A convergence of mind, a lake, and a kayak.
Author Eric Theissen fulfills a longtime ambition of paddling Lake Powell in a kayak. In this book, he relates many aspects of the paddle – the fullfillment, musings on topics far and wide, and a tongue-in-cheek look at the many “creatures” (boats and boaters) he encounters on the way.
Targeted Age Group:: Any
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
An article I read in an outdoor magazine when I was young chronicled two writers who had explored Lake Powell in Kayaks as the lake was still being filled. It was something that stirred my imagination and was determined to do.
After a couple of decades doing other things like marriage, career, et al, the opportunity arose. Determined to journalize the experience, I kept a detailed log of the paddle from Wahweap Marina to Rainbow Bridge and back – a 10-day journey.
More than a trip, I found myself reflecting in solitude on many facets of my life, and that reflection found its way into the book.
Finally, I was determined to learn more about this controversial lake and devoted the last half to the historical, geological, political, and ecological aspects of its genesis and subsequent existence.
The paddle through Cathedral Canyon yesterday afternoon was
intense. One of the visions I had while planning and launch-
ing this trip was of probing impossibly narrow canyons, wedged
between vertical walls, the path twisting through labyrinthine
passages—each turn presenting more fantastic scenes.
Cathedral Canyon was the ultimate fulfillment of that vision. On approach, it didn’t look much more spectacular than any of
the other canyons I had been in, but entrances can be deceiving.
The entrance to Cathedral is a bay flanked by rounded, beehive
forms of sandstone—Navajo with no capstone to protect it.
I pointed the bow down the bay to a narrow neck between two
large rocks. The real canyon had to be back there.
On approach, a couple of kids on jet-skis came blasting out of
the neck. They made a mosquito-gnat kind of sound and every
once in a while, one would wipe out. I just gritted my teeth and
continued towards what I hoped would be solitude.
I paddled through the narrow neck, the beehives and jet-skis
were behind me—a stroke on the left, a stroke on the right, re-
peat, and I entered the secondary approach. Now the cliffs were
closer, more abrupt. Behind the temporary constriction, the
channel opened up into another bay, smaller than the first, that
veered to the right. Sunlight played on the cliffs and the desert
up above, shadow turned the water deep green.
The next passage was narrower still. I followed it around a cou-
ple of bends and then into another small open bay. The bay was
flanked on the right by a perfectly sheer cliff some 300 feet high.
Ahead lay another cliff with a massive fracture joint splitting its
face. “A climber would have a great time with that,” I thought,
and paddled along the left side of the bay. The water smoothed
to glass and occasionally dripped from the paddle on to my wrist.
It felt warm.
The channel twisted to the right again and narrowed, ten feet
wide. I looked straight up and could see the band of blue that
was the sky between the curving walls. I stroked through, study-
ing the walls, burning every sweep and line, every little pro-
trusion and cavelet into my mind. I wanted to remember this
Around the next corner, the channel opened again into a com-
pact bay. Numerous side channels exited from the bay—I took
one directly opposite the entrance and followed it.
Here, the walls were so narrow I couldn’t hold the paddle hori-
zontally. I had to hold it vertically alongside the boat and then
flip it to the other side sharply to continue paddling.
“How far does this go back and how narrow does it get?”” I
Eventually, there was no room for the paddle at all. I lay it along-
side the gunwale and pushed my way along the channel using
my hands against the cliff walls—first one hand, then the next.
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