Thursday, September 27: Day 8 - Powell Canyon
Weather: comfortably cool last night and this morning, high 70sF in the afternoon, light evening breezes
Route: Campsite -> Powell Canyon Trail
- Because of the excellent paddling conditions and because we paddled about a mile further yesterday than our itinerary required and because this was a great campsite, we decided to stay put here for another night. We lingered over our usual breakfast before the 3 of us headed up the dry canyon, following one of the "if we had time" trails we expected would give us access to the mesa above and to "Powell's Overlook" of the confluence. Our non-hiking lady assured us she would enjoy her "me" time in the shade of the cliffs all morning.
- The first part of the trail followed the east side of the canyon so was in the shade until the footpath turned into bouldering, with rock cairns marking the way up. Our first challenge was a climb up a dry waterfall to the first ledge. Hubby found a way using ledge handholds while gripping the silty slanted rock face with his feet. Our young friend started up next but almost fell backwards when one of his handholds crumbled when he put his weight on it. Hubby came back down, put on my backpack and climbed back up onto the ledge. I followed him, carefully and slowly. Our friend did the smart thing - not wanting to risk a fall - and headed back to camp.
- Hubby and I continued following the cairns up the boulders until we reached a narrow slit through an overhead rock. I poked my head and shoulders through, turned slightly to squeeze myself up to a foothold, then wriggled my hips up to the top and out. It felt like passing through a birth canal. The slit was too small for Hubby to squeeze through. If I could report that the trail was passable further ahead he would try to climb around the rock. Alas...the next ledge to scale was an overhang. By balancing on a pile of rocks left by previous hikers I could reach the overhang but would have to pull my whole body weight up with my fingers to get a leg on top of the ledge. Part of Kelsey's trail description says "As you go along, there will be a couple of ledges to climb over, but if the one-armed Powell could do it, so can you..." Nope! I couldn't. It was disappointing because we were only 2 ledges from the top. Too bad I didn't think to take photos. I returned to join Hubby and walk back just as another group of strong-looking fellows was starting up. We wondered if they made it to the Overlook.
- This canyon and the overlook were named after an early explorer, Major John Wesley Powell. He first came to the area in 1869, well after the Spanish, Mexicans, Captain John Gunnison and Mormons had first explored it but his goal was to map and document the entire Colorado Plateau. He mapped several of the side canyons during his 1869 and 1871 expeditions.
- Lunch at camp was the usual Cashew Butter, honey and rye bread sandwiches with nuts and apricots. There was still a little shade on the lower ledges to eat, dry our feet and share the day's experiences. We could have set out to look for the Chaffin Trail back to Water Canyon but it was hot and we were lazy. Hubby scooped up a bucket of river water to settle so we could wash the hiking clothes. We read in the shade for 2 hours while it settled.
- At about 14:30 two canoers passed by, yelling up to us that they hoped to get their preferred campsite at Spanish Bottom before the big group that Tex's dropped onto the Colorado on Saturday took all the good ones. We wondered what would be available for us tomorrow.
- The campsite was already in complete shade by 15:00 (did I mention what a great campsite it was?). After our laundry was done Hubby started another bucket of water to settle and filter for dishwashing later. More reading and chatting for 2 hours. Our young friend's gravity filter cleaned almost 2 gallons of wash water. What was left in the bucket we saved to washcloth ourselves with before bed.
- The hikers we met earlier were returning to their rafts at about 16:30, apparently to sleep in them because we didn't see them again tonight. We hadn't even considered using rafts for this trip but we could see how there might be advantages. 3 rafts floated past (not even paddling) at 17:00 as we prepared dinner -- Punjab Eggplant, green beans, 1 package of brown rice and turkey jerky. Were they saving their strength for the cataracts to come on the Colorado?
- By now our day had a predictable rhythm to it. The Milky Way and the bats showed up again tonight. We didn't miss "all the comforts of home" as we soaked in the joy of this ancient place and our presence at this moment in it. With the realization that our trip was ending soon we lingered to take in all that we could tonight.