Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lake Powell

Woke up early yesterday to a bright and clear day on Lake Powell.  It was cool and crisp, and I went for an invigorating hour bike ride, along the path by the lake and all through the campground.  It's really interesting, because some of Lake Powell, and Wahweap, is in Utah, which follows Daylight Savings Time, but the rest of the lake and Wahweap are in Arizona, which does not!  Caused us a bit of confusion yesterday in figuring out the time to show up for our canyon tour, but we did!

Anyway, we went on a tour boat for about 2 1/2 hours of cruising the lake, which was formed when they built a hydroelectric dam on the Colorado River in the late '50's.  Part of the tour took us into a part of Antelope Canyon--the water goes to a certain point and stops--obviously different from the part of the canyon we walked through the day before.  The lake is considerably lower than usual due to the lack of rain and a less than normal snow melt run off, so the boat was not able to go into some areas that the boat captain said they usually do.  The captain was quite knowledgeable about the history of the area, but they also handed out these little devices with earphones that had recorded narratives about the different places we went.  The device had different channels for about 5 different languages--that's one thing I've forgotten to mention in previous posts.  Since arriving in the Grand Canyon, we've heard so many different languages--the Grand Canyon, just by virtue of its size and the number of people visiting, is probably the most cosmopolitan place we've been.  Lots of tourists from all over the world, and at Zion and Lake Powell and Bryce, as well.  A ton of rental RV's on the roads and in the campgrounds, and just based on hearing folks talk when they get out at scenic view points, I'd say the vast majority of these are rented by tourists from other countries--really great.

As the boat left the main channel and went into Antelope Canyon, the passageway became increasingly narrow, but it was fascinating to be on a boat with the canyon walls rising above you, closer and closer.  Of course, these channels were formed millions of years ago by the river cutting through the rock, along with some of the uplifts when parts of the land was pushed up from the sea, when the North American continent moved to its current location.  Some fascinating rock formations and colors.  The different colors were mostly the result of varying amounts of iron ore and the oxidation that has occurred over time.  There were places where you could see shades of red rock from the top of the walls down to a point above the water where it was basically a white or lighter color--this was the water line where the lake had been at one point.

After Antelope Canyon, we went to Navajo Canyon, where the most distinguishing characteristic feature is what's called Navajo Tapestry.  This is a pattern on the walls where there are large amounts of iron ore at the top, causing it to appear almost blue black in places, then the concentration of iron ore lessens and the colors shift to more reds, and then streaks down through lighter shades along the lower areas of the walls.  It's also fascinating to just look at the different shapes and patterns of the rock formations--you can imagine all sorts of images, formed through erosion and movement.

As we traveled from Antelope Canyon to Navajo Canyon we passed the marina where they have rental houseboats, along with the section for private houseboats--this is obviously a big thing on Lake Powell, houseboating.  And, folks, these are not your ordinary houseboats.  Like everything else, I guess, there are always people who will do whatever it takes to go one better than the Jones and the Smiths.  There are some humongous houseboats here, three levels, with all sorts of accessories, like sliding boards, 4 or 5 jet skies on aft ramps, many of them pull big ski boats as well.  Probably the biggest boat in the private section of the marina was well over 2 million dollars, according to our captain.  There were several Bravada boats, which the captain said are trucked to the lake in three sections, deck by deck and assembled once they get to the lake.  Even the rentals he said run about $1000/day, so we figured we'd better pass!  They sleep 12, but even splitting it 12 ways, it's still quite expensive, since the gas is close to $10/gal.

Anyway, it was a glorious day and we always love being on a boat on the water, no matter the setting.  The gentle motion of the boat on the water is always such a soothing experience, lots of folks, including us at times, were nodding off on the trip back to the dock!  After we got back and had lunch, we headed toward Bryce Canyon.  Got here late yesterday afternoon and drove into the park, followed the road up to the top of the rim--elevation is 9115 at Rainbow Point, the farthest place where you can drive.  As we first got past the entrance station and visitors center, we were driving through wide, open meadows, with pine forests on either side--quite beautiful, but if you didn't know you were in a canyon, you couldn't tell from this first section.  Saw several mule deer grazing as we passed along.  The road takes you eventually up along the canyon rim, and since the canyon is on your left side as you go up, everyone said to drive all the way to the top and then turn around and stop at the viewpoints on the way down.  This obviously makes sense, but it was hard to pass up the early viewpoints, when you got your first glimpses of the hoodoos that make Bryce so unique.

