Friday, September 13, 2013

Havasupai Falls... Logan's story

Here's Logan's story.  This is a follow up from blog posts written on Sept 7-9. 

"How I Became A Havasupai Refugee
Hello, my name is Logan Heasley and I am a Havasupai refugee. My wife Amy and I backpacked into the Supai village 8 miles on Saturday the 7th of September 2013. We planned on staying there until Thursday the next week. It was a long and challenging hike, yet fairly flat.

As we arrived to the village we found an LDS church. 

We were very surprised since there are no roads that lead into Supai. The only way to get in is by foot, helicopter, or horseback. In fact it is the last place in the United States that still receives its mail by mule. We checked the meeting time and found that the service started at 11:00 am on Sunday. Amy and I were interested in going to the service and were curious as to how many locals would be there. We then hiked another 2 miles to the campgrounds. Those last two miles brought us along the river, which led us to Navajo Falls. Then at the end of the two miles we found the gorgeous and famous Havasupai Falls.

It was a beautiful day and we had great expectations of reasonably good weather. The forecast stated there was a chance of rain but Amy and I were determined to have a great time even if it rained a little. All throughout the river and falls the water is turquoise blue because of the lime mineral in the water. This is what makes the Havasupai region uniquely beautiful. We noticed that the camp was quite busy and full of people. We were concerned whether or not we would find a good campsite. The campgrounds essentially begin when you arrive to Havasupai Falls. The river leads through a tall canyon and there are campsites along both sides of the river. We hiked until we found what we considered to be a gem of a site along the left side of the river on slightly higher ground about 400 yards from the first campsites. It was sort of tucked away and gave us a small sense of privacy.

We were absolutely exhausted but mustered up enough energy to set up our camp (tent, sleeping bags, clothes line, organized our belongings, etc). 

By this time it was around 4pm, we quickly made some chili Mac with beef from Mountain House foods. By the way, Mountain House camp meals were a hit every time. We were so tired that we fell asleep only to wake up around 8pm. We then made dessert inside our tent since it was raining outside. Amy said the banana cream pie was the worst thing she has ever eaten in her life. It wasn't Mountain House, some other brand. I thought it was tolerable and enjoyed it as much as I could. We then fell right back to sleep and didn't wake up until 7am the next day.

Still sticky and dirty from the day before, I was determined to go up to Havasupai Falls and clean up before church. It was a beautiful day with sunny weather. The water was about 70 degrees and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I stood at the bottom of the 100-foot waterfall and let the strong mist penetrate me. It was for sure one of the best showers I have ever experienced. By this time it was 1010am and we had over a two-mile hike ahead of us to the church building.

We quickly left and made it to the church by 1103am. The door was locked but I noticed the light was on. Amy and I thought it best to at least put some pants on since we were going to church so we put them on over our bathing suits. We knocked on the door expecting to see a local Indian but to our surprise it was a white guy dressed for camping like us. He welcomed us in and to our surprise the chapel was filled with a bunch of white people from the campgrounds, some of which we had recognized from the day before.

There was one man in a shirt and tie who was conducting the service. We learned that he was on the high council from Kingman, which is a town about two hours away. He said that someone from the high council commutes in by helicopter every week to conduct the service. He also gave the only talk. 

During the service, one of the local Indian women and two of her children came in and sat down. The high councilman told me later that there are 30-40 members in Supai but their attendance is weak unless one of the tribal leaders tells them to come (who is also LDS). The talk was about conversion and the spirit was very strong. We very much enjoyed our sacrament service in Supai.

Afterwards, we took some pictures and made some quick friends that we didn't expect to really get to know ever again. During the service it began to rain pretty hard. Our sunshine had disappeared and Sunday was quickly turning to a rainy day. 

We noticed that there were instant waterfalls pouring all around the canyon walls. 

The town is inside of a canyon of red rock. We waited outside of the church under the veranda for the rain to calm. Then Amy and I put on our ponchos and attempted to be on our way. 

We found the dirt roads were knee-deep water and difficult to pass. I wasn't deterred until I got about 100 feet down the road and found one section impassable because it was a roaring river. 

So we turned around and went to a little store by the church to enjoy a Klondike bar.

Soon the rain slowed enough and the river road was now a passable stream road and we made it safely to the middle of the town where there is the main store, cafe, and community center. We rested there and talked with some of the other hikers who had just hiked in during the rain. It was then that we learned that there was a family stranded on the trial from a flash flood. They were able to make it to high ground just in time before they were swept away. Another lady named Chris had told us that she was caught by the raging water and was taken under. She said that it was God looking over her because she was able to grab a big knot on a branch that saved her. She hung on for dear life as her friends formed a human chain to pull her to safety. We also heard that there was a train of horses that were killed in the flash flood. We were told there were at least five dead horses on the trial. One of the horses broke its leg and had to be shot in the head to save it from a long death.

