Hardly a Care in the World

1/15/2012

By Jim Favors

When I was a kid, on summer break from school, every day was an adventure. I’d wake up, have breakfast and out the door I went for the day, with hardly a care in the world. I really don’t think I had much concept of time back then, but magically I’d somehow always make it back home by dinnertime each day. By doing so, I knew I’d remain in my mother’s good graces, and I’d be free to go back out to repeat it all over again throughout the long summer. As a child summer seemed to last forever.

One nice benefit of beach anchoring, like shown here in Padre Canyon, is being able to get off of the boat for a hike.

A typical day’s activities of my youth would include playing pickup baseball in the street or school playground a couple of blocks away, riding bikes over to the train tracks, going to the community pool, playing hide and seek or alley-over (do you remember that one?) in the alley behind our houses. Life was an adventure for me as a child living in the city and I found that same sense of carefreeness and adventure return, as Lisa and I struck out on a new frontier, our Lake Powell excursion.

I must have had a little Huckleberry Finn in me as a child, which has transported itself very nicely over to my adult boating adventures.

After a leisurely breakfast and morning walk along our beach anchorage site, Lisa and I left Padre Canyon. I couldn’t help but wonder where we’d end up that night or what magnificent sights of Mother Nature we’d surround ourselves with. The only thing I knew for sure was that we were heading east, with plans to cruise back into a couple of canyons as far in as we could comfortably and back out again while keeping our eyes open for a new beach to call home for the night.

These are the rock walls that surrounded us while we were in the small cove of Dry Rock Creek Canyon.

Each new day brought increasing better weather. We departed Padre Bay, heading toward Gregory Butte Island and its sentinel standing, Camel Rock. They were both imposing sights as we entered the base of Last Chance Bay. We choose not to cruise too far into the eight-mile long bay because of its length. With that said, it is worth noting that the Bay is framed on both sides with rows of massive palisades (sheer rock cliffs) topped by rock fins and large boulders. However, even with 13 good-size coves, there aren’t any anchorages in this area, we had to pass on spending too much time in this tempting beauty.

Twelve miles east of Padre Bay and past the mouth of Last Chance Bay we decided to take a side trip up into Dry Rock Creek Canyon. Our decisions, for canyon explorations and beach anchoring, were based on research found in Stan Jones,’ “Everything You Want To Know About Lake Powell and Its 96 Canyons,” Map and Guide. Known as “Mister Lake Powell,” Stan has spent over 33 years of continuous exploration of Lake Powell, in his personal quest to explore the 1,960 miles of shoreline.

Lurking boulders, submerged just below our port bow, kept us on our toes as we slowly made our way through Cathedral Canyon.

Dry Rock Creek Canyon was the narrowest canyon we had cruised up to this point and although we’d end up in much narrower canyons, it gave us a feeling of confidence in our growing, canyon navigation skills. About three quarters of the way into the canyon we saw a small cove surrounded by high rock walls off to our portside. We entered the cove slowly by engaging and disengaging the boat into forward gear. Although the depth sounder showed plenty of depth we wanted to be cautious as we neared a much narrower hairpin turn where a blind spot led into a, yet again, smaller cove, only twice the width of our boat. Once inside this cove we couldn’t see the larger entrance from where we came in, so while sheer rock walls surrounded us, an eerie feeling seeped in that helped prepare us for our Cathedral Canyon cruise, a few miles away.

“Other-worldly,” is how some followers of our blog have described Lisa’s photos of Cathedral Canyon and I couldn’t agree more with the analogy. Once past the entrance, where the massive and grand Cathedral Butte stands, we were greeted with still waters and more visual delights in this winding gorge. At times the canyon is wider, then it narrows again the farther one gets into the gorge. When we read the review on Stan Jones’ guide where he states, “Several sheer walls lean in, adding to the mystique. Passages at the end are narrower than most, allowing small boats to wind through an eerie, claustrophobic maze to a dead end,” we just couldn’t pass up on exploring this canyon.

