This past Sunday, Jon and I found our way to Lake Powell in Page, Arizona. This was a part of the trip we had both been anticipating. Our plan was to rent kayaks, set up camp across the lake on Antelope Island, then kayak through the canyon to the lower entrance to Antelope Canyon, and hike to view the amazing slot canyon inside. No big deal!
We arrived at the kayak rental place and easily strapped the kayaks onto the car, arrived in the marina and packed the kayaks as sparsely as possible with only the essentials: wood, tent, sleeping bags, water, a freeze dried dinner, camera, and a change of dry clothes.
As we kayaked out into the clear waters of Lake Powell, we grew bold in our desire to find the perfect campground. Let it be known that Jonathan was the driver in this cause and I was the innocent bystander, hauling our load of wood quietly as he pushed us further and further down the lake.
Eventually we camped at the first site we had scouted and set off on our trip into the canyon. Weather stations predicted a passing thunderstorm at 4 pm, our trip into the canyon began at 1. It took us 30 minutes to cross the lake, and another 30 to make our way through the canyon to the hiking point.
Once inside Antelope Canyon on foot, we were mesmerized. The landscape kept changing around every bend and the rock formations became more incredible with every step we took. We saw an owl, perched high up and hidden in a little hole in the stone. We saw lizards everywhere and heard the call of whatever birds circle this area. The sky blazed a bright blue through the crevasse of stone walls and not a cloud was in sight. Rain seemed impossible and we continued our hike.
Despite the current weather conditions, I kept feeling a certain apprehension as we hiked further. If the weather changed, we had a long trip back to our campsite. After seeing a gnawed-on bunny leg and hallucinating the sound of a growling animal, I insisted we turn back.
Wed hiked for 2 hours in the canyon by the time we got back to the kayaks, and it was exactly 4 pm. No thunderstorm yet, but the sky was slowly turning a light gray and the blazing blue clear skies were gone. Still, we got in the kayaks in high spirits, thinking wed successfully used the weather report and our observational skills to make a good decision about how long to stay and when to turn back.
Fast forward 15 minutes, when we were 1/3 of the way through the canyon and the winds had picked up to nearly 20 MPH. The water was choppy and the currents pulled us back into the canyon. Jon chose a rocky enclave to quickly regroup. The water was sloshing over the kayak, and it now felt urgent that we get out of there as soon as possible. Of all the things our rental dude had warned us about, unpredictable wind speed was #1.
For all the times I’ve felt fear, I would say this moment – barely tucked into this rocky enclave, amidst cold choppy waters without cell service, an hour from the shore – was one of the most scared I’ve ever been. The only way we were getting out of there was if we did it ourselves, and I really didn’t know if I could. But I wanted to, and I was willing to try.
After a real struggle, we made our way to the mouth of the canyon, where the winds were still strong but much more manageable. We found our way back to our campsite. It had taken us twice as long to kayak the return trip as it did on the way in. An undercooked freeze-dried dinner of chickpeas and rice has never tasted so good.
I’m not sorry we took the risk we did. In the moment it seemed stupid and to be honest it sounds pretty stupid now that I read this. I don’t encourage anyone to go against the advice of a seasoned guide or trusted weather station. And we didn’t not intentionally. But, we didn’t listen very well either. This trip taught me something about myself that I don’t think I would have truly learned in my heart any other way that if I want something badly enough, I am strong enough to achieve it, even in the face of fear or doubt. I hope I can hold onto this earnest, truly hopeful feeling long after this trip is over.