other, we head over to Havasupai Falls and with a little liquid courage, we jump in. IT’S ICE COLD. Okay why do we keep putting ourselves through pain haha!! A few minutes later, the water is doable and we actually end up staying in the water for a good 30 minutes even though it’s freezing. WE’RE SO COOL.. LITRALLYYY.

 

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Day 2: Photography and More Waterfalls

Rise and shine! Time to start our day! First stop: Mooney Falls. To get to Mooney Falls, you have to crawl through a narrow dark cave and shimmy down the ladder and grasp onto the chains, which were slippery from the waterfall mist. One wrong step and you’re done.

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Our group of 25 held onto each other, but there was 1 young gentleman in a Chicago Bulls Jersey who almost fell. He blacked out for 2 seconds and lost his grip on the chains. His left calf locked, but he miraculously regained consciousness and thrust himself onto the ladder at the very last second.

It was an extremely risky trek. With the support of one another in our group of 25, we safely made it down.

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The next destination was Beaver Falls. To get there, we crawled through lush tropical foliage. It was reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Then we did the Congo Line. It was epic.

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4 miles later, we arrive at Beaver Falls. It looked fake and the water was as blue as my cellphone case.

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SQUAD

On the journey back, our group of 25 split as some wanted to stay back and others wanted to head to the campsite. I stayed back with John, Vouy, Dennis and Peter. Our crew had our DSLRs with us to capture photos at the golden hour. The lighting was perfect. It didn’t seem like we were just hours away from Southern California. Slow shutter speed all day baby.

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The most dangerous part of this dayhike was climbing back up the slipper wooden ladder which is now even more wet and muddy from people climbing back up. Again, with the support of 25, we all made it back safely.

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Heading back and cutting through the tropical jungle

It’s dinnertime back at the campsite. Everyone had their own MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) aka freeze dried food, which are surprisingly delicious. We cooked them and shared them amongst one another. Beef stroganoff never tasted SO GOOD. And hot chocolate. And Freeze Dried Crème Brulee. Yum:)

We wanted to get some night shots so Pekkle, Angus, Vouy, John and I headed back to Mooney Falls when it turned pitch black around 9:30pm.

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our tents

Sunday, April 3 – 11:14am

We just finished the 12 mile hike back in the scorching heat through the Grand Canyon from the campgrounds to the parking lot.

We got up at 4am pack up and left at 5:30am, with only our flashlights to guide us in the pitch black. The hike back was brutal- incline and switchbacks didn’t help the fact that I didn’t get much sleep from the night before. Although we had the option to take the helicopter back, only 4 out of the 25 in our group decided to backpack the 12 miles back- our reasoning for this decision was to complete the backpacking experience and not cheat ourselves- you HAVE to backpack back as well, and not just one way there.

1st hiking break: 3 miles down, 9 more to go.

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[Because this hiking trail is located on an Indian Reservation, the dirt paths are covered with mule shit from the Indians’ horses that run back and forth to transport visitors’ luggages and backpacks.]

2nd break: 8 miles down, 4 more to go.

3 miles left- At this point, the sun’s been up for quite some time now. I felt like passing out at these last few miles of unending switchbacks. The hot sun blazed against my face and the hot cheeto puffs in my stomach burned my insides. I thought, “Why do I do this to myself? I could have skipped this 12 mile path of torture and taken the helicopter back like the rest of the 21 people in our group.” Unfortunately, we were at the point of no return. There was no turning back now.

I wanted to give up, especially when Vouy denied me the opportunity for a food break.

BUT I STAYED RESILIENT IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY.

I wanted to give up at the last two miles. I walked through and over tons of fresh horse shit with the dry sun beaming against my face. The smell of the horse shit pierced my nasal passageways. I felt like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption crawling through miles of sewage waste to escape the prison he was confined in.

Alas, I could see the finish line. Huffing and puffing with 29 lbs on my back, I mustered what strength I had left from the Hot Cheeto Puffs I consumed 2 hours earlier. So. Close. To. Salvation.

Just keep moving.

You’re almost there.

Keep going.

Don’t stop.

A few more steps, I finally reached the top. I fell to my knees. Good God. I DID IT. Thunderous applauses and high-fives welcomed me from my supporters from all walks of life as I crossed the finish line. It was a parallel of the scene of Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption finally crawling out of the endless sewer into the pouring rain.

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Andy Dufresne reaching the end in Shawshank Redemption

Like Andy Dufresne, I too, was embraced by water being dumped on me from Vouy’s 5 liter water gallon. And to go back and answer the question I had asked myself earlier, “Why do I do this to myself? Why do I put myself through this pain?”

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FUCK YEAAAAAAAAA

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THIS, THIS MOMENTOUS FEELING OF ACCOMPLISHING A SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL ENDEAVOR.. THIS IS WHY WE PUT OURSELVES THROUGH THIS. We’re destined for this- We challenge ourselves because WE KNOW we’re made to achieve greatness.

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Craving another story? Check out my spontaneous trip to Joshua Tree for the Perseid Meteor Shower!