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Lake Powell Days

Friday, May 7, 2004


Late in the afternoon yesterday I drove down to Ticaboo to spend the weekend working on Kobuk.  The car was loaded with tools and supplies, and a long list of things to be done was in my head.  There is, for example, the matter of installing the radio and its antenna.  Then there is the control unit for the Remote Troll; it has to be run from the stern to the driver's seat in the cabin.  Also, the controls for the Yamaha outboard have to be mounted and the cables run back to the transom where an appropriate exit has to be arranged so that they can run outboard and connect to the engine.   The boat hook has to be mounted.  An arrangement has to be settled on for stowing the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak.  There is a need for a final decision regarding the stowage of the suitcase for the Bike Friday.  It would be good to cut into the fuel line and install a two-way valve so that the fuel can be directed to the auxiliary whenever it is going to be used.  Measurements must be taken to determine the shape and size and general configuration of the essential bookcase to be built into the back side of the control console.  Also, a shelf must be fitted to the starboard side of the console so as to have storage space for the binoculars and sundry items.  What about building a box with multiple compartments that could sit on the dashboard and contain small items such as stopwatch, knives, pencils, and the like?  If so, then measurements must be taken so that it can be constructed in Salt Lake City.  There is the water jug--it has to be mounted somewhere.   And on and on and on.

This morning I get an early start and tackle the radio project first.  As usual, problems arise almost immediately.   It does not matter whether it is the radio, the antenna, the control box for the Yamaha, or the Remote Troll cable--all need special hardware that is not to be found anywhere in this area.  The closest source of properly sized stainless steel screws and bolts is Salt Lake City, 300 miles away.  In each instance, the hardware for the project is provided with the device, but that hardware is intended for use in fiberglass pseudoboats that do not have the sort of thickness to their stock that can be found in Kobuk.  I do manage eventually to find a way to mount the radio and its antenna. but there simply is no way to mount the Yamaha controls because nobody here has the 3.5" screws or the 4.5" bolts necessary to do the job.  The electric cable for that control unit has to run back to the stern out of sight behind the carling, but drilling holes large enough requires a drill bit at least 1.25" in diameter, and I failed to bring with me anything that large.  Nobody around here seems to have anything like that so the job must wait until the next trip down two weeks from now.  Ah, well--I do manage to trim and prep the cutting board for installation on top of the engine box and then screw it into place (although the screws are not flathead wood screws and eventually must be replaced).  Also, I manage to mount the  boat hook--not out on the deck as I originally had planned but actually inside the cabin in the only place I can find where it would not be an obstruction to traffic.  This is not a particularly productive day from the point of view of completing projects, but it is nevertheless relaxing to be down here in the southern silence and warm sunshine working at my on pace on projects that are personal.

Now it is time to watch the sun set, sip wine, and contemplate the proper stowage of the Sea Eagle and water jug.  Both can best be fitted, I think, using straps that do and undo with the plastic clips that are so common nowadays.  They are not common down here, of course, so I will have to purchase them when I get back to Salt Lake.  As for the bicycle, it seems that the best location for it will require removing the engine box, unscrewing the floorboard that sits under its forward end, and cutting off one side of the floorboard so as to
allow the plastic suitcase to slip under the carling on the port side.  As it is, the suitcase is to high to fit under the carling, but with the floorboard trimmed the base of it can sit down a few inches lower, and this would allow its top to tuck behind the carling and be more or less out of the way.  This is a project to start tomorrow--and while the floorboard is removed will be a good time to take on the task of cutting into the fuel line and installing the two-way valve.  Sitting here listening to Pachelbel's Canon and feeling the first touch of evening coolness is enough to revive my spirits.  I think I shall drive down to Bullfrog to eat dinner there.

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Kobuk is situated on the east side of a long, steel building, next to a garage door that opens into one of about ten storage bays arrayed north-south along the length of the structure.  Pier 84, which is the operation that stores my boat, has put Kobuk here because it is the only place on their premisis where I can get access to power.  Because Kobuk is pointed south snugged up against the side of the building, the desert sun beats down intensely in the morning (especially in the early morning before it is high enough in the sky that the canvas top begins to provide a little protection).  By mid afternoon, the building blocks the sun and puts Kobuk in the shade.

