SKOAC: Trip Reports - April Fools Lake Powell 2003

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Trip Report by Bill Newman

Eleven of us set out from my house to head west to Utah: Bill Newman, Gretchen Heidler, Daryl & Jo Zier, David Christianson, Rich Cook, Kelton Barr, Adrienne Madson, Ellen Nacik, Jeff Kidder, and Sarah Ohmann. Jim Prieur unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to a family medical emergency. The most difficult part of this trip was drive out and back! We had three cars and plenty of drivers, but it is still a killer drive. Jeff Kidder offered the services of his kayak trailer and van fully equipped with the master bedroom. Unfortunately what we really needed was a van equipped with a good alternator and voltage regulator. Somewhere in Colorado we started wondering why the acid in the battery was going from a gentle simmer to a rolling boil. We spent Sunday in Green River Utah while Jeff and the local mechanic at the truck stop, searched for the owner of the car parts store who was allegedly somewhere out on a the golf course. The wait was not all bad, since we had the chance to tour the John Wesley Powell museum.

Monday we checked in at the Bullfrog marina to get our houseboat and were told there were no reservations for us! They had reserved a boat for us at Wahweap about 150 miles farther down the Lake. Due to the mix-up we were able to get a bigger and fancier houseboat for the same price - a 53-foot sport class. We were required to have a captain and co captain take a quick course in how to pilot the boat. Rich Cook and I volunteered or should I say no one else would do it? The course was very brief, and after sizing us up, the instructions seemed to primarily consist of them telling us over and over that they would be glad to pilot the boat back into the marina and to the fuel dock for us- "so just call on the radio please!" Based on historical precedent the group voted to make Rich-Captain Cook. Now in addition to exploring Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica, let the record show that Captain Cook has sailed extensively on Lake Powell!

The boat was huge, but even with a stated capacity of 12 people we soon discovered that with 11 kayaks on deck, and mountains of gear we had to step around piles of junk wherever we walked. That first day Captain Cook took the helm and piloted the boat up the Escalante arm to our final destination in Davis Gulch. I piloted the boat part of the time and soon the competition was on to see who could crash-land the houseboat on a beach for the night with more authority.

After spending the first night in the Gulch we did a brief side trip deep into the Gulch's canyon until we were forced to hike. It was a beautiful little canyon, but walking a couple of miles in the hot sun wearing neoprene was not such a great idea. I lead the group as always in finding primordial ooze and quicksand to sink into along the creek bed. We stayed another night and decided to start another SKOAC tradition - getting drunk and getting tattoos! Daryl and Jo Zier decided that the best way to make a good first impression with club members was to bring about 10 gallons of homemade wine. Add this with the kitschy fake tattoos that we bought on our way west, and you have a recipe for disaster. Fortunately the tattoos and the effects of excess wine consumption were temporary, and we were ready to paddle the next day - resplendent in our new body art.

We split up in various small groups to explore side canyons. Most of the group went to explore Forty-mile canyon, and some of us went to explore Clear Creek canyon. Both had beautiful paddling and hiking deep into the narrow canyon ends beyond where any sane person would pilot a houseboat. That afternoon it got very windy with gusts up to 20 knots or more. My group checked out a small box canyon on the way to Clear Creek. Heading toward the end of the canyon I was looking forward to getting out of the wind for a rest. The next wind gust hit about 50 knots and stripped everything off my boat from under the deck lines. After retrieving my gear, I quickly headed back to warn the rest not to round the corner. Rather than blocking the wind the rim of the canyon had a little notch that funneled the wind like and nozzle. I have paddled in Superior fall gales, but never have I been hit by such a violent and sudden wind gust.

That night the wind got stronger and stronger and we spent much of the night waking up to check the anchor lines and we spent the next morning resetting our anchors as the pulled loose three times before noon! Finally we decided we better run to a new more secure anchorage. We dogged-down all the gear as best we could on deck, but in spite of this Sarah's graphite paddle flew off the boat and after hitting the railing her one-piece paddle sank into the depths as a two-piece paddle. Off we went to dock at the Rainbow Bridge (largest natural bridge in the world). Even with base winds of 30 knots the boat handled well but the wind gusts of 40 to 50 knots bouncing off the canyon walls were really amazing to watch. You could always see where the wind was jetting from around the next bend by the walls of spray and spindrift. Captain Cook piloted us through the long narrow winding passage into Rainbow. The 36-foot houseboat in front of us hit the wall twice with a loud bang, and at least once we had to do a 180 and point back into the wind to avoid the same fate (Rich said he did this on purpose?).

We finished the trip with a stop at Dangling Rope Marina to refuel the party boat and pump out the black water holding tanks. I piloted the boat onto the beach of a sandy little bay within Oak Bay and we set the anchor. Leaving the helm and shutting down the engines I went to use the head. Minutes later I hear the engines feel the boat moving and hear "brace for impact". Apparently Captain Cook was not satisfied with the lay of the anchors (I hear Ellen messed it up!) and had to ram the boat back onto the beach. I think he just wanted to see what would happen to me if I was sitting on the can with a full bowl and we hit the beach at ten knots! Fortunately I was able to jump up and hit the flush pedal, only to see Ellen in the window with an anchor rope in her teeth walking up the side of the boat - going "Hi Bill". The co captain gets no respect!

Oak Bay and the its side canyon Hidden Canyon were gorgeous and we had a couple of great paddles deep into the canyon until the walls closed in to just a few feet wide while still towering hundreds of feet above us. Although we lost a day of paddling due to pernicious weather we all had a great time and we expect this will be an annual event! It was great group of people and in spite of the close quarters both by car and by sea we were able to get along without the captain decreeing a public flogging for any of the crew. Page not found – SKOAC Superior Kayak and Outdoor Adventure Club

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