November 27 - December 1, 2002: Lake Powell Thanksgiving

One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: March 31, 2008



From:  Alan Silverstein <>
Date:  3 Dec 2002 13:43:00 -0700
Subject:  Lake Powell Thanksgiving trip report

For your amusement, here's an Alan's-eye-view of the highlights of our recent Thanksgiving trip to Lake Powell on the Wildwind II houseboat.

I don't write trip reports much any more, especially for Powell after 26 trips there (and 180 nights now on the lake) in 13 years, but I'm in the mood this time. Once I do start, I could write many pages, but I'll keep it brief(er).


(My wife Cathie Grow had to work one day and had other holiday plans.)

November 27, Wednesday -- Flight Out and Down Lake

Met at Jer/'s hangar at the Fort Collins - Loveland Airport at 9 am. Crammed five people and gear into the plane, hardly a cubic inch remaining (although 100 pounds under gross), good thing no one found time to do extra food shopping (and also that no one else came!)

Wheels up at 10 am sharp. Blessedly smooth flight over the Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park and down the Colorado River, past Moab, incredible canyon country scenery, circled the buoy field at Bullfrog Marina and spotted the new houseboat, landed about 12:50.

Uneventful van ride a few miles down to the Marina Store, where all five of us plowed into food shopping with no prearranged menu, only some vocal coordination, and no cares about prices (just happy they were well-stocked). Amazingly we came in about on target for food cost, and with excellent variety and quantity.

The lake was way low at 3623' (77' below full), and dead quiet, starting at the Marina Store, moreso than I've ever seen, even at Thanksgiving... It was almost creepy.

Met water shuttle by van at the boat ramp, pretty convenient, and on board Houseboat Wildwind at 2:30 pm! All was well, engines fired up great. Short stop at Halls Crossing to ensure propane full (regulator sticky) and top off fresh water. Short cool days (sun up 7:14 - 5:06), almost calm conditions, cold nights.

We pulled into a nice cave at the mouth of Lake Canyon right around sunset a bit after 5 pm(!) Awesome dark skies and stars the first three nights, but cold, 30s-40s.

November 28, Thursday -- Seven Stops, Moriahs Arch

Let's take advantage of all available daylight! We'll get up early (yeah, right), well I had us moving at sunrise anyway. Seven stops on the way to mooring that evening! Driving around the houseboat with no skiboat was pretty fun and easy.

  1. Nosed up to the "miner's steps" and took turns walking up a ways.

  2. Motored up Annies Canyon, observed "Jesus Rock" pinnacle high out of the water, drove the nose into a cave up the left fork.

  3. Dropped all but Dorothy and me at the Elephant Arch for what turned out to be a long hike. While waiting, explained to the nice ranger patrol boat that I was not taking on water, the new boat does list that much (sigh).

  4. Wedged a pontoon on a rock at Alice J Arch, high off the water now, and we walked around the area. No wind, no anchors, mellow.

  5. Set a couple of anchors in Slickrock Canyon, and we all walked 30+ minutes each way to see the nicer Anasazi ruins -- now "repaired" and fenced off! Sigh again.

  6. Pulled up on exposed river cobble islands below The Slope to look at the rocks.

  7. Nosed below the arch (main channel river right below high water) half a mile upstream of Escalante, now named by us "Moriahs Arch" since she chimneyed up the left slot to the top of it.

Getting late in the day and bewaring twilight, we skipped going up the Escalante, and instead grabbed a most excellent sandy beach site six minutes walk downstream from Moriahs Arch, a spot that's almost always occupied in summer. Tremendous sunset/sunrise view of Navajo Mountain and the big bay. I don't think we saw one other boat while we were here -- well, maybe just a couple late in the morning. Discovered that loud yells or boat horns could be heard echoing 7-9 times up to 7+ seconds later! Verifiable vastness and scale.

November 29, Friday -- Twin Edens, Hole in the Rock

KG, DD, and I hoofed up to the base of the cliffs before sunrise... Gorgeous! Then down the wall upstream to eventually visit the arch again, but first I tried finding an up-and-out sandstone route; nope, just too steep for me. I up and down climbed a ten foot wall on the way to the end-of-trail on too-steep slickrock. Took a "bath" (brr!) wearing a wetsuit(!) before leaving... Water about 55 degrees!

We motored across to more cobble islands to examine rocks and hike up to a shallow "crescent cave" to view Anasazi pottery sherds I recently found there. Then the pow-wow agreed, let's put our time into "Twin Edens Canyon," so we did. All the way to the back, tricky anchoring.

Next, a nice mid-day scramble up and walk in past the Bell Tower Window hidden in a pinnacle high overhead, to "picnic rock" overlooking a cavernous deep pool. People scattered to explore different parts; Moriah and I topped out the debris slope below the cliff high in the left fork, then explored the other "Eden" in the right fork. Painfully pretty pools and boulders in a small, lush area where the sun seldom shines. Nice way to spend nearly three hours!

Just enough time before dark to get loose and cross to Hole in the Rock, so we did, and again we had it all to ourselves.

Evenings were long enough for leisurely dinners and lots of reading, conversations, and (unfortunately over-) eating. I slept out all nights, but on the back deck the last night due to overcast and rain/snow. Moriah and Dorothy joined me for some nights.

November 30, Saturday -- Hole in the Rock, Iceberg, Marinas

Another early start for some of us; KG, ME, and I launched up the boulders by headlamp an hour before sunrise, and topped out at the flats above Hole in the Rock just in time to see what little we could of it, although it was overcast and dark. Precip to the north, approaching!

We headed back down the narrow crack after half an hour as it started to snow lightly! (And then rain.) Jer/ pulled some anchors as we approached, I finished, and we were on our way back north by 8:40 am. (Radios are cool.)

The day cleared and warmed up nicely. Mostly we drove back upstream about five hours. We pontooned into Chinle mud near the Rincon to view a fossil stump and some septarians, then side-tripped into Iceberg Canyon. I just had to put the nose of the boat into the awesome "pyramid cave" I first discovered around 1991, which had been underwater until this summer. Then a quick view and turn around at the first right finger. No other boats here, glassy water, silence!

Entered Halls Marina at 3 pm. Self-serve gas, no propane available, sewage dock closed, a ghost town. Over to Bullfrog, do that duty, no running water at the sewage dock, another ghost town! Nav lights don't work, so head for the buoy, but we ended up by popular consensus instead beaching 0.8 miles north as it got dark.

December 1, Sunday -- Flight Home

Leisurely morning, meaning we left the beach at 8:30 am to put the boat on the buoy. Water shuttle, land van, wheels up from the airport (stuffed even fuller now with most of the leftover food) at 11:23. The flight back was even more incredible across Canyonlands, and then as we VFR'd through complicated, stable, multi-layered cloud decks. Watching Jer/ show off his mountain flying skills was awesome.

We picked our way across Grand Junction and down to Paonia to refuel, then up over Keebler Pass and Cottonwood Pass, across Buena Vista and Redrocks and up the Front Range. Spectacular! And I was home by 4 pm!

And... All this cost only about $102/person for the boating, and $125/person for the flying!