Friday, December 14, 2012

Beach Camping, Utah/Arizona

(First, I must admit to being lazy.  I should have written this blog almost a week ago when it all happened.  Anyway, better late than never...)

Camped at Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell
Our next stop is Page, Arizona, only a few miles from the Utah border and about one hour from Kanab (our previous stay).  We camp right on the shores of Lake Powell just 7 miles northwest of Page inside the Utah border.  It has been 4 years since we were last in Page, and at that time we never made it to the lake (we also didn't have the trailer then), so this time it's a must.  We are the only ones camping here besides the campground host (this is an official primitive [no services] campground of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and a small nightly fee is charged), but we have the entire beach to ourselves.  Last time we were in this area, we visited Antelope Canyon, a brilliant slot canyon with hues of orange, yellow, purple and white depending on the light rays penetrating into the canyon, and Horseshoe Bend overlooking the Colorado River some 2,000 feet below cliffs that would excite the Wallendas - and Brad who sat on the edge of the abyss... we will forego these sites on this trip.  We pass most days here this year chilling out on our beach chairs.  It's just too peaceful here to go anywhere, and with views of the Vermilion Cliffs, the deep blue lake and Navajo Mountain in the distance, what more could we want?  Lone Rock sits several hundred yards out front of us.  We can see how low the water level is (about 87 feet below "full pool" or 54% full) by the bleaching on the bottom of the rock walls all around the lake.  Many marinas are closed because they are unusable.  Wahweap Marina, a few miles east of us, is still open and full of beautiful boats.
Campfire on the beach, Lake Powell

Wahweap Marina, Lake Powell
Grady and Marilyn walking on the beach at Lake Powell
 We expect Grady will love going for walks here because of the sand and wide open spaces, but the opposite proves true.  The sand is wet and hard in most places because of the cold, damp nights, so he doesn't roll around in it much like he did the soft, red sands of the dry creek beds in Utah.  He also seems afraid of the lake, which he won't go near.  He's very interested in the coots swimming there, but only as a cat watching birds.  And the ravens - these really frighten poor Grady because they start to attack him from the air.  They swoop at him, looking like they will pick him up in their talons.  I have to hover over the poor kitty to keep him safe.  I didn't think these scavenger birds actually hunt, but I guess they will - or perhaps they are trying to scare him away from their territory.  But Grady's last straw is the Russian Thistle (tumbleweed) bushes that forest a soft sandy area between the NRA road and the lake.  This plant, found throughout the desert regions of the southwest, are vicious, at least this time of year when they are dried up and consisting of only tiny pea-size spheres coated with tiny thorns that stick to everything including the rubber soles of our shoes.  And they hurt.  So here's the story...

Carrying Grady in my sweater (thistles in background)
It's our first day at Lone Rock Beach and we take Grady out for a walk.  At first, he's content walking about 20 feet from the shore, eyeing the water but not getting too close.  Or maybe he's interested in the single female mallard who is swimming beside me, quacking at me as I walk on the beach.  We head away from the water and suddenly the ravens (there are about a dozen flying around or sitting on the sand) start to circle Grady.  A few swoop at him and the cat seems to become frightened.  Maybe he realizes that he is out in the open with nowhere to hide - whatever the reason, Grady heads for an area where the Russian Thistle is growing in abundance, like a miniature forest.  We let him wander around the bushes (thankfully the prickles don't stick to his fur), but now to get him back to the trailer, across the open sand with ravens circling overhead.  I start to lead him back (it's maybe a 1/4 mile) and he starts to follow as he usually does, but then he takes a 90 degree turn and heads down the beach.  I follow him, trying to catch him - impossible.  He keeps a few steps ahead of me recognizing the game.  Determined to get him home, I throw my sweater over him and pounce on him, wrap him up and try to carry him back.  Now, Grady is not a cat who likes to be carried - ever!  He squirms so violently with all claws reaching in all directions, and he eventually knicks my wrist.  I put him down and scruff him.  "Let him follow you back," Brad says.  I believe this to be a mistake, but I let him out of my sweater and try to lead him back to the trailer.  Grady turns and walks back to the Russian Thistle plants.  Brad follows him while I go back to the trailer to get his carrier.  When I return, Brad announces that he lost Grady somewhere in the thistle bushes.  These bushes are about 3 feet in diameter and dense!  It turns out that Brad started to chase him, trying to get in front of Grady to turn him back around to the trailer, and Grady proceeded to jump into the middle of a thistle bush!  As Brad was figuring out how to get Grady out of the bush, Grady ran through it and disappeared on the other side!  Now I have a lost cat.  But after about 10 minutes of searching (and calling), I see a little gray face peering out from under a bush.  As I get closer, he meows at me.  Whew!  I open the carrier, put it down in front of him and he scoots right inside.  Mission accomplished!  Back at the trailer, I release the thistle-jumper and - he's perfectly fine.  Not a scratch!  There are one or two thorns (not the full thistle ball) embedded into his fur, but not his skin, so I pull them out.  Grady is very spooked and hides for about an hour, but is fine after that.  Except, he doesn't want to go back outside.  Maybe that's a good thing!

Glen Canyon Dam
The only activity we muster the energy to do is to take a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam.  The only other couple on the tour is from Ottawa - what a small world!  Our wonderful tour guide explains the building of the dam and bridge which was completed in 1963, tells us about the water levels of the reservoir (Lake Powell), how much water must be released for downstream consumption (the Colorado River supplies water for agriculture, power, municipal use and recreation to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, as well as Mexico), and answers every question skillfully.  This dam is only 16 feet shorter than the Hoover Dam on Lake Mead (downstream).  The town of Page was built originally to house the dam workers and today is home to over 8,000.  All of the land surrounding the town is either federal (the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which feeds into the Grand Canyon National Park about 15 miles south) or Navajo Nation Reserve.  It is beautiful country, and the Colorado River and Lake Powell only enhance this stark, arid landscape.

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