Havasupai and Grand Canyon: The Trip Everyone Reads About, But Few Experience.

The Grand Canyon was always something I heard about growing up.  One of the Seven Natural Wonders Of The World?   OK, you have my attention! This beautiful place at the bottom of the Grand Canyon kept popping up on my Facebook feed. …It was an Indian Reservation that you hike down to and camp right on the water with the most gorgeous waterfalls you have ever seen.  It looked like a cartoon almost.  Ok, so again it had my attention.  It was called the Havasupai Indian Reservation.  I called the reservation line and got no luck.  After researching, I found that it is one of the most desired places in the USA to see.  Wanderlust at its best!  I did more research and found that if I ever wanted to secure a reservation in the peak season, it was going to take a ton of tenacity.  Once the phone lines opened up, I gave it my all for 4 days.  A busy signal for 4 days straight can make you go kinda nuts.  Everyone told me to give up.  “I’m not giving 4 days of my life to something with nothing to show for it” said Me.  I actually kept trekking for 7 more days, calling 8 hours per day, every day.  I clocked over 4,100 calls getting a busy signal (yes, I tracked it).  You ever felt like a stalker?  I stalked the hell out of that phone number….and guess what??  After 11 days someone answered.

“Hello?”

“OMG.  Hello, I have been calling for 11 days (tear) and would like to make a reservation”

“Sorry, we are full and all booked up for the summer months.”

I won’t go into the embarrassing things I said to secure this reservation but the point is that I got it.  Never take no for an answer!  When it’s important to you, make it happen…..write that down.

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Here I am starting this 39 mile journey.  GET OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!  I don’t need to sip a cocktail on the beach for every vacation.  I love a new challenge.

To get to the bottom is about 11 miles down.  You need to carry everything in.  Your tent, your sleeping bag, your food, your wine (which is not allowed and I never break the rules), clothes, etc, etc, etc…you get the point.  I was going into the Canyon for four days.  I consider myself to be in great shape however I found this hike to be much more pleasant by throwing my 65 pound pack on a horse which met me down at the campground.  I think it’s awesome how hard core people are to carry those huge packs on their backs for miles and miles.  But quite honestly, it was 90 degrees out and I had much more fun climbing rocks and taking selfies while being pretty much weightless.  To each their own!

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Only water, snacks, camera, and lipgloss on my back for the trek down.

Once, I reached the Havasupai Reservation it was completely surreal.  This village at the bottom of the Canyon was a little city.  School, post office, church, store….everything you need.  It’s considered America’s most remote Indian Reservation.  My camp was another 2 miles past the reservation where there aren’t many Indians and the grounds along the creek are filled with campers feeling like they won the lotto.  I picked up my pack from the stables and set up camp right on the water.

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Not a bad place to call home.

I spent the next two days hiking to the most majestic waterfalls I have ever seen.  Sounds so cheesy but it’s true.  The water is the most beautiful color of turquoise.  Every day I had to filter my water right out of the creek and make my dehydrated meals, which were surprisingly delicious.  I also indulged in the yummiest Frybread.  It is an Indian specialty and there was a little stand selling this at the campground.  Mmm mmm good!

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I had to cross this bridge with my 65 pound pack to set up camp.  Also, every time I needed to use the restroom…even in the pitch black.  Luckily, I never fell in!

The most beautiful falls of all were Havasu Falls.  Photos of these falls is what really ignited my desire to get here.  It was just as beautiful as the photos!  No filter needed.

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Havasu Falls

There are other beautiful falls and hikes to see while you are down there.  I did Mooney Falls on Day 2 and also hiked further into the Canyon.  I wish I had more time to see everything.  One more day would have been perfect.  If I am lucky enough to visit again, I will plan on five days total down there.

If you want your pack on a horse on the way out, you need to wake up while it’s still dark to pack up and have your pack to the stables at 6am.  This, in my opinion, was much more important than having a horse carry your pack on the way down.  The way out is 13 miles straight up from the campgrounds…no thank you to that 65 pound pack!  So many people we met at camp were actually thinking they would take the helicopter out because they had no idea how they would be able to hike out.  People wait in that helicopter line all day long in hopes to get flown out and the line is so long that some people have to wait until the next day to try again.

I dropped my pack at the stables and power walked my way out passing all these people who looked like they might die from heat exhaustion.  It was so freaking hot!  September in the Canyon is no joke.  And these people carrying those huge packs…so core!

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About to start the switchbacks.  38 miles in.