Amy and I then started down the trail hoping that our belongings were still somewhat dry. By the time we got down to Havasupai Falls, the water was no longer a beautiful turquoise blue, but a chocolate brown raging river.

 The waterfall was no longer narrow but fairly wide. As soon as we arrived to the campsites we heard a loud horn and saw some of the locals telling everyone to evacuate. We asked if we had time to gather our things and they said yes.

Amy and I hurried down to our camp and began to quickly gather our things. We were packing them into our bags and trying not to waste any time. When we arrived we noticed that the river was higher and were afraid of it getting even higher. As we were packing out stuff, Amy says to me, "Look Logan, behind you!" I turned around and saw that the river had risen so fast within only a couple of minutes. We were only feet from a raging river that had once been the trail. We were now surrounded by water and we were unsure if there was a way out. Had we chosen just one more campsite further, we would have never gotten out.

I told Amy to grab whatever ever she could because we were leaving now. We had to leave behind our tent, sleeping pads, and tarp. The tent was not even disassembled yet. The only way to go was in the thick brush along the canyon wall. We quickly walked about 40 feet through the brush until we came to a narrow 3-foot wide space covered in brush against the canyon wall. Amy said that there was no way to go and that maybe we should just stay there. I was afraid that the river was going to continue to rise and then we would be goners.

I told Amy to take her pack off and set everything down. I got out my buck knife and began cutting a hole in the brush that we could crawl through. I didn't know what was on the other side but I was praying for land. As I made a hole Amy was crying but trying not to let me know, I got to the other side and found water but it was only ankle deep. I told Amy to hand everything to me through the hole that I had created and I ran each item 20 feet away and put it on a rock just big enough for all our gear and out of the river. I kept running back and forth with one item at a time thinking about how thankful I was that we had got in shape for this hike. I thought about the fight or flight response and made a clear decision to fight this one out. There was no way I was being taken out by water.

I told Amy I loved her and not to worry. Once we had our gear on the rock, the ankle deep water was now knee high. Amy crawled through the hole and then we quickly grabbed our stuff and made it to the end of the campground. We were the only ones that were still that far in the campground. We found out later that there were some hikers farther down the canyon at Beaver Falls that we're nearly swept away but were saved by the helicopter. Amy and I then started hiking up the trail and saw that Havasupai Falls was now even wider and more dangerous than it was just less than 45 minutes earlier. 

We knew we weren't safe until we got to the top of Havasupai Falls and crossed the bridge. The locals had feared that the strong current would take out the bridge. Once we crossed the bridge, I gave Amy a kiss and told her we made it.

We walked the rest of the 2 miles back to Supai village to the community center where they were doing an inventory of all the tourists. They offered to let everyone stay inside the community center or pitch a tent on the basketball court for the night. 

This is when I realized I was a refugee and was officially part of a large-scale evacuation for the first time in my life. The huge adrenalin surge that I had experience was now wearing off and I began to feel light headed. My face went pale and I felt very weak. One on our new friends from church, also named Amy gave me some Gatorade to help me feel better.

One of the church members/campers said he had heard from the high councilman where one of the local LDS members lived and that he might have a key to the church so we could stay there for the night. A key was found by way of some smooth and fast talking by Brother Lakes. Sixteen of us pulled into the church and set up camp for the night. 

We had a great time getting to know everyone. 

We had some great conversation and gained a better appreciation for our membership in the gospel. All of our new friends were such great people. I wish I could remember all of their names. Some of them were Brad, Rick, Amy, Penelope Lakes, Karen Lakes, Julianne Jones, Jim, Elise, Dave and more that I wish I could remember. If I have forgotten you, please forgive me. We took many pictures and shared in the bonding experience.

The next day we went down to the community center and waited for a chance to leave the Supai village by helicopter. We debated on whether or not we should hike out or fly out. We were some of the last people to sign up for a helicopter ride out. If they couldn't get us out on Monday then we would have to wait until Thursday for the next helicopter ride out. They advised us not to hike since the trail was severely damaged for the flash floods and there was a chance of floods again that day. Amy had some foot blisters and my tendon in my hip was bothering me, so it didn't seem like a good idea to attempt an 8-mile hike out. We waited and waited for about 150 to 200 people to be flown out ahead of us, 

until finally at 4:30pm we were able to get flown out of Supai and back to our car. 

What took us 4 hours to hike, only took 3 minutes to do in a helicopter.

My grandfather paid for this trip with the conditions that we go somewhere that would be fun, outdoors, adventurous, and memorable. He wanted us to experience something great that he would do if he were physically capable. This trip was all of that and more. Although this tale may seem like a nightmare, it was not that at all. I would not trade this experience for anything. Most people leave saying they saw some pretty waterfalls and went on some cool hikes after visiting Havasupai. But not too many can say they escaped a flash flood, was part of a mass evacuation, and became a refugee. Amy and I vowed to come back to Havasupai to enjoy fully all that it has to offer. Next time we will be bring our 7children and will plan to arrive when it is not monsoon season.

