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1987 HAVASU CANYON

My bike getting ready to go. My bike getting ready to go.

The Fine Art of Motorcycle Touring



   1987 Havasu Canyon


1987 Havasu

Wednesday night we stayed in Flagstaff at a hotel- rain was threatening, we needed a shower anyway, and we needed to sort out our packs for the hike down into The Grand Canyon. We divided our rations out into daily meals, we didn't have much but it would be good for us. Along with tents, matrices, sleeping bags and clothes we loaded up the packs. Test it out. My back complains we are bringing too much and yet my fat belly thinks not enough. Do I really need a raincoat, my camera, flip-flops and all this other stuff? I pick through it again.

On Thursday after a good breakfast we rode the 160 miles to the Hailipa Hilltop, dodging cows, deer, coyotes and a rain cloud along the way. At the Hilltop we were immediately accosted by Indians, two guys and a girl. I'm over looking at the canyon and I come back to the bikes where Rooti's surrounded. A big Indian buck is laying across the saddle of Rooti's bike. As I approach I say aloud, "Rooti, I think he likes your bike." The Indian replies, "Hey, where are the cold ones?" Sorry, we don't have any cold beers, his attention turns to the zippers of my jacket. No, we don't have any pot for you guys neither. How about a ride down on their horses, only twenty dollars. A good price and we're tempted but not with these guys. No luck with us, they go off to feed and water their horses, and wait for some better prey.

So we pack-up, kiss our motorcycles good-bye (good luck with the Indians, you're on your own) and we take off. It's 1 pm. A bit late. We jet down, stopping twice, once for tuna sandwiches and again for ice hot lemonade (there had been ice in the canteen in the morning). It's sunny and warm, not hot as it clouds over a little as we march along. The sandy gravel crunches under our feet. The straps of my pack digs into my shoulders, the tent slaps my ass as I walk. I should fix that but I don't. We reach the junction where the stream starts with a wet patch here and another there. We note the brush is swept over, the ground wet and littered with debris, red sand and rock are spewed about. A recent flood. We soon hike into the village of Supia, the tiny town of the Havasupia Indians, and are greeted by a young voice suggesting obscenities. They seem aimed at us intruders. As we pass the house they become louder- we have no comment but to walk on by in silence. Maybe we should have taken the horses.

Ponies wait out the afternoon in barbed yards, we follow the narrow street into the village. I ignore the green telephone pedestals and other signs of modern intrusions. We check into the Tourist Office and cough- up $46.00 each, for four nights in Paradise. We mail postcards and buy a pop to split and hangout for a while in the cement plaza. The Indians laze around, kids play games and the tourists put on a strange side show, something about going back to the lodge, "Go on without me, well, all right then let me have the camera."

Enough of town, we hike the remaining mile down to the campground. We see more evidence of the flood, perhaps six feet above normal. The cattail canes have been swept around like hair, sticks and debris are wrapped around the trunks of trees. We pass the fledgeling Navajo Falls and finally approach Havasu Falls, as beautiful as ever, rolling over the strange travertine bank as always, cascading down in a white vale and exploding into a mist as it hits the cool blue turquois pools below. We look over the edge and down at the rope swing, it's still there, it's okay, paradise is still the way we left it.

The campers are concentrated because of the flooding, the lower sites are still wet. We settle on a spot beside several other campers, near the path, by the river. It's great to finally unload the packs at our destination, sit on the picnic table and pull off the boots. My toes are happy to wiggle free with an awe.

We set our tents and boil some water for package soup that tastes great like a royal feast.

At dusk we walk down to look at Mooney Falls. It's tough to walk another step, the bottoms of my feet are raw but without the weight of the packs it seems like you are floating- The visit of Mooney is worth it. The water tumbles down into its black hole. We stumble down the darkened tunnels clinging to the rope chains, rediscovering the fin-draped view points of the falls. The pure white noise volume modulating with the various chambers. It's getting dark so we can't linger.

When we get back we have two river cold, well cool, beers. Yeah, we had lied to the Indians. You just can't trust the white man, they never learn. The beers chug down in about three easy gulps- No more alcohol for four days. That should make them happy.

We sleep like logs.

Friday we relax, have oatmeal and tea for breakfast. We visit with our neighbors who are packing up to leave, have to fly back to NYC. Too bad we think, we have four days, we realize that is one percent of the year. A good way to spend it.

