Call it Romance or Mystique
By Lisa Targal Favors
I’m not really sure what happened when we picked a beach anchor site in Cottonwood Canyon; the atmosphere and character of our Lake Powell cruise seemed to take a turn. I began to feel a noticeable change in the tone and mood of our trip. Up to this point we were in awe of our surroundings and that aspect seemed to rule the day. I guess you could say we were so entertained by the scenery; it left us stunned and wanting more. However, as we got settled into a private little cove in Cottonwood Canyon, the ambience seemed to evolve and presented us with a quiet, although vividly serene, juncture to focus on and appreciate, not only each other, but also the wonders of canyon life. Call it romance or call it mystique, whatever you want to name it, we collectively welcomed the opportunity. Why not?
During one of our morning hikes we stopped on top of this cliff to enjoy the view.
Cottonwood Canyon, nestled not far off the Colorado River on Lake Powell, provided a stunning backdrop for the crew of Kismet to spend a few days alone in an arid, western paradise. Up to this point we have seen some incredible sights, traveled through canyons that would knock the socks off most boaters we know. Time flew by each and every day as we explored and learned how to boat and anchor in this heavenly man-made lake.
The air was so still there was barely a ripple on the water where we were anchored providing a photographer’s dream shot, rock walls perfectly mirrored in the water below. For more photos, visit: Davis Gulch–A Visual Delight
First of all I was impressed with the notion that we were literally alone in this vast stretch of rocky canyons, dried up riverbeds, endless valleys and plateaus, alone with my captain, in paradise… again. Our cruising life typically involves a lot of interaction between people, friends or other boaters; we spend a lot of time talking to people curious about our boat or our chosen lifestyle. We have always found boaters to be very friendly. You will never be alone in a marina with other boaters present. If you haven’t guessed by now, we love to share with others, so we always enjoy this exchange between people about the different aspects of boating, but when an opportunity presents itself, to escape the world and commune with nature, alone, together, we will always grab onto and cherish the moment.
Kismet beach anchored in Cottonwood Canyon.
We both like the yin and yang of life, the contrast of one thing to another, so when we’ve been actively social and surrounded by good friends and friendly boat mates for long periods of time, we seem to conversely crave opportunities to get away from the commotion to reflect and commune with nature, quietly, together. Another example of this would be when we’ve spent a lot of time docked at marinas; we’ll soon yearn for a well-protected anchorage close to shore for a few days. On the flip side, after a few days away by ourselves, we’ll again crave the companionship of others and the many opportunities for social get-togethers and parties, oftentimes revolving around food. This may not work well for everyone, but it does for us, it reminds us how important, not only our relationship is, but also how we enjoy the simplicity of time away, it’s a chance for balance in our lives. This longing may seem counter to what you might think a couple cooped up on a small boat, day after day, might yearn for, but it takes all kinds, as they say.
The rock wall across the water from us assumed the cool blue hue as the sun set and the night sky took possession of the canyon.
Secondly, we were moved by the golden orange, almost glowing, color of the canyon walls surrounding us, which changed from sunrise to sunset, almost radiating a uniquely, tangible warmth and intensity during the height of the day only changing at dusk to slowly acquire a cool transparent veil. This is so different from what we are used to, I guess you could say we are experiencing another spectrum of boating that is quite different to our east coat adventures which features more shades of green and browns. As they say, and we totally concur, “Viva la difference.”
The moon looked so beautiful coming over the rock formations Jim thought he would try to capture the moment on our iPad.
To further heighten the feeling of being somewhere quite unique, our first night in our cozy cove presented a very spectacular lunar show. We had finished dinner and a quick game of Liverpool on the back deck of the boat where we nicely faced a sheer rock cliff across the stretch of water behind our aft deck. The rock walls surrounding us were starting to take on that cooler hue as the sun slowly set over the western wall; then, much to our surprise, a resounding full moon emerged from behind a dip in the rock formation to the east and threw a whole new cool, but bright, light on our environment. It completely commanded the attention of the canyon and us, the transient boaters snuggly nestled in for the night on Kismet. Rising in a slow arc over another mountainous cliff, whose profile we soon dubbed Martha Washington, (her face pointed upward with a little protruding nose shape on top). I guess we named it after Martha because, like the stately sculptures on Mount Rushmore, she looked presidential, however different, more a natural occurrence, softer, sweeter and more organic.