Everything goes better today.  After mounting the inverter and measuring the exact run for its cables back to the battery, I turn my attention to fitting the control for the Remote Troll.  For those unfamiliar, this is a Utah product, a bracket with a pivoted plate for mounting a small outboard.  The bracket bolts onto the stern of a boat and a small electric engine pivots the plate left-right in response to a toggle switch on the end of a long cord.  In other words, steering the engine is accomplished not by changing its direction but by swivelling the plate upon which it is mounted.  I installed the bracket a few months ago, but today I need to run the toggle cord and battery wires through the transom, attach the battery wires to the nearby battery, and fish the control cord up to the steering console so that the toggle switch can be controlled from the driver's seat.  It is a simple job and all goes well, but when it comes time to try it out it will not work.  It is as if there is no power.  Eventually, I discover that that is indeed the case: the manufacturers have a fuse installed in the positive battery lead and it takes me time and puzzlement to learn that it is a dummy.  When  at last that foolishness is brought to an end it is time to do a simple task: mount the recently fabricated oak cutting board on the top of the engine box where it will function as the all purpose dining table, cooking counter, and chart table.  This should be the easiest of tasks but lack of appropriate sized screws and proper tools for countersinking the screw heads makes it one of those five-minute drills that end up lasting hours.

Now comes the job of splitting the main fuel line and fixing a supplemental one back to the vicinity of the auxiliary engine.  The insertion of a two-way valve and the running of the fuel line is an easy job, but to do it requires removing the engine box and the entire floor of the boat from the driver's seat back.  This takes time and when at last the subflooring is exposed the sun already has slipped off west far enough to put Kobuk in the shade.

Before reinstalling the floor, it makes sense to cut a big hole in it.  I have with me the moulded plastic suitcase into which Bike Friday stows and now I must find a way to get it tucked away on board as unobtrusively as possible.  The only solution is to cut a hole in the floor that will allow the case to slide down lower enough in the boat that the top can clear the bottom edge of the carling.  That way, the suitcase will be flush against the port side of the hull near the aft end, partially hidden under the narrow topside deck that exists there.  By the time I have repositioned the support stringers for the floor in this particular area, time has run out and I have to postpone the floor cutting project to tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 9, 2004

As soon as the sun is up I am too, and after about an hour of measuring distances and freehand drawing the curved lines of the suitcase on the floorboard, I go at it with the jigsaw and hope for the best.  My expectation is that the laborious installation of this fifty pound heavy, seven foot wide, and three foot deep floorboard--that has to be jockied under the carlings and around the engine and between the frames without banging up the hardwood or scratching up the interior paint--will take about fifteen minutes, after which time the suitcase will not fit correctly, thereby necessitating a subsequent removal, trim, and reinstall.  All the trials of Friday are forgotten in a flash as the suitcase fits into is recessed area as slick as snot.  With that, the major jobs are done and I spend a couple hours cleaning the bilge and measuring for small projects before covering Kobuk with its worn out tarp and heading back to Salt Lake City.
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Saturday, May 29, 2004


Memorial Day weekend is not a good time to head south for Lake Powell.  In the late afternoon when I left Salt Lake City the traffic
Yamaha mounted on sternon I15 was inching along at less than pedestrian pace and it took a couple hours just to get past Provo.  I did not reach Kobuk until nearly midnight, but on the way I listened to The Great Gatsby on tape and that made the time pass quickly. Kobuk was waiting patiently and after uncovering her it was only a matter of minutes until I was asleep in the fo'castle.

