In today’s digital age we are bombarded by endless amounts of stories and information. In many ways, this access to data is useful and has opened up lines of communication and connectivity around the world that otherwise would have never been possible. In other cases, however, this constant stream of comments, images, and stories sheds light on truths we often find hard to accept.
Particularly in traveling and adventuring to places we all have dreamed about, seeing behind the veil of beautiful photos can be hard to accept. It can some times feel as if we have seen behind a curtain, we never wanted to see behind. Because, often times, it is the treatment of the weak, whether it be women, the elderly, children, marginalized groups, or animals that do not have a voice, that are discarded and/or exploited for financial gain.
As travelers and adventurers, I believe we have an obligation to be as educated and informed as we can be on these matters. As a community, it is not possible to know everything there is to know about every community or culture out there. It is not possible to see behind every curtain, but, at the very least we should try. This strong belief is why this article is the first one I am writing about my trip to Havasu Falls.
My goal is to encourage as many people as possible to not use the pack mules and horses that are offered to bring gear to and from the trailhead to the campground. While, yes, in recent years, public out cry has lead to more awareness, the animals themselves are still largely overworked and malnourished. It is my understanding that because these animals reside on an Indian reservation, the regulations surrounding using them as workforce are not up to our national standard.
When you are assigned a campground permit to hike this trail, you agree to strict guidelines that specifically prevent you from photographing or documenting the town of Supai, its people, its homes, and its animals. Since I was unable to document the treatment I witnessed through photos, and I am hoping to use my voice to encourage others to choose an alternate route for transporting their gear. While I did not personally take photos of what I witnessed, others have. And, you can read and see their similar accounts here: Save Havasu Horses
The most obvious option available to all backpackers is to hike in your own gear and only pack what you can carry. It is a long trek so be prepared for the weight on your back by packing light and efficiently. If you are looking for another option, then helicoptering in your gear is the best way to go. It is important to note that in bad weather, the helicopters do not fly. But, still if you pack light enough that if that were to be the case, you can carry your own pack, then you will be completely covered and without needing the assistance of animals.
As a frequent consumer of this beautiful planet, my hope is to make the most informed decisions that I can and to always continue to learn and grow and better myself. I hope that shining a light on this topic helps others to do the same. Havasu Falls is an unbelievable place to experience. It is beautiful and well worth the visit. Please be aware of both the conditions of the town of Supai and the treatment of their animals along this trail so that you too can make informed choices regarding your trip to Havasu Falls.