We go over to Havasu Falls and take a deep breath as we climb the tree, concentrating on balance, leaning back and grasping the rope, up one more step, another deep breath and ahhhh. You swing out, your toes just splash the water as you arch up into the air, let go now... ahhh, splash!

Last year on our first visit we watched some of the Indians using the swing. It looked like fun but another thing to climb the slippery bark of the tree trunk to that point there, lean back and swing forward. You do it. No, you. Our minds could grasp the concept but the doing was another thing. Finally when some girls came down and did it we were shamed our of our hesitation. Don't think about it, just do it. As soon as they were we were fighting over who would go first. Ahhh, ker-splash! Do it again!

It's noon and we pretty much have the pools to ourselves. Our NYC friends are reluctant to leave and are having one last swim, we talk a little more. We throw the Frisbee around, cliff dive and twist by the pool. Later on more people arrive and fill the pools so we go back for lunch.

Charley has kicked our ass, the little ground squirrels have chewed right through the rope we had hung the food pack from, they've eaten some of the oatmeal packets and half a bag of trail mix. We devise a double sling method to hold up the pack so if Charley returns and eats through one rope it will be held up by another rope, we also douse the rope with bug repellent. It works. We have no further troubles from that guy.

We have soup, cheese and crackers for lunch and take a short nap in the afternoon that lasts longer than we had planned. We again go down to Mooney but only check out the top before it's too dark. For dinner it's supposed to be pepperoni, potatoes and soup. But Rooti's stomach is upset so we skip the pepperoni, even the special treat of chocolate pudding goes back into the pack. I feel fine and hopefully it's nothing- I know I don't want another bout with girl-i-tus (guridia) and I'm pretty sure we've been careful but it doesn't take much, so we'll see. Time for bed.

I have the strangest dream, a nightmare. Sort of like the dreams I used to have as a kid before I realized that I was allergic to oysters. We'd have them mixed in with holiday turkey stuffing and I'd wake in the middle of the night in a fevered sweat after one of these dreams where everyone in the world was after me, and become violently ill. This dream was about whether or not I deserve to be in paradise. A difficult thing to answer. God, the Great Spirits, or whoever could easily make the flood come back and sweep us all away. Can I move up to higher ground and get away? No, they'll just go after our motorcycles at the top of the hill, the cliff would break away, the Indians could come by and... My mind runs wild. They know! I'm guilty! Guilty for bringing beer into paridise! Okay, okay, I'll never do it again! Sure, that's what you say now, that's what they all say. I'm running into the darkness. It escalates to the point where I seem to have the key to all life and death for the entire universe. What I do next could mean everything. What should I do? Well, it's only a dream. The panic passes. The Havasu Indians charge the walk in and $46.00, a fair enough price for entry into paradise. Once in, the rope swings are for free.

The flood was three or four days ago I find out from the ranger, "a little excitement", he exclaims. By the looks it really could have kicked us out of paradise. But things are getting back to normal, the water is it's nice cool blue hue- a soft roar in the background that puts you to sleep so easily.

Rooti wakes without the stomach pains. We decide that it was dehydration and maybe a little Kim-i-tus. He drinks more water. We notice a quarter inch of silt in the bottom of our tea cups so we decide to supplement the mineral water with juice. We walked to the store and got a can of apple juice, one of orange and some V8. We indulge in ice creams at the café and talk about my dream on the way back. Oh Rooti, they know. We spend the afternoon at Havasu Falls going off the rope swing and relaxing in the pools. A skinny Scandinavian blonde with "hardly any clothes on" comes down. Tunis, did you see her? We decide she's too skinny though. Throw her back. We go back and have juice before going down to Mooney Falls again.

We follow the path through the wooded campground, down and around beside the site we took in our spring trip, deserted and swept with wet mud. I look in and remember the mistakes and the fun. I never went down the stairs that trip, we pass by and the thoughts fade behind me. The trail ends in the sandy rock terraces above the falls, we find the signs showing the way down to the edge where it turns in, where we find the first tunnel. We wait as a group of kids climb out, then follow the steps down. Out into the open again before another tunnel lined with chain and iron pegs. At the base of these stairs is one of my favorite places, the point where you look out from underneath a great slab of travertine, a reddish brown stone fin, an angles wing here on Earth. The river below, sunlit walls of the canyon rising above and the extruding mist of Mooney's Falls radiating it's cool breath from the right. Rooti's looking back up for me wondering what the hells taking me so long. I again grasp the chain and take steps downward to appease him. We reach the bottom and remove our shoes to wade across to a good vantage where we relax and simply gaze at this wonder.

