As we groggily awoke around 5 a.m., we glanced out of the front windshield to view a cliff, followed by a vast canyon. We hadn't realized it was there the night before because darkness had already settled over the full but quiet parking lot by the time we came in. We loaded the last bit of water and necessities into our packs, locked up the car, and seemingly headed off the cliff edge, followed by a pair of local dogs.
Stepping carefully yet eagerly down the first of several switchbacks, we came to realize we had probably overpacked. We encountered other hikers who carried much less, including one German fellow with nothing more than a backpack and a camera bag. But at the time, we were still in the early morning shade, not to mention filled with adrenaline, so we compensated for our lack of experience and preparation with excitement, enthusiasm, and a little nervous energy.
After 12 hours of driving in our little Yaris from Sacramento, California to the Havasupai Indian Reservation in Arizona, the sun had already set, leaving us unable to see past our headlights. We had turned off of Route 66 a few hours back and knew we were in another world as we drove past cattle and giant elk grazing alongside the road. When we approached the Hualapai Hilltop, or in other words, the parking lot, it was nearly 10 p.m., so we parked, reclined our seats, and did our best to get a full night of sleep in the darkness and silence, a giant sky speckled with stars overhead.