Added 18 December 2008
Saturday, 8 November 2008, Forgotten Canyon, Lake Powell, Utah
(Hover over images for captions. Click images for larger versions.)
I was quite cozy in my sleeping bag and was the last one to get up, but I was so excited to get to Defiance House ruins with good morning light that I was the first one ready to start paddling. Marisa was enjoying her morning coffee so told the rest of us to go on ahead and she would meet us at Defiance House, obviously aware that I'd be photographing the ruins for a while. I think one of the things that slowed her down was that she couldn't find her fork. Apparently some canyon native absconded with it in the night.
The lake elevation was 3623 feet and at that level, the lake ended just short of but within sight of Defiance House. Larger boats would probably get stopped around the corner though. Mindy, Dennis and I were the first to arrive and after carefully debarking to try to avoid the stinky mud, we were treated to a beaver coming out of his den to check us out. When Chuck arrived, we all hiked up to the ruins. Despite a later start than I'd hoped for (I never got out of my sleeping bag as early as I intended) there was fortunately still some good light. I even got lucky enough to catch a shaft of light coming in through the roof entry of the kiva. Unfortunately, I proved myself to be rusty with the camera and struggled a bit trying to get the proper exposure for my shots.
When Marisa arrived we decided to hike up Lone Pine Canyon, which wasn't really part of my itinerary, but it was good to get the legs moving. At one point, Mindy found a spring that had formed icicles, some of which were still there when we passed by them in the afternoon on the way back. It was interesting to note the extreme temperature variations between areas that receive sun and those that never do. It was not uncommon for me to go from warm to the point of sweating to chilled to the point of wanting a coat and back again all in the space of a few minutes.
Eventually we got to the mouth of Lone Pine Canyon and started hiking up it. Signs of pevious hikers started to diminish as we continued on, and even as the stream became less passable, the trails outside the channel became less and less distinct. When we found running water, I stopped and helped Marisa filter some water.
When we caught up with the group they had stopped for lunch just below a large boulder choke, so we joined them. After everyone had finished eating I asked if everyone was ready to continue on, a question that was met almost universally with abject silence, with some looks of incredulity thrown in for good measure. They had all hiked as far as they were going to hike. To be fair, the remainder of the hike did appear to get much tougher.
Unwilling, and practically physically unable, to turn around so close to the end of the canyon while I still had fresh legs and plenty of daylight, I announced my intention to continue on, thinking I might at least get one person to join me, but no. As I shouldered my pack I told the group I'd catch up with them and quickly hunted for a route around the boulder choke. My route took me higher up the canyon wall than I really wanted, so at the first opportunity I snuck down though a break in the low cliff back to the bottom of the canyon, where it seemed safer to be hiking solo.
As I approached the head of the canyon I increasingly found signs of beaver activity, including many distinctive beaver trails and tracks. As I approached the cliff forming the head of the canyon, I knew I was going to be glad I didn't turn around with the group. Coming out of the cottonwood trees into a clearing, I was compelled to stop and look up. And up. Towering hundreds of feet over me was an undercut cliff face with a sinuous yet severe diagonal gash rending the upper half of the cliff. I imagined the pressurized torrent of water that would burst from it to the canyon floor where I stood during times of flooding, then instinctively looked for the high ground where I would stand to watch that spectacle should I ever be lucky enough to witness it.
The water there at that time was a mere trickle though, a curtain of drops coming from seeps on the overhanging cliff face. Walking around to the back of the pool of water at the base of the cliff I looked up. The headwall of the canyon was so overhanging that it's conceivable that I could actually stand there during a flood without the threat of the torrent coming crashing down on my head. Whether I'd have the intestinal fortitude to test that theory out is another matter altogether.
It was such an idyllic spot that I could have spent hours, or even days there just soaking up every detail, but I felt strongly compelled to catch up with the group. Normally I relish such time away, even from friends, and hesitate to return to human company, but on this trip I found myself unable to venture too far. The scale of Glen Canyon and its sense of remoteness and otherworldliness provided a level of awe that prevented me from wanting to venture too far from the safety of friends.
Ok, I'll just admit it, the place inspired some level of fear that kept me chained to some level of humanity. That tether was unexpected at the time, and when I finally became conscious of it later, not entirely welcomed.
With reluctance, I started back down the canyon, trying an alternate route to speed my way and reduce my exposure to a fall. I was surprised a short time later, to find the group right where I left them. They had apparently decided either that I wasn't competent enough to be on my own in the wilderness or that it was a really great spot to relax in the sun and that it would be nice to wait for me. I'm going to go with the latter.
They had filtered water while I was gone, so I went on ahead to find a nice pool to filter a bunch of water to get me through the next couple of days. We then all hiked back to our kayaks like horses going back to the barn. Mindy decided the hike wasn't hard enough though, and felt compelled to carry a couple of short logs back to camp. They were pretty cool pieces of wood that had been chewed by a beaver, one or both of which she was determined to burn that night to appease the beaver god and keep any foul weather away.
Back at the boats, I helped Marisa, Mindy and Dennis launch out of the mud, then got my gear organized. Chuck then helped me launch and got in himself. We trailed behind the other three a bit in exiting the shallows and a beaver swam out to investigate us. I got to within 15 feet of it, which was pretty cool. When we caught up with the others, they were all stopped and looking up at the cliff walls. Marisa had astutely found a bighorn sheep making tracks along the talus slope below the sheer cliff. We watched it for awhile then moved on.
With the group still ahead of Chuck and I, and daylight waning fast, we decided nonetheless to take a short detour down a side canyon near camp. It was an impressive little canyon, with high vertical walls, ending in a pour off that looked like it might have been quite similar to Lone Pine Canyon were it not drowned below the surface of the lake. We had one really neat experience that freaked us out until we figured out what had happened. We heard the sound of something breaking the water, quite loudly, ahead of us, but there wasn't a single disturbance on the glassy surface of the lake. We were perplexed until we came to the realization that the fish that made the noise was behind us and what we heard was the amplified echo off of the alcove ahead of us. After just floating there, chatting, and enjoying the moment for a while, we headed back to camp.
Back at camp we had to discuss our plan for the next day because we didn't have time to do all I had planned for this day. I had planned to kayak over to Smith Fork Canyon to hike the slot canyon there this afternoon. The group decided that skipping Hanson Canyon and Crystal Springs Canyon was worth hiking up the Smith Fork slot canyon.
I had leftovers from the meal I prepared the first night for dinner, but it wasn't nearly as good the second time around. I probably shouldn't have eaten it since it hadn't been refrigerated, but it didn't make me sick, so I guess it hadn't spoiled. Marisa found her fork though. It was in a pile of rocks near camp. Whatever took it last night didn't take it far. No one was really drinking around the campfire this time, but that didn't reduce the fun or prevent Marisa from slipping up and saying something she probably shouldn't have. Chuck and I got endless mileage out of this little tidbit and laughed until it hurt. Marisa soon regretted her slip of the tongue and we had her totally scared that we were going to spill of the beans on her. We weren't going to, of course, but we certainly had no interest in disavowing Marisa of the notion that we were. It was fun to watch her sweat.
In addition to the fodder Marisa provided us, Chuck and I entertained the group with our joking verbal attacks on each other. We've turned the "celebrity roast" into a nearly ongoing dialogue having nothing to do with celebrity.
When everyone turned in for the night I thought about going for a night paddle, but decided to take my chances that the clear weather would hold as the moon got closer to full.