Day 2 – Big ASS WAVES & A Campfire Cold Brew
My morning entry…
As the sun comes up on my little sandy beach in the desert I am still protected from the sun by the high red rock canyon walls. I was blessed this morning by the sight of an interesting desert cactus that blooms out in the morning when it is cool, as it was not in bloom last night when I set up camp. I can see the entire canyon landscape is littered with this fascinating cactus bushes with gorgeous white pedal flowers. The bees are active this morning sucking the nectar for their morning treat. For some odd reason I just noticed that the lake has risen about 2’ during the night and my little beach oasis is eroding away back into the waterline of time. I am very happy that I decided to move my camp across the cove as the other spot with the small sandy area where I would have parked the kayak vanished underwater over night. This would have provided quite the challenge to repack the boat with all my gear and a 10’ drop-off the edge of the embankment. The lake is calm and inviting this morning for a paddle, so I will grab a quick protein breakfast and head out on my next adventure for the day. I am definitely looking forward to some calmer waters.
My evening entry…
It has been a quiet afternoon of resting my shoulders after an interesting day of paddling. I estimate that I paddled about 20 miles today deep into the Navaho Canyon. I read about this canyon online and it said it was a popular destination for houseboats as at the end of the canyon there are sandy beaches by the arches. Sitting here across the lake tonight I can count 8-luxury mega houseboats pulled up on the red sandy beach. When I read about this canyon they mentioned that there was limited camping throughout the canyon until you reach the end. This has a new meaning to me tonight, as I never considered that once I started into the Navaho Canyon area that I would not be able to find a place to get out of the boat till I reached the end. Today I encountered several heart pounding moments while traversing the narrow canyon wall openings with several other large boats.
The morning started out pretty calm as I got on the water by 7am on some nice flat water and minimal boat traffic. On my lake map the Navaho Canyon described spectacular red rock canyon views and several historical features. I must admit the view from 4” off the water provides quite a unique perspective as to how small and insignificant we are in relation to the enormous lake and endless canyons reaching to the sky hundreds of feet tall. Some of these canyon walls are 300’ with wide and vast openings which I found very challenging to cross, yet nothing compares to the hair raising 15 minutes I encountered with the biggest waves I have ever paddling through in my life. The canyon began to narrow to what I estimate to be about 40’ wide from canyon wall to wall. I could hear the echo of boats coming from behind me and in front of me while I continued to paddle. It is difficult to estimate distance in the canyon as sound carries a long way. The red rock walls were straight up to the sky and this was the moment when I felt like an ant in the ocean. My IPod selection for the morning was Italian Opera favorites, although I keep the volume down low so I can hear the imminent boat traffic approaching. I was hugging the canyon wall at a distance of about 5’ as to provide myself with protection through the many blind corners. I knew the boats coming towards me would be passing in the center of the narrows. What happened next truly pushed my paddling skills to the edge of my limits. However, I sit here tonight and know that I successfully navigated 15 minutes of thought-provoking scary water. As the situation developed I kept breathing and remained focused and calm keeping the bow of the kayak heading forward with as much speed as possible. In a touring kayak speed is your friend through rough water as it makes you more stable and balanced. Just as I rounded a blind corner I was faced with about 10 large cabin cruisers and mega wake board boats. I am sure they were all traveling as a group down the canyon to the end for a day of skiing and fun. Now let me say when a wave hits a solid red rock canyon wall it bounces back at you with the same velocity that it hit the wall. This motion continues back and forth across the canyon until you get out of the narrows and the waves can eventually disburse into a larger area. I was the tiny toy boat in the bathtub with 5’-6’ swells hitting me from all sides for what seemed like 15 minutes of hell. The next BIG problem was I did not have time to attach my spray skirt before all shit broke loose in the narrows. Reflecting tonight I have no idea how I was able to paddle through that nightmare without taking on water into the cockpit. The waves were constantly crashing over my bow about every 5 seconds and apparently the gear bags I had attached on the bow blocked the water from coming straight back and hitting me in the cockpit. When you hit big waves there is only one option and that is to power down each stroke and paddle like your life depended on it. I have swamped my kayak before and it totally sucks, as you have to pull out on the shore and bail out the cockpit, or use your hand bilge and pump out the cockpit while still floating in the water.