The moon slowly made its way up between the dip in the rock wall just behind Kismet back deck (that’s Martha on the right). This was just the beginning of a spectacular evening performance.
The moon slowly made its way over the entire Cottonwood Canyon and our chosen campsite for the night. To say we were mesmerized is a complete understatement. We simply could not tear ourselves away from the scene to retire. We spent hours watching the moon make its way over the massive canyon changing the color, vibrancy and character of the rocky cliffs on its trek. I’d have to call it a “moon glow,” it was so bright and the canyon was incredibly still and accepting of the moon’s command performance. The next day, completely blown away from the previous evening’s lunar display, we knew we needed to extend our stay another day; I could have stayed longer, but we still had more to see and do during our short stay on Lake Powell.
Kismet looks so small in this photo taken during Jim’s morning hike up one of the cliff walls.
I watched Jim tentatively climb down this rock face, which is easier to climb up than to descend.
The next morning, Jim decided to take a hike on his own while I cleaned up after breakfast. After a bit I walked out on the cockpit and spotted him, a little speck on the side of a craggy cliff and looking a little tentative about his descent. Apparently, when rock climbing, it looks easier going up than it does coming back down. Jim was moving slowly and cautiously planning his next foothold with each move. We yelled back and forth, I got out the binoculars to see if I could gauge his progress but if it looked bad by eyesight, trust me, it looked even worse through the binoculars. We were both happy when he finally reached the canyon floor and lightly sprinted back to the boat. Later, we both went for a hike on the flat top of some of the lower cliffs that surrounded our boat. Stunning vistas appeared below and around the river bend below us and still no other boats in sight.
This dried up animal feces was about the size of a baseball cap, a little unnerving to say the least.
During these walks, we saw some ominous remnants of wildlife presence that had, at some time, visited the top of the big hill, just above and not far from our campsite. Large, dried up, animal feces spotted the surface. This made us wonder about what type of wildlife we might encounter – up to this point I think we may have been a little naive about this aspect of our trip on Lake Powell. Luckily, we never saw a snake, tarantula, scorpion or spider but we did see several lizards, a few birds and lots of fish. We were surprised with the scarcity of animal sightings but somewhat happy we didn’t chance upon something that may have wanted to join us for dinner on our small boat. Other native inhabitants of the canyons include kangaroo rats, coyote, dessert bighorn sheep, ravens, eagles, hawks, owls, sparrows and this is where canyon wrens sing their unforgettable song. Predators in the area include bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes (black bear are very rare). These mammals avoid humans, but their tracks and scat show their presence in the area.
Another aspect of our two-day stay was something we learned about the rock formations surrounding us. Having time to crawl around the cliffs by our boat, we began to see how fragile the rock formations actually are. While cruising through the canyon passages the walls look solid and rock hard. Near our campsite all stages of porous sandstone erosion were on display, from solid shapes to crumbling rock and finally the fine orange sand that make up the beaches boaters love to camp on.
The water had risen over this old campfire ring located just off Kismet’s port side.
Since Lake Powell fluctuates from season to season (in 2011 it fluctuated 50 feet in depth) we tried to imagine how the campsites must appear at different stages of water levels where the whole contour of the water line must change dramatically when the depth changes. For example, where one year there was a big beach at one spot it might now be higher up a cliff or lower down a gulch in the canyon. An example of this is the campfire we spotted, a ring of stones in the water, next to our boat. It obviously was above the water, at one point in time, when the water pool was lower.
We took many hikes in the morning or late afternoon when the sun was not at its full intensity, we enjoyed the many views from different angles around our campsite. We even caught up on some chores like paying bills and boat maintenance; we ate and played games and relaxed. Cottonwood Canyon was a special, and yes, romantic interlude for us during our Lake Powell adventures. I think I left a little bit of my heart there, I hope I can go back someday soon to retrieve it.
For more information visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Powell