Day 3 – Fast, Flat, Italian Opera, Wilson & The Titanic
I heard Ronnie and Paul rumbling about the camp site around 5am, so I rolled over and gave them a good morning hello. These guys had probably drank a half case of beer and slept no more that 2 hours, yet they were jumping around getting the boat ready for a morning of fishing. Ronnie said, “Hey Deb stick around and I will cook up a big breakfast when we get back from some early fishing.” As tempting as that bacon sounded to me I was not about to face the red rock canyon wave walls of death again today. Ronnie came over to my camp area and said, “Well at least take some of these wonderful Kind Bars and a couple cold Gatorades for the paddle today.” He reached in one of his Rubbermaid mega tubs and broke open a fresh box of caramel covered peanuts with a yummy chocolate drizzle. Paul walked over and said, “These are the best and thank you again for helping us out last night with this great camping site. Deb you paddle safe today and it was great to meet such an adventuresome gal from Arkansas.” Ronnie and Paul lugged two 5-gallon gas cans over to the pontoon and filled up the tank. Ronnie mentioned to me last night that he figured they were running on fumes when pulling onto the sandy beach cove. I watched the guys pull away on the pontoon with a big grin on their faces as they both were slugging down 2 Red Bull & Monster drinks each at 5am. That much caffeine at 5am would kill a cow, yet these guys were up and ready to compete for the 2017 Summer Champion Fish Trophy. I have an image in my head of these trophies proudly displayed on their mantles back at home and they will start planning next summers fishing adventure.
I quickly gathered my camping supplies and carefully repacked my kayak with everything secured and balanced. Over the past 6 months I have cut off any processed sugar and feel so much healthier. Yet this morning, I decided to go ahead and eat 1 of the Kind Bars with 26 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar along with a cold Gatorade and an additional 30 grams of sugar for breakfast. Holy crap what was I thinking as I just gave myself a shot of candy crack at 5:30am. The water was blissful and not a speck of wind was in the canyon. I committed to wear my spray skirt all day despite the upcoming heat, as taking unnecessary risks with water intrusion in the cockpit yesterday had taught me a valuable lesson. As I launched off the shoreline in the canyon my shoulder was feeling good and my body felt rested and ready to get out of the canyon before the big boys showed up with their monster wave machines. I cranked up my IPod to me favorite Italian Opera and immediately got into a steady rhythm of song and stroke. I felt extremely motivated to pick up the pace from the beginning and figured the extra sugar in my bloodstream was amplifying my efforts in paddling fast in the morning. My kayak was slipping through the water like a silky slipper and the sun was just bouncing off the canyon walls like a mirror of time. The views were dramatic and gorgeous in the canyon and I literally went into a paddling trance. With each change of song I would match the tempo of the opera in my mind with the paddle stroke on the water. I have paddled enough miles over the years to know about how fast I am moving through the water, so I would estimate that I was clicking along at about 8 mph. Within the hour I spotted Ronnie and Paul fishing along the canyon wall on the opposite side from my location. I stopped in the water for a few minutes to see if they spotted me, however they were deep in conversation and fishing and I went unnoticed. I smiled and reflected about the awesome encounter last night with these two guys and how lucky I felt for the ice-cold beverages. My heart was full and ready to take on the day with no expectations and a joyful heart.
The canyon this morning was my private museum of time with no boat traffic and the glistening water glaring mirror images back at me. There were moments when my kayak appeared to be floating through the shadows in the water and I imagined I was in Italy on a boat in the canals. The scene this morning was completely different than yesterdays paddle into the canyon with the waves from hell battering my EDGE and skill set. As I was paddling through the canyon I spotted something floating in the water, so I paddled over to see what it was. It turned out to be a Wilson tennis ball that I grabbed and attached to my Keen sandals on the bow of my kayak just like in the movie, Castaway. The morning flew by as one moment I left the sandy beach campsite and the next moment I rounded the corner and saw the Navaho Canyon marker buoys. I had paddled out the canyon in less than 2 ½ hours and continued to feel strong and ready for more. I turned left out onto the main channel of the lake and started to head back towards Antelope Marina. Originally I was thinking that the Antelope Marian area would be a great spot to camp tonight and finish up my Lake Powell experience tomorrow. There were a few boats on the main channel, but nothing like yesterday On the other hand, it was only 8:00am and I had a lot of paddling still to do in the morning. I had been paddling for about 15 minutes when I started to feel the push of some waves behind me that were giving me an extra boost of speed forward. It was a cool experience at first, as it felt like I was wave surfing in a kayak. As the waves passes underneath the kayak I would lunge forward a little push at a time. I suddenly realized what was probably happening behind me as the waves continued to speed up and get bigger and bigger. I snapped my head around and saw what was getting ready to hit me from behind. About a mile away two large triple-decker mega houseboats were across the lake to my right making their way down the channel. The waves that these boats had generated had apparently gained strength and height as they moved in behind me. In a split second I went from being in Italy on a canal boat Penichette sipping a fine glass of wine to preparing to sink on the Titantic. The swells became so size able in between crest peaks that I could not get to the top of the crest in front of me before the next one rolled underneath me from the aft. The situation became intense so rapidly that I was mentally preparing to make a wet entry at any moment. When you roll a 16’ touring boat with a spray skirt attached the first thing you must do when you flip is take a big breath of air. It is critical to remain calm, pull the strap to release yourself, push down with your arms, and free your legs from the cockpit. The only thing I was worried about losing in the water were my $500.00 prescription sunglasses. I was only about 20 feet from the shoreline, so I knew if I went in the water I could get to the shore and regroup. The next 60 seconds proved to me whether or not I would make it out of this situation or go in the drink for a swim.