My problem today was there was NO shore for at least 10 miles and not even a small rock ledge to stand on if needed. As the situation was unfolding I evaluated my skills and said, “Deb breathe and enjoy the ride because you have to paddle your ass off to save your ass in this mess.” With my Italian Opera playing in my ear buds, I let out a “hell yes Deb, lets do this thing!” I sit here tonight and appreciate the fact that I am strong and have an excellent sense of balance and rhythm in my kayak. The kayak and you have to become one unit matching your stroke rhythm with cresting waves. You have to power through to the next swell and get the bow to the top so the kayak can ride over the swell and not get caught in the swell. You can’t lose concentration during these moments you could be in some real trouble. There was a brief second when I caught the panicked glance in this one guys eyes, as he passed me in his hundred thousand dollar Master Craft. I imagined that he was thinking, “Holy shit lady, I am so sorry I threw that big ass wave at you.” There was truly nothing the guy could have done differently as the corners are mostly blind and he had no idea some lady in 16’ kayak would be rounding the corner at the same time. I must say I was super impressed with my Perception touring boat and the way she handled the waves with 40 pounds of gear strapped on the decks and in the hatches. But even more impressed is that I did not panic and handled the situation like a pro. However, sitting here tonight I will carefully evaluate what time I head out tomorrow to pass through the narrows before the crowd of boats make their way down here to the sandy beach area. When I set out on this journey I thought that paddling during the middle of the week would be best, as the boat traffic would be lighter. On the other hand, it is summer and families are out on the lake for vacation. I can’t even imagine how crazy the weekends could get on this lake. Small crafts could be in danger with lots of boat traffic in these long finger canyons reaching distances as far as 20 miles. After today I am reevaluating the rest of my week and have decided to get off the lake by Thursday at the latest.
I have watched the party houseboats across the lake and have enjoyed relaxing and sitting here in my miniature lawn chair watching the wake surfers and skiing all day. The music is thumping and I can hear families laughing and cheering on their kids behind the many boats passing by my modest campsite. I remember when Susan and I towed our Ski Nautique out here and how much fun we had with Maggie our Golden Retriever, skiing with her family, and cruising the north portion of the lake. However, my experience today is much different as I am on my own sitting here quietly and finishing the wine I opened last night. I chilled the remaining bottle of wine in the lake all afternoon propped between two rocks. I spent a few hours reading a book under a large cave arch area that provided me with shade for the later part of the afternoon. The temperatures are in the high 90’s and any shade is a welcome treat. I spent a couple of hours gathering some driftwood on the shoreline for my desert full moon campfire tonight. I have decided to not set up a tent tonight so I can just stare at the moon and stars by the campfire. I have about 30 minutes till the sun dips below the canyon skyline as I enjoy the smell of camp cooking and the scents in the summer breeze. I look forward to another beautiful evening tonight with the waves softly coming ashore by my campsite. Tonight I enjoyed a tasty astronaut freeze dried scrambled egg dinner prepared on a tiny jet boil backpacker stove. I must admit I am getting pretty tired of tuna and protein shakes, except I am saving a ton of money not eating out. I plan to pack up very early in the morning and paddle out before the big boats are even out of bed. It is about 20 miles out of Navaho Canyon and another 25-30 miles back to the area where I parked my car. It will probably take me at least 2 more days to paddle back depending on the wind, waves, and of course boat traffic.
