Havasupai Canyon
The Ultimate Wedding Chapel

hardclmb.jpg 19.2 K Havasupai is an Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get there (unless you're rafting the rapids of the Colorado River) is to take a desolate 60 mile long road that starts in the middle of nowhere ends in a parking lot at the top of the canyon. From there you hike 8 miles down to the village , and 2 more miles to the campground (2,500 feet of elevation change). There are no vehicles in the village; the Native American inhabitants get around on horseback. And, since horses don't need bridges, the only dry pedestrian routes are downed trees .

It can get real hot in the canyon; spring and fall are peak season. We chose a late March date so we would have mild weather and plenty of daylight. We were hoping that it wouldn't rain, and we got our wish. It didn't rain, it snowed ! The road to the trailhead crests at nearly 7,000 feet and our chartered bus driver almost turned around because he was afraid he would never get back out after he dropped us off. Our contingency plan was to hold the ceremony in the old abandoned calcite mine behind Havasu falls!

We hired mules to carry our stuff, but we hiked in. As the trail continued to drop into the canyon, the weather began to clear, and it was bright and beautiful by the time we reached the bottom . Our friend, Bryce, had backpacked in the day before to stake out a spot for us. It was a large contiguous area located close to the only water supply for the campground (a spring pouring out of the canyon wall).

While the group was setting up camp , the groom and a few others began scouting for a prime spot to hold the ceremony. The group was expecting the wedding to be held at 120 foot high Havasu falls , which is easily accessible from the trail between the Indian village and the campground. This is the picturesque spot that you see in all the travel brochures for Havasupai. But, where is the challenge in that?. The bride and groom planned for the wedding to be held at the bottom of Mooney falls, which drops about 200 feet (that's higher than Niagara!). The only way to get to the bottom is to climb through a cave, then straight down the side of the cliff. Fortunately, the Tribal Council installed chains along the climbing route to make it "safe". Some of our friends have acrophobia, but we knew PEER PRESSURE would get them down.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, so we took a little side excursion to the calcite mine. The wedding was nearly put off when Patty struck a vein! Then, about noon, it was time for everyone to climb down the chains and get the ceremony started. The chosen spot was located at the end of a fern covered grotto where the canyon ended at a 100 foot high dry waterfall. A huge boulder was strategically located at the end of the canyon that could be used as their "wedding chapel". Access to the boulder was through a hole about 10 feet off of the ground. With a little help , the wedding party could climb through. Behind the boulder was a nice private area where the bride and groom could surreptitiously change into their wedding clothes . As you can imagine, finding dainty wedding boots was a real challenge!

Below the boulder, the guests were assembling . When the happy couple stepped on-stage wearing a wedding dress and tux-with-tails , the crowd went wild. The bride's son, Scott, introduced the wedding party. The groom's son, Mike, was best man and their good friend, Joan, was "best woman" (she refused to be a "maid" of anything!). Their good friend, Mark, presided over the ceremony.

The bride & groom wrote their own vows and there wasn't a dry eye in the grotto. The traditional throwing of the bouquet was all the more spectacular because of the height from which it was thrown . The throwing of the garter ran into a little hitch when a breeze blew it into a tree. The single men went crashing through the water trying to retrieve it.

After the ceremony, there was the standard posing for pictures , then we were all faced with the climb back UP the chains. Fortunately, the bride had chosen an ensemble that would not hamper her climb. On the way up, they stopped to pose one more time in the tunnel , then headed for the honeymoon cottage .

Putting on a fancy reception in the middle of nowhere (without running water or electricity) presents a challenge. The group decorated picnic tables with bed sheets, luminaries (lunch bags with dirt and candles in them), and ferns from the wedding grotto. The cake layers had been frozen and carried down in a cooler strapped to the mules. Our friend, Mark, who had rented a cake decorating video to learn how, used his artistic talent and unimaginable patience to decorate it for the wedding, and it turned out great! We had another little glitch with the punch. It somehow got in contact with dry ice wrapped in newspaper. The dry ice dissolved, but the newspaper didn't. The only "straining tool" that we could come up with was the bride's veil . Everything gets put to good use in the wilderness!