Lake Powell Adventure 2006 – Day 5

Synopsis: Hike Cottonwood Canyon, then eat Thanksgiving dinner. (Thanksgiving Day, November 23.)

Sometime early in the morning, Kathleen appeared at the top of the stairs (Erin and I were sleeping in a tent on top of the boat) raving about a sunrise. It was pretty fabulous all right, but not enough to keep us up.


Spectacular sunrise the morning of Thanksgiving Day.

Photo by Kathleen Gruetzmacher.
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Our houseboat’s registration certificate. Observe the entry for “Expires Last Day Of”, considering that this photo was taken on November 23, 2006.

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Camp in Cottonwood Canyon.

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After breakfast, Ginger kicked us out of the boat — she needed space for cooking Thanksgiving dinner. We headed up the canyon to explore. This was the only day of the trip where we could spend the whole day hiking, with no need to move the boat.


Map of our Cottonwood Canyon hikes. Today’s was the long hike up the canyon.

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Lower Cottonwood Canyon.

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Lower Cottonwood Canyon.

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Don had found some ruins the previous day, and gave us directions to them. They were in a side canyon, and we picked one that had two lobes that looked like Mickey Mouse ears.


Entering the side canyon.

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The two-lobed side canyon. No ruins, unfortunately, so we headed on up Cottonwood.

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Upper Cottonwood Canyon.

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Eventually we came to the upper part of the canyon. We were on a bench above the creek, and below there was a trail and signs marking the path of the continuation of the Hole-In-The-Rock wagon road, which followed Cottonwood Canyon from the river and then ascended the head of the canyon to a pass before following the San Juan River to Bluff.

Melissa, my dad, Erin, Petey, and I climbed down to the creek, while Kathleen and Martin followed the escarpment up into a side canyon.


Descending from the bench back to creek level.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Martin and dual cascades in one of the upper branches of Cottonwood Canyon.

Photo by Kathleen Gruetzmacher.
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Cottonwood trees.

Photo by Kathleen Greutzmacher.
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Cottonwood Canyon.

Photo by Kathleen Greutzmacher.
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We started to follow the road up and up away from the creek. In this area, there was heavy erosional damage, apparently from grazing. Petey decided to hang out and wait for us.


Hole-In-The-Rock Road as it climbs out of Cottonwood Canyon.

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Eventually, Melissa and my dad turned around too.


My dad and Melissa above Cottonwood Canyon, at their turn-around point. Hole-In-The-Rock is visible across the lake in the distance.

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Melissa, Erin, and me on a ledge near the Hole-In-The-Rock Road.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Erin and I set a turn-around time twenty minutes hence and charged upwards.


The Hole-In-The-Rock Road as it approaches the top.

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The turn-around grew closer and closer, and the top seemed like it was just over the next rise, but each rise had just another beyond. We went faster, panting, and I talked Erin into “just one more” several times. Finally, we reached the pass and a very big view.


At the pass on Hole-In-The-Rock Road. The Colorado River Basin, Hole-In-The-Rock, and the Kaiparowitz Plateau are visible on the right, while on the left the ground falls away toward the San Juan River Basin.

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We returned, much more slowly.


Along the creek in Cottonwood Canyon.

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When we finally arrived back in camp, we were very tired. After a break, however, I went out with the shovel and spare oar and started in on the giant field of tumbleweeds near camp, ripping them out and stacking them into a big pile.

Soon it was dinnertime. Dinner was great, but afterwards I put on my headlamp and went back to harvesting tumbleweeds. Finally, after having spent over two hours stacking them, I had a huge pile of dry tumbleweeds, perhaps 12-15 feet in diameter.

Obviously, there were ulterior motives. I called everyone over and set the thing on fire.


Me with my creation.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Tumbleweed fire.

Photo by Gracia Coffin.
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Tumbleweed fire.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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Tumbleweed fire. This frame gives the best sense of the scale of the beast.

Photo by Kathleen Gruetzmacher.
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It was mostly gone in about 30 seconds, and there was only a little bit of escaping fire that I had to tamp down desperately with the shovel. My dad estimated its power output at 30-40 megawatts.


Aftermath of the fire.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
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I was pulling tumbleweed spines out of my clothes for the rest of the trip, but it was worth it. My new goal is a 100MW tumbleweed fire.

Please continue reading on Day 6.

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