Thursday, May 27, 2010



We woke up to cloudy skies. Without any news we had no way of predicting how the weather would be for the day.

The group planned to hike up Slickhorn Canyon, a canyon known for its plunge pools and hanging gardens. In sunny weather it was a virtual paradise, where one could spend hours just relaxing in the warm pools listening to the tricking of fresh water flowing over the rocks. As we hiked up the stream bed, I found a picturesque spot to paint and bid them farewell. Here I saw my view where the water meandered across the limestone rock in an interesting pattern. The sound of the water became almost surreal. It felt as if I was waiting in one of those high-end Feng Shui spas. Maybe some woman would walk up to me with a glass of champagne?

I had been working on it for over an hour when I finally heard them coming back down from the hike. I guess the plunge pool must have been nice.

Slickhorn Canyon 12x16

Our schedule for today was to row eight miles to Oljeto Canyon on the Navajo side of the river. In high water levels it is possible to row up into this side canyon and camp, but at our present level we will be stuck camping on the sand bar by the entrance. The canyon is a favorite amongst river runners looking for a day hike, since it offers spectacular views as it snakes its way up for miles through steep sandstone walls.

We just had to get there!

At one time the old level of Lake Powell came up to Slickhorn Canyon and as a result filled in most of the river from here on out with sediment. For us this would mean weaving our way through sand bars in the middle of the river. Five minutes later we were high centered yelling out expletives on a sand bar. We all had to pile out and push the raft back into the channel. Normally one can see the ripples of the current meandering back and forth across the river, but today the wind was picking up.

The cloud had grown darker as we set out for the afternoon float down the river and soon it was raining. Everybody scrambled about looking for rain coats in their river bags. We hit a few more sand bars and got out to push. I could tell this was going to be a long day. Once in the current we found our speed to be that of a slow walk. It was depressing to say the least. The river was twice as wide here and flowing about the speed of a snail. We kept playing with the idea of just getting out and walking through the shallow water. We could have pulled the raft with the tow line.

An hour later we had gone a mile and the wind was forming white caps on the waves. If we stopped rowing the raft would only blow back up stream. Our only option was to blindly row as hard as we could. With the loss of the canoe we had each gained the weight of an extra passenger. Although it this case it was for the good. We found ourselves switching out for rowing duties, as we slowly counted down the miles until camp.

At last the canyon straightened up and we were able to see the Oljeto Canyon, still three miles away. The wind was howling and I had a feeling we would all feel tired tonight. I noticed the Ducky far ahead, being so close to the water level they were able to slice through the water faster. I saw them pulling into the wind sheltered side canyon of our camp site and started wishing we had something more streamline that the side of a barn. An hour and a half later we finally pulled up to the sand bar at Oljeto.

We pitched the tents under an overhang by the side of the cliff; away from the wind and set up our kitchen part way up the cliff sheltered canyon. At least there was no breeze blowing there. Dinner was going to be lasagna tonight with red wine. Our back muscles were feeling it as we finally sunk down in the chairs with a glass in hand. We all slept well that night.

Richard Boyer

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