July, 2018 Edition

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A solo adventure into a hidden paradise

A lake Powell kayak trip leads to an unexpected place.

When people think of kayaking on Lake Powell they most likely picture a happy group of kayakers joyfully making their way across the lake’s placid blue-green surface with a blissful sun shining down upon them blessing their voyage.

This wasn’t one of those trips. This was a soul-searching trip. Lake Powell was the perfect medium and my kayak was the perfect vessel to search for that thing I was looking for.
I never knew how much kayaking on the lake could rejuvenate the soul. The rhythm of my paddle slicing through the water and then back into the air was almost poetic.

Antelope Point has long been my favorite spot to put a kayak in the water. The area is a place full of small hidden canyon waterways that have been a mystery for so long. After four years of kayaking the lake, I set out, once again, to explore some new canyons.

This time I chose to explore Antelope Creek. From my starting point at Antelope Point Marina it’s a short distance downlake. Finding the right line to get there is pure fun and promises adventure. Only small vessels such as a kayak can make way into the beautiful and narrow canyon inlets.

I figured I should cut straight across the water, but since the weather was beautiful, and there was minimal wind, a lot of other people had the same idea and I found the land was too congested with boats and jet skis, so I kept my little one-seat kayak hugged close to the shore.

I didn’t want to risk tipping from the wakes made by the boaters and jet skiers. They love to rock the kayaks. So, I had two choices; leave from the marina dock and round the northwest shore and cross the open water or use the southeast shore and cross a smaller body of water plus enjoy the scene. I decided to take the easy scenic route on the southeast side of the Point.

It was the best choice because I witnessed the love of life radiated onto the lake from the people having fun on the shore. Fishing must have been good, I assumed, when a line whizzed right up to the side of my vessel. The people who flung it out, of course, laughed wildly. Early bird kayakers on the way back to the pier slid past and nodded. Gliding down the shore I witnessed the treasure of memories that people were presently creating and it gave me the confidence to commit to the adventure.

As a novice kayaker, my love of it keeps me alert to learning new things. Paddling is easy to learn but practicing it is critical and balance is mastered once you take that first spin into the water. One should never forget how the water can always, and will, surprise you if you neglect water safety.

One moment comes to mind easily; the time I tried to park on a lagoon-like shore during my first time exploring Antelope Point. I got closer to the inlet but couldn’t straighten out to park the bow on the muddy shore. I purposely tipped over and out with my kayak in tow. But the inlet had a weird undertow and no matter how hard I swam, I just kept treading water. I was 15-20 feet offshore and it was 15 feet to the bottom of the lake with no footholds below. I moved forward only inches after a few minutes and I knew I was burning too much energy. I am forever grateful the life jacket that I had on fit snug and held me up. I kept calm and thought it through, telling myself panic is the worse thing to do. So, I let my body float to save energy, and in this particular inlet, it turned out to be the right thing to do. Once I started to float on my back, the undertow ushered me sideways towards a sand rock peninsula. The water literally parked me up on the flat side of the rock, kayak and all.

I sat on that rock completely in awe of the phenomenon with a new respect for the lake. It was a spiritual experience for sure. I actually never stopped there again, despite its unique beauty. It was definitely a moment I will never forget, and as I went past, that spot remains unchanged today.

I kept on with my journey through the water with smooth even strides, careful to not make a mistake in judgment by getting too lost in thought. As I rounded the big curve I could see the entirety of Antelope Point. I was enamored by the size and beauty.

My confidence started to wane as I read the water. The lake was swollen high and the wakes near the neck of Antelope Creek rippled closer together. I had to fight the panic of “what-ifs”. I really didn’t want the shock of a wet exit into 64-degree water after being in the 94-degree heat. I was nervous, yet I soldiered on, slow and steady.

I got closer to the neck of Antelope Creek where the walls of both shorelines looked like gates to another world. I had to make it across, come what may, to find the canyons. It was 400 feet straight across or 600 at an angle. I told myself to turn back but I had to see the mysterious canyons.

