Far & Wise Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas presents

If you’re struggling to find a few last minute gifts, I’ve got you covered. Below are some of my favorite books, magazines, travel amenities, writing tools, and a few other odds and ends. A few are still on my personal wish list.

The best gift always lets the person receiving it know you thought specifically of them when you bought it. Many of the below are easily paired with an experience share together, like travel goodies or books for an upcoming trip or a some stainless steel tumblers for a picnic on that hike they’ve been wanting to take. Who wouldn’t love that?

TRAVEL

Anker® Ultra Compact 10000mAh Portable Charger | Satechi USB Portable Humidifier | Kuissential Collapsible Silicone Coffee Filter Cone | Briggs & Riley @ Baseline Luggage Baseline Domestic Carry-On |Go Toob Small Travel Tube – 1.25 Oz – 3-Pack | Wine Skin WineSkin Bag, 2-Pack | NARS Satin Lip Pencils & NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils | Flight 001 Seat Pak | Flight 001 Clear Carry-On Quart Bag

WRITING

Uchida Le Pen 12 Color Set | Moleskine Cahier Journal (Set of 3) | Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard & Cover | Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life | The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life (Kindle Single)

READING

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific | The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life | Finding George Orwell in BurmaThe Seeker’s Guide | All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes |
Empire of the Summer Moon | Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel | Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead | AFAR Magazine Subscription | National Geographic Subscription | Smithsonian Magazine Subscription | Mental Floss Magazine Subscription

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

The Night Sky 40°-50° (Large) Star Finder(40-50 degrees latitude) | Sky Atlas for Small Telescopes and Binoculars Orion 5768 RedBeam Mini LED Flashlight | Suunto Hand Held Compass | Gamila Impress Black Coffee Brewer | SmartWool Margarita Womens Socks | Klean Kanteen Wide Insulated Water Bottle | Stainless Steel Pint Cups (Pack of 5)

All are available from Amazon.

Hiking Below the Rim in Havasupai

Havasupai Trailhead

View from the Havasupai Trailhead. Grand Canyon.

“When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.” ~ Amelia Earhart

When a good friend suggested I join her on a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon on our shared birthday, I jumped at the chance. It was just what I was looking for — a refreshingly a new type of adventure.

This was my first backpacking trip, sleeping in tents and going without showers for four days. Right from the get-go, Teri told me the trip would involve carrying 30-35 lb packs on the 10 mile hike from the trailhead down to the campground and back up the canyon walls, an elevation of more than 2000 feet. Then she gushed about how excited she was to see Havasu Falls and how she’d been wanting to take this trip for 20 years. I knew exactly nothing about Havasupai and Havasu Falls.

If you’ve heard of this waterfall oasis deep within the canyon, you can imagine my surprise when I finally did a Google image search on Havasu Falls, after already saying yes and making my deposit.

If you know nothing about it, like me at the time, then you’re in for a treat!

Havasupai Trailhead

Teri and I before the 10 mile hike to Havasupai. Our packs weighed 32 lbs and 28 lbs respectively.

Taking in Grand Canyon Vistas

Eventually I learned a lot more. I learned that Havasu Falls wasn’t located inside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, but in Havasu Canyon, a large tributary on the south side of the Colorado River inside the Havasupai Indian Reservation, fully administered by the Havasupai tribe.

Mule Trains in the Grand Canyon

I also learned that there are only a few ways to get to Supai, the only village inside the reservation and the nearby campgrounds where we would be staying. You can hike in, ride a horse or mule, or fly in via helicopter. There’s no road into Supai, only the long winding trail you see above. We had already opted to hike in and out. No mules or helicopters for us. Or our packs.

The trip began easily. The first mile or so was all downhill — lots of switchbacks, carefully avoiding passing mule trains, taking in the long vistas, stopping for photos, and imagining what climbing back up those walls would feel like three days later on tired legs. Then we arrived at the riverwash trail along the bottom of the canyon that would bring us all the way to Supai.

Rocky River Wash in Grand Canyon

Grand  Canyon Walls

The “trail” varied from sand-like dirt to pebbles and rocks to big boulders like those above. It required paying attention to each step to avoid turning an ankle or face planting while distractedly looking up. Beautiful, but not a leisurely walk. About 6 miles later, we saw the sign for Supai. We cheered, took a few pictures, and headed onward. Not long after that, we heard the first sounds of Havasu Creek, even before we could see it.

First view of Havasu Creek

Our first glimpse of Havasu Creek’s blue-green water.

The name Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water.” What I didn’t realize before I signed on for this trip was just how blue-green this water was going to be. It’s truly incredible to see in person.

