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by Sandra Leinweber - Harper, Texas - USA

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Reprinted from Messing About in Boats, Volume 22 - Number 16, January 1, 2005, pp. 12-15.

The afternoon turned out hot and Anita Hahn and I lounged and visited under the tarp Chuck had thoughtfully rigged off the side of our vehicle. Later the Hahns were everyone's hosts for a wonderful potluck dinner of chicken, fresh sliced tomatoes, beans, sliced melons, and more, plus an outstanding Key Lime pie compliments of Tom Gale. He said it was a Kokopelli cruise tradition and he decided to make one for us, too! Stuffed, we circled our chairs and talked of (what else) boats and boating. Tom had told us that we should explore Moqui Canyon, and that's where we headed in the Ladybug the next morning. Jeff Blunck came along. The mouth of the canyon was about four to five miles from where we were camped. The lake traffic seemed much quieter than on Labor Day weekend, but I would hesitate to say we had the place to ourselves. In a way, I looked at the other people (other than our group) the way I did when we took the kids to Disney World many years ago. There were so many other people that you just had to pretend they were not real, that you and yours were the only real people there. So when the jet skis whizzed by and the power boats whizzed by and the houseboats whizzed by, I imagined them away and concentrated on the clear, green-blue water and the great curves of red sandstone.

On the way to Moqui Canyon we motored along next to a vertical wall of that sandstone. It reached far above us, and by the way it plunged straight down into the water far below us as well. Moqui Canyon, once entered, seemed to go on forever. I can only try to describe the beauty (the photos do a much better job), and my amazement at how the scale of objects can deceive like when the tiny boat up ahead under the concave wall of rock
(concert hall!) turns out to be a 50' houseboat (big dog).

The next curve up ahead looks barely wide enough to fit the Ladybug through, but then before we reach it, here comes another houseboat, this one only 30' long. And it is coming at us full tilt. Apparently, finding the perfect anchorage is like a treasure hunt for these monsters, and pulling up anywhere close to another houseboat is met by scowls and grumbling. I imagine there is an unspoken territoriality as in the animal world.

Finally, the canyon narrows to the point where we feel we are safe from the big dogs and we beach (or rock) and climb up under a small overhang to escape the afternoon sun and have a little lunch. A sound like a flock of chattering birds floats towards us from farther up the canyon, their chirping voices echoing off the walls, getting louder until I am holding my breath, expecting them to explode around the corner and scatter when they see us. The chirps start to sound more like words, and my birds become a flotilla of young women draped on floats, each with a can of beer and more in the cooler on its own special float. So intent are they on their discussion of men, makeup, clothes, how much beer they had the night before (?), they do not even register our presence. Chuck and Jeff are silent, watching the skimpy bikini tops go by, thinking no doubt I won't notice if they are quiet. Hah!


Wild man Bruce Anderson in his pirogue.

Bruce's skin boat.


Randy Swedlund and his self-designed skiff, Raven.

Chuck in the Ladybug pulling Jeff Blunck in his Sneakeasy.


Big dog whizzing past.

Up through winding Moqui Canyon (3+ miles long when lake is full).


Yes, there is a sizeable boat tucked under there in the shadows! This was underwater when the lake was full.

Clarence River Dory, John Welsford Design

We met Bruce, Randy, and Dustin on the way back. They were fishing but having no luck. Back at camp we notice black clouds to the south. Lightning. Rain is falling from clouds but not reaching the ground. It's hard to tell which way the clouds are moving and, after all, it never rains much here or the lake would not be so low! We have a little sprayer that we use for showers and we'd set it out before we left so the water would heat up, and Chuck decided to have a shower. He was in the privacy shelter doing just that when a small wind kicked up, and then kicked up a bit more and more until it had ratcheted into a mega dust storm that blew like stink for what seemed like hours but was really 20 minutes. I saw the tent mold itself to Chuck's body and briefly imagined how he would react if it blew away. Not well, I thought, so I went and held it firm while he finished dressing, after which we anchored it with rocks. We scurried around consolidating loose items and then climbed into the Nissan. At times the blowing sand was so thick that we could not see the other vehicles. We had sand in our mouths and eyes and ears, sand in the tent, sand in the food I had taken out for dinner. As quickly as it started it was over and everyone came creeping out of their hidey holes. The privacy tents with our porta pottis were all knocked flat. Ruby's life jacket, bright yellow, was floating across the bay. We ate our gritty sausage and beans and laughed. It never did rain.

That night we had a big campfire and talked about the next messabout. Jim Thayer and the Hales invited us all to come back in October for their annual Kokopelli cruise, but Chuck and I are just too far away in Texas. They promise it will be cooler and the lake less crowded and we think maybe next year. Dave and Anita do plan to come back in October.

And that was pretty much it. We need a boat that will get us to more of the canyons. Canyons appear like gateways all up and down the lake. I am, of course, visualizing this from the map since we only saw a few in person. My Lake Powell book tells of pictographs and hidden slot canyons to see and explore. I wish in a way we had spent the whole time on the lake, but I am glad we saw some of the country north of here, too. We need a faster boat. This lake is too big and we live too far away to come so far and see so little. I do realize that will make us more like the other faster boats whose wakes I cursed, but Chuck says we can build something with a 25hp that will make us a bit faster but not too fast. He is thinking "expedition" boat, maybe a Clarence River Dory, one of John Welsford's designs.

There is nothing smooth about Lake Powell, except the water when there is no wind, and since there are always boats making wakes (even at night), it is rarely smooth. Maybe in the depth of winter. It is a perfect lake for swimming; I love being able to look down and see my toes. Navajo sandstone, coarse and colorful, dominates the terrain and the shoreline varies between the tiny areas of sand and mud, piles of rock that have eroded from the larger cliffs and monoliths, and no shoreline at all, just vertical walls of red that quietly meet a horizontal wall of sparkling blue. The vegetation, what little there is, is mostly of the tumbleweed variety, prickly with thorns and stickers and well adapted to the dry spare climate. My preference is bare feet, but that was not practical here except in the water. We saw very little wildlife, although we did hear coyotes howling at night. It is truly a magical place, huge and raw and marginally civilized. I am certain we will be traveling back in the near future.


I hope you enjoyed what was our very first trip to Powell - we drove out there and met our friends Craig and Linda from Seattle there and messed around in the Wahweap area. They went somewhere else after a few days, and we went looking for the Kokopelli bunch at Stanton Creek. We met Jim Thayer on that trip, and we did not do the Kokopelli cruise as I recall.

Here are some more interesting photos of the trip and this time in colour. I enjoyed seeing this story again and it brought back many memories for me.

Photo of boats under an overhang. Apparently, some years back, one of these collapsed and there were fatalities.
Jim Thayer
Our little spot
Kellan Hatch and Chris Ostlind, but a nice view of some of the boats.
Ruby gale, tiny girl then, now a young lady.
Sand Storm moving in. It was a doozy.
This is what it looked like before the big dust storm.
This one is in the original article. Those ARE some good sized boats under that overhang.
Tom gale, Dave Hahn, Anita Hahn and Jim Thayer
Twists and turns of Moqui Canyon.
Party boat showing the scale of the wall above it. The white part shows how low the water level is—I think it was at least 100 feet down that time. We have since seen it as full as only 35 feet down.
Kellan Hatch's boat, Kellan standing, his son in the boat.


The End

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