With miles driven down the road from the Pacific North West, we arrived at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Encompassing over 1.25 million acres this protected area trickles into states Utah and Arizona. The primary water source in this desert canyon location is Lake Powell. A well know spot for house boaters and water thrill seekers! But, that is not why we have come here. The next seven days and six nights will be spent expedition kayaking through narrow slot canyons and filled with toasty desert hikes observing geological features. This trip will have provided a “no service”, sandy, outback experience.
Waheap boat ramp put in.
With Lake Powell water levels reaching record lows, the boat ramp is our first tackle of the expedition. Portaging our twenty-two foot kayaks down the treacherous drop off turned in to becoming quite the workout. After some struggling and grunting we submerged our boats in the water and finished up some last minute packing. With the wind at our back and sun in our face we set off five and a half miles to the first campsite, which turned out to be a delightful scenic location. Minus a rattlesnake or two found up canyon from our flat sandy tent location. And earned the remainder of the trip nickname as “Rattlesnake flats.”
Water bound in search for the next campsite.
The first overnight in the tent always surprises me. All of a sudden, BOOM the sun is up, and your tent is illuminated! No alarms for a wake up, just the steady light peering through the tent. Experiencing that first wake up surrounds me with the warm feeling of comfort. The headspace to go, all right, we are here, we are present, all the planning has provided me the ability to reach this moment and begin the trip. With a quick breakfast under way, tents and gear are stuffed into dry bags and re-situated on the kayaks. Today will be the first full day of being on the water. After paddling along canyon walls we beach the boats in search of a campsite. We all feel like explorers seeking out good flat spots for tent sites. After our second beach landing we have found the right place. Placing us on the Arizona side of the park on the Navajo reservation. The views have completely engulfed the group as we settle in for a soft lighting sunset against the red canyons walls. Tomorrow hangs in all of our minds with excitement!
Early to bed early to rise
As a group we have decided this campsite is too beautiful to leave and we will be staying here for one more evening. In the wee hours of the morning we leave our tents up and set off on the glassy calm waters. Our kayaks slice through the cold clear water with ease. The calm feeling gliding effortlessly into a narrow canyon almost feels eerie. The sheer beauty of the completely still water reflecting the canyon walls around you really takes your breath away. This days objective is to reach Labyrinth Canyon, an infamous sandstone slot canyon, about shoulder width apart and extends on dry land for a few miles. Absolutely incredible, the geological features provide a mind bending experience, almost to inquire if this beauty is all real. As real as it is we are all in lifted spirits, sharing stories and expressing our stoke for this place. We arrive back at the campsite with evening plans set into motion. Under the night sky we have a crisp view of the stars, with little to no light pollution. We are all awake to watch the International Space Station rise from the horizon and deliver us a six minute journey across our sky before disappearing below the canyon walls. It was a touching moment in realization of what our human race can achieve. In the next twenty-four hours it will orbit earth approximately sixteen times.
Argh! She Blows!
With plans to journey off to a new location, we are faced with fifteen to twenty mile per hour winds. Yikes! This also brings consistent white caps across the waterway through the canyon. Eager to hide from the winds and blowing sand we all scatter to canyon ledges to wait things out. A weather forecaster via VHF radio has called for calm conditions by noon, in which we will high tail it across the open water and head up Gunsight Canyon back into the state of Utah. In our boats scurrying across open water the entrance to Gunsight Canyon is fierce! An immense red wall towers over the canyon waters. We paddle to the furthest reaches of the canyon in preparation for a long hike. The balance between paddling and hiking is proving to be rewarding to our bodies. Day four sore butts and paddle blisters are setting in so we are keen for long hikes. While admiring sandstone formations, we switch gears, placing ourselves into someone else’s shoes. Imagining what it must have been like being Navajo or early Spanish Explorers. Before this was transformed into Lake Powell. Enlightened, we appreciate the modern amenities of quick camp stoves and warm fluffy sleeping bags. Ready for the night to follow.
Rattle Snake flats here we come
Did I mention not having phone service in the canyons? It has been amazing! Most of us wake up to the rise of the sun and lift our heads off of our dry bag pillows. Dry Bag Pillows- using the small dry bag full of your clothes as a head rest solution, 10 out of 10 recommend. So, in lieu of no service, all weather information comes through a VHF radio. The mysterious voice comes crackling through calling for severe winds in late afternoon. Which is perfect, because it’s still early morning and we have some canyon kayaking to get after. At this point in the trip we have our tent site breakdown wired to a quick thirty to forty minutes, and things have become very organized. With kayaks ready to go, we bust out our Kataydyn water filter, top off all of our Nalgene’s, and proceed with the beach push off. Paddles in hand we begin gliding along the towering canyon walls. After horsing around on the water, we pull into the little peaceful cove of Rattle snake camp ground. This time around we didn’t spot any snakes and proceeded with a lengthy hike scouring the cliffs. As we return to our tent sites the wind has arrived. The desert is swallowing us, and it begins to look like a movie set filmed in Egypt. Pelting our faces are little tiny grains of sand being carried around the old sandstone walls. With escape in all of our minds we retreat to our tents, only to discover sand does not care about tent fabric, it blows through and creates it own little home on all of our gear, clothes, sleeping bags, etc. To wait out the wind we cook dinner, at this point we are lightly sunburned and have sand grit in our teeth. Prepared to eat just about anything we whip up some fried rice and have no choice but to enjoy the desert grit seasoning to it. As the dark evening closes around the wind is still strong at it, whipping away at the tent and placing sand across everything we own. Defeated, sandy, and seasoned we fight the wind to fall asleep.
Oh the sweet sound of silence
Nothing, absolutely nothing. It is dead quiet as we all rise from our sand bunkers. There is no sound of wind in your ears, no birds are chirping, there are no traces of footprints in and around the camp site. Our group set up looks magnificent, untouched and withstanding the weather. Delighted by the calm conditions, with sleepy eyes and tea cups in our hands we can only chuckle and reminisce about the hours prior. Today marks the last leg of our journey together. Tickled pink by the sun, with sand in just about everything we yearn for showers, grateful that the last night was the dirtiest of the trip by far. With the warm hearts of our close friends we pack up one last time and paddle off to Waheap Boat Launch. None of us on this expedition were prepared for the immense beauty of this area yet all of us left touched by the deep canyons and towering cliffs.