All images © 2015 Chelsey Collins Stuart and William Stuart. All rights reserved.
Hidden away on tribal land southwest of the Grand Canyon there is another world. Red rock walls, turquoise mineral pools, and giant waterfalls exist all in one place. Warm, hypnotic breezes and cool, healing waters soak in and recharge the soul. It feels magical and sacred all around, a slice of heaven on earth.
The Havasupai tribe is kind enough to share their special land with us and it is definitely a place worth visiting for those that can get there. It is only accessible by hiking in, riding a horse or mule, or helicopter.
The hike is eight miles to Supai village where you check in and get your permits (more info on that here.) It is then another two or three miles to the campsite depending on where you camp. Unlike times in the past, they have gotten strict on people these days. Our permit was checked everyday, and we had to wear a wristband that said “Havasupai Tourist” at all times. It is the tribe’s livelihood after all!
There are about two miles of steep switchbacks at the start of the hike and then the rest is flat and relatively easy even for beginners. My sixty-five year old Grandmother even hiked it once! The key is to avoid hiking in the hottest parts of the day, drink lots of water and plan the trip around optimal times of year. There is also an option to send packs and supplies down on a mule or in a helicopter for a fee which makes the hike even easier.
Since a major flood ripped through the canyon a few years ago causing major damage, the tribe has built things back up. Although some people will tell you how different it is now, we thought it was just as enjoyable as past visits. They have majorly upgraded the toilets since the flood and they are probably the cleanest and least smelly composting toilets I’ve ever seen. They used to be really bad. Silver lining? The point is that things are constantly changing in the canyon due to the water flow. Destruction leads to new creation, new paths for the water, new growth and formations. No matter when you go it is always breathtakingly beautiful and very rejuvenating. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we can’t wait to go back.
Go here to see many more pics on our Flickr page!
Ah, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through the winter. The vernal equinox has come and the sun’s growing power brings a welcome balance and an end to an eventful and transitional season. The daylight is starting to linger a little longer before diving under the horizon. The aroma of blossoms is filling the air. It is time to plan all of our summer adventures. Hooray! This is such a wonderful time of year.
How does one map out their life without constant landmarks to look back on? We navigate through the ceaseless pull of time passing by always having new adventures lined up to experience. So far this year we have plans to hike to Havasu Canyon and swim among the waterfalls and turquoise pools. We also plan to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim! We will be going to a few music festivals around the southwest. We also plan to hike to a new spot in Yosemite. That will take us through about July. Who knows what will come after that but we better start planning something! We have a very strong inclination to go on an international adventure. What kind of adventures are you planning? Now is the time to strike out and plan to do something you’ve always dreamed of…
It is always amazing the way art, creativity, and motivated, inspired people can invigorate a community. We see this happening firsthand when visiting northeastern Arizona. Last spring we took a little getaway to a historic hotel in Winslow, Arizona called La Posada for my Mom’s birthday. La Posada is the last great railroad hotel of the southwest and was built in 1929 for the Fred Harvey Company. The building was designed by architect Mary Colter and it is beautiful! She designed it for its environment and it has cooling towers and hallways and strategically placed windows to make it like a natural air conditioner in the summer. They sure don’t make them like they used to! After a vibrant life as an oasis for weary travelers the hotel became neglected and the interior covered up and made into office buildings. Then in the last few years an artist and an architect bought it and have been restoring it and adding their own flair to it as well. It has a working artist studio, an amazing restaurant with some traditional Hopi and gourmet southwestern foods, nice gardens to walk around in, and the railroad still passes through which is cool to watch while having a drink on the back porch. Everything inside has a handmade, artistic vibe and even the bedroom furniture is handmade by the artists family members.
La Posada is still a work in progress too. The great land artist James Turrell is building a skyspace sculpture there, which are nice meditative spaces to spend time in. Nearby, Turrell is also about to open a huge land art work called Rodin Crater. I am so excited to see that along with his retrospective exhibition coming to LACMA soon! Hopefully the Turrell artworks will bring more people through and more energy to the area. The town of Winslow itself doesn’t have much going on so we pretty much stayed around the hotel mostly. Apparently some new places like art gallery spaces are opening up though. One thing to do is to go to the supposed street corner from the lyric “Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,” in the Eagles song Take it Easy. You can have a cheesy picture taken with their bronze rock star sculpture. The other awesome thing is its close proximity to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park. Where else can you see striped colored mountains and forests of petrified trees? Although we didn’t make it to all the national parks in the area on this trip, we definitely plan to go back once the Rodin Crater is open and spend some more time exploring. Here are some pics we took of La Posada.
I am always looking for lightweight ways to work some nutritious food into our backpacking meals. Chia seeds have been in our regular rotation at home for a while now in smoothies, salads, and even chia pudding. I never thought to bring them on backpacking trips until we went to Kauai and had to plan for a whole week of food in our packs without weighing us down too much. Now I wonder why we haven’t brought them along sooner? These tiny seeds are ah-mazing!
