North Lake Powell

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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I had every intention to stay away from Lake Powell during the months of July and August. Stories of the crowds and hot, restless nights had made me look to September for the next trip down that way. But after having to cancel a trip in late June, I decided I wanted to do some boat camping over my birthday. We thought about all the options, and decided that warm water and sunshine was just the ticket, so off we went.

We arrived in Bullfrog late in the afternoon on the 5th of July. I was surprised and happy to see so many boats already leaving. It was pushing 100 degrees as we launched the boat and headed up lake. We had originally planned on heading down lake to get past the stained and muddy water from the runoff, but @colefeet was interested in coming along for part of the trip so we stayed a little closer to Bullfrog so we could swing over and pick her up midway through the trip.

It was late in the day so we went to work right away looking for a campsite. We found this gem just off the main channel, a little south of Hansen Creek and Crystal Springs Canyons. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as awesome as it looked. The murky water tricked me into thinking that little bit of sand was enough to beach on, but in reality, there was only about 6" of water below my prop there. We went for a swim and then decided to go check around for better spots. We checked one canyon and it was packed, so we headed back and settled in for the night.

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There wasn't any good sand to pitch our tent on, so we started building rock anchors. Not long after I asked Audra which way she thought the wind would blow, it started blowing. I had one anchor in place but the tent wanted to take off so Audra got in and held it together while I worked on anchors.
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We got it up just in time for some amazing sunset clouds. Unfortunately, as soon as the sunset died off, the real wind came and flattened out our new tent. We tried for a while to add guy lines and more anchors, but soon we noticed the poles were completely bent. It got to the point that we decided to just lay it flat and go hide on the boat beneath tarps!
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The storm rocked us for a couple hours that night. Never really raining much but lots of wind and lightning. The lightning never got very close though so I felt okay staying on the boat. It was a little unnerving there for a while, but soon it calmed down and we were able to relax and get some sleep right there on the boat.

The next day we were pleased to see a large number of boats heading back to the marina at the end of the holiday weekend. We loaded up and cruised up Crystal Spring Canyon to do some fishing and look for a campsite. As usual, Audra out-fished me. Here she is with her first striper of the trip.
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The end of Crystal Springs Canyon
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After checking out a few canyons, we went up Hansen Creek and found a sweet sheltered spot in our own private bay. Time to go swimming!
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I hiked up to the rim above camp to see what there was to see.
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That's our camp down below in this photo.
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Another fantastic sunset the second night. The clouds lit up the other direction but I preferred the view the other way.
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We setup the tent again that night but this time it was well staked. What I didn't anticipate was how ungodly hot it would be in there. We ended up with both doors wide open in it and we were still dying. The dogs were panting so hard that the air mattresses were pulsating. I think I went swimming at least 3 or 4 times that night. It felt great.

The next morning I looked up to see a little color in the sky. An incredible birthday sunrise greeted me when I popped out of the tent.
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With some nice, iced coffee mixed up, we headed back to Bullfrog to pickup Jen.
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After picking up Jen, we went and explored Moki Canyon before returning to our campsite. We did some swimming and then inflated the new tube and motored around for a while on it. I think it was more popular as a pool toy though.
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We fished off the back of the boat throughout the trip. Catfish were beyond easy to catch and we also got carp and stripers. I even caught a little smallmouth up in Cedar Canyon the next day. I wanted to see what Sage thought of the catfish. She wouldn't get much closer to it.
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Every night of the trip, we had a monsoonal storm hit us. It was always around the same time but usually cleared up before dark. I was really hoping for an evening boat cruise on my birthday and it wasn't looking good at first. But fortunately, it all cleared up and we went out for a late evening ride.
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The next day we went north to Good Hope Bay with mimosas in hand.
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Tapestry Wall
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Water visibility got worse the further up lake we went. The scenery up that way is spectacular in that 'most people wouldn't think so' kind of way. Big wingate walls and huge vistas. Once the water clears up, this area supposedly has some of the best fishing on the lake. I'll be back. That's me and my wife Audra taking a dip in Good Hope.
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We explored a few more canyons before heading back to camp and spending another afternoon playing in the sun.
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I made a sticker for the porta potti that goes with the boat name. :)
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Almost right on queue, the storms kicked up in the evening. The light was cool. Here are some of my pups posing on the dome next to camp.
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Our second pool noodle score of the trip washed up on shore as the winds were picking up. Turns out they're fun for firing up dogs too!
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These ducks visited us a couple times during the trip. They were down one the last night though. You can tell they get fed a lot around here as they readily responded to 'quack!'.
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The lightning got really bad that last night. We ended up abandoning the boat for a game of Uno in the big tent. Eventually it cleared up though and we went back out for the final evening on the boat. Another late night swim was in order. Audra and I ended up sleeping on the boat all but one night of the trip. I've decided I'll probably only bring a tent for emergency purposes out there from now on.

The next morning we packed out and headed back to Bullfrog. I tried my best to delay the trip back to reality. First with a stop for some cliff jumping.
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And then some trolling.
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And finally, one last swim session right before pulling the boat out. It was an incredibly fun trip. Can't wait to go back.
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Full album here.