My work today is simple stuff.  First I rig up the strapping for restraining the bicycle case, the inflatable kayak, and the large plastic water jug.  Since all that goes without a hitch, I soon find myself rigging the Yamaha outboard.  I hang it on the Remote Troll and then begin the awkward task of running the wiring harness, attaching the control box, installing the gear and throttle cables, punching a hole through the transom, and arranging the fuel line.  The only real difficulty is that these wires and cables have to be fitted up under the starboard carling where the already existing cables (main engine steering and controls) have taken up most of the space and could be compromised if the creation of new holes somehow results in sawing or drilling mistakes that knick the existing installations.  Progress is slow and messy, but ultimately leads to successful completion before the day is spent.  The line passages through the three frames are pure butchery--the most shockingly bad work I have ever done on the boat--but at least it is all hidden away and cannot be seen without crawling around on hands and knees.  So much for perfection.   Enough time is left over to treat the cutting board with mineral oil--a classic case of closing the barn door after the horses have run free since the laminates already have begun to split apart in the dry desert air.  This is one of those very few days when the quantity of finished work is respectable whereas its quality is suspect.  Usually, it is the other way around.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

This morning the recently completed anchor box mounts on the starboard side of the transom with no real difficulty and when at last it is in place I spend a good half hour admiring it.  Then I enlarge the errant hole in the console and fit in the new compass.  After that, the bookcase is attached in the "bedroom" and all the major jobs are done.  I do a number of small tasks before cleaning up and heading down to Arizona to help my parents.

Slipping through Monument Valley during the sunset hour, gazing at the silent red-rock buttes, the prospect of voyaging up the Orinoco with the Guiana tepuis off the port bow conjures in my mind.  In my imagination, the Guiana Highlands appear as Monument Valley cloaked in jungle.  Flat topped buttes and mesas stand high above a flat valley floor and the physical configuration of the land must image that which I see here.  But just imagine it dressed in jungle with a riot of exotic greenery and swollen streams dropping off the upland mesas and plunging into the green cushion far below!  All this will be out of sight off in the distance to the east of the Orinoco, but the enticing prospect of being able to visit this makes all the dreaming and planning and labor worthwhile.  Seven years of dreaming and scheming, over four years, of building, two years of organizing and arranging--all in order to see the grand tepuis in my own manner.  Either I am profoundly different from all those around me or human rationality is a grand illusion.
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Saturday, June 19, 2004


There is a long list of tasks to be done, but the two most pressing are the auxiliary engine and the paintwork.  The outboard still needs to be bolted to the Remote Troll. It also must have the control cables attached, the wiring harness extended, the oil light mounted and connected, and the rpm sensor mounted and wired.  As for paintwork, the whole boat needs a going over--although the most urgent needs are to clean and oil the bare wood surfaces and prep and paint the floor.

As is usual with paintwork, the prep turns out to be more time consuming than the actual  painting or oiling.  It takes most ot the day to do the oak rubrail and the mahogany carlings.  I also manage to properly paint the hole in the floor where the bicycle case fits.  That's it: virtually nothing else gets accomplished this first day.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Things move along a lot more nicely today.  The whole cabin interior gets refurbished and everything having to do with the auxiliary engine--except bolting it on and connecting the control cables--is removed from the to-do list.  There is even time left over to knock off a couple simple tasks like mounting a mirror and reconfiguring the hinged seat top so as to pass by the controls for the auxiliary.

I am thinking of launching tomorrow and staying down here until Tuesday.  It would be good to have Kobuk dockside so that when I come down next Friday (hopefully with Katherine and Nye) we will be able to simply carry gear on board, fire up the engine, and take off.

Monday, June 21, 2004


The longest day of the year lived up to its billing.  I arranged to be launched at 4:00 PM and spent all day prepping the boat for the event.  The main task was to prepare the outboard for its debut but there were plenty of other little things to do.  When the fatal hour arrived, two young men from Pier 84 hooked Kobuk to their big flatbed truck and we started down to the Bullfrog launching ramp.

