On day 3, we rested. We had hiked 23 miles from the canyon rim down to the Colorado and back up to our campsite at the edge of Mooney Falls in two days and I awoke on the third as sore as I’ve ever been after a hike. So I sat and stretched all morning on the edge of Mooney Falls and watched the sun come across Havasu Canyon.
With the sun came the squirrels and the ravens and the people and I sat and watched them all. I sat and watched until the sun came all the way across the canyon and hit my tent, on the far side of Mooney Falls. Then I got my camera and started casing the place. That campsite on the edge of Mooney Falls – near as I can tell to Edward Abbey’s same camping spot for the five weeks he spent in Havasu – is possibly the best campsite I’ve ever had and I wanted to get it on film.
I took a string of photos across the canyon, intending to stitch them into a panorama, my only hope for capturing the grandeur of this place in two dimensions. As I was taking a photo of my tent across the falls, as I looked through the lens, my backpack, leaning up against the picnic table, moved. I eyed the bear canister full of food on top of the picnic table and tried to remember if I had remembered to take all the snacks from yesterday’s hike out of my pack. No bears in the Grand Canyon, but the little critters are notorious camp raiders. Crap. I remembered a leftover baggie of honey-roasted peanuts and salty sunflower seeds.
I couldn’t have run back to camp if I had wanted to. My legs and back were wound too tight. I had been stretching all morning, but I was still moving slowly. So instead of going all the way downstream to cross at the plank bridge, I took a shortcut over a precarious single-log bridge not far from the lip of the falls, close enough to get wet from the spray. A risk, but I train for this kind of thing, seldom passing by a downed log without tight-roping across it. So when I meet a log suspended over white water, I have the sure feet and the core balance to traipse across safely. And so I did, with the blue water rushing under my feet and the roar of the falls just off to my left.
When I got to camp, my backpack wasn’t moving anymore. I gave it a few nudges with my foot and got no response. Whatever had been in there seemed to be gone. I picked up the bag, opened the top drawstring and fast as a flash, a fat little furry thing ran right at me, skittering across my arm and off into the bushes. Damn campground squirrel had eaten all my trail mix!
After lunch, Devin and I walked up, slowly, to Havasu Falls, to sit and watch the waterfall. I took off my shoes and waded across to a picnic table somebody had carried out into the turquoise pool at the base of the falls. With my head on my backpack and my hat on my face, I lay, looking sideways at the falls, at the mist, at the rainbows in the light swirling off the mist, at the water, that blue, blue water. I lay there for an hour, wide-awake, watching the falls, while Devin sat at the other picnic table reading Desert Solitaire.
In the car on the way to the canyon, I had asked Devin to read the story “Havasu” out loud. Ed’s tale of happy Indians, canyon madness and the glory of self-preservation was Devin’s first taste of Ed. One story and he was hooked. If I were marooned on a desert island – or in a desert – with only one book, it would be this one.
Devin read me a couple more stories out loud: Serpents of Paradise and Down the River. The rest he kept to himself, apologizing for hogging my book. He had forgotten his kindle and Desert Solitaire was our only reading material. I told him I didn’t mind; nothing could make me happier than being in canyon country, sitting and watching the sunlight, while a friend falls in love with Edward Abbey.