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by Ambassador Lainey Severson
My breath catches slightly in my throat. The teal water against the iron-filled red rocks is something foreign. Like something you’d see in a movie set on Mars.
Does that make me the alien or the astronaut, who will not doubt need saving? Oh jeez, I hope I don’t need saving. Is kayaking like riding a bike? Something you never really forget how to do?
We pull the kayaks off the roof, making sure to keep them from dinging the cars before placing them on the rocky shore. That unearthly blue water beckons, it’s bathtub warmth extra inviting under the harsh sunbeams overhead. And then, we’re off, paddling the weekend away.
My first trip to Lake Powell was somewhat surreal. I had no plans to go on a kayaking weekend, but my friend Josh asked me one day, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity, as did my boyfriend. We decided to go in one week, and when that Friday rolled around, we packed up the Subaru Outback, hit the road, drove through a crazy lightning storm, and arrived in an exhausted state in Page, Arizona.
After a kayak-approved breakfast of gluten-free waffles made special for yours truly, eggs, and sausage, we were off to Antelope Canyon. It started out as a gorgeous, hot day, but quickly turned overcast and stormy as a microburst moved through the area.
It's really important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. At least two of the four people in our group have kayaked regularly. One of them is also very familiar with the weather, and was able to look at the clouds and know when we needed to get out of the water. The storm only lasted about 30-45 minutes (and resulted in a free next day kayak rental!) and emptied out the lake. We were able to explore in relative peace even in one of the busiest spots for boaters of all kind.
The next morning, after sleeping in and deciding our game plan, the three Coloradoans decided to hit the water again, this time on the Utah side at Lone Rock. Even on the same lake, and only 30 minutes from Antelope Canyon, it felt like a completely new place. Throw in the time change (thanks, Arizona, for being weird), and you’re set up for an exotic feeling day.
Lone Rock was much more tropical looking, but it lacked the true slot canyons. It’s also much more open than the Antelope Canyon area, so motor boats were much more common. We were able to get out, climb around, and jump off some rocks. There were also more spiders, which is never a good thing in my world, but it is what it is. All in all, it was another fantastic day of kayaking and exactly what we needed to recharge before heading back home.
I have had an interesting relationship with the idea of Powell for a while. In 2016, I watched the documentary, Damnation, which discussed America’s love for dams. It focused heavily on the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam and subsequently, Lake Powell.
The historian in me died looking at the water with my own eyes. Underneath there, hundreds of feet down, were ancient artifacts from prehistoric people. Before the creation of the lake, archaeologists went in to recover what they could. Needless to say, they weren’t able to get everything or document each individual site. All of that is now lost to us under this incredible body of water, which I was about to go out on, splash through, and explore what was left. And that’s where the recreation-enthusiast comes in. Without this lake, I never would have gone to the area. I would have missed out on exploring the slot canyons, the surrounding area, and appreciating how unique this area of the world is.
Traveling, even a few hours from home, is a great way to recharge. It helps teach you about new places and new people. It also helps remind you how important the people in your life are. On this trip, I realized how recent changes allowed me to be on that lake on that weekend, smiling away and having an incredible time with some of my favorite people in the world. It also taught me a valuable lesson about humans affecting nature. I so often look at the manipulation of our natural areas as a bad thing. Here, it wasn’t so cut and dry. The dam needed to be made to sustain growth in the West. Creating the lake made a lot history disappear, but creating the lake also brought people to the area where they can learn about that history, explore the incredible nature features that remain, and share memories with each other. If you ask me, those are wonderful things. I challenge you to visit one new place before the year is over and see what it teaches you. At the very least, you’ll get some good memories out of the trip, I’m sure!
And because I know you’ve been wondering, I did remember how to kayak and I did not need saving at any point. Maybe I’ll start telling people “it’s like paddling a kayak!”