LAKE POWELL NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
We were still a bit on edge from our Jane Judah encounter as we headed out of the Grand Canyon. Since the North Rim was, for the most part, closed due to road construction, we decided to head to Lake Powell early.
A bit sleep deprived and hot, we arrived in Page, AZ with no idea where we were going to sleep. Thinking we would have service in this town, since it is a tourist hot spot, we were frustrated to find out AT&T did not cover the area. Little did we know this would be the first of many areas in the West where we were out of cell service. Thanks to various apps that communicate via wifi, we were able to use the Walmart wifi to at least tell our families we were not dead. You don't realize how much you rely on your phone and data to plan until you don't have it.
Since it was Saturday afternoon, we had little hope of any campgrounds being vacant, but we couldn't call around, so we just started with the most obvious, the marina campground in the Lake Powell Recreation Area. Shockingly, we were able to get one of the last tent sites for the next few nights, albeit above budget at $32 a night, we were so tired we didn't care.
After setting up camp, we probably sat and zoned out for 15 minutes solid. There was still food shopping and trip planning to be done for the next five days, so we shook ourselves out of our daze and continued on. That night we were exhausted. Right before bed, I received a message from my family that my sister had gotten in a car accident in Denver and I was terrified. Thankful that my mom said she was ok, I was still very upset I could not contact anyone to get updates, say 'hey' to Lauren, or let them know I received their message. I had little to no Wifi through the park over the next day, and spent a solid 3 hours just trying to work around communication issues via Marco Polo, Snap Chat, email, facetime, etc. all with crappy connection. Lauren was alright, thank goodness, and I was able to eventually let the fam know my situation for the next few days. Times like this I hate being on the road because you can't just drive down the road to get service. Working in New Mexico was the same and all those frustrations came flooding back.
In between sorting through that debacle, Eric and I packed for our first overnight kayak trip. Compiling a list for what we would need not just for this trip, but for our week long trip coming up on the Green River, we finished the daunting task of packing with a few hours of light left. We spent the evening at the 'beach' looking out over emerald water with densely layered rock formations squiggled along the horizon line. It was an odd beach day, but a good example of what desert life would be like in the summer.
We launched our packed kayaks the next day from the Wahweap marina and paddled 7 miles to the shores around the Antelope Canyon entrance. Launching was a bit of a hassle since the boat ramp was set up for motorized watercraft, but we were able to push off from a small corner of the ramp and exit the marina through the rows of vacation home house boats/ yachts. It's good to be rich.
The first two miles were blissful. We hugged the jagged water edge as we paddled and ogled at the rocky shoreline. The rock formations were different than the ones we have seen so far. Above and below the waterline, it looked like mud had been poured and dried for thousands (millions, actually) of years to created liquid stone sculptures. This was a very cool and new environment. The crystal clear water of Lake Powell allowed us to see rocks underneath us, and since we were not yet in the main channel, the speedboats did not affect us.
And then they did. Still staying close to the shore, the last five plus miles were spent paddling vigorously against large wakes from house boats, speed boats, jet skis, and the worst, huge tour boats. A constant sound of motors and waves drowned out any other noise, even each other, and by the time we reached a beach flat enough to set camp on, we were spent. We still made pretty good time considering, averaging about 1.5 miles an hour with no current. This allowed a few hours to relax at camp before the sun went down at 9:00pm. The only problem was the lack of shade. We had spent six hours or so completely exposed in the kayaks, so the last thing we wanted was to sit in the sun. Eric fashioned an 'umbrella' by propping up the kayak upside down on the trekking polls, and we took frequent dips in the cold water to keep cool. Even with plenty of water, sunscreen, coverage and swimming, the sun still got to us. We were very relieved when the sun went down and the sound of motor craft stopped for the night. However, even out here, we could not escape someone coming into camp and asking us about our gear, which lead into another conversation of what we do and how we travel. The guy was nice, but we were so peopled-out that we just wanted silence. This seems to be harder and harder to come by in the outdoors.
The next day we woke up at dawn, quickly packed up, ate breakfast, and got on the water before the crowds. This morning also included a back-country first, I pooped in a bag (so did Eric, but a different bag of course.)
With more and more outdoor spaces being overcrowded, a lot of back country areas are adopting a full leave no trace policy, and requiring those who venture into the fragile environments to pack EVERYTHING in, and pack EVERYTHING out. This means human waste as well. It is not a wonderful experience abiding by this rule, but I would rather that than have all the back country campsites covered with evidence of humans (exposed cat holes, used TP etc.) We have been to many campsites where this is already the case, and you got to figure, if someone is camping there every single night, it will get gross fast. Thus, Wag-bag regulations.
Anyway, with that business taken care of, we packed our boats and headed towards the mouth of the canyon. Unfortunately we were not the first to head in, even with camping across the way. Still, it was delightful paddling at 6am without the wake and noise caused by motorized traffic in the waters. Quiet, still, and full of echos, we floated between Antelope Canyon's high walls until the water gave way to sandy beach. We hiked along the sandy path up through the lower canyon as the walls became higher and closer together. Our first slot canyon experience. I learned that the canyon walls are actually that orange. It was striking.
We hiked about 2.5 miles out, 5 miles round trip, and enjoyed lower antelope canyon all to ourselves (until the end.) Arriving at our boats around 10:30am, multiple tour groups had recently arrived and started their own exploration of the canyon. With an abundance of loud adults and children alike, we were happily back on the water and heading away from the masses. Or so we thought. We passed a few more large kayak tour groups headed into the canyon on our way out. We were so thankful we had our own boats and avoided spending time with a bunch of annoying doofuses (child paddling screaming “one, two, one two” in the most agonizing tone.)
The rest of the way back to Wahweap marina was a duplicate of the day before. High heat, loud boats, big wakes. The only reprieve was when we stopped in a hidden cove for lunch and a swim. As we paddled back through the house boats and yachts, both of us were struggling. Our arms were sore, we were drenched in sweat mixed with the lake water we continuously splashed on ourselves, and were starting to go sun-crazy. Weather was predicted to be a high of 92, but that was proven very wrong when we got back to camp. After docking at the boat ramp, cleaning and unpacking our kayaks, and cranking the AC on the ride back to camp, we stopped at the visitor center for some wifi. Turns out a major heat wave hit the west coast, including where we were, and the high for the day was actually 106 degrees.
Hot and exhausted, we talked through all of our options. A few hours later we decided to cancel our last night and head out a day early to take a break from the heat since the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was still closed. We booked an RV park for some A/C in Monument Valley, cleaned everything from lake contamination, showered, ate, and fell asleep as soon as we could.
Overall, the trip was a success in regards to our first kayak camp in the inflatable boats, and we felt prepared for our week long trip coming up. Past that, we learned that flat water paddling is not our thing, especially shared with other motor craft. The next morning we got up early and left at 9:00am when it was already in the 90's. The sun had finally broke us.
7/10 - would not kayak in motorized watercraft areas again.