As usual, I am nervous thinking about all the things that can go wrong, and all my concerns turn out to be justified but overwrought.  As Kobuk sits in the water on her trailer at the bottom of the Bullfrog launching ramp, I turn the key to start the engine and the battery turns the motor over but it will not fire.  Multiple tries exhaust the battery and so the auxiliary battery is pressed into use for the task--but to no avail.  The young men lend me a charged battery pack but its supplemental kick makes no difference.  I finally decide to give up on the main engine and give the auxiliary a go.  It starts the instant I turn the key but it seems I have improperly adjusted the cables that control the throttle and the shifter with the result that the engine idles at a scarily high throttle level and cannot be shifted because of the excessive rpm level.  There is nothing to do but have Kobuk hauled back to Ticaboo, pay the $55 launch and retrieve charge, and move on to plan two.  I remove the two batteries, which the young men take off to the shop for recharging, and--since darkness is about to set in--decide to sleep on the problem.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Both batteries were very low and the young men from Pier 84 are quite convinced that now the engine will start immediately.  It does not, however, and so I go back to take a look at the offending piece of machinery.  I do not really know what I am looking at, but in a sort of semi-automatic manner I press down the two fuses mounted on the back plate next to the computer.  When I do, the bottom half of the relay next to them falls away and I realize that it is disconnected.  As I reattach it the fuel pump starts to click and a turn of the key in the ignition immediately starts the engine.  Should one be distressed at having spent $60 for an abortive launch and retrieval when the engine problem turns out to have been so trivial or should one be grateful that the problem was so trivial?  The answer is obvious.

After adjusting the cables for the outboard, the young men are ready to give me a second try at launching and I jump at the chance.  We run down to the launch ramp and this time she starts flawlessly.  I back away, wave good bye, and head for deep water where a little experimentation proves that the main engine will start consistently and that the auxiliary is now sufficiently well adjusted that idle, shifting, and cruising are all part of its repertoire.  There are still adjustments required since the shifting into forward and reverse happen with a stutter and not with crisp decisiveness--but clearly I now have the problem under control.

After a half hour on the water, I run into the Bullfrog harbor and take a slip.  Throughout the midday heat I feverishly clean and polish Kobuk--attempting to remove the deposition of red rock sand from all the nooks and crannies in which it has lodged itself as a result of two years exposed storage in the desert.  I want Katherine to see Kobuk at her best and I dearly, dearly hope that she will be a guest next weekend.  Working with Kobuk in the water is a luscious thrill.  It reminds me of the days long ago in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor when I would be messing around on Rima with the sound of surf in the distance and the tropical sky overhead.

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Saturday, June 26, 2004


After a night at Hozro and a midday drive along the Burr Trail, Katherine and Nye and I finally arrive at Bullfrog Basin where Kobuk is calmly waiting for us.  We load and organize and cast off in the late afternoon.  Nye is excited: he adopts the sleeping cubby as his home and inspects the grand collection of gadgetry on board Kobuk.   As we leave the harbor, Bullfrog Bay is alive with wind whipped waves that march off towards Hall's Crossing--the direction in which we are headed.  Katherine steers as I do various stowing and battening tasks and Kobuk bounds through the melee with fair athleticism.  It is fortunate that we are going with the flow of things and not heading the wind: Katherine and Nye might find that to be a bit much.  We make for Moki Canyon a few miles up-lake, but when we arrive the boat traffic is intolerable and we look for a way to remove outselves from it.  Our first attempt is to thread our way through the maze of dead, half-submerged trees that clog the upper reaches of one branch canyon.  The theory is that nobody else will try to pass this way.  The theory proves out but when we arrive at the head of the canyon there is no good anchorage, no sandy beach, and no hikable trail.  We give up on this plan and head north up to Smith Fork Canyon where I spent a couple nights a year ago.  Getting there takes an additional hour and our arrival is sufficiently late in the day that other options no longer are possible.  Unfortunately, the water there is stagnant, the lower lake level has put the head of navigation at a rather unappealing spot, and the low ledge across the way already has a collection of campers.  Perhaps tomorrow will be a better experience. 