Reaching the top of the Canyon was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever felt. I hiked 39 miles on this journey.  Another trip that tweaked me a little as a person.  I grow just a little bit from every adventure.

Hotel I stayed at before hike: Grand Canyon Caverns Inn.  This place is in Peach Springs on Route 66.  It is as close as you can get for lodging prior to starting the hike to Havasupai.  Bonus, it has the largest dry cavern in the United States.  Going down into the cavern on a tour was interesting…and scary.  You can actually rent the space and sleep down there.  It is super cool!!

Havasupai Tribe:  People of the Blue Green Water.

Route:  I flew into Las Vegas, rented a car, checked out Hoover Dam, and cruised Route 66 to Peach Springs.  After hiking Havasupai, I drove an hour towards Las Vegas and stayed in Kingman.  I soaked in the hot tub, ate an entire medium pizza to myself, and watched movies before catching a flight out in the morning.  Las Vegas to Oakland.

Recommend this trip to:  EVERYONE!!  Well, I take that back.  No young kids.  You have to be in good shape to hike this trip.  But if you’re not in the best shape, you can just take the helicopter.  You can also scrap all the do it yourself work and headache of securing your own reservation and join a tour.  I opted to do this on my own because I like the freedom to hike at my own pace and wanted my camp to be my own little space.  I don’t mean to sound antisocial because I love meeting new people, especially when I camp.  But I love my own area too.  To each their own!  The tours hike down together, camp together, and eat together.  It’s all inclusive so they cook you gourmet meals which is pretty cool.  The price ticket is much higher for a tour but some prefer being in a group in adventurous situations and from the reviews it is also a great way to go. Either way, find a way to make it here sometime in your life.  It will change you…I promise.

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British Virgin Islands: Bareboating For Beginners

The first time I thought about creating a travel blog was at the end of this vacation.  So, I found it fitting for this to be my first blog on my page.  This trip was so nontraditional, adventurous, stressful at times, and truly the biggest adventure I have ever taken (to date..I can always top myself).  It changed me in a way once it was all over. In the end, it confirmed my dream of retiring on a yacht one day and cruising my days away.

What is Bareboating?  Bareboat: (n) A boat, such as a yacht, that is chartered without a skipper or crew.  That’s right, you rent the boat and head out to sea without any captain or crew….just yourself.  I planned this trip with my husband in tow.  We both have always loved boating, grew up owning a boat, and still own a boat today.  It is a dream of ours to retire on a yacht so I thought I would give bareboating a try to test the waters on our retirement dream.

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When I say that we have always owned a boat, I am talking about a ski/wakeboarding boat that we take out on lakes while camping.  This trip I planned was going to be for one week on a 38ft 2 bedroom/2bath power cat in the Carribean.  Sailing is really big in the BVI, but we opted for a power cat as we know nothing about sailing.  We both had very little experience boating on the ocean.  However, I banked tens upon tens of hours researching this and where would be the best place to bareboat for beginners.  I came up with the Virgin Islands.  The Virgin Islands are perfect because the islands are very close together so the seas are fairly calm.  Plus, you can always see shore somewhere so that is very comforting as a newbie.  Lastly, the route I chose had us driving the boat 1.5 hours (at the most) to get to our next stop.  Bouncing around from island to island on calm water seemed like a perfect fit to get our feet wet.

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We flew into St. Thomas and took a ferry to Tortola which is where we were picking up the boat.  We spent a couple of nights unwinding from our travels and also preparing.  We hit the grocery store, got our fishing license/gear, and had a very nice dinner filled with nerves of excitement to board our boat.  Our route was Tortola, Norman Island, Jost Van Dyke (including Sandy Caye), Virgin Gorda (two sides of this island), Cooper Island, and back to Tortola.  We were shooting for six different islands in seven days.

I decided to rent our boat from Marine Max Vacations.  For the main reasons that they were very fairly priced and had power cats.  Most bareboating rentals in the BVI are sail boats.  I was very happy with them and they actually rent boats for bareboating all over the world.  I am secretly planning my next bareboat adventure while writing this blog.  Probably Greece!

