Paddling the Lake – Part One

3 July 2012 in Reviews, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


Well the day we had anticipated all month had finally arrived. We were off on an overnight, guided kayak trip with Hidden Canyon Kayak. We were bursting with excitement and surprisingly a little nervous for some reason. We both verbally acknowledged the swarm of butterflies swirling around in our stomachs. Neither of us were sure of where these feelings were coming from, but we were soon put at ease.

We arrived a little early and initially overlooked our powered travel vessel awaiting us below on the beach at Stateline Boat Launch. But then we spotted someone else who appeared to be boatless walking down the long ramp towards what looked like a small, double decker pontoon with kayaks stacked on top. So we walked down and were greeted by Dave, co-owner, guide and outfitter extraordinaire. A friendly, slim fellow with skin the color of well tanned leather and the stringy build of someone who works long, hard hours. From first glance the last accent you’d expect would be one of a Bostonian, but that’s what came out as he welcomed us upon his boat. And I do mean his boat.

Later we would find out he designed and welded it himself. I admired the craftsmanship and ingenuity as we trolled out of the marina and began our trip up lake. Exiting the no wake zone we picked up speed and threaded through an endless streaming of watercraft, moving at varied speeds. From the erratic trails of jet skis or PWCs (Personal Water Craft as they call them down here), to the slow lumbering of the giant house boats. I had often wondered what kind of gas mileage these hulking masses got and Dave gave me the shocking answer. Houseboat on Lake PowellOne gallon per quarter mile. Or 0.25 miles per gallon. That is not a typo folks. It takes 4 gallons of gas to move these monstrosities one mile. And I thought the giant RVs and trailers were bad. In the end what’s the point? Why do people feel the need to have every modern convenience of home with them on vacation? Why even go anywhere? No wonder some people can only afford a 3-4 day getaway every year.

Anyways we made our way to base camp up lake. Steadily coasting through gorgeous terrain only partially exposed above the waterline. While admiring the landscape I pondered—as I would several times over these couple of days, and this summer for that matter—what lies buried beneath? The lake is a stunning contrast to the desert landscape, but it’s sadly completely unnatural. And from everything I’ve read, before the dam, Glen Canyon was one of the most beautiful canyons in North America, rivaling and some say surpassing the beauty of the Grand Canyon. But now this treasure is submerged below billions of gallons of water and the millions of tons of silt that accompanies it. It’s unfortunately all for money. The money in real estate, water, and electricity. So we have to enjoy it as it is.

And we did. Arriving at our base camp we loaded two additional kayaks and two additional passengers. So besides Lindsay, Dave and me, we had a family of four from out east consisting of a mom, dad and two sons roughly 8 and 12, we had a married couple from Michigan, and our new passengers were an older married couple from Arizona. They had been out on the lake for four days now camping and kayaking around.

Kayaking in Face CanyonDave took us up to Face Canyon and put together a quick lunch after unloading the kayaks. We had sandwiches, salad, chips, and cookies. Then we all hopped in our vessels and paddled up a wonderful little slot canyon. On either side the walls wavered and slowly encroached on us. Lindsay and I have been in many slot canyons in the past two months, but it was a new experience to do so in water. Despite my previous dispositions the lake is very alluring. It’s edges and shallow spots are a striking green blue hue in the midday sun. Looking down below the surface you can see the canyon walls continue, then disappear. We eventually made our way to the end of this particular slot and exited our boats. After a quick dip to soak and cool ourselves in hopes that the lake water would serve as an adequate defense against the beating sun, we trudged back through the loose sand left by the last flood and continued up the slot. Some hurdled over the boulders and some around, but we all made our way back to the very end where a tight v-shaped path led up to a dry pool. Hiking into the Slots of Face CanyonThis pool dropped six or seven feet down, below the path and would probably be a death sentence for any animal or possibly even a human who had the misfortune of ending up down there by way of flood or fall. Dave told us a week or two ago there was a rattle snake trapped down there. And the kids in our group seemed to think something on the floor of it appeared furry, like a dead mammal of some sorts.

