Added 18 December 2008
Sunday, 9 November 2008, Smith Fork Canyon, Lake Powell, Utah
(Hover over images for captions. Click images for larger versions.)
We had to pack up camp before hitting the water this morning, as we'd be going straight from Smith Fork Canyon to a new camp down the lake near Moqui Canyon. Since I wasn't using a tent and had minimal other gear, I was the first one ready to go. Clouds had rolled in during the night, greying the morning light, but when the sun broke through the clouds I decided to jump in my yak and try to take some photos. Of course, as soon as I hit the water the sun went behind the clouds again and didn't come back out for over an hour. But it was a very calm morning, so I just decided to float around for a little while in the area around camp and simply enjoy a quiet morning.
I spent about an hour just floating around before I saw some paddle blades dipping into the water. Fine by me. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a much better way to start my day.
We paddled straight across the lake to Smith Fork Canyon. The crossing was calm, but I often thought of how treacherous that simple crossing might be in the high season with all the heavy boat traffic. I smiled, happy that my plan to enjoy the lake in peace was working out so well. We'd seen only a handful of boats so far.
Once across the lake, we kayaked up Smith Fork Canyon, which was far more sinuous than Forgotten Canyon, a fact that I think everyone appreciated. Even so, after a couple of miles I think that, perhaps cognizant of the long paddle down lake later, everyone began to wonder when we'd get to the end of the canyon. Even though it didn't necessarily mean that we were all that close to the end of the lake, I was happy when we started seeing vegetation sticking up out of the water as it at least made us all feel like we were about to reach the end of the lake so we could start our hike.
Near the end of the lake we passed a small stream entering the lake, and I do mean small, barely a trickle running over the rock, but due to the alcove it was in, it sounded like a much more significant waterfall. It was quite an effect. The mouse that roared.
Not long after we reached a boulder field which marked the current high water mark and the beginning of our hike. It was about a 2.7 mile paddle up Smith Fork Canyon to get there with the lake level at 3623 feet.
There was a small stream flowing down Smith Fork Canyon which we enjoyed until it disappeared underground, before the narrows. There were plenty of signs of beaver activity along the way.
Besides myself, only Mindy had ever been in a slot canyon before, so it was a real treat for the group. While there are definitely more impressive examples of slot canyons in the area, the Smith Fork slot is certainly an excellent example. Being in slot canyons is always a thrill for me. They always inspire a sense of comfortable awe in me.
At the spot where we ate lunch and turned around, there was a really skinny slot that I chimneyed up a short distance into. It didn't take long before I got to a spot that I felt wasn't worth the trouble and hazard of getting around, so I turned around. Shortly after, we hiked back to the boats and left Smith Fork Canyon.
By the time we got back out to the main body of the lake, we had paddled 6 miles and I think some folks were a little concerned about how much paddling lay ahead of us before setting up camp. Fortunately, we had a slight tailwind, making the paddling a little easier.
When we reached Hansen Canyon and Crystal Springs Canyon, I took a survey to find out if everyone was up for continuing on to our lunch spot from the first day or if we should find a camp in Hansen Canyon. The election result: Yes we can! Paddle on.
We reached our camp site a little before sunset and the light was phenomenal, so all I did was stake out a sleeping spot up on the hill so I wouldn't have to do that in the dark, then grabbed my camera and started shooting while everyone else set up their tents and hunted for firewood. I probably looked pretty funny wandering around the area abruptly turning left or right and stopping for no apparent reason.
When the light faded, I set up my sleeping arrangements and headed down my little hill to eat dinner with the group. Everyone was drinking again, though in moderation. Early on I accidentally spilled a small amount of soup into my drinking cup, and I ended up drinking a minestrone margarita. Yum!
After everyone went to bed and I climbed up to my camp at the top of the hill, the moon was peaking through the clouds so I decided to try some moonlight photography before hitting the sack. There was a chill wind when I went to bed, but my hilltop location was in a slight depression that sheltered me from almost all directions. Sometime in the night, however, the wind shifted to one of the directions that I was vulnerable from, so that cooled me off a bit, but my sleeping bag was able to handle it.