Grand Canyon – Havasu Falls – Part 2

We set out for this 3 day Grand Canyon adventure knowing the weather conditions were going to be cold and wet.  I had a couple new items of my gear for the Appalachian Trail that I was eager to test out (Ill get to that later).  It was forecasted for 48 degree high and 28 degree low with rain.  The drive is about 5 hours so we usually stay in a motel about an hour or 2 from the trail head.  We departed at 7:30 am after breakfast and it started raining/snowing on the drive there.

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The parking lot and down was a little better.  It was 34 degrees, so no snow, but it was lightly raining.  We descended the 10 miles to our campground

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We arrived around 4pm, the sun was already behind the cliffs, and it was cold.  We wandered down to mooney falls to see if the camping spot I have had my eyes on was open, and there it was!  Open.

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It’s located just to the right of the falls, if you are looking at the falls.  We set up camp, ate, and went to bed because it was cold!

We slept in, til about 8:30 today. My hat was over my eyes so I had no idea it was morning. I actually thought I turned on my headlamp and tried turning it off, only to find it was daylight. I opened my tent, remembering that I was on the top of the waterfall and lay there for a while looking out. And there was a rainbow. Seriously?

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It was very relaxing, we had the entire campgrounds to ourselves. I got out of my tent to a temp in the 30s, made my way to the bathroom, and got us all water. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the top of mooney falls where we camped to the water station, and it was nice to not see anyone . Strange, but nice. Some couple coffees and oatmeals later, we had lounged for about 3 hours. It was warmed up to the high 40s, 48 had been the forecast.

IMG_1410  I tried out my iPhone 5s video slow mo here – pretty cool.  https://vimeo.com/80515139

We departed for the bottom of mooney falls around noon. It was a cliffhanger, literally. They put ladders and chains down but the mist from the waterfall made it treacherous. It was thrilling, wet and cold. My gloves were soaked from the climb down. We stayed about 30 minutes at the bottom and hiked up to havasu falls. A group of Asians were there just absolutely murdering that waterfall with photography. I stripped down to my shorts and suddenly all lenses were pointed at me. Waded out and jumped in, invigorating! It was probably 45-50 degrees out so it took awhile to warm up.

IMG_1461    IMG_1484 (Don’t be fooled, it’s in the 40’s, the water is always 67 degrees-ish though!)

When we were all dry we headed to the top of the falls to see if we could steal some sunlight, but it was already behind the canyon.. I headed back to campsite, threw on some sweats, ate dinner and the we drank some jack and played cards. Goodnight!

Waking up Monday was surreal, the sun was shining, it became 50 degrees and we set for the top of the cliff.  Made it up after about 5.5 hours.

The gear I had recently purchased and got to use –

MSR Hubba 1p tent – rainfly worked perfectly did not get wet

Thermolite reactor 20 degree synthetic bag liner – I had a 40 degree sleeping bag, and was able to keep warm during the cold nights, great purchase.

Thermarest Neoair Xlite regular (12 0z) Sleeping pad – Seriously light and small, I have heard complaints about it being noisy, but we were camped next to a waterfall, couldn’t hear anything.  Did well in the cold, comfy!

Rain jacket – Patagonia Torrentshell – No complaints, was able to keep baselayers of smart wool and just this jacket to keep warm.  Kept dry til I went swimming!

Still have a lot of work to do/gear to get before hitting the trail in March, but this was a nice exercise in the cold!

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Flatiron Mountain (4860 ft)-Siphon Draw Trail

I finally had the chance to hike Flatiron!  I have been meaning to do this hike for quite sometime now, hearing how beautifully strenuous the hike is.  At just under 3000 ft elevation gain (most of which is in the last mile) and just over 3 miles one way, this proves to be a very tough hike!  Located in the Superstition Mountains (some of the most beautiful desert scenery located in AZ, also the easiest mountains to get lost in my opinion) this hike begins just outside of Apache Junction.  I found a day off, some interested people, and we met at 6:45 to conquer this beautiful beast.  Arriving just before 8 am, me and 6 others set out on an adventure!

Image  What a BEAUTIFUL way to start the day!  Everything from the parking lot forward was this scenic.  We took a group shot in the parking lot and set off..  Image  The thing I love about hiking, is it brings all walks of life together.  We had a random group, but we all had the same common goal!

The hike begins with a flat path through a park leading up to the mountains.  It takes over a mile to get to the part of it that gets tough, and having all day, we took it slow.  Image  We passed by a cool little cave where a lot of people have congregated in the past.  There was a fire ring, and some graffiti.  This was our ‘almost there!’ spot on the way back.  After a while we started getting some elevation and the valley started shining with the sun.  Being Veterans day, there was no lack of people!  This is a popular spot because it is so close to the valley.  After a little while, you come across a part that you can’t help but think.. ‘Man, this would be such a cool water slide!’  It is a natural depression in the rock from the waterfall that is just above it.   This is the part of the hike that marks the point where the hike gets “fun, weird, strenuous, adventurous, scenic etc”, whatever word defines your hiking style!   Image  So we stopped for a group selfie.  Astara, front left, was the only one that had been up before out of any of us.  We were glad we had her!  It is pretty easy to get lost from the trail (I’ll come to that later).  Image (The waterslide).  Right after the waterslide, you come to a very steep incline/followed by a very steep decline.  We stopped for snacks and waited to regroup.  At this point, it is VERY easy to lose the trail.  Stay to the right, look for the marked blue blazes, arrows etc.   Image  (A very cool silhouette of Astara refueling).  After this, the mountain basically just kicks your ass.  It gets steeper and steeper, climbing very rapidly up into the dome of Flatiron.  Image  There are cairns marking the path (rocks piled on top of eachother) to help mark the way.  If you lose site of rock piles and blue blazes after a while, turn around..  This was a very colorful look out at the valley.  Right after this you get to a bouldering section (about 15 ft high) that requires some sort of rock climbing.  It’s a little difficult to get up and down if you are new to bouldering.  However, you are basically at the top, so don’t turn back now!

Image  (The dome of Flatiron).

We got to the top, sat down for a well needed rest, took some photos and enjoyed the scenery.  There is a peak to Flatiron, another 3/4 of a mile, we did not make it there.  We visited the plane crash memorial that happened 2 years ago almost to the day.  We explored.

Image Image (We made it)!  After some exploring and photo sessions we headed back down.  We made pretty good time on the way down, but this hike was a knee killer!  It was one of the girls in our groups FIRST TIME hiking.  Front right in the photo above.  She did AMAZING, we were proud.  It is always nice to get someone out away from the ordinary.

On the way down we would wait to regroup, and my friend asked me if I heard a girl that was yelling for help, sounded like she was lost..  We could hear her, we just could not see her.  About 45 minutes later, we were almost to the waterslide, I saw a girl scrambling down another ravine towards a pretty cliffy section..  That was her!  We yelled over to her, ran up to where she was and led her back to the trail.  Like I said, the Superstitions are a very easy place to get lost in.  She was day hiking by herself and lost the trail.  Scary!  Her name was Jesi, a very nice girl and maybe a future hiking partner!  Who knows what the future will bring!

All in all, a very strenuous, beautiful hike, away from the more crowded mountains like Camelback.  An adventure for sure!

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