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Freezing in Supai, AZ

by Herman R. Willett

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The wife and I spent a month planning this trip. I had a business trip to Phoenix near the end of January, 2004, so we decided to take a quick hike to the Supai indian village and visit the water falls. We were told the hike was a nice, easy 4 hour hike from the parking area to the camp grounds.

We arrived at the hill-top parking area about midnight and bedded down in the van for the night. The next morning, we started down the canyon in mid 30 deg F weather, skies clear and a slight breeze. I was carrying about 60 pounds and my wife 30 pounds. Most of the weight being our winter camping gear.

After the first hour, we were down to our base clothing and soaking wet with sweat.

After 10 hours we made it to the village of Supai, AZ. We were told that the office was closed and to head on to the camp ground. Well, it was getting dark and we were told not to try the down-hill by the waterfalls in the dark, so we camped with a group of Navaho that we met up with along the trail.

The next morning we were awaken by rain falling. In the rain, we walked on down the water trail to the campground. The rain finally quit and it started getting colder. We did not know how cold it was getting but the weather forcast had indicated it to be in the 50's during the day, and 30's at night.

As we continued to explore the falls and campground the sky cleared and the temp continued to drop. We ended up back in our tent sealed tightly, and inside our -5 deg sleeping bags and fleece linnings. Even inside these, it was getting very cold. We ended up heating rocks and placing them inside the tent to heat it up and drinking lots of hot cocoa and coffee. As night came on we added more heated rocks; finally falling to sleep wrapped up in the -5 deg bags and fleece.

The next morning, things were very cold, but we started out of the canyon. When we made it back to the top of the canyon to the parking lot, we found that it had snowed; and a later check with the weather buero showed that our camp site had reached -10 deg F and the parking area -15 deg F.

We were prepared for a low of 20 something, but not for -10, however, we made it by being inventive with the rocks and allowing a pile of sand in the tent to lay them on.

This is just a story to show how unexpected cold weather should not be taken for granted.

About the Author

Herman R. Willett Retired (Medical) network engineering specialist. Wife, 2 children, 4 grand children. Hike and backpack to control type one insulin resistant diabetes.


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