We hiked back to the kayaks, had another impromptu swim and then paddled our way back to the boat. We loaded our kayaks and cut up to base camp again and unloaded. Now when I say “we” I mean “we”. Dave was the sole guide and while I’m sure he’s capable of doing everything himself, there’s no reason his ten able bodied guests can’t chip in and help. This aspect was inspiring. Hardly anyone had to be asked. Once he acknowledged that he could use our help everyone was more than willing, even eager to give him a hand. For me, I think it was part of the experience. I would have gladly helped with more. It isn’t often these days that you see people lifting even a finger for someone in the service field. Whether it’s stacking your plates at the end of dinner to help the waiter or bagging your own groceries (heaven forbid) people seem to be unwilling to do anything they are not paid to do or feel someone else is being paid to do for them. Especially while on vacation, many people turn into self-centered, nasty little brats who feel entitled to everything, but are completely ignorant of their impact on others. They leave messes in bathrooms, campsites, and hotels, but would go on a rampage if they were greeted at any moment by a similar mess.

Tower ButteI’ve lost my way on this tangent. Too much venting. Back to the good I saw and the peace and solitude of our remote location. Base camp was in a lovely little nook at the mouth of tomorrow’s kayak adventure – Labyrinth Canyon. While Dave shored up the boat we were let loose to hike around on the surrounding sandstone. Walking back Lindsay and I were in awe of the wind and water swept buttes. Many were similar to those I saw at the South Coyote Buttes with differentiated layers winding one way and then the other, wrapping up the column of the butte like an ice cream swirl melting in the sun. It again reminded me of the potential treasure set below the imposed layer of water and silt.

Dinner was a salad, spaghetti, bread, and brownies. Nothing overly fancy, but very good—as much food is after a good, long day in the wilderness. Let’s be honest, no one came for the dining experience, but Dave didn’t fail to please and fill all of our hungry bellies.

After dinner everyone split up to find a suitable place to sleep. We all had the option of tents or no tents and cots or pads. Lindsay and I were a little concerned by the swarming nuisance of some tiny bugs that appeared as the sun went down. They were mosquito-like in size and shape, but they didn’t bite. They just seemed to want to be on you or around you. But the wind picked up casting them off and we decided to tough it out without a tent. Both of us were eager to try tentless camping so what better time than now? We set up our “site”, laying down a tarp, then Dave’s pads, then our own on top and finally heavy sleeping bags, which in the 75 degree weather we decided to turn inside out, preferring the cool nylon against our skin to the warm flannel inner lining.

Initially we thought everyone had hit the hay. This seemed strange since the sun was still up. We made a pass at the outdoor camp kitchen to grab brownies and came across Pat and Al (the older couple). It was a perfect coincidence that Al was behind the table and asked Pat “what’ll ya have”, impersonating a bartender. Pat replied “a double Marker’s Mark, neat”. And I added “make that two”. To which Pat kindly stated, exiting the scene of our wishful imaginary bar, “I’ve got Jack Daniel’s in our cooler, help yourself.” I felt like I had won the lottery. Nothing could have better completed the day than a little whisky. I found two cups and poured a little nip for both Lindsay and I and we returned to our campsite to watch the stars poke holes in the  slowly darkening sky.

Then we saw others trickle out from behind their buttes and ascend atop the boat. We happily joined and laid out with the family of four and Dave, laying on our backs and admiring the light show above us. And what a show it was. There must have been a dozen shooting stars, including two close enough and bright enough to leave long, visible trails in the sky as they extinguished forever. I must recant my previous statement and add an amendment, the whisky AND the night sky were the perfect ending to a great day.

Eventually everyone headed off to bed and Lindsay and I did the same. But for awhile we laid awake staring up at distance stars and galaxies. Miles from artificial light the stars came out in droves and made a valiant effort to overtake the black emptiness around them. They almost won that night.

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