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Kate in Fish Kissing Bay
Tomorrow definitely is a better experience.  When we awake, the people across the way already have pulled up stakes and abandoned the site.  We organize and drink coffee and eat breakfast and make a plan for the day.  Instead of staying where we are and hiking the slot canyon we decide to look for sand and clean water.  We head out to the main canyon and head up it--farther and farther away from Bullfrog, the only place for dozens of miles where boats can be launched.  The water level is so low that Hite--the marina at the northeast end of the lake--is no longer able to launch and retrieve boats.   Before we get to Good Hope Bay--around mile marker 116--we spot an inlet protected by cliffs and cradling a small beach at its head.  It is empty.  We head in and find our idyll.  All day we swim and lounge on the sand and paddle the inflatable kayak.  Only a handful of boats drone by during the day and most of the hours are silent sentinals.  Katherine takes to stalking lizards with the intensity of a young child and eventually, after many setbacks, finds success.  The little creature is defeated but not vanquished: when Katherine shows him to Nye he bites Nye's finger with his little toothless mouth.  Late in the day, Katherine paddles out in the kayak, out of the little bay and out of sight.  When she returns, she claims to have seen two fish kissing--and our bay becomes Fish Kissing Bay.  People are nowhere to be seen.  We skinny dip and dry off and do it again.  The hours pass without notice and nightfall closes in.  Fish jump.  Bats flit.  The stars come out and the moon inches over to peer down on us from the top of the cliffs that tower above.  It is too perfect to describe.  Kobuk lies in wait.

Monday, June 28, 2004


A calm, still morning with overcast skies and an early skiff of hesitant rain.   A flat lake surface with shimmering riffles.  We bathe and swim before departing and then make an uninterrupted run back to Bullfrog where Dan is waiting at the boat ramp with Kobuk's trailer.   Before noon Kobuk is tucked away at Ticaboo and we are on our way back to Salt Lake City.  Kobuk did her part and I have a weekend to remember in the coming months when I am on the water alone.

This is an end and a beginning.  There are countless small jobs left to do on Kobuk but they are not sufficient to keep her out of the water.  This weekend should be the start or our waterborne career; no more dry land weekends and no more epic bouts of construction and modification.  This is it.

The Yamaha auxiliary will require ten hours of break-in time, but already I know that this little engine effectively solves the problem of maneuverability when the jet is running at low speeds.  When it is in the water it acts as a rudder for Kobuk and greatly diminishes the hull's propensity to skid sideways and veer off course.  She is still cranky at very low speeds but her uncooperativeness is much more predictable then before.  More important than the benefits of the Yamaha, though, are the changes in my attitude about handling Kobuk.  For some reason, this weekend has given me the confidence that I can maneuver her alone.  Much of the anxiety that used to plague me whenever I was launching Kobuk or handling her on the water in tight postions has somehow disappeared.  I now feel as if we will be working together to avoid the worst nautical mishaps.
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Saturday, July 17, 2004


By late in the day, after listening to Conrad's Typhoon on tape, I reach Pier 84 and prepare Kobuk for launch.  All goes smoothly and we have her in the water by 5:30 pm.  She starts without a hitch and I am away.  I head downlake under Yamaha power, cruising along at 3-4 miles per hour.  A couple hours later, shortly before reaching Lake Canyon, I spot a protected bay off to the left with a small stretch of sand that looks good for running ashore.  As I head into the bay, I go astern to drop the aft anchor and with that mission accomplished return to the helm in time to properly run up to the beach and kill the engine.   The auxiliary makes it much easier to accomplish this task alone without running off course.   The bow anchor is set well up the beach and with both anchors out and Kobuk looking secure, I go for a swim in the glow of evening sunlight and then scurry around on the slickrock naked looking for good locations from which to take photos.  The scene is photogenic: golden light pouring across the rounded slickrock haystacks all around the bay and vertical bluffs in deeper red rising out of the blue lake water on the other side.