I am very grateful to my generous and loving grandfather who wanted so much for us to attend this adventure. Richard (Dick) Rozier has been an ideal example of how to live an adventurous life to all of his 30 plus grandchildren. All of the married grandchildren (14 couples) received money for the sole purpose of going on an adventure of a lifetime of our choosing. In his honor I am proud to say that we have done this and will continue to seek out new challenges and opportunities that provide memorable, fun, and adventurous experiences. "

 Amy figured out later the reason these bands 
were put on everyone before the hike. 
Enough said about that.
I want to end with a happy picture, 
although I don't know if this was one of the several horses 
who drowned when the flash floods came. 

If any of Logan's cousins would like to share their Grandpa Rozier-inspired-adventures here,
just send me your story, with pictures, if you have them, and I would love to share them here, exactly as you send it.

Postscript:  Tonight (Sept 14th) Logan and Amy went over to Dad and Susan's 
to tell them about their adventure. Jonas (age 4) took the picture!


Richard said...

Wow! Sounds like grandpa got his money's worth! And Logan, you're such a good writer. Nice job you and Amy!

Anonymous said...

What a story! The first pictures sure didn't look like a place that would ever flood! I wondered how that was going to happen. Then the following flood pictures are so dramatic, and I can just imagine the sound that waterfall of muddy water must have made! We've had a lot of flash flooding here in the desert where we live, and some of our experiences with frantically shoveling trenches to divert water from flooding our house and studio have turned out to be some of our favorite family stories. I'm sure this will be one of theirs.

Richard said...

By the way, I hear my kids are planning to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage...

Scrapally said...

wow. Great write up of their adventure...glad it all ended good and that they plan to go back. That is strength right there!

James and Kresta said...

WOW! Thanks for posting this. Glad they got home safe!

Rebecca said...

Oh my goodness. This is in amazing adventure for sure, I am glad everything turned out safely!

Kris said...

Wow! So grateful they are home safe and sound. What a life experience they'll never forget. Love those guys.

grandmapeg said...

That is beautiful country. What an adventure for Logan and Amy and what a blessing it is that they survived it.

Karen Mortensen said...

Beautiful place. Sorry all that happened. Glad they are all okay.

Brock said...

Great story, Logan. Sounds crazy. Except for the few moments of panic, it does sound like a lot of fun. Sometimes it's better when things go a bit sideways.

Lisa said...

Logan's got the gift of the pen too! I love their SPIRIT & I was teary eyed at his tribute & love for Grandpa Rozier .They do look SUPER FIT. Adventure seems to be the theme in your family line! Thanks for sharing such a powerful & wonderful experience.

Anonymous said...

And one of the almost unbelievable parts of the story is that they found a little LDS church in the middle of the harrowing adventure in the middle of nowhere. How was it that that church was there?

Grandma Honey said...

Darlene~ I'm wondering the same thing! Perhaps Logan or Amy knows?

Lisa~ Right...adventure seems to be the theme in my family. Ha! True, but what about me?

Logan and Amy said...

They have 30-40 members there. I'm guessing there was some kind of missionary effort there in the past

Grandma Honey said...

Darlene~ I found this article about it. This little chapel began in 2004.

elise said...

So great to read their story and see all the pictures. I love the last picture, with his grandfather - what a great memory! So glad that everyone made it out safe. :)

Logan and Amy said...

Thanks for everyone's sweet comments! Thanks Mom for posting this adventure so that we may always look back on this amazing but crazy adventure and remember it! I would not have traded this experience for anything! We met a lot of great people and got to see so much beauty! I especially enjoyed spending this vacation with Logan!! He is amazing and he totally had my back (which he always does) but to see him work so hard to get us to safety. I felt his love for me so strong! I can't wait to go back again someday! Thank you Grandpa Rozier for this wonderful gift!!

Annette said...

What a great and bit scary moment. I'm glad they made it out safe. Tender Mercies all through this experience. And interesting that there was a small church near by? The Lord does work in wondrous ways. Glad your kids are safe and sound and I'm loved reading this amazing adventure. What a fun task given to all grandchildren. I hope I can remember to do that.

Grandma Honey said...

I agree Annette! And what was interesting too, is one of the hymns they sang in that little church was "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel"...Amy said she felt the spirit so strong while they were singing it that day. Then just an hour or so later they were fighting to stay alive.

4th verse:
"Then work and watch and fight and pray with all your might and zeal. Push every worthy work along, Put your shoulder to the wheel."

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an amazing adventure! Thank you so much for sharing your story and pictures, and I'm so glad both of you survived to tell about it! It's also quite something that you were able to find and then end up sleeping in an LDS church in the middle of nowhere/or a very rustic place.


Exauce said...


I'm French. I was looking for informations about Havasupai falls and stumbled upon your amazing story. Good to know that nobody were harmed, and happy for you for this incredible experience. Great writing, though!

Cheers from Reunion Island,
PS: you're welcome here if you want another great adventure ;-)