When the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the early sixties, an enormous reservoir was created behind its 216 meters of concrete. This pool of water is called Lake Powell, and stretches 300 km to the east and it has turned the dry mountains and valleys into a desert fjordland; some open stretches of water and some endless, narrow gorges that appear like still rivers.
We launched our pontoon boat at the Antelope launch ramp just east of town. There was a bit of traffic on the water; mostly the big rental houseboats, many with a jet ski or two resting on the stern, but also a few speedboats, restlessly coming in or moving out. We got our motor started and eased out at a slow pace. This part of the lake is just a long, water filled canyon - the banks aren't very high, but we could soon see ocher red mesas and ridges, and some more pointed tops, like the temples of the Grand Canyon.
Yo was the captain, Stu was the steward and the deck hands were brother John, his daughter Alex and myself. The speed was as laid back as the crew - this was recreation. The program for day #1 was: enjoy the scenery and the company, and find a nice spot to put up our tents for the first night. We would manage this.
After an hour or two we crossed over the widest part of the lake. First a bit up and down the canyon toward Padre Bay, but then back and across to the nearest bays on the northern shore. We passed around the sharp silhouettes of some small rocky islands, and we saiedl by the beautiful Cookie Jar Butte with its thin, striped blade. It towers majestically over rounded cliffs, golden in the afternoon sun. Across another inlet we found a long, nice and unoccupied beach for our landing. A wonderful small bay with a red mountain wall in the back and the Glen Canyon panorama filling our horizon. What a place for a swim, a grill and for contemplating the South West colour scape as the sun goes down and daylight fades.
The next day we made our way into the long, narrow Navajo Canyon, still moving slowly and gently. The canyon walls are like endless carvings, with wonderful lines and patterns guiding the way further into the desert landscape. At some places they're like faces, sternly watching the passers-by - old spirits of the ancient land. The water had a milky, emerald and turquoise tint, and in the Arizona sun we accepted the invitation to a short dip a couple of times.
A few house boats and a speed boat passed us, and a couple of times the silence was broken by a small pack of jet skiers. I can understand the thrill of going through these canyons at this speed, but from my viewpoint on our slow moving deck, I mostly wondered about this addiction to motorized recreation that plagues this country. The sound of the jet skies had soon disappeared and the quiet reclaimed sovereignty.
After many hours of travelling we passed through the narrow passage by The Bread Loaf - a beautiful, elongated, rounded cliff that almost blocks the canyon - and we found another great beach for landing and for our tents. While we erected the tents, clouds were gathering in the sky, rapidly turning denser and darker, and suddenly, at this place that rarely sees a raindrop, we were in the middle of a thunder storm. The rain was pouring down and lightning flashing all around us. We hid under the roof of the pontoon and watched unbelievingly how the mountainsides turned maroon in colour, and were striped by endless white streams and small water falls. A rainbow crowned the spectacle. It was magnificent! It was awesome! The power of Nature!
We rounded up our mellow journey on the third day, returning towards our starting point in the same modest tempo. We stopped for a long lunch and swimming break at a miniature rubble beach cove, and here we took out the fishing rods as well. Stu caught a beautiful striped bass, and after a while we all proved to have fishing luck. Even I got a couple! From the diving spot we had found, we just let the hooks sink straight down five to ten meters or so, and there they were. We caught eight all together. So after a trip enclosed by the most wonderful scenery, and with beautiful displays of natural wonder, we were now also given food. The old spirits were treating us very favourably. I think they liked us.