For dinner we have salmon, smoked oysters (they don't seem to effect me), crackers, V8 juice and pudding for desert. We talk with our new neighbors, a NASA telemetry guy and his family, a health nut, "Did you come down here as a sightseer or for the exercise." Rooti enjoyed the technical talk. A German chimney sweep squeezes in between us. It's Saturday night. A small tent city has been erected in the canyon around us.

We got to bed early, the cities party goes on into the night. I think about Rooti and Kim. She's upset with him for going on the trip- for a whole month. She thinks it means he doesn't want to be with her. He bumbles his explanation of why he wants to go and is bummed-out with how he's left the situation. He writes her a letter. Rooti Rooti.

I think about the cost of these month long cycle trips to myself. Here I am taking these trips every year or less, they are great and I do love them- but I know there is a cost. I have to set aside the rest of my life- I leave behind work, family and friends. This year a bunch are coming while I am gone. I'll miss all that. The reservations were already made and you can't do everything. Beyond that I sacrifice more. I work like crazy, saving my money so I can afford the extra long time off. To do it I must stick with a job that allows such nonsensibilities- but such jobs offer no other benefits or long range objectives. Just hours. Stuff I wouldn't be able to do if I had a family to worry about. My friends back home envy me, "a month, a week and a few days? Must be nice." They bitch that their wives won't even leave them out for a night. Where I have every night to deal with myself- alone. It's a trade off, good and bad. Rooti can afford to have it both ways. He's smart enough to have gotten a good education and snag a great job. Aerospace engineer. What woman wouldn't be interested in that. Compared to a phone guy? In ways I'm ready to trade those freedoms, I envy their lives, the families they have- yet I avoid those traps. I work too late to go out at night, the job is with a small company so there are no girls to befriend there, I live in an area above my income so there are no single women my age for miles. I have few outside social activities. My recent chance at romance with probably the only person related to my modeling interests was burnt away by my lack of security- at the key moments of that relationship I was blindly off on one of my motorcycle trips. Had I been there with obvious answers and a more serious stance, maybe I could have been a direction for her to go. But I was off... somewhere, screwing around.

See, I deserve to be in Paradise, in paradise all alone. I do know that is just how it is now and perhaps I will change that someday. It would be greater to share such wonders but that is obviously more difficult than simply bringing yourself. So I take my pictures and draw my drawings, to take back up there where I am from, to show others these great places I go. In the slide shows I for a moment bring my friends into paradise. Redrawing those photographs for a moment bring me back, too. Each little line, each dot of color are parts of why I'm gone- of where I am. I wish I had more time, more talent. Maybe I should spend less time relaxing in paradise and more time building paradise inside of me. Perhaps I look for too great a paradise and I should settle for a more common, simpler way of obtaining happiness- closer to home, give up on these abstract dreams and focus on reality like everyone else. Listen to "You can't do that," get a 9-5 job and melt into the masses of typicality. But I find Tunis is struggling to be more, I search for the experiences now while I can, I need no permission. I do then carry the feelings back within me to release later in drawing or thought. I am a vessel of great things, I've increased my potential and plan to release this energy later. Can I perfect my drawings and paintings to show these great feelings, can I be the artist? I've got to work much harder when I get back.

Sunday we meet the Frenchies, Theri and Sylvia, we have an interesting international talk about wine, food and life. The day brings more relaxing by the pools and while the masses have left we notice more Europeans arriving. Rooti eyes a couple of old folks smoking cigarettes in the pools. He points out to me a butt the lady has discarded, in paradise! He knows that will light my fuse. We sit in the shade watching their exact moves. Their sitting out on the edge of the broken pool puffing away. I'm refining the trash in paradise speech as we watch- Rooti knows he's cocked aggravation within me. Go ahead and drop it... fuck-up paradise. Evidently they have noticed our stares and whispers, I didn't see what the lady did with hers but the man ends his smoke by tucking the butt into a pocket of his trunks. Lucky for them, they dodge getting yelled at in paradise by Rooti and Tunis, stewards of Havasu. We eat Summer Sausage, soup, cheese and crackers for dinner.

