The team visited our favorite canyon yesterday. Bowns Canyon. At the end of the short inlet we found a 25ft Wingate-sandstone dry fall. Luckily, a short rope dangled down to assist our climb, but exiting and securing our boats was still quite a task. The slimy film that coats everything beneath the waterline in the reservoir made getting out of our boats nearly impossible. In the end, I jumped clean out of my kayak, swam up to the exit point, and used Indian Creek crack climbing techniques to shimmy and claw my way out of the water. Eventually, I had the boats secured with a throw bag. Courtney performed some circus acrobatics of her own, balancing across the rocking boats to retrieve our lunch, and we scrambled up the friction dry fall to munch on Oreos, tuna wraps, and apple with peanut butter.
Our hike started out dry. Quickly though, as the canyon opened up and we climbed up onto a large bench of Kayenta Sandstone, we spotted countless springs running down from the point where the Kayenta layer met the towering buttes of Navajo Sandstone that towered over the canyon. I hiked up to one such spring, tapping a stick ahead of me to warn rattlesnakes in the deep undergrowth. A majestic, 100-foot alcove awaited me, guarding a large pond, which was adorned with all manner of water-loving desert plants. As we continued up the canyon in the afternoon light, more and more water found its way to the smooth sandstone floor. Soon, knee deep pools of clear cold water, hundreds of feet long, rippled beneath gnarled cottonwoods, which wore a coat of brilliant, fall yellow. At the end of each pool, tiny waterfalls, dotted with moss and ferns, splashed away merrily. We hiked up to the East Fork before returning to one exceptionally long and deep pool for a hearty drink and evening plunge. We lingered for a while on the sandstone ledges near the oasis, dripping dry and stretching away the day’s weariness.
As always, returning to the reservoir was something none of us was very keen on. After spending three hours in Eden, I faced the inevitable return with tepid nihilism. When we exited the canyon and the lapping waters came into view, we were greeted by the oppressive and unnatural silence we had come to expect from the dead waters. Upon our return to the main channel and its fetid depths, any illusion of the wild that Bowns had created was shattered by the thrum and whine of speedboats festooned with recreationists and their respective coolers of Coors Light. That night, as we paddled through a stiff wind to the mouth of what was once the Escalante River, I savored our few hours spent lounging in the lap of the wild, our unadultered paradise separated by a few canyon bends and a steep scramble from the weekend hoards and their roaring machines.