After four years of small journeys from Antelope Point I could see only good signs. I drank some water and rested my arms a few minutes. I used the hatch cover for shade on my head and I dipped my hat into the water.

With long even strokes the paddle sliced then pulled on the water. I was flying fast towards my destination. The wakes became less choppy. Even jet skiers slowed down for me. Everybody on the water seemed to know what I was doing. A small but notable accomplishment and I made it! Pleased with myself I let friction slow me down. My face and arms went numb and the air cooled my face. I got my bearings and pushed on farther to see what I could.

I once heard stories about how the water levels submerged signs of ancient life. As I got closer to the first small inlet I noticed footholds carved into the rocks. Or was it just erosion from the wind. I couldn’t be sure.

On average, the inlets measure roughly eight-13 feet in width and are sometimes only 30-50 feet in length. I didn’t want to have to swim out if I got stuck. But I wanted to see it, to see everything, so I kept going.

I went on to the next canyon and I could see beautiful banks of red clay, which, when wet, can become treacherous quicksand so I stayed in the kayak and paddled back out. There was more to see and I didn’t want to linger near that clay.

I went on to the next site and found a small cove with a flat base big enough to walk on, and that’s where I tied up my kayak and explored on foot. It was a serene site. One where I could imagine many of my ancestors had found just as beautiful. It was larger than the last two sites and the same footholds were in the walls. I could only imagine who met here, perhaps a hopeful couple, or ancestors. Desert sage bushes hung over the canyon walls where red clay bonded them. Birds landed and chirped making this location seemed more like a paradise.

I sat there and thought this adventure was worth it. I unpacked a lunch and refueled. Before long a tour boat full of people drove past with everybody waving at me. Pulled from my time traveling mind, I chuckled and decided to move on.

I found an inlet that stretched so far back into the Creek that I felt like I was traveling like sand in an hourglass. It kept getting narrower and narrower until the rocks were bright red. Water levels had risen enough for me to paddle into its farthest corner and I got close enough to peer into a high crevice in the rocks, until I could barely see a small cavern within.

A small stream entered the opening in the canyon wall and the water was being absorbed into the ground. I wondered what the ancestors who had travelled here must have thought of this place. I just breathed in the moment. I felt like I might be crossing a sacred boundary if I stepped out here. There were places to park but I stayed in the kayak. With the cool shade and birds chirping above I leaned back and once again felt connected to the land and water.

But now I had to return.

I made my way out of the Creek and headed towards the northwest side of the Point. I didn’t want to waste the last few hours of sunlight and wanted to take my time going back. But this is where the gauntlet of obstacles really began. Crossing here meant steady rowing across at least 900 feet with traffic from numerous vessels which traveled this lane. The wakes were rough and the undertow strong. I realized I was suddenly on a precipice of a new challenge. As a novice kayaker, I felt a sharpened sense of fear; the kind that acutely makes you aware of too much. I could make it work for me if I stayed focused. So, I buttoned down, swept to an angle, checked for traffic and went for it. I’d pay for it tomorrow because I couldn’t stay still long lest I chance surprising a speedboat. I pushed with all my energy. The shoreline began to get close.

It was an unpredictable accomplishment but I did it, I got across. In this moment, I knew coming back to Antelope Point Marina would never feel the same.

I made it to shore and rested. I was safe but near exhaustion. I needed to stand up and shout to the world, I did it! I was happy. Then back into the kayak.

The northwest shore was a different scene of parked houseboats and skeletons of big bonfire cookouts. Kids who were on top of a giant inner tube tethered to a boat held on so fierce and squealed for the boat to go faster. As I pasted boats tied to the shore, people stepped on their decks to say hi and fishermen nodded in my direction. I smiled back wondering if they knew what I had just seen. There was a familiar kinship on this side of the lake where I felt rewarded and welcomed.