Havasu Falls: The Dog Lady Goes on a Field Trip

havasu falls

Havasu Falls:  

grand canyon waterfall
You can swim all through this amazing waterway...
except over the waterfalls. Don't do that. That's stupid.

The Dog Lady Goes on a Field Trip

This May I had the privilege to venture forth from the more frequented rims of the Grand Canyon and delve deeper into a place of pristine beauty: Havasu Falls in the Havasupai Native American Reservation just outside Supai Village.  With the boom of social media, little known gems like Havasu are being publicized.  The consequent surge in interested travelers has its pros and cons.  There is a burgeoning culture of intrepid nomads across the modern world.  Many are trading in their rolling suitcases for an internal frame pack and jaunting across the globe- some for months or years at a time.  

The answer to this increased interest in outdoor tourism has been a culture of "Leave No Trace Behind."  The influx of people brings an increase in trash, human waste, noise, and cultural insensitivity.  On the flip side, it brings much needed commerce, opportunities, and cultural exchange.  This delicate balance can be witnessed in the Supai village as its residents build to accommodate the flood of interest in their gorgeous pocket of the world.  

I am going to get on my Sammy soapbox here for a minute:  if you are lucky enough to get a permit to hike into this lovely oasis, be a respectful guest.  Pack all your trash out.  If you need to take care of business, follow trail etiquette.  Here is the American Hiker's Society's blurb on trail manners.  And for Pete's sake, if you have to poop and it's not in one of the composting toilets, go at least 200 feet off the trail and bury it 6 inches.  Pack out your toilet paper.  Or just plan and use the toilets at either end of the trail or in the Supai Village.  Do not be gross.  Nobody likes a surface shitter.  Do not take pictures in the Supai Village.  It is rather peeping-tom like.  Just like no one likes a surface shitter, nobody likes a peeper creeper.  
Mountain Warehouse
Okay, now I will switch to my cultural anthropology soap box (that was a fun jump): do not be judgmental.  Chances are, if you can afford the 400-some dollar permit to hike to Havasupai, you are not destitute and you are not from that sociocultural background.  Keep your opinions, good or bad, to yourself.  Open your ears and shut your mouth.  Listen to what the local people have to say- you can learn a wealth of information about this fascinating culture.  Some of our trekking group had the opportunity to listen to a tribal elder talk about his life there in the canyon.  Cherish these opportunities.  Usually most civilized people do not have a problem being respectful until they see animals.  Please, do not take your Western, upper-middle class idea of what animal husbandry should be and try to apply it to cultures across the globe.  One size does not fit all.  It will not fly, however black-and-white your ideals about animal care are.  Most of the animals in the canyon, working and pet, are extremely well cared for, but just like in our society, there are a few sad cases.  Do not assume you know everything about that animal and its caretakers because of a single encounter.  And for God' sake, do not comment on it.  Open your pocketbook instead of your mouth and you will do a world more good. If you feel passionately about helping, check out this website:

The mineral content in the water makes it amazingly blue
It also makes your hair stand straight up
better than premium hairspray
Now that we have that rant out of the way, let us talk about some logistics.  It was really hard for my friend and I to get permits to hike to Havasu Falls on our own.  We called the office starting the day permits opened up for the year and the line was busy.  We called hundreds of times.  With specific travel dates and no avenues left, we decided to go with a tour company instead, whose access to permits was much greater than the solo traveler.  We chose Wildland Trekking and it was the best decision ever!  Not only did they provide top-knotch gear, knowledgeable guides, but they fed us.  I was really excited to NOT have to bust out my shady backpacking stove and dehydrated cheesy lasagna packs.  (Their food was way better than anything I would have been able to concoct and they cater to people with food allergies or just plain "I can't eat thats.")  They packed a massive first aid kit, so I could stow mine in my left behind luggage, and the group setting was just plain fun.  How often do you get a conservative minister and his wife on a bodacious bucket list, their 19 year old college son, a 20 something military guy, two Ukrainians, two die-hard Steelers fans, a liberal DNP, a dog trainer, and a mermaid (yes, a mermaid) in a group?  It was a blast!  I think we amused our guides and I, myself, was definitely entertained. Honestly without the guides, I would not have been able to find the best routes through Havasu Falls down to Mooney and Beaver Falls, but our guides knew all the little fun pockets and side adventures.  They also gave us a great cultural orientation and answered my incessant flora and fauna questions.  If you want a true anthro resource to the Havasupai people, check out I am the Grand Canyon: the Story of the Havasupai People by Stephen Hirst recommended by one of our guides.  On a final note, I would have trashed my water filter if I had not traveled with these guys- apparently Havasu is one of a very few spots on the planet that you cannot use a water filter.  The travertine in the water gums it up and ruins it.  Wildland Trekking saved me from having to replace my Sawyer Water Filter.
Sawyer MINI Filter
If you're going to go, check out Wildland- they adventure all over the country and across the globe!
backpacking tours

Now for your dog tie in (you'd be sad otherwise, right?)- one of our guides was an expert rock climber and he told me all about his awesome doggo.  His dog, a border collie coyote mix (yes that is a thing now), through years of natural selection in a desert canyon environment makes the perfect adventure buddy for him.  

See these scholarly articles if you want more information on domestic-dog-coyote hybrids:

Wayne, R. K., & vonHoldt, B. M. (2012). Evolutionary genomics of dog domestication. Mammalian Genome, 23(1), 3-18. doi:10.1007/s00335-011-9386-7

Wheeldon, T. J., Rutledge, L. Y., Patterson, B. R., White, B. N., & Wilson, P. J. (2013). Y‐chromosome evidence supports asymmetric dog introgression into eastern coyotes. Ecology and Evolution, 3(9), 3005-3020. doi:10.1002/ece3.693

He even rock climbs with his furiend!  He explained that his pupper is super adept at scaling even the most difficult boulders.  But, when the going finally gets too tough, he straps his furry adventure mate to him and continues to climb on.  He said at first he tried lowering the pupper down below him, but quickly learned his fur baby was happier strapped right up close to him.  I tried to get some pictures for you guys, but our guide is probably out doing more adventuring.  If I get some from him, I promise to post!  

Got a pic of Olo the adventure dog out doing what he does best- having adventures with his best friend!

hiking with dogs

Of course I will leave you with some more pictures and my fervent wish for you to do some adventuring of your own!

Sammy the Dog Trainer
High Sierra
trek to Supai
grand canyon trail
grand canyon

High Sierra


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