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andyjaggy

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Dec 2, 2013
Messages
940
That looks like a blast. I spent a lot of time there growing up, but haven't been back in over 15 years. One of these days.
 

nonameiwant

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Jan 25, 2012
Messages
151
Amazing photos!
I've never been to Lake Powell. I need to change that sometime.
 

Jeff Hilton

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May 24, 2014
Messages
53
Dang it nick you had me at mimosas. I'm thinking of a september trip down there if you are interested.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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2,094
All of the pictures are great but I especially like 10th one down of the sunset with your dog in the foreground.
 

Dave

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May 5, 2012
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Right on, Nick. Beautiful skies. Way to brave the weather.
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
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12,939
Thanks everyone. :)

Dang it nick you had me at mimosas. I'm thinking of a september trip down there if you are interested.

Haha! I've only been home for two days and I think I'm ready for another 5 days of mimosas and 80 degree water. I'm planning on at least one, maybe two trips down there in September. Sounds like kind of the perfect time to be there. I'll shoot you a message.
 

Laura

freespirittraveler
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Oct 1, 2012
Messages
960
Awesome trip and pics, happy birthday! Just love those monsoon clouds. I think the doggie sunset is my favorite shot as well.
 

Clint_N

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Mar 13, 2014
Messages
42
Excellent TR Nick. I grew up going to Lake Powell with the crowds, water skiing, and noise and enjoyed it during those years. However, as my tastes moved to desert backpacking I came to dislike the lake and everything about it. Now the way you are enjoying it, getting to more remote places and exploring I'm liking your take on the place. Every TR you post has me thinking more and more about a pontoon boat and following in your footsteps. Again, well done!
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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I hear ya, Clint. Not even a year ago, I was what I would have considered to be one of the most pissed off people I know about the existence of Lake Powell. Years backpacking the canyons down that way is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. Then over the last year it's been like a gradual shift from rage, to 'maybe I can enjoy this in a kayak', to 'damn, I really, really like this place'. In fact, this most recent trip I pretty much fell in love with it.

It's hard to think about all that was lost and just mind boggling that anyone thought it was a good idea. Driving through the channels, seeing 700-1000' walls shooting up, knowing that they would be a few hundred feet taller if that chunk of concrete wasn't down the river. Just wild. There's no doubt in my mind that Glen Canyon would be a National Park on par with the Grand Canyon and Zion if things had happened differently. Anyway, I'd still drain it out in a heartbeat if I could, but at the same time, it feels great to be seeing all this stuff that I had previously considered an absolute no go. It's like a whole new playground and lots of water on a 90 degree day feels NICE! Come join us on the pontoon some time and see if you like it! :)
 

Clint_N

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Mar 13, 2014
Messages
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I would like to join you for a trip some time if you're open to it, seriously. I'll bring the Mimosas too!
 

Christian

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Jun 2, 2012
Messages
161
I think the most intriguing thing about what's under the lake is all the deep cut tributaries that enter the Colorado below the San Juan confluence. Each one is like a portal to an isolated world of cathedrals and subterranean canyons. Not to mention that it was the most green, lush and wet part of the entire Colorado Plateau. Dungeon Canyon, Music Temple, Cathedral in The Desert and lower Labyrinth are the most horrific losses in my mind. Dungeon was on par with Happy Canyon, the Narrows in Zion, and maybe Paria Canyon or Buckskin, but it had its own charming character. Also, the lake made it so poor people like me can't see what remains without paying for obscenely expensive boat rentals or purchases, when before you could visit them all with a cheap crappy raft. Anyhow, on topic, you should check out the overhanging ledge on tapestry wall sometime, you can see dinosaur footprints upside down on the rock. Also, you need to make a trek to face, west, labyrinth and weatherill canyons, if you kayak up them at low water you can still find gorgeous fluted sandstone on par with antelope. Labyrinth in particular.


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Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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I'd put Fiftymile in the most horrific category too. It's the worst example I've experienced first hand, especially when you experience at low water levels. Unreal.

West is high on the list. I plan to launch out of the south end later this year and start checking out some of those spots. Thanks for the tip on Tapestry Wall. I went past it twice on this trip and loved the view from below. It would be awesome to hike up there.

Oh, and yeah, the boat rental thing is ridiculous. It's cheaper to own a boat for the most part, especially if you're mechanically inclined and don't mind putting in a little elbow grease into a cheaper boat. With Powell rentals, it's often less expensive to rent a massive houseboat that sleeps 16 people than it is to rent a dinky little runabout. Especially if you can get a handful of people chipping in. My sister is thinking about renting one this fall to go on a trip with us and it's like $1800 for 5 days but it literally will sleep 16 people. A junky runabout would be $2800+ for the same amount of time. Crazy. But I dunno about the cheap raft floating rivers. Even floating something like the Green isn't a cheap proposition (I assume that's what Glen Canyon was like in difficulty). Granted, it's no motor boat expense, but unless you actually trust a $50 pool toy, a decent kayak/raft with all the stuff you need is still a pretty significant expense. And then you have to get it there, shuttle it, etc. Maybe they made those cheap rafts better back in Abbey's day? Or maybe I'm just a bigger wuss. That's such a great section in Desert Solitaire.
 
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