From the waters of Lake Powell - A client's perspective
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From the waters of Lake Powell - A client's perspective
From the parking lot I surveyed the vast landscape that stretched before me in every direction. I'd seen the pictures and studied the maps before booking, of course. But nothing prepared me for this. My heart soared as I felt the beautiful solitude of Lake Powell.
The day arrived quicker than I had anticipated. Here we were, with parents and kids in tow, for our first ever-houseboating excursion. My husband, Brian, had wanted to do something very special and unique, something laid back. After all, it was his parents' 25th wedding anniversary today. And, let's face it, Brian had ulterior motives. He'd been salivating to try houseboating ever since his buddy Colin had boasted about the unbelievable time he had fishing off a houseboat and skiing on Lake Powell. Ten guys split the costs for the boat, food and gas, which made it very affordable, especially considering the fabulous location and "off the charts" water sports. For us it sounded practical, inviting and exciting, especially considering how Dad and Brian love to fish.
Reserving the boat was easy—and surprisingly affordable, given that it provided lodging, dining and recreation for 6 of us for four days. No airfare, no expensive restaurants, no packing and unpacking. There were bigger boats, some with sexy looking hot tubs on top, but the 59' seemed perfect for us. We'd be able to enjoy the great outdoors without the hassle of camping. Hiking, relaxation, reading, plenty of swimming, and, of course, fishing were all options!
Before I could say, "Don't forget the extra towels." that I'd stashed in the trunk at the last minute, our Antelope Point Marina valet arrived to transport us down to the Welcome Center and Marina along with our gear and groceries. Mom and Dad really appreciated the lift and engaged the friendly, freckle-faced young man doing the driving. Brian and I went directly to the registration desk while the rest of the group went nosing around the Marina's floating restaurant and convenience store. We indulged the kids a couple of snorkels and secured ice. After a delicious lunch in Ja'di' Tooh we hailed our valet again and finally made way to our houseboat—for loading and then a mandatory orientation. The staff did all the heavy lifting.
If I'd arrived worried about how in the heck we'd drive a 59' houseboat without anyone having experience that was soon laid to rest. (I was so busy during the weeks leading up to the vacation that I hadn't done much but watch the "How To" video we'd received in the mail right after our reservation was confirmed.)
Wanda did a terrific job explaining the ins and outs of operating the boat. Famous for being technically challenged I thought the "command-central" control panel seemed overwhelmingly complicated. It wasn't. I was able to start the engines and learned forward and reverse quickly, as though I were a houseboating veteran. The kids, intrigued, paid close attention as Wanda pointed to the gauges and buttons and levers; we all jumped sky-high when she demonstrated the emergency horn. Even with the "wind in it's sails" (which, of course, is a silly phrase aboard a boat that has no sails) a houseboat of this size can only reach a leisurely 5-8 mph, which was perfectly fine by me. We were towing a speedboat for that kind of action, thrills and speed. Dad and Brian were christened helmsmen but over the course of our journey we all took a turn at the wheel—especially while up on the top deck. I felt light years from my normal self, on the brink of discovering something very special about my kids, my husband and myself.
The interior of the boat was surprisingly roomy and efficient. Mom and I were ecstatic to find a kitchen full of modern appliances: pots, pans, blenders, toasters, dishware and utensils. Hooray! There were 4 guest cabins "down the hall," all featuring queen-sized beds. The kids claimed the below-deck beds as their "Clubhouse" and announced, with adult-style finality that "down under" was off limits to all grownups. Grandpa and Grandma were given the Captain's Stateroom, complete with their own private TV, VCR and CD system to enjoy. Our bath and a half would be more than adequate if we learned how to juggle our hot water and showers effectively. Bedding, towels, everything was supplied.
"The freedom of camping without the hassle!" I thought. We'd made the right choice. I gleefully tipped on the air conditioner as afternoon sunbeams heated the main cabin.
In just under three hours of arriving at the Marina, we had registered, dined, loaded onboard, trained and were now ready to roll—or was that troll? Brian anxiously took to the Captain's chair and piloted the boat out to a wide channel that would ultimately deliver us to the Lake's main body. Following up the rear in the tag-along speedboat, Dad and I rendezvoused with them in the channel where we secured the towropes and then jumped on board to officially begin our journey northeast. We figuratively pinched ourselves as we slowly, fully, came to appreciate the reality of houseboating on Lake Powell.
The possibilities of the moment seemed endless. We reviewed our map and discussed our pre-determined itinerary. Ultimately our hope was to take the houseboat 30-50 miles northeast, in the direction of Last Chance Bay and beyond—as time, weather, and inclination dictated. We'd do cove exploration, skiing and fishing excursions in the speedboat.
Caution dictated our first night's plans; we were going only as far as Labyrinth Canyon. We needed to practice anchoring the boat in daylight, plus we had an anniversary to celebrate. Brian had brought his mom's favorite champagne for the occasion and, thanks to advice from Colin, we had other savory treats on board as well. As suggested, I pre-ordered party snacks, sodas and other staples from the Safeway in Page. It was an easy pick-up on the way to the Marina. Thick steaks awaited the grill; even the fancy layer cake from the bakery made it onboard without incident.