That night, a growing bank of silvery clouds slide across the star-studded sky and in the early hours of the new day bring thunder and lightning and wind and anxious chop, and even a little rain.  At one point, the stern anchor drags and I find myself out of bed and in the shallow water muscling Kobuk into a better position so as to assure no contact with nearby rocks.  After returning to my sleeping bag next to the engine box I fall back into a fitful sleep and dream of awakening to look over the carling at the blackened scene just as a bolt of lightning casts a pale illumination on the bare terrain and freezes a cougar slinking around the edge of my little bay as he stalks Kobuk and her crew.  Then all goes black and the thunder growls.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


A perfect morning.  With clear skies and rich sunlight and no excess of heat, I lounge around for hours reading and cleaning up and doing small boat jobs such as rerigging the rope pull for the cooler top and fiddling
Near Lake Canyon on Lake Powell (unsuccessfully) with the malfunctioning Yamaha rpm meter.  I take two swims in the tepid water of the bay and sometime after noon finally haul anchor to head farther down lake.  After exploring Lake Canyon, I decide to run at high speed on the main engine for a while.  Four times the engine starts right away only to die some 10-15 seconds later.  I cannot imagine the problem but finally decide that something must be lodged in the jet unit impellers, keeping them from rotating and effectively stopping the engine (There is no transmission; the impellers are turning whenever the engine is running.  Neutral is nothing more than the bucket lowered half way.).   I decide to shift over to the auxiliary and head back to Bullfrog.

I have full tanks of gas for the main engine but the small, plastic tank for the auxiliary is running low and it is not yet possible to use main tank fuel in the auxiliary because the dedicated fuel line I installed for the auxiliary does not have the correct prong for connecting to the engine.  Fortunately, the Yamaha is a fuel miser and the couple gallons left in the plastic tank will be more than enough.  When I get back to Bullfrog Bay I find myself heading directly into a strong wind with 2-3' chop coming right at me.  Kobuk handles it fine, but the steering arrangement for the remote troll is not sufficiently responsive to keep us on course.  After struggling for most of an hour, I change course and angle across the wind and waves, over towards the eastern shore.  Then it is an easy matter to follow the shoreline and gain frequent protection from the full force of the wind and waves.  A couple miles south of Bullfrog I anchor in a bay and take another swim.

Kobuk and I sneak into the Bullfrog harbor sufficiently late that the office for slip rentals is closed.  We find a spot and tie up for the night.  I
hike over to the Anasazi Inn to have dinner and by the time I return bed seems like a good idea.  Just as I am turning in, squadrons of ducks start paddling around next to Kobuk on the black water.  I watch for a while before going to sleep.

Monday, July 19, 2004


When I awake shortly after six the bay is a broad expanse of flat water under still air and in 10 minutes I am under way, heading out of harbor before the port authorities can collect their slip fees.   Yamaha is turning out to be a good friend for I can leave her running while going aft to brew coffee and she just pushes us along at a leisurely pace.  The Remote Troll is not perfect at tracking a fixed course unattended but tending the helm certainly is much less demanding with it than it is with the jet drive.  Using nothing but the auxiliary, I motor around the upper end of Bullfrog Bay, stopping twice to take swims.  After adequate coffee and sufficient relaxation, I decide to tackle the main engine problem--moving the batteries and opening up the jet unit.  First I give the engine one more try.  It starts instantaneously and after running for half an hour convinces me that whatever its problem yesterday it is in a different mood today.  In the early afternoon, I rendevous with the boys from Pier 84 and run up onto the trailer using the auxiliary.

The main task for the last couple days has been to break in the Yamaha which requires ten hours of running time before any continuous operation at full throttle.  By the time Kobuk was pulled, the Yamaha had eight hours on her so the job is mostly done.  As for the main engine, the meter indicates a total operating time of 54 hours.  Kobuk was launched two years ago and so far I have only found time to run her for about 60 hours!  Still, that will change quickly once the trip gets started.