Inside of Cathedral Canyon you can see a good example of a palisades, shown here at the top of the photo.

The benefits of canyon hopping, like we did, were that the visuals of a trip into one canyon were completely different than the return trip back out. Sure the route was the same however the lighting off of the rocks and water changed, sometime dramatically, the reason being that some of our exploration trips would be an hour or two long, so the shadows and reflections were all different on our exit from a canyon. Although a trip into a canyon was more exciting because we were exploring it for the first time, we never knew what to expect around the next corner. The trip out was more relaxed because we didn’t have to be as cautious as we carefully followed the route stored on the GPS bread crumb track on our iPad, but we still carefully kept a look out for shallow water or boulders lurking just below the surface.

Here we are heading toward a narrow passage in Cathedral Canyon.

This photo shows the same location as the above photo except we are much closer to entering a narrower part of Cathedral Canyon.

After our mind-stimulating cruise through Cathedral Canyon we had our sights set on cruising the bay just outside of Oak Canyon while keeping a look out for our overnight beach anchorage. Only five miles away from Cathedral Canyon we came to the wide-open mouth of Oak Bay but decided to explore Secret Canyon, one of the smallest named canyons on Lake Powell, before searching for a beach site. Secret Canyon is small enough that unless you know where you’re heading you could miss it entirely. It’s only recommended that smaller boats or dinghies try to navigate its narrow passage since it’s barely wide enough in places for only one vessel. We entered the canyon and went as far back as we dared, maybe half a mile, to a point where the rock walls were so tall we could hardly see the sky. When it came time to turn around and exit the canyon, we only had about 1.5 lengths of our boat for a turning radius.

 

Oak Canyon is a popular beach-anchoring destination in Lake Powell, because of its central location from marinas and the sandy shores surrounding a good portion of its perimeter. I should mention that there is an unwritten rule, an understanding between fellow Lake Powell boaters, that if a beach area is already occupied the polite thing to do is to look elsewhere. Don’t crowd your neighbors and in most cases, like the bay of Oak Canyon, this is typically not a problem because there are many options. Even though there were a few houseboats beached when we arrived we still had a large area to select from. With that said I couldn’t help but wonder how different things would be during the peak summer boating season?

Secret Canyon’s widest point, hard to believe we went another quarter mile.

“There it is, the perfect spot,” Lisa stated as we laid our eyes on an oversized slip-sized cove we could nestle into. As we inched our way towards shore Lisa was on the bow looking for underwater obstructions to avoid. With none found I gently planted the bow onto the beach sand and killed the engine. With choreographed precision I was off the boat’s bow and onto shore getting the lines tied off and anchors set, Lake Powell style, in no time flat. “I think we’ve got this thing down,” I said to Lisa. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes and with only three beachings to our credit, we finally felt like old pros.

Unlike our first two stops, Oak Canyon gave us a real opportunity to get off of the boat and hike a long distance. Although we didn’t venture more than a mile or two, the area gave us a feeling of being in a cactus littered, arid desert, except we were, of course, surrounded by glorious rock formations and plenty of water.

Beach anchored in Oak Bay in what looks like a custom formed slip just for our Ranger Tug.

After our walk we were satisfied to just hang around the boat taking in the surrounding scenery. In the near distance, and in clear view of our campsite, stands the 10,388-foot Navajo Mountain. The mountain straddles the border of Utah and Arizona and is in stark contrast to the barren canyons as we could see plenty of green up the mountain; from Oak Canyon area one has the best views of its grandeur. We also learned from a boater anchored nearby that the only available Wi-Fi signal is by a tower on this mountain, and sure enough, during the rest of our trip we found that whenever we were in sight of the mountain we were able to send and receive email. As Lisa and I were sitting in the cockpit of Kismet waiting for the evening sunset, we couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be able to see the heavily treed and snow capped Navajo Mountain, while sitting snug and warm on the arid Lake Powell with hardly a care in the world.