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FROM ROUTE 66 TO THE GARDEN OF EDEN

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It wasn’t the nations first highway. Nor was it the most scenic. It wasn’t even the number one choice for the vacationing family during the 1950’s. In spite of these, as well as a few other shortcomings, Route 66 became an American icon and today is recognized throughout the world as an asphalt yellow brick road, the gateway to a simpler time when the world was just a little less rushed and a whole lot less plastic.
However, few travelers of the Main Street of America are aware that with a short detour of seventy short miles it is possible to step back even farther in time, all the way to the very beginning in the Garden of Eden.
Imagine a beautiful, tranquil village where no galloping signs replace speed limit signs along shady tree lined sandy streets, the mail is still delivered by mule train and beautiful waterfalls dropping into rich blue green lagoons offer respite from the blistering heat. Picture a village surrounded by towering multihued red rock walls slumbering under the bluest skies imaginable and you have an idea what it is like in the home of the Havasupai.
With Kingman as a starting point head east on Route 66; almost exactly halfway between Peach Springs and the Grand Canyon Caverns, about sixty miles, two lanes of blacktop designated Indian highway 18 leads north towards Supai and Hualapai Hilltop.
This leg of the trip, another sixty miles, from Route 66 to the edge of the canyon is to be counted among some of the most beautiful to be found in the state Arizona. Rolling grasslands stretch to the farthest horizon only to be broken by thick stands of pine and tantalizing glimpses of the canyons that mark the end of the road and the 21st century. The awesome views are but one of the distractions for the driver, wildlife – such as deer, elk and wild turkey – are another.
Hualapai Hilltop, the end of the highway and parking lot, is where the real adventure begins. For the truly adventuresome and hardy this is where the eight and one half mile trail to the village begins. For those who question their physical prowess it is where, instead of cars, horses can be rented. And for those who just simply want to experience a touch of Eden without breaking a sweat helicopters (reservations are recommended), like taxis, await to transport visitors to the heart of the village.
If you choose to hike in I highly recommend at least two days for the trip. One day for the trip down, to explore the scenic beauty of the area and to rest, the second for the return trip. I also recommend that if you choose to hike down you wear sturdy, well broken in shoes, carry plenty of water, as well as film (the views and scenery will astound you) and be sure your in relatively good physical condition as this is a difficult hike. Coming out this way is even more demanding as the last mile is almost straight up via a series of switchbacks.
To fully immerse yourself in the Supai experience it is imperative to hike or ride a horse at least one way. The trail winds along the floor of deep canyons rimmed by towering red rock walls, past small streams and into the village over shimmering Havasupai Creek and with each passing mile it seems as though the clock has been turned back at least a hundred years.
Then you come to the beautiful lodge with all of the modern amenities and it becomes apparent that Supai can offer the best of both worlds. But wait, the best is yet to come.
The trail leaving the village winds past small family farm plots, under towering cottonwoods and along the rippling waters of the creek. A bend in the trail, about a mile from the village, and Navajo Falls springs into view. Framed by ancient trees and near vertical canyon walls this incredible scene is nothing short of breathtaking.
Before another mile has passed the sound of thundering water echoing from the cliffs begins to fill the air and quickens the heart with expectation. Another bend in the trail and the beautiful Havasu Falls engulfs the senses. A short, but steep, climb down the trail provides access to a park like area in front of the falls and turquoise blue lagoons into which the water flows.
After several miles of battling the heat stretching out in the soft grass with a light mist falling upon your face, or even a dip in the lagoon, is incredibly refreshing. It was here that I first entertained the thought that, perhaps, this was but a brief glimpse of what the Garden of Eden had been like.
However, this isn’t the end, its really but a preview of things to come for the hearty explorer. A couple of miles farther down the trail lies Mooney Falls, arguably the most beautiful of the four falls, there is another even farther down the canyon, just a short distance from where the creek joins the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Even if you decide on saving your strength by getting to the village by helicopter the two-mile trip to Havasu Falls, as well as the trail to Mooney Falls, and the campground (for a small fee your camping gear can be transported from the parking lot to the campground on pack horses), is not for those unused to a little strenuous walking. The trail alternates between deep sand and rock and in places is quite steep. If, however, you are up to the trip I guarantee, that as far as scenic beauty goes, it will be the most rewarding walk of your life and if you are a little soft around the edges it will be the best incentive there is to get into shape so you can come back and enjoy all of the falls.
Planning is an important part of any trip to Supai as lodging and camping are both very limited in scope. In addition there is the necessity of making travel arrangements, if you choose to travel by horse or helicopter, in advance.
If would like more information about visiting this little corner of paradise, inquire about permits, would like to make camping or lodging arrangements or would like to arrange for transportation call 520-448-2111 and make your plans for an unforgettable adventure.

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