“An underground river gushes forth to form Havasu Creek. With a steady flow rate of about 28,000 gallons per minute and a heavy concentration of suspended calcium carbonate, the river bed is lined with limestone that reflects the sunlight and gives the creek its striking blue-green color.”  ~VisitArizona.com

It’s no surprise to me that anyone stumbling upon these incandescent waters would consider this a sacred place. More photos of teal water to come.

Supai, Grand Canyon.

Supai, Grand Canyon

Supai is considered the most remote community in the lower 48 states. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 208. And, it’s one of the last two places where the U.S. mail is still delivered by mule. The other is Phantom Ranch, also in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

The Havasupai people are thought to have inhabited this canyon for more than 800 years, and they spent many of those years in isolation, first coming into contact with Europeans as late as 1776.

The last stretch on the way to Supai was full of fine, sand-like dirt, and we struggled to find the most packed down section to walk on, often skirting the edges of the trail. By the time we hit Supai, I felt like my feet were swelling. They were sore, and my shoes felt increasingly tight.

Sprinklers in Supai

Sprinklers in Supai.

Heavenly Supai. It wasn’t pretty at all, just a standard reservation town. But by the time we got there over the boulders, through all the sandy roads, continually passed by a security woman on an ATV, and drenched in sweat from the midday heat, Supai felt Godsent.

“The Havasupais tell stories of the stones that they believe protect their canyon home. Two red pillars, known to the Havasupais as Wigleeva, are believed to guard the tribe. Havasupai legends state that if these pillars ever fall, the canyon walls will close in and destroy the people.” ~Nature, Culture, and History at the Grand Canyon by Arizona State University

We continued to the town’s restaurant and store, past homes that had all been assembled in the canyon with materials brought in via helicopter.

After reaching Supai.

Still smiling in Supai. Two more miles to go.

We dropped our packs for a much needed bathroom break and cold water to wash our hands and faces. The large Diet Cokes we ordered were the size of Big Gulps and filled with ice that was perfectly formed and white all the way through. Even the ice water tasted amazing, almost sweet, compared to the water from our bottles and CamelBaks.

When I finally changed my socks and looked at my now blistered feet, I discovered that my shoes had filled with sand (not ideal), but much better than having my feet swell for some inexplicable reason.

The last two miles from Supai to the campground may have felt the longest, but soon the trail passed right by our first set of waterfalls. Then right before the campground entrance, we saw what we had come so far to see, Havasu Falls.

Little Navajo Falls, Havasupai Grand Canyon

Little Navajo Falls, Havasupai

Havasu Falls, Havasupai

Havasu Falls, Havasupai

We would spend the next two days exploring the area, taking day hikes to see all of the nearby waterfalls, swimming in the blue-green waters, climbing up and down ladders and rock faces, checking out an abandoned mine, and watching the water turn red after an extended rain storm stirred up all the red dirt in the bottom of the creek.

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls

Getting to Mooney Falls

Getting to and from Mooney Falls. Two way traffic.

Bridge Over Havasu Creek

Slapshod Bridge

Beaver Falls

Beaver Falls

Havasu Creek with Red Water

After the rainstorm.

Grand Canyon 303

Thankfully, the dirt had mostly settled by the morning of our last day. We were glad to have one last look at the blue-green water on our way out of Havasupai. The rain storm had packed down all the sand-like dirt and our hike out was better than expected, at least until we reached the canyon walls.

Havasupai

Climbing Up to the Havasupai Trailhead

If you look closely, at the picture above, you can make out a couple of people and a building at the top. That’s the trailhead. Below, those are all the switchbacks we traversed. We knew the last mile would be rough, and it didn’t disappoint.

Grand Canyon 011

Grand Canyon 012

Standing at the top of those canyon walls was a well-earned moment I won’t soon forget. Not only did I learn a lot about the canyon on this trip, but I learned a lot about myself.

I learned that I could actually carry a 28 lb pack over a creek, through a canyon, and back. I learned how loud a rushing creek sounds in the middle of the night. I learned that duct tape doesn’t stick to blistered feet after multiple water crossings and shoe changes. I learned that I need new trail shoes that don’t collect sand. I remembered how easy it is to relax when in nature and outside of cell service, how much I missed seeing the night sky far from city lights, and how good physical exhaustion feels, compared to mental stress, even if it does sometimes means blisters and bruised toes.

And finally, I also learned how good a real shower and bed could feel after four days without them!

~

Teri and I signed up for this trip through a local outfitter called Just Roughin’ It. Ryan (far left) was our guide, and Bonnie and Marty (right) who we hadn’t met beforehand signed up for the trip in honor of Marty’s birthday, which coincidentially was the day after ours.