Cathedral in the Desert

Nick

Spiral out.
.
Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,839
Cathedral in the Desert means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To most traffic on the lake, it's a beautiful spot to pull into the shade and see some soaring walls, and if you're lucky, a beautiful waterfall. The lower the water, the grander the spectacle. Even at higher water levels, I imagine this place is pretty neat. Meanwhile, to those who long for what Glen Canyon once was, Cathedral symbolizes what was lost and perhaps the canyon that could someday rise again. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it is a stunning sight to behold and rightfully deserves the hype.

The last time the floor of the Cathedral was exposed was in April 2005 when the lake hit a record low of 3,555'. This spring has brought lake levels to the lowest since, but still 19' higher at 3,574'. I had tentatively planned a trip with my wife for mid-April in hopes to see what I could, but knowing that weather was iffy this time of year, I jumped at an earlier, spur of the moment opportunity to head down with my friend Nate. Audra is a proud fair weather camper and now that I see the forecast, I'm glad I went when I did!

It took a lot of shuffling some important obligations, but I was able to work it out so that we could go down for the whole first half of the week. Our chances of solitude and glassy reflections were great. This would be by far the longest trip I've taken in the new boat with an anticipated round trip of about 100 miles to get up into the Escalante Arm and back.We snuck out of town late on Sunday and camped out along the way down. It's a challenge finding a camp spot where I feel comfortable driving down dirt roads with the boat on. This one was a great one.
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In the morning we headed down to Bullfrog and were pleasantly surprised to learn that they were going to let us use the marina ramp for the houseboats. When I came down in February, we had a hell of a time launching off the dirt near the main launch ramp which is not even close to touching the water at this point.

We took it slow and easy cruising down the main channel before stopping into Annie's Canyon to take a look.
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The canyon ended at a big alcove and dryfall.
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After Annie's we went back out to the main channel and found a sheltered cove to cook up some lunch and take a swim. I'm loving the new grill.
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And the dogs loved cooling off.
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After lunch, we zipped down to the Rincon as the wind picked up. We decided to just power through it and shoot for a campsite I had dreamed of getting to near the end of Fiftymile Creek. Just a couple pictures from this stretch for now, but more on the return when conditions were better.
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It was about 45 miles of water from Bullfrog to our first campsite, during which we only saw a couple of boats and only near the marina. This meant there was no competition for this incredible spot, located on a giant sand dune next to what used to be considered the second largest natural bridge in the United States: Gregory Natural Bridge. The sand dune we camped on actually blocks further access up the canyon unless the lake is much fuller. Instead, the lake water continues through the arch. It's tough to see in this photo, but on the wall on the left, in the shadow, you can see the very top of the arch starting to curve in. I know very well that there are countless spectacular scenes hiding under the lake, but this is one that I really would have loved to see. Fiftymile is amongst my favorite canyons and this sounds like it would be similar to Coyote Natural Bridge but about 10x larger. There are some interesting pics of it before the lake filled here: http://explorepdx.com/glen88gregbr.html
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The dogs were happy to play on the deep, soft sand. That pale green water in the distance is the lake above the sand dune.
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Much clearer on the down canyon side.
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We spent the rest of the evening playing fetch with Sage and relaxing. Nikita is old and senile but she loves to poke around the beach and get surprised by lizards. Good times all around.
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We had a 3rd dog on this trip. A new member of Nate's family named Lazy. Nate adopted him from the shelter a week or two earlier so we weren't sure how he would handle boats and camping. It turned out that he was absolutely obsessed with water. He would just swim big open laps for no reason at all.

The strangest thing though was his obsession with rocks in the water. For probably a solid hour or more, he would walk into the water, feel for rocks with his feet, then stick his head completely under water, sometimes for as long as 10-15 seconds, before resurfacing with very large rocks in his mouth. I'm not talking tennis ball sized rocks, think more like dictionary sized. It was crazy! He would just fish them out and then go put them on the beach, shake off, then go find more. At times he would go so deep that he would be swimming back with a rock nearly the size of his head in his mouth. Crazy dog!

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Soon the sun set on us but the evening light show was gorgeous.
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The next morning we loaded up and headed toward our destination: Cathedral in the Desert. The water coming out of Fiftymile into the Escalante was pure glass.
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Heading up Clear Creek, we encountered the first boat in 30+ miles of water. He was on the way out though. This is just outside the Cathedral.
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As we rounded the tight corner into the Cathedral, we heard voices. To our surprise, there was another boat and they had beached on a sandbar that had formed. Bummer as I had hoped to do the same, but I certainly can't blame them for beating us to it!
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Looking up.
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We drifted around in there for a while before moving on.
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Back in the Escalante, the reflections were still top notch.
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We decided to head back up toward the Rincon to find camp. It was going to be warmer today so a good late afternoon swimming spot was important to find. The main channel between the Escalante and Long Canyon was one of my favorite parts and lucky for us, it was glass too. It's just crazy to drive through here and imagine being on the river, 300 feet below.
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We stopped in Long & Bowns Canyons on the way back. I wanted to see the stock trail into Bowns and possible anchoring opportunities but we weren't situated to go for a long hike on this trip. Soon though. The top of Long Canyon would have been easier to anchor in. We were going to do lunch there but the quicksand was pretty bad. So on we went to the Rincon area where we discovered how awesome it is to park the boat with plenty of deep water off the stern.