This weekend was very successful because I found myself no longer anxious about operating Kobuk alone.  All the major tasks went well--launch and retrieval, anchoring and weighing anchor, docking and casting off.  These tasks are cumbersome for one person but I am discovering functional routines that get them done with reasonable efficiency.  I no longer worry about setting off alone.  It all began to change last time out when Katherine and Nye were with me.  Until then I was constantly anxious about damaging Kobuk, but with Katherine on board m
SSost of that anxiety slipped away--and it looks as if it is not going to return.
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Friday, August 20, 2004


After having hitchiked down to Hozro on Tuesday, after having spent two days of intense and uninterrupted companionship with Katherine, I left this morning with the Hozro truck and headed down the Burr Trail on my way to Bullfrog Basin.  The arrangement is that I will use the truck to haul Kobuk back to Salt Lake City, but first I will spend a final few days on Lake Powell--testing out systems, practicing seamanship, and remembering the home waters.  When I arrived at Pier 84, Kobuk was waiting with her covering tarp in tatters.  There has been little rain in the past month, however, so the only ill consequence is the usual one--buckets of windblown sand deposited on the floor and under the floorboards.  I am not in the mood to clean it out right away so I head down to Bullfrog to launch.  After having bought groceries, arranged for new tires on the trailer, and done phone calls, I find that launch is complicated by an intense but dry thunderstorm with nasty gusts of wind.  With a fierce cross-wind I get Kobuk off her trailer and recruit a stranger to drive the truck out of the water while I try to avoid slewing into the boat beside me that is being pulled out.  After three tries, I manage to get Kobuk tied off at the courtesy dock and then head up to the Anasazi Lodge to ead dinner whil the storm passes by.  Around seven in the evening, I cast off and head down lake about 20 miles to the Rincon where a well-protected inlet offers itself up.  By the time both anchors are set, twilight has arrived and I spend an hour or so trying to write to Katherine, but the words don't match the feelings and I will have to try again at a different time.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


The weekend crowds are on the lake but the low water levels have discouraged some and the distance from Bullfrog has discouraged others.  There are boats around but the myriad protected inlets and hummocky slickrock shoreline provide sufficient cover to maintain the illusion that solitude and isolation are mine.  Early in the morning I hike up the Rincon, aLake Powell & Kobuk from the Rincon thousand foot high butte surrounded on three sides by a dry oxbow meander and flanked on the fourth by the lake.  I am parked at the foot of the Rincon which rises so abruptly as to look rather intimidating.  The lower two thirds is a very steep scree slope with occasional car sized boulders mixed in with more modest sized slabs of rock.  The top third looks vertical, but Kelsey's guidebook confirms that there is a crack--a slotted chimney--through which the ordinary hiker can pass.  When at last I reach the chimney, the view down below is marvellously distant.  It is late morning now and many boats are out on the lake, silently streaming little white contrails behind them as they scurry around on the blue ribbon.  The chimney itself is a young child's delight, a narrow and sinuous tunnel through red rock facets of vertical walls and horizontal ceilings.  When I arrive on the top of the butte there is another, smaller butte mounted on it and rising perhaps 400 vertical feet.  I spend an hour ambling around it and trying to find a route up, but the only routes seem to be saving themselves for serious mountain climbers.

Back at the boat, I fit the appropriate male prong to the auxiliary fuel line and the Yamaha idles for an hour on this new arrangement, leaving me comfortable that from now on I need only twist the two-way valve under the forward floorboards whenever I want to make a switch between the main engine and the auxiliary.  During the "idle" hour, I connect up the radio and the compass light to the one remaining circuit on the electrical panel and they now both seem to work without a problem.  I spend some considerable time listening to boringly presented weather reports and waiting for the excitement of an sos, but nobody seems to be having any trouble today.

