July, 2016 Edition

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Lake fun for the family

Something for everyone at Lake Powell

It’s been three months since I moved to Page, but I still remember my thoughts that first day.
As I pulled into town, I saw the sign on the hill that reads, “Welcome to Page.” As I drove by, my mind flashed, “do you really mean that.”
I grew up an Army brat, moving every three or four years, and my family and I have moved several times as adults while trying to better my career. And every community I’ve lived in has been different. Some have been welcoming to new residents, tourists and guests. Many have not.
So what was Page to be? I had a lot to think about early on — a new job, finding a place to live, learning my way around — but what I really wanted to know was whether Page would be a good place for my family and I.
And three months in, the answer has been a resounding yes.
Not only has the community been welcoming, exploring Page, Lake Powell and the miles of easy hiking has been more than I could have ever expected.
So here’s the deal — if it was up to me, I would spend every day fishing. Hiking, swimming, exploring, I enjoy those, but fishing is where my true joy lies.
And after a few weeks in Page, I just had to go. Within days of starting my job at the Lake Powell Chronicle, I received a column from a local writer about the fishing on Lake Powell. He reported the striped bass were biting great, from a boat.
Well I don’t have a boat, so what was I to do? The second week, he sent in another column, with the same story. Great striper fishing, especially near the Glen Canyon Dam. Now it was beginning to drive me crazy.
I drove up here with only what could fit in my car. That didn’t include a fishing pole. So I just went out and bought one, some sinkers, some hooks and for the first time, anchovies as bait.
Then I hiked down to the one spot where I knew I could get to the lake for free — The Chains — and cast out. Now everything I had been reading said to put your bait 25 to 30 feet deep and wait. From the shore, I had no idea where 25 to 30 feet might be. So for hours, I struggled to figure out how to fish for stripers. And never did.
I went home that night with nothing. But my interest was just beginning.
The next day I asked around, got some advice and a few tips on good places to fish. It happened to be National Park Week so I could get into the Glen Canyon Recreation Area for free. Then I hit the jackpot. Fishing at one of the areas recommended, I cast out, set the pole down and waited. Within minutes, my pole jerked forward, and I had my first striper on the line. By the end of that day, I had 12 on the stringer.
A few days later, my family made it up, and now I was ready for some real fun. The day after we moved in, I took my 7- and 10-year-old daughters back to my secret spot.
While living in North Dakota, I took the girls fishing several times. But no matter how we tried, we never had any luck. We left the state without getting even a single bite, much less a catch. I was praying things would be better here. The girls needed to catch something. They already wanted to fish, but I knew with a catch, they would be hooked.
And soon they were. In that magical afternoon, Isabella, my 10-year-old, pulled in five stripers. Rachel, my 7-year-old, pulled in four fish, but she claimed to be the victor because she caught the only catfish. I managed five of my own between baiting, casting and removing all of their fish from the hooks.
The whole family then went to the fish cleaning station as my wife and I learned how to filet fish. We learned the new-world way, watching videos on YouTube and using a knife I found near the shore.
And it worked. And even better, that night we ate our catch. And it might have been the best fish I’ve ever had. Heck, everyone chowed down and I have some picky eaters in the family.
Fish and chips, and lately fish and hush puppies, have become a weekly meal in our house. The challenge is keeping the fresh fish stockpiled in the freezer. Fortunately, my 19-year-old son, Tristan, joined in the fray. And lately, my 5-year-old son Samuel pitched in, catching his first-ever fish from the shores of Lake Powell.
I know the “best” fishing is from boats, but it might be hard to convince me it could get better than landing the 6-pound monster I pulled onto shore in early June. With my wife and kids and even a tourist watching, I fought that beast for five minutes before it got tired out and I landed it. What a thrill.
While fishing is my passion, it is just the beginning of the family fun we’ve had exploring around Lake Powell.
For my wife, the true fun is exploring and hiking and seeing what we can find. On our first family outing, hiking the Hanging Gardens Trail, that included the famed horned lizard, or as we grew up calling it, the horny toad.
Five minutes out onto the trail, Samuel saw the lizard and yelled for mom. She walked up, looked at it and picked it up. No hesitation, no fear. My wife, Donna, grew up in Arizona, and horny toads were just a part of life.
But for most of the kids, it was the first one they’ve ever seen. It sure seems like the number of horny toads is far smaller than they were when I was growing up. But on our first outing, everyone got a close look, most of them even touched it and we all watched as it ran off when we put it back on the ground.
After the half-mile hike to the hanging gardens, we decided to skip the trail on the way back. Climbing up the rocks, we walked on the top of the world back toward the trail, carefully making our way back down the rocks and onto flat ground. It was a little tiring, but a lot of fun.
The next time out, we did a couple of miles on the rimview trail, stunned by the beauty that surrounds Page. One day, we hope to do the whole trail, but that will take some practice and training. And we definitely don’t want to do it in the middle of the summer. But we live here now, so there’s no rush.
Over the last month, we have been out six or seven times, usually walking a mile or two, but always exploring. It’s not about going fast, but about exploring, seeing what is in nature. Horseshoe Bend was fun, climbing some of the bigger rocks a little frightening, but it’s the little things that have been the most fun.
For the kids, every time we go out it’s an opportunity to search for something exciting. Sometimes that may be a horny toad or a jackrabbit. On others it’s rocks, new plants, you name it. The reality is there is always something to see and something to do and something to look for.
That’s the joy of living in Page.
Oh but that’s not where the fun ends for a big family.
For the younger kids, the best fun of all is living right next to the beach, really beaches.
We have never lived by the ocean, but Lake Powell might be the next best thing. A couple of times a week we go to the beach, and now that summer is here it’s actually warm enough for even the old people — that would be me — to get in and play.
My three middle children — Samuel, Rachel and Isabella — always jump right in. The challenge with them is keeping them shallow enough that mom doesn’t have a heart attack. Emma, my 2-year-old, is much more cautious. She prefers to keep the water about ankle depth, playing with sticks, rocks, sand or maybe just splashing the water.
I try to inch my way in, but the only real way to do it is just dive straight in, get the shock over with and then enjoy the water and sand.
There are a lot of places to swim in the area. The public swim beach at Wahweap is probably my kid’s favorite spot. We also went down to the boat ramp at Antelope Pointe once, and they liked that because they could actually jump in. There are even a few beach spots that are less crowded and equally fun.
Here’s the deal. If you see sand and water, it’s probably a good place to jump right in.
The kids can spend hours in the water without any letting up. They swim, splash and come up with games that still make me laugh. One time recently, Emma found a stick and was fishing for Samuel, who was in the water. That went on for 30 or 40 minutes and both found it incredibly fun.
The best part about swimming in Lake Powell is it’s available every day. There are no limits.
There might be times when the water is cold, but this time of the year, that shouldn’t be a problem. My wife and I keep a close eye on the kiddos to make sure they can get in and out of the water with no problem.
Safety is always first. Sunscreen and water are a must, at least for our family.
But with that in mind, there seems to be endless fun just minutes away. And most of it is absolutely free. I work with people who have lived in page for 20-plus years, and they say they have just begun exploring the area.
I know most visitors won’t have that much time, but take a few moments and look around.
Find a trail and explore, take your time. Put on a suit and take a dip in Lake Powell. And get a license and try for a few stripers. And then come back and do it one more time.
That’s the lesson my family has learned. Every night is a new adventure. Sometimes we hike, some days we swim, others we fish. But every day has something in store.