I felt like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway when he was trying to get past the intense break water to escape the island he had lived on for 7 years. My kayak began to slide sideways down the crest of a massive wave and I leaned hard into the wave on my right side to allowed the kayak to skid down the crest. There was no amount of paddling that could help me at the moment, as the boat was only going to stay upright if I could manage the balance tipping point on her edge. I managed to make it over the first 2 crests that rolled up underneath me until then a final wave came at me hard. I was just seconds from rolling the kayak when a sense of peace and calmness came over me. I continued to breath and just relaxed my mind and allowed the kayak to take control of the situation. My yoga training and practice kicked in and I had reached the EDGE of my physical abilities and had to allow the mind to overcome the fear and anxiety of the moment. The final wave passed underneath the kayak and I was freed from the grips of another wave experience that could have gone in a different direction. I felt blessed that I did not lose my Wilson, unlike poor Tom Hanks in the movie. I get to take my Lake Powell Wilson back with me as a moment of my escape from the grips of the big waves.
I decided in that moment that I had enough of the big lake and was going to paddle strong and intensely back to Antelope Marina where I knew I could find a sandy beach for the night. I continued paddling for the next two hours and again made incredible time because of calm water, low boat traffic, and temperatures still in the low 90’s. I arrived at Antelope Marina by noon and continued to feel pretty pumped after my morning Titanic wave encounter. I truly did not want to hang out on the beach and bake in the sun all day. I still had another one of the fantastic sugary Kind Bars and a purple Gatorade, so I said to myself, “Hell Deb just go all the way today to Waweak Marina and get off the water tonight.” I slammed some more sugar poison in my blood stream, which probably sent my body into some sort of sugar overdose as I started paddling for Waweak Marina around 12:30pm. Everything was feeling great with my body, and even my shoulder was not yelling at me yet. The temperatures were hot but tolerable, and my emotional-mental strength remained strong. This was defiantly the marathon day of paddling, as this I estimated today would be around a 50-mile total. I had to pass through a long straight that extended towards the last left turn before the dam. Guess what I encountered? Holy crap heading straight for me was another enormous charter boat with at least 100 tourists onboard. These boats should be on the ocean, yet they are here on an inland land with lots of small helpless vessels. I knew what size waves were coming, so I just prepared my angle of attack and road the bow into waves like a PBR National Finals Rodeo. Of course as you could well imagine that was just the first of 3 more tour boats that I had to wrangle with over the next 4 hours back to Waweak Marina. I am starting to believe that either my paddling skills are drastically improving or I was just too damm tired and sugared up to care anymore. I had not had any cell phone service for two days, so I pulled off the main channel into a sweet little inlet circled cove to take a break. It was nice to get out of the kayak as my back and shoulders were alerting me that muscle overload and shutdown was approaching soon.
I hiked to the top of this beautiful red rock formation that looked like a lava flow of sandstone. I could see the Waweak Marina in the distance, however I knew that it was at least 5-7 more miles to the marina. I had parked the Subaru another 3 miles past the marina at the boat rental dock area. The temperature was close to 100 degrees and I needed to get going or take shelter for the rest of the day. In a split second one of the neatest things happened when I was standing on the top of the mountain. I looked down and suddenly saw my shadow casted upon the red rock surface beneath my feet in the sun. I looked like a warrior standing there strong and confident, perhaps like the brave and proud Native Americans who share their fabulous canyon land with all of us. I snapped a quick picture and finished another bottle of water while hiking back down the mountain.
My little kayak was waiting there for me in the cove and she said, “Get in Deb and paddle me home.” It took me about 3 more hours to paddle back to the car as my body, muscles, and shoulder were pretty exhausted from the long endurance paddle which started at 5:30am. The last mile seamed like forever but was probably only 30 minutes. I could see the parking lot, but my arms were moving in slow motion. I was not in jeopardy of a heat stroke, but with the spray skirt on all day I had lost a lot of body water. There was no one at the car to greet me with a metal as I crossing the finish line. However, for me this accomplishment filled my soul, heart, mind with joy, including lifelong memories of big waves, canyon walls, and cold surprises by a fire.
May the Journey Begin within you…