Friday 14th October. By Jodie.
We’re deep inside Forbidding canyon, perched on a sandy bench, surrounded by dark, murky water. The surface is thick with shredded vegetation, lumps of wood and other debris. It is bubbling, oozing, and there are things living in it. This is our campsite tonight. We kayaked as far as we could go into this canyon. It’s been a long day, 30kms of paddling, much of it in strong wind and waves, and we’re too tired to backtrack for miles to find a different campsite.
However, this campsite is the huge exception for our week on Lake Powell. Other nights we stay on beautiful, pale, flat slickrock, with red cliffs and clear water all around. Sunsets and sunrises are superb. The moon, which was full at the beginning of the trip, rises each night to spectacular effect. In the darkness between sunset and moonrise we lie on the still-warm rocks watching stars and satellites. We don’t need the fly on the tent. There are no tides or waves so we don’t have to worry about our boats. There are no critters trying to eat our provisions. It’s kayak camping heaven.
It’s a strange landscape. We’re in a desert but we’re on a large body of water. The water level created by the dam allows us to enter canyons that in the past would have been inaccessible. The changing water levels over the years don’t allow a shoreline to get established, so the lake just looks, well, unnatural, which of course it is.
So why are we here? A few weeks ago, we were lamenting the fact that we hadn’t had another chance to kayak on this trip since Glacier Bay. During our hike in The Gulch, Paul unexpectedly asked, “why don’t we kayak Lake Powell?” I was skeptical. “What gives you the idea we can sea kayak in the Colorado River dam?” and no more was said. After the hike we stopped at a great coffee place outside Escalante, with views, wifi, and a shelf full of books. I picked up a book filled with inspiring photos of the Colorado River in the 1950s before it was dammed, and a guidebook of sea kayaking in southern Utah, which included a brief mention of kayaking Lake Powell for “experienced paddlers”. At this point Paul’s idea was on it’s way to becoming a reality.