Peaceful Transitions in Glen Canyon

(A travel story, now 25 years old. I’m inspired to post it here after a trip to visit my grown son in New Mexico reminded me how much I miss the West.)

The scenery off the bow of our 50-foot houseboat shifted slowly northward as our captain found her “attention arrested by some new wonder.” She indulged her urge to explore and “we found ourselves in a vast chamber carved out of rock.” Slowed to an idle, our boats’ wake lapped back to us from the canyon walls.

The view is of the bowl of stone and natural wonders that hold the waters of Lake Powell. The quotes are by John Wesley Powell, the Civil War veteran  and explorer who wrote more than 110 years ago about the land some 400 feet beneath the surface of the lake in southeastern Utah that bears his name. In Powell’s time, Back then, the only water here was a placid stretch of the Colorado River on its way to the Grand Canyon 75 miles south and then to the Gulf of Mexico.

Powell named the Glen Canyon after the verdant ribbons of vegetation that lined the river and poured over from the ledges and dooryards of ancient aboriginal homes. These cave dwellings of the Anasazi farmers were chiseled from cliffs vaulting hundreds of feet off the canyon floor.

With a gentle shove from the two 75-horsepower outboards, we moored on a sandy beach at the foot of a semicircle of cliffs that rose from the canyon pool about half the height Powell had seen. After lunch and a midday swim in the shadows of the August sun, the grotto narrowed to a crevice in the rock. We gathered in the wheelroom of our pontooned home to plan our voyage. In our first of seven days on the lake, we found ourselves wandering, lured by silent finger canyons off the main lake and ignoring the itinerary we had set at poolside in Page, Ariz. the day before our trip began. After the huddle, except for a consensus about visiting Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural arch in the world, we firmly decided not to decide. Continue reading