Lake Powell. I'd seen amazing images of it as a kid. My parents routinely devoured every National Geographic that hit our country mailbox from cover to cover, and I'd picked up the habit. I distinctly remember a story about the Glen Canyon Dam and the "making" of Lake Powell. "Just like filling up a bathtub that's over 400 feet deep." I thought, now remembering my fairly descriptive childhood understanding of what was going on. Ahhhh….Lake Powell. To think: I was floating around on a houseboat—a tiny spec on a huge lake in a desert-canyon wilderness that spans 266 square miles. There's over 1,000 miles of shoreline. It was hard to absorb.
The rest of the crew had migrated to the top deck to poke around the wet bar and take turns steering from the Captain's fly bridge. The kids literally squealed as they anticipated fun on the slide. They were noticeably disappointed to learn they couldn't just leap into their swimsuits and start sliding. As I joined, peering over the top deck at ankle level, I heard Brian repeating our water safety rules. "No swimming or sliding while the boat is moving. No swimming or sliding without life jackets. No swimming near the rear of the boat while the engines and generator were running. Period." By now, the speech had a mantra-like rhythm to it. Everyone chuckled when Brian added that even Grandpa had to comply with the rules and wear a life jacket while sliding. Little did we know that, before the trip ended, Grandma would become an avid "slide warrior" in her own right! Turn left to go to Glen Canyon Dam. Turn right and head down what is known as the Narrows toward Labyrinth Canyon and Padre Bay. Like planned, we turned right. We could see Gunsight Butte and Padre Butte in the distance. We'd travel those waters tomorrow; tonight was tonight.
In the Narrows we encountered our first real traffic, and even that commanded nothing more than a friendly wave from boat to boat in passing. Brian went as fast as the boat would go and the kids enjoyed the wake-wave rhythms. At Labyrinth Canyon we steered south into a beautiful gorge known as a slot canyon. Insecure about the depth of the canyon and finding a suitable landing spot, we sensibly grabbed the first wide, sandy beach that looked inviting.
Always a boy scout, Brian had studied the video to familiarize himself with how to anchor the boat. Sam, our 12-year-old son, served as able-bodied bosun ready to heave the mooring lines ashore as we kerplunked the boat on the chosen sandy beach. I took the wheel and confidently, slowly, urged this gentle giant straight toward the beach. Like hermit crabs, Brian and Sam scurried to dig deep holes; you actually bury the anchors in sand to stabilize them. In total, four lines were secured. We'd done it! In about an hour we'd successfully tethered ourselves to a never-never land of burnt sienna lunarscapes that begged exploration. The lines stretched like hands caressing the beach. With a nod from Brian indicating the anchors were set, I quit the engine. A stunning peaceful silence engulfed us all. We embarked our own Fantasy Island.
Now, comfortably stationed for the evening, we were freed to stow our gear and settle-in to our floating apartment. First things first: the deck chairs were arranged in conversation mode up top, the wet bar was stocked with sodas, brews, snacks and sunscreen. Out came the beach towels. I began to tinker with the evening's feast, a "my gang" favorite that was easy-to-assemble and serve. I'd been setting a fancy table in my mind for weeks: steaks, burgers, grilled corn on the cob, zucchini sticks, and a large pre-ordered Caprese salad that was loaded with smoked mozzarella and basil. Our shared family parlor was intimate and comfortable featuring a large table inviting impromptu conversation, quick meals and—as we discovered over the next few days—highly competitive games of Chinese checkers and chess. The kids were very glad the big screen TV was on board but dismissed it outright for now. The slide and warm shallow water were calling like sirens.
If I told you what went on at the anniversary party, Brian would deny every sweet detail. I've learned he has to unplug and relax to get sentimental and chatty. It was obvious: he and his dad are both simply big kids disguised as executives in power suits back at the office. Out here, unmasked, they were liberated. It was togetherness and remembering unfolding without a script. Laughing, learning. listening. Our banquet table and surroundings were beyond description. Evening light flooded the windows as the steaks grilled. The food tasted unusually yummy.
As night came, thousands of stars appeared in the black sky above. Then, later, the moon joined in, about the time the kids performed their "We Love You" skit teary-eyed, appreciative grandparents. We all delighted in paging through the family photo albums Mom brought. (This actually went on for days!) We consumed the cake by candle and moonlight while heartfelt toasts were made in honor of the incredible couple that brought our family to this convergence. Afterwards we purposefully quieted down. Moonlight sifted through very thin clouds, casting eerie shadow across Tower Butte and Pinnacle Rock. Too tired and too relaxed to move, rendered exhausted and satisfied simultaneously, we headed for our respective beds around midnight. The party was over for now. Waterlogged kids plopped into their Clubhouse berths. Brian and I set out our sleeping bags on the roof, comforted that the early morning light would slowly awaken us to another day in paradise. Grandpa was already snoring as I crept silently up the ladder.
"It's been a very good day," I said to Brian. He smiled acknowledging. Soon I drifted off to sleep. I remember dreaming of a happy family playing on a small houseboat, on a very large lake, somewhere in Arizona.