The night sky falls on us full of stars shinning down through the lust branches of the cottonwood trees, the milky way clear. In the canyon for one last night. Enclosed in it's walls, simply- earth, water and sky- a true paradise within all that stuff above. We woke in early light, ate oatmeal and tea, dropped out tents and packed our gear- and marched out. Saying good-bye to Mooney and the campground, so long to Charley and Larry, and any snakes that might be lurking. Thanks for not biting us. Passing through the gate, fastening the chain to the nail in the post. We pass the prickly pear desert before Havasu, climb the path beside the falls, taking a long last look at their white cascade, the blue pools below. Good-bye Canyon of Havasu, good-bye rope swing. We walk into Supia, stop briefly at the store before going on. We notice the inequality of the Scandinavian couple who are at the cafe, the skinny bearded guy has a full pack, larger than ours. His blond girlfriend, whom we couldn't help but noticing her skinny models figure clad in a tiny white bikini of the relaxing in the pools of the day before, who carries but a small day pack which we conclude no doubts carries her bikini and perhaps some makeup, no more. We continue on in jet mode, we pass the run down house of our greetings called, hike out of the green oasis and into the desert of the dry wash. It's early enough that we walk mostly in shade- a good thing as we approach the final stage of the hike, the rising climb in the open exhibits the heat of the day ahead. Luckily the switch backs are still mostly shaded, we march on, passing the college kids who are hiring horses to carry their packs to the top- I ask how much as I pass, ten dollars, cheap enough if you add some pride. We put it in low, determined to beat the horses out, we push the last few cut backs and do it.

Back to civilization. We go to our bikes and drop the packs, we make it out by 10:15 and celebrate. "Hi Bikes!", we talk with the guard as we repack our loads. The tribe has hired him to watch the top and look for drugs and alcohol which makes the braves too brave- giving tourist nightmares. We buy a coke for 50 cents from the mail carrier. Havasu is served by a mule pack train each day. We change our clothes and ride off- thinking of the people below- climbing out for paradise behind us in the now very hot sun. Theri and Sylvia planned to stay to take pictures before hiking out, they would fry. And would the blond girl actually walk out, more likely we think they would meet the helicopter and fly out for $100 each.

We arrive in Kingman and seek out a DQ which we don't find, settling for a Carl's jr. instead. A busload of Japanese tourist arrives right behind us and invade the place. From the quiet of the canyon to this.

Midday finds us heading into Las Vegas, the sun scorches my arms, it's 116 degrees! About the hottest I've ever seen. We stop at Hoover Dam for lemonades, waiting for the sun to drop and rush hour to pass.

At five we move on into town. It's a slow crawl as we wait at stoplight after stoplight. I hate this town. Well, we need to visit Big Al's Cycle Shop.

We get a party room at the Frontier, park in our special spot, right by our personal door and private elevator. We unload our crap, then shit, shower and shave as Steve used to say (borrowed fron Fear And Loathing). Laaaaaaaas Vegas. We gamble heavily, risking maybe two dollars in pocket change playing the quarter slots, holding even and gaining a little before having dinner. We hit the jackpot then. We get two prime ribs for $1.59, plus tip. They goof on the ticket and I walk away before realizing I have eighteen dollars change instead of eight. We don't go back to pay- after all this is Las Vegas. We've gone in one day from Paradise to roll the dice.

As it was Al's didn't have the required seal for my motorcycle anyway, but at least I didn't lose any money and we had a pretty good time. Besides it made for a great contrast from the night before. Love and Hate. I don't think I have done any drawings of Las Vegas- but I can't wait to do more of Havasu.



Deep in the Grand Canyon, Havasu falls tumbles over a 150 ft. cliff..

HAVASU FALLS


Dream, painted by Clint Crow, 1976.


The Dreamer

Clint Crow, 1976, acrylic on linen canvas

Okay, I know you won't believe this, but I actually painted this painting in 1976, nine years BEFORE I went to Havasu. I was a ceramics and painting student at the School of Visual and Preforming Arts at the University of Syracuse. One day our assignment was to paint somewhere that you would like to be and this is what I came up with. Now tell me that ain't weird.

Though I like the occult overtone, sadily, I have an explaination. Our family has as long as I can remember subscribed to National Geographic. I forget which year, sometime in the late 50's or early 60's, Havasu Falls appeared on the cover of the magazine. Though I do not remember it, I must have looked at that picture and put it way back in my mind. It's definatly some place I'd like to be.



    A MONTH, A WEEK
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  C. C. CROW     P. O. BOX 1427      MUKILTEO, WA   98275   USA