Late in the day I decide to motor back up to the head of Hall's Creek bay in anticipation of a hike tomorrow to the Hall's Creek Narrows--one of the most spectacular slot canyons in the entire Colorado system.  The bay has shrivelled to a quarter of its High Water Level size, however, and when I get to its head I find myself many miles removed from the normal start of the narrows hike.  Still, the anchorage is very appealing because extensive shallows and a maze of dead trees has discouraged all others from entering and I have the entire north end of the bay to myself.  At last the shallow draft and lack of propeller on Kobuk is beginning to pay dividends.  Once again I spend the evening writing to Katherine, and this time the words match the thoughts.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Hall's Creek Narrows.  I would much like to visit this place, but Kelsey's guidebook says that it is a nine-hour hike--some thirty kilometers--and I am a long ways away from where the trail begins.  Ah well, why not try at least?  I set out around 8:30 am and spend almost two hours just wading through muddy streambeds and fields of prickly tumbleweed just to get to the start of the trail.  This is not a promising start and I resolve that the point of no required return will come at two in the afternoon.  Once on the trail, it is possible to pick up the paced a little, but even the trail is not a big help because so few people have used it in the past year.  For two hours I carry on with easy travelling on the benches but real hardship each time a dry streambed must be crossed.  A tangle of tumbleweed always guards the entrance and exit and often an 8-10 foot webbing of tall grasses occupies the bottomland.  Skirting the tumbleweed is slow and scratchy business, but penetrating the tall grass is exhausting work in claustrophobic conditions, often requiring the better part of a minute just to make a single step and push the body that far forward.  There are countless dry washes of this sort that run down out of the Waterpocket Fold to join Hall's Creek and by noon I have crossed at least a dozen.
Hall's Creek Hike
At this point I conclude that I am not going to make it to the narrows and discretion pervails: I turn back.    I left with a water bottle, an apple, and three small boxes of raisins.  The water is half gone as are two of the three packs of raisins, and I can tell that a few hours of hiking has begun to sap my energy.  The return is of course a repeat of all those dry river fordings and in one instance I find myself in the middle of a tall grass thicket that turns out to be at least 100 yards across.  Once into it, it is hard to stay oriented.  Am I headed in the right direction?  I constantly feel as if I am trapped in a giant spider's web and that the only remaining question is when the monster will appear.  At one point, I come across a giant, downed cottonwood--victimized by beavers-- and by climbing to the top of its stump I am able to confirm that I still am headed in the right direction.  Eventually I escape, and resolve to be a little more careful next time.

In the last couple hours, while traversing the zone that has for so many years been a lakebed, I resolve to keep over towards the Waterpocket Fold where occasional slickrock makes the travelling a little easier and where higher elevations make it possible to occasionally view in the distance the general area I am trying to get to.  This proves to be a good idea--until the final couple kilometers when it becomes necessary to wade through endless thickets of tumbleweed, many of which are dead.  As it happens, dead tumbleweek are many times more fiendishly prickly than live ones.  I'm learning a lot today.  At last I reach the mud flats just up valley from the head of the bay, and the dead trees in a dry, baked, hexagonally patterned landscape actually looks good to me.  I remember walking on some of this landscape in the early morning and incautiously step out onto it to take advantage of its clear flat surface.  On my first step I sink to above the left knee and can feel the gradual penetration to even greater depth.  The abrupt stop to my forward motion pitches my upper body forward and my arms go in to the elbows.  Two minutes of huffing and wriggling and cautious extrication from the devilish suction returns me to dry ground and from there on back to Kobuk I am a chastened man.

In the evening, I weigh anchors and head down bay to find a less muddy site for the night.  Up lake from Bullfrog basin, just before Hansen Creek Canyon at mile 104, I find a protected inlet on the northwest side of the lake and slip in there for the night.  There is a nice beach and real protection from the inevitable evening wind gusts, but nobody else has taken up the spot.  Perhaps it is because of the abandoned runabout--outboard and all--abandoned high and dry and stuck in the sand a good five feet above water level.  That plus the nasty looking rock that protrudes a foot or two above water level in the middle of the small inlet give the place a sinister air.  No problem, though: I slip in and drop the stern anchor next to the nasty rock and run the bow onto the beach about fifty yards away.  I have started anchoring stern first, running onto the beach,setting the bow anchor in the beach sand, and then pulling off the beach with the stern anchor line.  This should keep Kobuk waterborne all night long and protect her hull from unnecessary abrasion.
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