There’s a lot of info on the internet about chia seeds, but basically they fill you up, sustain you, and are full of omega-3’s and complete protein among other nutrients. Legend has it that ancient Mayan messengers would sometimes survive on rations of chia seeds alone because they were light to carry across long distances. The reason they fill you up and sustain you is because they bulk up when submerged in liquid and absorb over nine times their own weight. After about ten minutes in some liquid they turn into a gelatinous pudding consistency, like tapioca. The have barely any flavor so they mix well with anything. I can honestly say that if I add them to a smoothie or eat them plain I am not hungry again for way longer than I would have been otherwise.
At home I have come up with a tasty Maple Vanilla Chia Pudding. It is a healthy dessert or snack and it tastes almost like horchata in pudding form. I just add 3 heaping tbsp chia to two cups rice or almond milk. Then add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1.5 tbsp maple syrup (or more to taste :-). Wait 30 minutes minimum, whisking together occasionally so the seeds don’t clump. It is also good with cocoa powder and fruit!
So for the minimalist backpacking version of chia pudding I have discovered a few options.
1. Mix 2 tbsp chia seeds with one packet of Emergen-C powder and water, wait 5-10 mins and drink. I like mixed berry or acai flavors. It is sort of like those chia drinks that they have at health food stores these days.
2. Mix 2 tbsp chia seeds into a nutritional shake mix and liquid, wait 5-10 mins and drink or eat with spoon. I like VEGA One brand in chai or chocolate flavor.
3. For the lazy or short on time approach, take a spoonful of chia seeds mixed with almond or peanut butter and honey. Then follow with a drink of water. The magic happens in your belly!
I have ideas to create some other backpacking worthy combos using powdered coconut milk or chocolate milk mix. The possibilities are endless. Replacing the typical easy camping breakfast of instant oatmeal packets with a chia shake is less fuel usage, less cleanup, and keeps me just as or more full than oatmeal. Chia seeds are getting easier to find now that more people are starting to realize how great they are. So don’t be afraid to try them, they are much more than fuzzy green sprouts to grow out of your chia pet!
Seeing this video is a good kick in the pants for anyone who is striving to live a different and more inspired life. It can be done. Feel it. Do it.
Visiting Zion National Park during the fall is a real treat for the eyeballs. The vast amount of color in the landscape is just incredible. What a miracle to witness the grand finale of the leaves as they turn from green into flaming reds, oranges and yellows against the backdrop of red rock. Even better is to experience this away from the crowd by hiking The Narrows from top to bottom like we did in the third week of October. It is a sixteen mile hike which we completed in two days with one night camping along the trail. By the end of the hike we were beyond exhausted, and our feet and knees ached from walking through cold water and slippery rocks almost the whole way. It was definitely worth it though to experience such brilliant scenery up close and personal.
The night before the hike we drove from LA and crashed for free on BLM land outside of the National Park. We thought we were camping at a designated site called Coal Pits Wash that had been recommended to us as a place to camp. Only we turned too soon and ended up on a random dirt road. We pitched our tents on a flat area as we didn’t want to drive anymore. Unfortunately we realized we were near some sort of construction or mining site because we were hearing weird booms and explosions in the distance all night and faint tractor sounds. The explosions were a little un-settling but we didn’t see another soul and we all slept fine. Bottom line though…dark and lonely dirt roads in the desert are creepy.
The next morning we picked up our permits at the wilderness office right as the sun rose, had some coffee and breakfast in the cute little town of Springdale, and then arrived at the Zion Adventure Company where we had a shuttle ride reserved to drive us the hour and a half to the trailhead. We parked our car at their shop to be picked up once we got to the bottom of the hike. Some of our group also rented some gear from their shop such as neoprene socks, special water shoes and dry pants to stay warm in the fifty-five degree water. I rented a special waterproof camera case and socks and brought my own wetsuit. The one person in our group who didn’t rent any warm gear was regretting his decision with frozen toes the whole time. Wearing special socks at minimum for the fall season temps seems like the way to go for enjoyment of this hike.
It was a scenic and curvy ride to the trailhead and then we embarked on the hike. After walking for a few miles through a cattle-ranch we finally arrived at the point to get our feet wet. The water was definitely cold. The deeper we got into the canyon the more beautiful the scenery became. Hiking through water currents and slippery rock feels like double the miles because of the extra work on the muscles. We hiked ten miles total the first day to arrive at our reserved campsite. The campsites were all pretty similar and it was really just a place to eat and crash, nothing too special. We were very tired and sore after that long day.
The next day we started to see lots more people as we got closer to the bottom of the hike, where many people start their day hikes. It was much nicer without the crowds the first day, although the lower elevation made the temp warmer on the second day which was nice. We didn’t see much of the amazing fall leaves the second day either, but the canyon walls were incredible. After a long six miles of hiking in water sometimes up to our hips we made it to the end. From there we had to catch two free shuttles through the park to get back to our car. Phew, what an adventure! This was definitely different from your average backpacking trip. It gave us a little taste into what canyoneering would be like…now we are tempted to try it. Despite the cost of the gear and shuttle, the cold water, and our incredibly tired legs, we are sure glad we got to be in such a beautiful and one of a kind place, in such a perfect season to be there. Oh what a wonderful planet we live on!
There are many more photos of our trip here.