Monday, October 13, 2008

Lake Powell - August 2008.

Lake Powell's inky blue shape spread itself astride my Utah map unaware of the developing thoughts to cast myself for several days among its rumored red shores. My good friend had recently made me well aware of its pristine canyons and massive desert varnished walls with his constant testimony. I had thus decided to put action to plan.

The Bullfrog put-in @ Lake Powell is a busy place with its own lengthy boat ramp, neighboring campgrounds, gurgling semi-truck trailers, and tired families with gas cans and dogs in tow. We rolled up to the scene as a small cluster of vehicle and kayaks, trying to thread ourselves between the lumbering mammoth houseboats fumbling along the dock. Within an hour's preparation, we were off and away. Soon, we were quietly leaving behind the murmuring cacophony as we leaned forward toward the unknown one slip of the paddle at a time.
Push, Rotate, Draw, Heave, Fore, Aft... "Use your core, not your arms." I struggled to rekindle my muscle's memory of sea kayaking excursions long gone by. Struggle as I might though, I could do nothing to shake off the nervousness and pestering self doubt growing in my head.

Will I stand up to the physical rigor. Did I bring enough food. Will I capsize. Will I damage something. Will we get swamped by a swift desert storm. Will either one of us be destroyed by any one of these giant floating frat parties. Can I really survive this. Breathe, Pull, Lean, Breathe, Pull again and again. Constant.

As the sun rolled through the sky, the nerves and self doubt began to slowly abate as they were washed against the staggering enormity of the red rock country. A deepening appreciation of the world and events unfolding around me gathered as we continued farther along these hallowed halls. Sculpted and shaved cliff walls looked over our journey as they held back the blackish water's constant languid pressure.

We founded the first camp upon the lightly lapping shores of a slickrock lined inlet. After pulling the boats ashore we began what would soon become routine, the construction of a temporary but comfortable place to rest. Food was prepared and both sails and weary muscles were unfurled and allowed to dry. Dinner was ate and bedrolls were laid out underneath an intensifying canopy of diamonds affixed against the blackest of interstellar space. The Milky Way's cloudy edge shone across the heavens, strapping all of humanity in for the ride.

As I became accustomed to the common occurrences of a life spent paddling, the events of each day's passing began to stream together. From a rare but curious California condor who insisted on investigating our small flotilla over and over - pass after circling pass until the heated air currents lifted his massive wingspan well above our gazing eyes. We were to be met by this same gentle giant 3 times in as many days and each time it stilled the air around us. We watched as he watched.

Whenever we could, we would festoon our sturdy boats against the sides of the floating pooh palace. This shining beacon of bowel loosening hope. These fastened and buoyed restrooms were occasionally strewn about the lake... and to find one meant not carrying your own excrement later on should you give way to the forces of nature while back at camp. We would hang along the decks of these establishments for as long as it took until the big event finally arrived before resuming the day's travels.

Sunsets and sunrises soon became our only time keepers. We watched their slight changes over the evenings and following mornings. Subtle progressions made themselves known to only those who cared enough to pay close attention. The heavens retold their haunting yet familiar story out each night, but with small declinations of difference. And the moon slowly regressed its brightly lit hue waxing itself away while rising later each night. The entire orchestra of the natural world revealed it's synchronized splendor before our humbled eyes. We quietly took careful notice.

The end of our trip would come too quickly. Soon enough we were within a distant visual of the chaotic shores of the Bullfrog boat ramp. Burgers and beers were not far off, and we gravitated toward our eventual reward. During the last few miles, the afternoon's piercing heat laid waste to my beleaguered shoulders and arms making the last stretch drag on for what felt like days. Breathe, Pain, Rotate, Draw, Breathe... "Use your core, not your arms." I mindfully returned to the basics until we finally washed ashore one last time. The sun continued to chastise our already tanned hides as we retrieved our vehicle, inspected the gear, packed our belongings, took one last seaside poop, and stumbled off into the parched desert highlands bound for Moab and the plunder therein.

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