2019 Fall Gateway

mcaywood

The Colorado River has some amazing, world-class

whitewater, but there is no whitewater along the stretch

between the Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry. We are

not in whitewater, fast-action, highly-maneuverable kayaks,

but long, roomy sea kayaks.

This stretch of the river flows at four miles per hour.

Most of the paddling we do is to stay out of the eddies,

or to move closer to get a better look at some ducks, or

some wild horses grazing on the river bank.

It’s August 4, 2019. We chose to float this section of

the Colorado River because it is an auspicious day. Exactly

150 years earlier, on Aug. 4, 1869, John Wesley

Powell and his crew floated through this section of Glen

Canyon. They camped the night of Aug. 3 just above the

Crossing of the Father’s and camped the night of Aug. 4

at what is now Lee’s Ferry.

On the night Powell and his men camped at the spot in

1869 it was just another empty spot inside a massive empty

spot.

After paddling/floating for about 45 minutes we pull our

kayaks onto a beach

where we disembark

from our lovely

fleet. Because it is

an auspicious date,

we run into several

more friends of

ours from Page who

are also on the river

commemorating

the day. Some

are on kayaks, some

on a drift boat. Two

of them, Mick and

Gina Swapp, are on

a pimped-out pontoon

boat, named

River Time.

Mick and Gina are celebrating another big occasion:

Mick’s 63rd birthday. A man in our group, George Hardeen,

works with Mick and knew that it was his birthday,

and so he brought with him a birthday cake, which he presented

to Mick. For years Mick worked weekends as a

river guide on this stretch of river, something his friend

George does currently.

These four different groups of friends, even though we

came separately and launched at different times, just happened

to converge at Petros Beach at the same times and

we spend 30 minutes saying hello to each other. Shannon

offers me a beer. Mick offers to let me use his blower to

air up my inflatable kayak, which I had failed to pump as

tight as it should have been. We then leave the river and

walk up a sand trail to see the famous “Descending Antelope”

petroglyph panel, which depicts antelope, humans,

bighorn sheep and abstract etchings which are harder to

interpret their meaning.

After viewing the petroglyph panel we return to our kayaks

and push out onto the river again and here we enter the

Horseshoe Bend section of the river.

We float. We paddle. We drift. We trail our hands in the

cold water. We take out cameras and phones and take photos

of the beautiful day. I lay my paddle across my kayak

and let the lazy river take it. The nose catches a slight

eddy, which slowly spins my kayak around like a compass

needle lazily searching for north. I lie back and let the river

carry me downriver, while I gently spin about and gaze

at the sky and watch the light change on the cliff walls like

chameleon skin.

In this manner I,

and the members

of my group, pass

through Horseshoe

Bend and a short

distance below that

we pull over to another

beach – a place

called Lunch Beach

– to stretch our legs

and slow down the

trip. With the river

flowing at four miles

an hour, our wonderful

day on the river

will be over too soon

if we don’t make a

few stops along the

way.

The other group of kayakers, and the Swapps pull over

too. Here Mick gets out the birthday cake George had

presented him earlier in the day. In true boatman style, he

slices it with his fish knife, then gives everyone a slice.

We sing him Happy Birthday. And there we each eat a

slice of cake on a slice of beach inside a slice of paradise.

Not bad, not bad.

After half an hour on the beach we get back on our

kayaks and go a short distance downriver. Here Mick and

26 Gateway to Canyon Country

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