March 10, 2014
8:30am, 44.4°, 1015 mbar
Last night the winds were calm and I would have slept soundly but my right shoulder is stiff and painful. It woke me up more than once. At one point I got up to stretch and work the kinks out of it.
Another 10:00am departure (we're not breaking any get-on-the-water records on this trip ;-)).
A short 6 mile paddle through calm waters around Padre Butte brought us into a nice cove with beautiful slickrock dunes undulating up out of the water. We find a nice spot to camp at 37° 01.96 111° 15.87 (if I recall correctly this is nearly the same place that Pippa and I camped three years ago).
The afternoon is warm so after pitching the tent I jumped in the lake and splashed off. While I'm drying off and warming back up I listen to the weather forecast. NOAA is calling for 10-20 mph winds this afternoon and throughout tonight. When I get back to the tent I checked the stakes and tightened up all the guylines.
The sun is reflecting off the slickrock and it feels like 80° but according to my thermometer it's only 60.9°. I notice that the barometer is falling, its reading 1009 mbar.
With an afternoon to kill Chris and Anna take off for a hike while I sit around camp contemplating. At 5:00pm I start dinner. By 6:00pm I'm done eating and gather my gear to shoot a few images, they're still not back and the wind is picking up so I go looking for them. I spot them from the top of a small hill and move to intersect them on their way back. We join up and I listen to them share all the cool things they saw on their hike. We arrive back in camp just as the light is fading and the wind is really starting to kick in.
As we come into view of our camp Chris swears; one of his tent poles is broken and the fabric sidewall of the tent is ripped. Bummer. As they're assessing damages I walk to an overlook to check on the boats. They're fine, high and dry right where we left them but I notice something floating 100 yards offshore in the water. A moment and I realize it's Chris' yellow sleeping pad. I shout to Chris and we scramble into the double and race out to retrieve it, which we do quickly. Whew. He would have had a long uncomfortable night without it. We're lucky we came back when we did, any darker and I'd probably never seen it and we'd probably never have found it.
Back on shore we climb back up the slickrock to look at the tent and see if we can get it fixed. Anna's taken it down and found the repair 'sleeve' (a short aluminum tube that slides over a pole-break) that will provide a temporary fix for the pole. The rip could prove more difficult, perhaps we can tape it together with duct tape. While I go to find my roll of duct tape, Chris tucks his sleeping pad under a large rock to keep it from disappearing again.
Things settle down a bit as Anna works on the tent, Chris starts their dinner and I start to write. A few minutes later a strong gust of wind starts pelting me with sand so I brace myself and close my eyes against the onslaught. While I'm waiting for it to pass I hear Chris yell, I open my eyes and see him take off running. His sleeping pad has escaped from the weight of the rock and it is flying free again! Off it sails, disappearing into the darkness of the bay. Chris scrambles into my single kayak but doesn't feel comfortable in my boat (it's a bit skittish with an empty hull). I help him beach it, find my high-beam flashlight (Fenix E35, an amazing light in a very small package) and we tumble back into the double. We paddle out 100 yards through the waves and scan left and right but there's no sign of it. We paddle another 100 yards and see nothing to the left, looking to the right... again nothing. I take a quick scan behind us; maybe we came too far. There! We spin around and head back, loosing it once and having to take two passes before we get close enough to pull it back into the boat. Relieved we both take a deep breath and start to head back to shore. Crap, we've spun around so many times we have no idea which way to go and can't see anything in the darkness.
We left shore heading downwind so we look upwind and scan the blackness and quickly, thankfully, spot Anna's headlight bouncing around the shoreline as she finishes up cooking dinner. We turn the boat into the wind and paddling hard, head for the light, shore and for Chris, dinner.
I've had enough, so before anything else can go wrong I bid them goodnight and head off to bed. But I doubt I'll sleep since the tent is thundering in the wind. Furthermore, its muggy, I'm sticky and the inside of the tent, including my sleeping bag and pad, is covered with sand. I change into my sleeping thermals and in the process I too end up covered in grit. It's going to be a long night.
Most modern three-season tents are good for two things: rain and bugs. Here at Lake Powell both rain and bugs are in very short supply. Instead what we do have here is sand and wind, in abundance. Maybe it could be done, but one would have to try really hard to come up with a tent that handles the wind and sand combination more poorly than a typical three-season tent. The rain-fly, bath-tub bottom and mesh-upper all conspire to ensure that a maximum amount of fine grit is filtered into the internal living space of the tent ensuring it's occupants the least comfort possible. Yea, you'd have to try really hard.
I'm not in bed for long and several extra strong gusts pound me. Sand kicks up under the fly and sieves it's way through the mesh, coating me and everything else with more grit. Once or twice the windward side of the tent caves under the pressure and flattens against my head. Laying there I'm worried that one of my poles will break and I begin to consider my options.
I resolve to take the tent down completely and wrap myself up in just the rain fly, thinking that will protect me from both the wind and the sand. So I get up and climb out and struggle with the fly to the point where I've got if off and tucked under one arm, mostly. I stand there with the fly flapping about for a minute or two trying to figure out how to extract my pad, bag and other gear from inside, then drop and pack the tent all without anything blowing away. Nothing comes to me but as I'm standing there I notice that the mesh tent by itself isn't impacted by the wind nearly as much as it was with the fly on it. So I leave the mesh walls up, climb back inside, then into my bag and roll around until I'm wrapped up in the rain-fly. I try to sleep.
Tonight will be my last night camping with Chris and Anna. Tomorrow they turn back toward Wahweap while I'll be heading on toward Bullfrog. It's been great having their companionship and experience these first few days but I'm ready to be on my own. To enjoy the solitude and paddle to my own rithym. (Or is it rythum? Maybe rhythm.) (Was it Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, who said "It's a hell of a poorly educated man that can only think of one way to spell a word"?)