After a 2 hour orientation of our new home we drove out of the marina into open waters with butterflies in our stomachs and feeling totally in over our heads.  Our first stop was Norman Island, which was a very short hop from the marina we were in.  There were literally hundreds of boats anchored here which definitely solidified the fact the BVI is extremely popular for bareboating.  We were the little guys on the block for sure.  The boats around us were filthy gorgeous.  I found yachters to be much like campers.  All our neighbors were so nice and willing to help.  Like that one time we woke up to find that our dingy was no longer tied to our boat…the dingy we had signed a $10,000 replacement cost on.  Ya, that was a stressful moment!  Our neighbors came and picked us up and we found the dingy which had floated away.  Yachters are good peeps!  But back to Norman Island…We got our anchor secured (after about an hour of trial and error), bbqed some steaks and scallops, and took the dingy over to Willy T’s Floating Bar for some cocktails and dancing.  This place was rowdy and fun!  Everyone was getting straight up crazy!

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I think we checked the anchor about 50 times that night but we didn’t float away and woke up to a beautiful morning feeling confident to move to the next island.

Our second stop was Jost Van Dyke.  We spent 2 nights here including NYE…Oh, did I mention the weather is perfect in the BVI’s at this time of year?  I am always chasing that summer weather!  We got to Jost Van Dyke early and scored a moor ball…no need to worry about our anchoring skills…winning!  This island was a party.  One of my favorite spots here was the Soggy Dollar  where I consumed too many of their famous Pain Killers.

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My other favorite spot was Foxy’s where I spent NYE dancing the night away in the sand. There had to be a thousand boats parked here for NYE.  People travel from all over the Caribbean to come to the NYE party at Foxy’s.  Our boat rental company strongly suggested that we stay away due to all the traffic on NYE.  I was very happy we rolled the dice and went anyways because it was an absolute blast!

foxys

Before leaving the island we popped over to Sandy Caye on the dingy early in the am.  Not bad for New Years morning.  We were literally the only two people on the island.  It was gorgeous.  We toasted a little champagne and enjoyed this little island to ourselves for a couple of hours.  It was a great way to start the New Year!

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On to the next stop!  Virgin Gorda.  This was our longest drive on the route at about an hour and a half.  We trolled along the way but came up empty on catches.  We went spent one night on one side of Virgin Gorda exploring and snorkeling the Baths.  It is just a must if you ever visit BVI.  The water was so pristine and the Baths lived up to their reputation.  We got here pretty late and weren’t supposed to spend the night but oopsie…we had no choice because it got dark.  No ticket in the morning.  Yippee!

The other two nights were spent on the other side of the island at Bitters End.  We were surrounded by multimillion dollar yachts and caught fish right off the back of the boat.  Pretty amazing.  Saba Rock is also located here.  It is such a small island they call it a big rock.  We took the dingy here at night for lobster, cocktails, and dancing.

saba rock

The last stop on the route back was Cooper Island.  There were turtles everywhere and we had the most beautiful sunset of the entire trip.  After all of the anxiety I started the trip with, I couldn’t have felt more relaxed at this island….and sad to return the boat the next day for that matter.  I like to push myself to just a bit outside of the comfort zone when traveling.  I always want to challenge myself with adventure.  This trip ended up being the biggest adventure of my life (to date) and I am proud of how much I learned.  It also confirmed that I am 100% sure my dream is to retire on a boat one day.

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After being on a boat for a week, I was ready for a hot bath, some makeup, and high heels.  We spent another four nights at the Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriot Beach Resort on St. Thomas before heading home to California.  It was beautiful and luxurious, but I have to say….I preferred the boat!

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Recommend this trip for: People that know more than the basics about boating.  I really think anyone with a pulse would love this trip but you do need to be able to handle the boat.  If you can’t, hire a captain or invite a friend who is a boater.  It’s great for families, couples, and friends.

Favorite restaurant in St. Thomas: Havanna Blue.  Love me some Cuban food!

Favorite Bar in St. Thomas (Charlotte Amelie):  Rum Island Pub, aka Husband Daycare.

Favorite Wine Bar in St. Thomas (Red Hook):  XO Bistro

Favorite Place to shake my bon bon in St. Thomas (Red Hook):  Duffy’s Love Shack

Bikinis on the trip: Beach Bunny and Victoria Secret.

Favorite bar/restauraunt on Tortola: Pussers I had chowder every time I went.  So good!

Best place to stop for lunch on your way to Vigrin Gorda:  The Dogs!  The Dogs are a small group of five uninhabited Islands that sit just to the West of Virgin Gorda. They are named for the barking sound from the seal population that used to inhabit these islands (long ago). The Dogs are made up of Great Dog, George Dog, West Dog and Seal Dogs (east & little).

Tip for the trip:  If you are prone to sea sickness or have a fear of becoming sea sick, get the prescription patch from your doctor.  It works wonders!  Slap that baby behind your ear, and come away with me.