Helicopter Out

Replacing John (whose wife was expecting in a few days) with Anthony and our team of four guys is repeated from last year. This trip will tour the same region, but visit almost entirely new destinations. The highlight and initial stop will be Havasupai Canyon. From there we’ll spend a few days at Bryce and Zion National Park.

“This plane has been grounded.”

Shortly after boarding the plane, everybody was ordered off for safety reasons. We waited for a while in Newark airport and then re-boarded the same plane, however most of the other passengers were already transferred to alternate flights. As you can see in the picture below, the plane was nearly empty. We were also rewarded with a $200 voucher to be used on our next flight. Thank you Southwest!

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After we landed in Vegas, we obtained our rental car and made a stop at Hover Dam as the sun was setting.

Pulled over to grab a few pictures of the beautiful Arizona sunset.

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Havasupai Canyon is a private Indian Reservation. The 10-mile hike from the top of the canyon leads you to the town of Supai. From there, short day-hikes take you to the five beautiful blue waterfalls. A few miles past the last waterfall is the Colorado River (Grand Canyon).

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Though the distance is similar to a Grand Canyon hike, the elevation is only a third of the distance. We thought this would be a cake walk – how mistaken we were. There was no water and little shade along the way. Worst of all, the trails were not manicured. Frequently you found yourself walking over rocks and loose sand. Challenging to say the least!

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About 70% into the hike my stomach started killing me. I pressed on for about another 30 minutes till I could sustain the pain no longer. I laid down in a rock crevasse feeling extremely sick. There was no way I could continue. Moreover, carrying my heavy pack would have been impossible. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong as I’ve done many of these hikes and was drinking plenty of water. Thankfully Telly hit the nail on the head when he surmised I was incredibly low on blood sugar. Though any food intake was extremely difficult, I managed two spoonfuls of Travis’ honey. Literally within minutes I was 100%. Lesson learned. The picture below tells the story.

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As afternoon was approaching we unloaded at the lodge and hit three of the five falls – highlighted by Havasu Falls (seen in most of the pictures below). We did some swimming and sightseeing and then returned to the lodge at nightfall.

Not being able to sleep due to the excitement and time zone change, I woke up early and went for a walk. The pictures below are of the sunrise that day.

Since the campsite was full, we were forced to stay at the lodge (seen below). It was a little more expensive, but it was nice since we didn’t need to carry down tents and bedding. Furthermore, the rooms were equipped with air conditioning. The campsites were sweet, but this was a more convenient way to go. Special thanks to Travis and Anthony who crashed on the floor so Telly and I could take the two beds.

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The following day we ventured to the fourth waterfall – Mooney Falls. This waterfall is famous as it is only accessible by climbing down the cliff wall. Safety chains were there to guide you, but the decent was steep, treacherous, challenging…and a lot of fun! You definitely felt a sense of accomplishment when you hit the ground!

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We never made it to the final waterfall, Beaver Falls, but on the return to the lodge we filled our bottles at the fresh water spring and filled our bellies with some traditional frybread (actually Telly bought some and we ate his).

Another stop at Havasu Falls that we passed by on the returning voyage.

So here we are after two-days of intense hiking. We purchased some dinner and were getting ready to return to the lodge and prepare for our big hike out early in the morning. That is, until Telly found a way to secure a ride on a helicopter shortly after the photo below was taken.

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The pilot was making his final trip back to the top of the rim and told us we had 15 minutes to get our gear together. In the photo below, you can see us sprinting back to the lodge. We weren’t about to miss this opportunity!

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Boarding the helicopter.

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I got to ride “shotgun!”

Ten minutes and we were out of the canyon and right next to our car. What an incredible difference when compared to the 10-mile uphill walk we were expecting!

Here’s a vlog of our trip!

Some excited guys right after we landed!

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A drive down “Historic Route 66” and a bite to eat at Taco Bell.

Though we weren’t planning on it, we couldn’t resist a brief stop at the Grand Canyon since it was literally on the way to Bryce. In the pictures below, we were able to pose at the three welcome signs found at the south rim.

Last year we did a three-day “rim-to-rim” hike (23 miles). When we finished we were not only starving, but also somewhat sick. Telly below is reenacting the sandwich he took and starting eating simply because he could wait no longer in the long line (he did pay for it later!).

Some pictures from the south rim.

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Love this place!

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This is the trail we took from the Bright Angel Campground back up to the South Rim. We posed for a picture in front of this sign last year, immediately after we concluded our hike.

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This place is always a neat stop along the road!

The campsites at Bryce we all full months in advance, so I booked us at a private campground located just outside the entrance of the park. As a surprise and special treat to the guys, I reserved a tepee. Anthony slept in his hammock strung across the gazebo behind the tent. Travis was impressed, Telly less so.

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That night.

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Due to the higher elevation at Bryce, the temperature really dropped. Below you can see us tucked into those bags. My phone in the morning noted the temperate was 40.

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Went by myself for a sunrise view of Bryce Canyon.

Another view of our campsite.

In the picture on the right, you can see our tepee at the end of the private drive.

Welcome to Bryce National Park!

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Hiking the Queen’s Garden Trail- one of the best hikes in the world!

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An owl or a bear or frog or a…

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Join us for the Queen’s Garden hike!

Welcome to Zion National Park!

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Here’s a picture of our campsite and the early sunrise hitting the sandstone cliffs just beyond our tents. We also went out every night for ice cream.

One of my favorite hikes – “The Narrows.” The Narrows takes you up a slot canyon that “narrows” as you progress further into in. Running in the middle is the Virgin River. After a few mikes the hike consists of walking up the river itself. We went deep into the canyon, but needed to turn around as the sun was beginning to set. It was incredibly beautiful!

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At the Visitor’s Center. Waiting for the shuttle.

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Angel’s Landing was once deemed an impossible peak to reach – “only an angel could land up there!” That is, until the NPS established chains to guide hikers up to the top. After hiking about 2.5 miles, the last half-mile of the trail is strenuous and littered with sharp drop offs and narrow paths. Here’s where the chains are essential for your forward movement and survival! Not a hike for the fainthearted! The view at the top (5,790 feet) was spectacular!

The beginning of the trail.

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There’s where we’re going!

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Pictures from along the trail.

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Celebrating at the summit!

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As we were heading back to the airport we made an unplanned stop at a state part in Nevada called, “Valley of Fire.” It was really desolate, but had some incredible colors in the rocks.

Here’s a vlog of our trip to Zion!

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“Valley of Fire” hike.

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At our campsite in Zion, Utah we had a family of some neighboring campers who were visiting from Germany. They insisted we go to this “Valley of Fire” location far away in Nevada. They produced pictures and even insisted that the main geological feature of the park was discovered by Germans. It made for a good laugh on our end, but perhaps one of the most unique aspects of this visit was running into that very family in this extremely desolate location – they were practically the only other people there!

The picture below shows that encounter.

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Lunch at “In-n-Out” burger in Vegas.

A  view of Chicago as we were heading back to NJ!

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