Got up to the top and when we got out to go over to the side to look down, man was it cold!  Everyone in Zion had told us it would typically be 10 degrees cooler here than in Zion, but at the top, it was much colder.  The wind was blowing quite a bit, too, so that added to it.  When you walk up to the rim and look down, it's just unbelievably spectacular--what makes this place so different from anything we've seen thus far is the endless formations of hoodoos, not just the smaller hoodoos like we've seen previously, but really really big ones, rising from the canyon floor like giant stalagmites, intricately forming into a wonderland of multicolored sandstone, the different shades of beige and red being highlighted and enhanced by the sun.  Since it was late in the day, as sunset was approaching the shifting patterns of light and shadows just formed a brilliant palate of colors and a constantly changing technicolor movie of pure wonder.

We then started our way down, stopping at every viewpoint to marvel at this incredible sight.  As we descended, it got a little warmer, though not a lot until we really had come down quite a bit.  While we were up at Rainbow Point, we met a group of 4 young people who had just come up from about an hour of hiking part of the Under the Rim Trail--just a small part, as this trail goes for some 22 miles, the longest in the park.  So we talked to them about where they had been, what they had seen, and may decide to do that part of the trail today, we'll see.  They had been to Zion, but not to the Grand Canyon, and were heading home today.  They were tent camping, and told us it was going to be 27 degrees in their campground overnight--made us grateful for the carouse, where it was definitely warmer than 27 last night!  It was fun to talk to them--they made us think of Jeremy, and all of his adventures all over the world.  We had a lot of fun tent camping in our younger days, but very happy that those days are in your rear view mirror now!

Stopped by Sunset Point and Sunrise Point, the most popular spot in Bryce, where there is an enormous "amphitheater" of rows and rows of hoodoos rising from the floor of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!  Even though it's the most popular place in the park, we'll probably hike some of the trails in this area, just based on the descriptions we've seen in the brochures and online--figure we'll just head to the visitors center later this morning and watch the video and then decide where to hike.  Passed through Red Canyon right before arriving and it's really an interesting place too.  Stopped at their visitors center and got some brochures and looks like they have some interesting hiking as well, so we may do some there later.

Anyway, here are some pics:

Beautiful layers of color along the walls by the marina.
 Looking out onto the lake from the marina, waiting to board

Scenes along the way

The dam--they poured the concrete for the dam every day, 24/7 for three years; the bridge was constructed in California and then moved to the dam.  There was, not surprisingly, controversy over the building of the dam, the need for electricity vs. the desire not to destroy/change the natural beauty of the environment as it existed
 Just can't get enough of these interesting rock formations and color variations!

Going into Antelope Canyon, and the following shots are as we went deeper into the canyon, some shot from the front of the boat, looking into the cut, some shot from the back of the boat, showing the passageway we'd just come through.

Now entering Navajo Canyon

 You can see the color variation of the Navajo Tapestry on these walls
 More of Navajo Canyon

 What the locals call the "bathtub ring," where the lake had once been.  It was fascinating, too, to see the optical illusion when you would be close to one side and look across the water to the other side,you would swear that the top of the ring was higher on the close side than the other.  As the driver explained, whichever side you were closest too always appears higher, but obviously it has to be the same level.

 Just gorgeous!!

 Pretty awesome, looking up!

 The spirit is watching!!

Wind was a little chilly!
 Time for a quick snooze!
 Shot as we came back to the dock
 Pretty good sized carp swimming alongside the dock
Red Canyon--once again, something so totally different from what we've seen to this point!

 Looking back at the first of two tunnels cut into the rocks when they first built the road leading from Red Canyon to give access to Bryce
 Second tunnel

I'll post the pictures we took last night at Bryce along with the others we'll take today when we go back into the park to hike.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing pictures and this is one of the most tourist attractions here in US today.

    Photos of Lake Powell