I just got back from hiking Havasu Canyon. It is located in the Grand Canyon, on the Havasupai Reservation. The area is beautiful, hiking down with jaw dropping views, finally climbing down to waterfalls and amazing blue-green colored water. It was well worth the effort.
I really like hiking canyons. For one, living in the Midwest, there’s nothing like it. Two, you do the hardest part first. It is way harder to hike downhill than uphill. Downhill all of the shock is on your joints, especially the knees. Going uphill, it’s more about muscles, leg and arm strength.
I learned and re-learned some things on this trip that are worth passing on:
Hydrate. Drink water during a hike/bike/blade/run but it’s also a good idea to hydrate before the event. Start 3 days beforehand, drinking a good amount of water. For most people, that would be around 8 glasses each day.
Hiking Poles Downhill. Hiking poles are great, especially when climbing. On the way down they help alleviate shock to the knees. They also provide stability if you start to lose your footing. Going downhill it’s good to use them in a 1, 2, 3 fashion. Plant both poles downhill (1), and then take steps (2 & 3) to come even with the poles.
Hiking Poles Uphill. This is my favorite part. Going uphill, use the poles in a cross crawl fashion: right foot moves with left pole. This lets your whole body get into the act, arms helping legs, full body motoring.
Change Legs. We all have a dominant side that we lead with. Especially when going uphill for a long time, remember to leadoff from time to time with your non-dominate leg. This gives relief to the dominate one.
Put Your Feet Up. This is a tip I got from a race walker and coach, Diane Graham Henry. After a long exertion, immediately lie down on your back, raise your legs straight up in the air, propping them against a tree or whatever. You want your legs straight and at a 90 degree angle to your torso. Stay that way for 20 minutes. This helps drain the inflammatory fluids out of your legs, and dramatically decreases or eliminates soreness the next day.
Have Fun! A number of years ago I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I was so worried about how my body would respond, if my feet would flare up,that I wasn’t really able to fully enjoy the experience. My feet ended up being fine, but I missed out on a lot of the enjoyment. This time I pledged to enjoy the experience and not worry. I put my legs up, limited some of my hiking the next day, and got to enjoy the hike up, as well as my time in the canyon.
Doing a major hike such as going to Havasu Falls is not as difficult as it sound. Yes, it does require some level of fitness, but you’ll see all different levels of fitness on the trails. To be able to get out of the urban environment, see the night sky full of stars, be away from electronics and usual day to day “requirements”, is renewing and well worth the effort. I can still see the canyon views in my mind eyes and feel the smile on my face thinking about waterfalls.