Swimming to the End of the Circle

Rick Olivares


We woke up on a parking lot floor—the Hualapai parking lot—in the dark; in the hush that precedes the sun breaching through the horizon. We had to beat the heat. We knew that it would be too hot to hike by the time the sun reached above the canyon. The rock walls hold in heat, and anything in the canyon walls suddenly find themselves in an oven. There was simply no way that it wouldn't be at the very least 103 degrees fahrenheit come midday. Nonetheless, we are young people, so we traveled swiftly through the pink and tangerine glow of the sunrise, and then blue as the sun rose high enough to illuminate the sky. We had no reservations, we were hiking over 5200 feet deep into a canyon to get a last minute campsite in a place that, through social media, over some short years experienced an extremely dense increase in visitation. The chances of us having to hike back up on the same day were sort of up in the air, and that was a thought that was clearly not on our minds seeing as we all carried four days worth of gear.


Returning to Supai Village after a year had passed, definitely triggered some strong nostalgia. We saw familiar faces, human and animal alike while we sat at the “Sinyella Store”, enjoying some well earned flavored drinks and snacks after hiking in the slowly building heat. Still hoping to outrun it as quickly as possible, we moved onward quickly to find out if we could even get a campsite. Getting that campsite was difficult. The young girl helping us at the desk said that they were fully booked until next year. Through lightweight bartering negotiations with her elder, we were granted one nights stay. What a blessing. Past that building, you need only follow the signs that were labeled with arrows, and the word “Falls” that would guide your walk through the outskirts of town to where you find a gutter-like man made brook that would lead to the sounds of much larger amounts of water. We eventually found ourselves walking down a steep path high above the huge river that feeds the falls of Supai. The water is translucent, baby blue from some angles, faded emerald from others, and makes itself so present that it’s rushing assumes the role of silence when nothing else makes a sound.

Funnily enough, we found several vacant campsites with ease, and set up camp at the best we could find, right next to a large, healthy tree for shade. The heat was unbearable predicted at 105-114 degrees fahrenheit at the canyon floor. Josh and Joao were resting underneath the tree, I was resting with my face and body on a bench. As we talked, I could feel sweat drops build in my hair and drip down my face in a continuous flow. I could see the same happening for my shirtless and shoeless companions. It was not easy. Feeling the need to think, and most certainly to cool off, I wandered off and headed to Mooney Falls to go for a swim.

I made way down the main path, the sound of running water dominating the air. The trees were illuminated with the reflection of sunlight in baby blue water that made walking beneath the canopy feel like walking in a cave of aquamarine. I continued until I found myself at the recognizable, large, crooked sign that says “Descend At Own Risk”. The descent through two caves down this cliff is an experience unlike any other. It’s shuffling through short, misty caverns of very tightly packed sediment—you could see layers in swirling patterns in the smooth cave walls. Once I broke out of the second tunnel, I found myself at a stairway carved into the canyon wall, but briefly after, about thirteen steps or so, the stairway comes to a thick ladder that's about eight feet tall. Then you touch ground and you are at the foot of a massive pool made by a waterfall that is taller than Niagara Falls. It’s enormity is indescribable—the water is running, crashing, and it’s boom is felt through the touch of it’s spray, the sound of it’s roar, and the taste of its humidity. I gave myself ten minutes to wonder, and then followed the water’s stride—further downriver. The sun was beginning to reach the other end of the canyon, and I felt relief that the temperature was going to lower soon.

After wandering downriver for a while, I found where I wanted to stay. There was a small spot of dry land where a tree was growing, adjacent to w wide pool of ankle deep water that then brims over a small seven foot drop. The pool below was much wider, maybe 16 feet wide four feet deep. I faced that fall after putting down the camera and bag by the tree—I wouldn't need to go far. I jumped off, just letting my muscles relax themselves, open to the cool turquoise below. There was a massive log that leaned on the brim of the short waterfall I jumped off of, which I used as a bridge back to the top. I followed this circle for a while and reflected on my life up to that moment, remembering why people desire to go to far off places to live simply. I realized I was exactly where I needed to be, and that I would end up where I wanted go be at the end of the day. I learned that I had fallen in love. I realized that I craved the never-ending graces that the world has to offer. I remembered that I am here for a larger purpose, that I want to help others and that although I have no idea how I’d get there, I was ready to find out. In almost in an instant of these realizations, I was ready to leave.

I jumped off of the falls one last time, emerged, and then heard a call of stoke from upriver—it was my friends, hands in the air, smiling, ready to go on an adventure before the day was out.

We decided to leave Supai that night. We encountered a lot of terrifying things during that twelve mile night hike back to the car, but we made it through so we could tell the tale, so I could tell that special girl I loved her, so we could go back to our lives and hit the ground running. But that thrilling, timeless tale of our ordeals that night is best saved for late night campfires under clear night skies.