I finding it hard to describe how sore my legs were by this point. And I'm supposed to be a writer? Let's just say that tasks such as walking down a couple of stairs or -- gasp -- lowering oneself onto a toilet seat were excruciating. We had to stop at a drug store to replenish our ibuprophin supplies. Popping those babies like candy.
And yet... We had another 8 mile hike into another canyon ahead of us.
We actually spent the morning of this day in the van -- which kind of sucked. And the various pee stops needed by a group of 13 adults in a van (worse than kids) meant we didn't reach the trail head until 12:30 in spite of our 6:30 am breakfast.
And the task ahead was a hike into the village in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, where there's only one "restaurant", which stops serving food promptly at 5:00 pm.
So, that left 4 1/2 hours to go 8 miles. 2 miles down about a 2000 ft side canyon on a pretty rough trail it was hard to descend quickly without breaking something, and then another 6 miles of relative flat. (I realized when we came back out 2 days later, that we'd been going slightly downhill the whole day... but it was very gradual.)
And it was the flat that killed me. It was hot, dusty, and varied between sand and gravel for the surface -- lots of slipping and sliding and it was hard to keep a quick pace up. I wore a bandana over my head under my baseball cap, looking like someone out of the foreign legion. But it did wonders in keeping the sun off my neck and ears. (I'm sure someone got a photo of that... but I don't have one just yet.)
Also, the mule and horse trains on this trail in the reservation weren't the guide-lead-tourista-topped-slow-moving variety of the national park, either. They freakin' galloped with a cowboy (actually, more like an indian than a cowboy... but a cowboy none-the-less) driving them from behind. Crap they moved fast and if you didn't get out the way you'd be trampled. They went slower into the Canyon (laden with, well, everything available in the village store and cafe, than they went out. The outgoing horses really galloped. Most of them went out "empty" with just a few carrying outgoing mail and such. I sadly have no pictures of these mule or horse trains. It was too scary and too dusty to take out my camera.
The biggest challenge for me that day was that we had to walk faster on the flats than I was comfortable with. The speed disadvantage that comes from my height (or lack thereof) is more pronounced when walking on flats than inclines, because my stride is so short. I basically have to run to keep up to taller people... So, after climbing in and out of the Grand Canyon... on which day do I get a terrible pressure blister under the back ridge of my heel???? On the day we hike 6 miles on the flats. Go figure.
Painful. So painful.
Our entire group arrived in the village within 40 minutes of each other (we stragglers literally ran to keep up) and had to go straight into the cafe to grab supper.
And supper was, well, interesting... they do these "tacos" on fried bread. And burritos with the most tasteless beans I've ever had. But it was food. And there were cold drinks and the promise of a bed and shower at the "lodge" so I was happy if soaked in sweat and very dusty -- more like muddy with the combo of sweat and dust.
The lodge was actually quite adequate. The rooms were big and clean and had great showers. Think cheap motel, but cleaner.
Some members of our group found the village a little hard to take, comparing it to a third world country... But I don't think those people have ever been to a third world country. Sure, the streets were sand, there were corrals lining the village streets -- nothing like the constant smell of mule piss -- but I found the village interesting and quaint. The people living there seemed happy enough and the setting's pretty spectacular.
But the really spectacular sights of the Havasupai canyon, the reason we'd hiked down to stay in this tiny village, would await us in the morning on our "rest day".