Havasupai Indian Reservation
After 5 months of preparation, I was both excited and nervous to take a backpacking trip out west to the Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon. Preparation for my backpacking adventure included walking up the Cathedral of Learning steps in Oakland with 20lbs on my back and watching YouTube videos on loading backpacks. I also set up my tents several times in my living room as well as in the Laurel Highlands. Additionally, researching mandatory camping gear and food was required before my trip. Even after a handful of practice hikes, my hardest challenges (both mentally and physically) were still in front of me. Not even a taco could diminish my fear of heights and blisters, although it sure did lift my spirits.
On a chilly Thursday morning at around 4:45 am, my friends and I started our backpacking adventure into the Grand Canyon. After eight miles of hiking, we checked into the Havasupai Village. A reservation is needed to stay and hike on Indian lands. My friend, Robin, did the exact same hike in Havasupai about a month before me. He informed me of what I should expect and gave me many pointers for the trip. I was very surprised when Robin said that the village sold tacos on fry bread. He explained to me that both the village and campground sell tacos, however, the campsite’s stand had limited hours. Once I heard this information, I knew it was destiny for me to have an Indian taco overlooking the Havasu Falls.
I took the risk and bypassed having a taco at 8am at the village. I was set on buying a taco on the campground and not having to walk two miles back to the village. With that said, we carried on and finished the last 2 miles of the hike. On the 0.9 mile descend to the campground, I looked over to the right and saw the view that I have been waiting to see since February. I saw turquoise blue water, white mist, and the waterfall. Havasu Falls was absolutely breathtaking in person. While standing there in pure awe of the fall’s beauty, I actually teared up. It was the prettiest form of nature that I had ever witnessed. I thought individuals on social media filtered the crap out of their photos of Havasu Falls, but it was just as vibrant in person.
After briefly admiring the Havasu Falls, we made our way to the entrance of the campsite. I spotted the tent where the tacos would be sold later in the day. According to the sign, the taco tent “opens at 9:30am, but we’re here at 10:30am, most of the time at 12:30pm” (see pic above for proof!). Man, Robin was not kidding! There was no telling when the stand would actually open. While still trying to interpret the sign, we decided to scope out and set up our campsite.
After successfully setting up my tent and getting used to the fact that geckos and squirrels would also be my neighbors, we ventured back to Havasu Falls. With our bathing suits on and floats inflated, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the water. You better believe that every time I walked the path from the campsite to the falls, I checked up on the fry bread stand.
My journey to obtain a Havasupai taco was almost as difficult as the hike itself with the following itinerary:
11AM: Still closed. No one in the tent. (9:30am? 10:30am? Welp, let’s shoot for the 12:30pm time from the sign.)
2PM: People in the tent! Staff making fry bread.
3PM: Fry bread still being made.
4PM: TACO TIME. I knew it was taco time when I saw people with plates of fry bread wandering back to their campsites as I was back on the path towards the taco tent. My main thought now was, will there be enough fry bread for me? Will I make it to the tent before they run out? I knew the window was small and wondered if this dream of having a taco in front of the falls was too good to be true.
415PM: TACO IN HAND. The wait was just about over! I had a newfound burst of life and energy once I had the Indian taco in my hands. I gathered the troops and we made it back over to Havasu Falls.
Side note (The wait is still not over): Fry bread is a common tradition among many southwestern tribes. The Navajo tribe developed this recipe when resources were scarce during their captivity in the 1860s. The Navajos worked with the limited supplies of lard, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and powdered milk to formulate fry bread. Today, fry bread is most often used as the foundation of the Indian taco, with its’ ingredients differing from tribe to tribe. Here, the Havasupai taco was served with refried beans (and beef), lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa (if desired).
OK, no more waiting. I found a tree stump overlooking the Havasu Falls and I folded up (should have rolled up) the Indian taco and ate away. The fried dough was thick and chewy. It was also heavy and greasy by itself. With the fried beans and chewy dough, it almost reminded me of a chalupa. I really liked the refried beans over the ground beef on the taco. My only real complaint was that the beef was dry and not seasoned well. I made sure to eat all the tomatoes and lettuce on top as vegetables were scarce for me this weekend.
Overall, I enjoyed the Indian taco. It was a little bland, but it wasn’t worth complaining about. I had the opportunity to have a taco in the green oasis amidst the Grand Canyon. I was lucky enough to try the Indian taco and save myself from eating another dehydrated meal.
6PM: Sold out. After my epic taco journey, we walked past the tent on our way back to the campsite and all the tacos were gone. 🙁
Price: $12 for one Indian taco (huge), additional $2 for ground beef added.
On Saturday, we packed up our tents and backpacks and left the campground at 4:15am to beat the sun on our 4 hour journey back to the trail head. At 8:15am, we reached the trail head and finished our Havasupai backpack journey with many new blisters, a sprained ankle (Carolyn), and busted up legs and feet. However, we still wanted to see Sedona since it was on our way back to Phoenix, even if it meant excessive limping and crawling over rocks.
Our friend, Ashley, who was with us on this trip, lives in Phoenix and makes the 1.5 hour trip to hike in Sedona frequently. Ashley is a phenomenal planner. She had a short trail and a Mexican restaurant already picked out for our half day in Sedona.
Ashley has tried many Mexican restaurants in the downtown strip of Sedona and has only found one place that she really likes. She took us to her favorite spot called Oaxaca Restaurant located at 321 N State Rte 89A, Sedona.
One of the best perks of this restaurant is definitely the second floor covered patio seating area overlooking the desert and mountains. I kept munching on the complimentary chips and salsa while taking in the views.
I was so excited to look at the menu and not have another dehydrated meal. Taco meal options here include: ground beef, shredded beef, chicken, pork adobo, herb crusted fish filets, grilled shrimp, and cactus tacos. There is also an option to make a combination meal (with one of the tacos above) plus a flauta, cheese enchilada, or bean tostada. All of the options are served with rice and beans. I picked the shredded beef taco to go with my cheese enchilada, rice, and beans.
When the hot plate arrived, the first two things I noticed were the colorful presentation and the unique taco shell in the middle of the plate. It was not what I expected. It looked like a homemade irregular edged shell versus a defined crunchy shell from a box. I couldn’t wait to test it oout. As I was lifting up the taco shell and bringing the taco closer to my mouth, I noticed that the middle of the shell was soggy. At this point, I knew I was doomed. The entire taco filling instantly fell like a trap door for Daphne to fall into in an episode of Scooby Doo. Everyone at the table saw it happen and burst into laughter at my sad face.
So with a fork, I ate the taco. Even though the shell makeup was not the best, I loved the shell. The shredded beef however caught me off guard. It looked similar to that of pulled pork and was missing that beefy, salty taste I was craving. The tomatoes and cheese were fresh. Overall, this taco did not knock my hiking boots off, but I did enjoy that I was eating a healthy and light taco. The taco complimented the cilantro and jalapeno rice and beans well. The cheese enchilada was probably the best cheese enchilada I have had in a long time. The enchilada corn shell was very flaky and soaked up in the rich and spicy enchilada mole sauce. The enchilada and rice were good backup dancers to the real star of the show, the taco.
As the meal progressed, I thanked Ashley for introducing me to Oaxaca Restaurant. The taco shell and ingredients definitely brought me back to life after hiking 35 miles and fueled us for our next short hike in Sedona.
Price: Combination platter $16.25 Taco meals with 2 tacos, rice and beans $15.25.