Just when I thought my day could not get anymore interesting I watched these two guys in 24 foot ghetto pontoon boat circling around looking for a camp area for the night. It was starting to get really dark and I already had my campfire going for the evening. The pontoon cruised by my area looking around and then I watched them circle over by the mega houseboat beach area. I started to feel sad for these poor guys, as it was dark and there are a lot of rocks cropping out of the water. I continued to watch them for another 30 minutes and they could not find a spot to park with their headlamps. I grabbed my flashlight and walked over to the waters edge and flashed my light towards the guys and yelled, “Hey guys are you looking for a spot to park the boat and camp tonight?” A guy replied back to me, “Yes we need to get this thing parked.” I said, “dude come over here and pull up on this nice sandy beach by my kayak.” He replied, “Are you sure? We don’t want to bother you guys.” I said, “no problem I am alone and if you have a cold beer to share I’d be glad to share this beach.” The guy just about jumped out of the boat and ran me two ice cold Coors Lights. I don’t even like Coors, but a cold beer sounded like heaven at the moment after drinking hot tap water for two days. As I helped the guys with my flashlight pull on to the beach area, they introduced themselves to me as Ronnie and Paul. Ronnie told me that they had been best friends for 35 years and meet up each summer for a weeklong fishing trip. Ronnie had towed his pontoon from Phoenix AZ and picked Paul up at the airport, as he now lives in Seattle WA. It was obvious that these guys were totally excited about their luck tonight as they continued to thank me for inviting them over to my camp area. Ronnie proceeded to hand me an ice-cold beer and said, “Deb make your self at home for more as we have two cases iced down in the cooler.” I thanked Ronnie and said, “Hey this was a bonus for me to get an ice cold beer in the middle of nowhere.” Paul started asking me a few questions about my kayak and where I had put in on the lake. When I told them that I had launched at Waweak Mariana he almost choked on his beer and stumbled out of the boat. Ronnie said, “Holy shit Deb I have some mad respect for you. That is a long F__king way from here. It took me a full tank of gas to get back here and we only came from Antelope Marina which is ½ the distance from Waweak.” As we were chatting I noticed that these guys had packed an entire house on that pontoon boat. I said, “How long are you guys going to be out here?” Ronnie told me, “We are staying a week and I love to cook. We have steaks, chicken, potatoes, 4 lbs of bacon, eggs, and lots of beer.” I said, “Well I am pulling out of here very early in the morning as I want to get out of this canyon before the boats start heading in for the day.” I mentioned to Ronnie and Paul about my 15 minute paddle from hell and that I wanted to avoid that again at any cost. I graciously thanked Ronnie and Paul for the cold brew and went back over by the fire to enjoy this super sweet evening. As Ronnie and Paul started unloading the pontoon I could not believe what I was witnessing and the amount of supplies these guys had packed on that pontoon. The first thing they unloaded included 4 large folding tables, 2 cots, a generator, two sets of tri pod halogen flood lights, 6 coolers, 2 BBQ grills, 2 propane tanks, 8 large Rubbermaid tubs, a chain saw, 6 – 5 gallon tanks of extra gas, 2 tents, and a cord of wood. Yes these guys packed an entire tree on that boat for their campfire. I asked Ronnie, “Hey what are the flood lights and generator for?” Ronnie said, “Paul and I play serious horseshoes and dominoes and we even have trophies for the winner each night.” Ok people I am not making this story up, these two guys had trophies with little plaques that said, Summer of 2017 Horse Shoe Champion, Biggest Fish Champion, Most Fish Champion, and Dominoes Champion. Ronnie told me that Paul was his best friend in the world and that they had planned this trip all year. These guys were incredibly serious about their friendship and I could tell that Ronnie was heart broken that Paul had moved up to Seattle for a job a few years ago. I truly felt honored to listen to these two guys chat with one another as they set up their Taj Mahal fish camp for the week.
I polished off my delightful and refreshing Coors Light and asked Ronnie for one more for the road. I don’t even like Coors Light, but that ice-cold brew sure was refreshing by the fire. Ronnie immediately ran a cold one over to me and again continued to thank me for inviting them over for the night. I told Ronnie, “Man stop thanking me, the pleasure is truly mine. You and Paul are super cool and I was privileged to hear your story of friendship and summer fishing.” What started out as just a quiet night all by myself, turned into an incredibility interesting and blessed encounter with two amazing guy’s. I crawled in my sleeping bag and fell asleep under the stars smiling at the universe for such an amazing opportunity to tell this story.
May the Journey Begin Within You…