There goes Nate!
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And Lazy in after him! Lazy was once again crazy about water. He would do laps jumping off the back of the boat then coming back around and doing it again. He just loved to swim and play in the water.
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The obligatory cannonball photo.
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It was a warm, beautiful evening on the lake.
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The next day we found a nice cove to drift around and cook breakfast before heading back to Bullfrog.
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Udink

Hold on, stay inside...
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Jan 17, 2012
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1,409
So awesome! That reflection with the bathtub ring is pretty fantastic.
 

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
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Jan 4, 2014
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Gorgeous reflections and the Cathedral definitely looks like a sweet spot!

How much did the boat set you back? It looks quite nice.
 

pixie1339

Desperately Seeking Sandstone
Joined
Jan 21, 2012
Messages
1,692
Looks like an awesome trip Nick! I love the reflections shots. I imagine this is exactly the kind a trip you had envisioned when you bought the new boat. Thanks for sharing this!
 

steve

Member
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Dec 11, 2013
Messages
2,140
Awesome. My favorite pic is the dog jumping off the boat, that's so cool.
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,839
Thanks, everyone.

Gorgeous reflections and the Cathedral definitely looks like a sweet spot!

How much did the boat set you back? It looks quite nice.

Pontoons are actually pretty cheap compared to traditional fiberglass boats. They last forever, get relatively good gas mileage and are low maintenance too. you can get into a brand new for under $20k easily from some of the more value oriented brands. Mine was in the high 20's which was discounted as it was a 2013 model the dealer was trying to clear out. I'm really enjoying it and already plotting out how I'll spec out Barke Diem II when the time comes. :)

Awesome. My favorite pic is the dog jumping off the boat, that's so cool.

Hehe, that's one of my favs too. I actually took a bunch of him launching off but it was hard to get a good angle. Made me really wish I could justify dropping the coin on an Outex case so I could just swim out and get a really good angle on that kind of thing. Here's one of the others that didn't make the cut:

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slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,685
Great trip, I bet it was a blast. Those original photo's of Gregory bum me out to what it could still be, Looks like a spectacular canyon.

I wonder if you can dive, and swime under it?

You guys get those lines wet at all?
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,839
Great trip, I bet it was a blast. Those original photo's of Gregory bum me out to what it could still be, Looks like a spectacular canyon.

I wonder if you can dive, and swime under it?

You guys get those lines wet at all?

I know man... I've spent so many hours on that site. Start at the top of the canyon and work your way down. It's pretty sad but one of the best pictorials of pre-Lake Powell Glen Canyon that I've ever seen: http://explorepdx.com/glen.html

So yeah... fishing... we didn't really do much of that. Sad thing is, they were everywhere this time. They were in all the shallows as well as in the main channel. Big schools of them. We'd be cruising along in 300 feet of water and you could just see them swimming around. When we pulled into our second campsite, they were all over but we scared them away by swimming a ton. Next time!
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,839
Oh, and you can dive and swim under it. I read somewhere that it has been done, but the bottom edge of the arch is still something like 20 feet under, so it might be pretty tough right now. :(
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Awesome! I'm sitting here reading it in a coffeeshop and several times people have looked up at me because I've been laughing out loud. :D Cathedral in the Desert is gorgeous, I'm not sure I can look at the old Glen Canyon photos because I might start throwing things in a public place. Fantastic pics, love the dog shots and the stories! :cool:
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
Joined
May 15, 2013
Messages
589
Thanks for the prose. Lake Powell is one of the places that takes me back to why I love the outdoors. I used to spend a little more than a week at a time down there every year. That area truly made me fall in love with canyons and the desert. Thanks for sharing.

Salud!
 

Glasterpiece

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Mar 19, 2014
Messages
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Great report and beautiful pictures. I remember swimming in Lake Powell in April as being quite painful.
 

as

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Jan 6, 2013
Messages
15
Great trip!

I keep looking for somebody with a boat who'd want to explore West Canyon from the Lake... It surfaces around every Memorial Day but the logistics is so complicated that it just never happens.
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,839
Great trip!

I keep looking for somebody with a boat who'd want to explore West Canyon from the Lake... It surfaces around every Memorial Day but the logistics is so complicated that it just never happens.

Even with a boat it is proving to be tricky to pull off! The hangup I'm having is that you don't want to leave your boat and stuff sitting unattended for long periods of time but who wants to sit around the boat while everyone else goes hiking? I need to find someone that likes to go out on the lake and just sit and take a nap while I hike!
 

rich67

Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2013
Messages
12
I love reading your trip reports and really love the amazing pictures. It's been a few years since I have been on Powell, but I am shooting for a trip in '16. These pics give me inspiration! I was wondering what kind of lens you are using on the camera; the pictures are absolutely amazing!!
 

Glasterpiece

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Messages
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Even with a boat it is proving to be tricky to pull off! The hangup I'm having is that you don't want to leave your boat and stuff sitting unattended for long periods of time but who wants to sit around the boat while everyone else goes hiking? I need to find someone that likes to go out on the lake and just sit and take a nap while I hike!

I'm the perfect boat sitter.

As a side note, once we arrived at Rainbow Bridge at sunrise. There was a small motorboat tied there with a nice guitar in it. After a while here comes John Denver and his sweetie. His guitar was safe with us. Somebody said "Good morning John". "Top of the morning to you" he replied.
 
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