The Howard sisters take a dip at the base of a waterfall in the Grand Canyon. The Howard family of three hiked, navigated treacherous routes and slept under the stars on vacation. (Family photo)

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Veronica Howard (the author) and daughters Helena and Ryley Howard of Falls Church, Va.

Where, when, why: The three of us traveled to Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, Arizona, from April 5 to 9. Since this was the last spring break before my oldest daughter’s first year of college, and she plans to study abroad soon, I thought it was time I took them to truly experience what God created in their own “back yard” before they look for adventure overseas.

Also, I have been in awe of the canyon since I was a little girl playing navigator to my father’s cross-country driving trips from Texas to California. I had always hoped to hike and camp overnight in the canyon.

Led by the company Wildland Trekking, we descended 2,400 feet into the canyon on a 10-mile trek. With each step below the rim we traveled back in the Earth’s history. We would spend the next four days and three nights exploring the gorge.

Highlights and high points: The initial view of the canyon, its massive depth and breadth, will always take my breath away. On the first day, we arrived at the trail head just as the mules of the U.S. Postal Service were arriving at the hilltop to pick up mail and make their daily run to provide mail and supplies to the Havasupai Indians of the Grand Canyon.

The Havasupai, or “people of the blue-green waters,” have their ancestral home at the bottom of the canyon. We visited with the inhabitants, made purchases in their grocery store, mailed cards in their post office and bought things to eat from their version of a food truck. This tribe supports itself through tribal-run enterprises focused mostly on tourism.

The next sight to amaze us was the water from which the Havasupai derive their name. The turquoise waters are breathtaking and are even more unexpected at the bottom of the desert. We saw Beaver Falls, Havasu Falls and the tallest, Mooney Falls, which plunges more than 190 feet.

Cultural connection or disconnect: I visited with a fellow hiker who came from England specifically to hike and camp in the Grand Canyon. “England has nothing this spectacular” was her comment.

Biggest laugh or cry: We were told that we could traverse the treacherous route to the bottom of Mooney Falls. It was beautiful, and I didn’t want to miss seeing anything, so I took a deep breath and followed my guide. The path down consisted of steep switchbacks, tight tunnels carved through the cliff, makeshift ladders bolted in place and sturdy chains to hold onto when there was no ladder.

The most fearful part was toward the end as mist off the waterfall made the footing and chain links slippery. I was tearing up with fear but then giggling with joy at the beauty of the area. In addition to adrenaline and pride, I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished and saw my daughters set foot at the bottom as well.

How unexpected: After all the red dust during the 10-mile hike to the bottom of the canyon, we were surprised to see the riparian vegetation by the waterfall. There was even a lone palm tree! But what was most surprising was the intense blue hue of the water. As an artist who mixes color for fun, I don’t think I will ever be able to do justice to that.

Fondest memento or memory: The greatest gift was experiencing this natural wonder with my daughters, who had never been tent camping. We stayed among the great cliffs of the Grand Canyon with waterfalls and streams beside us. The sky was filled with stars side to side. We saw some fossils, explored an abandoned mine shaft and even saw some pictographs in the cliff side. They went swimming in the waterfall pools and dived into a cave behind the falls. Now I feel content that while my daughters might go off and explore lands overseas, they will take with them the pride of having been to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World closer to home.

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