To get to Lake Powell you have to either fly or drive to Page, a small city of 8,000 people. There’s not much to do in Page, but there is a good Native American shop to browse and it’s where you would go to catch the jeep tour to Antelope Canyon, where the sun beams its light through the slots in the canyon to give it an other-worldly, heavenly feel. That particular canyon has been the backdrop to a number of movies, and tourists from all over the world come to stand in the sand beneath the light shaft and have their pictures taken. The walls of the canyon—a petrified dune–are so varied and shaded that it’s like walking around Nature’s museum of abstract art.
There’s also a golf course in Page, which is worth playing if you don’t mind losing a lot of balls in the rough. The fairways are narrow and undulating, the greens are anything but flat, and the course is challenging enough to make you want to play it twice. You can rent clubs, which I did, and buy balls (I needed a dozen!), and, for a $40 green fee, play eighteen holes in under four hours. The one hole I most remember was the fifteenth, a par 3 that began on a cliff 120 feet above the green. My card said it was 173 yards away, but it looked more like a mile, and with the wind, I figured driver. I gave it a whack and had the great satisfaction of watching my ball sail high up into the sky and fall twenty feet from the pin. Forget that it took me three putts to score my bogey, my memory of the course will be that tee shot. And when you play golf the way I do, all you need is one memorable shot to keep coming back.
It’s only a fifteen minute drive from Page to the Lake Powell Resort, efficiently run by Aramark, a service company that employs over 200,000 people worldwide. The two-story resort is inside the Glen Canyon National Park and is conveniently situated at a marina, so it’s just a short walk down to the lake. Most activities are lake-oriented.
I managed to convince a group of friendly people who had rented a luxury houseboat that if they could tolerate me for one night, I’d make sure I didn’t mention their names in the article I was writing. They had an extra bed and welcomed me aboard. They also had a private chef, who came to make them breakfast, lunch and dinner, for the standard price of $400 per meal. I thought at those prices, why not just go shopping at the supermarket in Page first and cook your own meals, and save all that money? But that’s just me thinking….the people who can afford spending $12,000 a week for this wood-paneled 76-foot houseboat, equipped with a big screen satellite TV and a hot tub on the upper deck, what’s another $1200 a day for fish kabobs, slabs of meat cooked to perfection, and fancy deserts? The people on this particular houseboat played board games and cards, went jet skiing and water boarding, drank a lot of expensive wine, and swam in every narrow tributary they could explore off the lake. I had no problem joining in their fun, though I couldn’t get used to the sound of the toilet flushing in the middle of the night. When you are living in close confines, in spite of all the luxuries, those late night/early morning visits to the loo are one very good reason not to have to share space with strangers. But my night was cozy. The bunk-style bed took a few steps to reach and the small light on the wall reminded me of youthful days in a tent reading by flashlight. You take your chances when you commit to houseboating, but I’d have to say, just seeing the number of boats out there, that a lot of people come away with positive experiences. As one owner told me, “You never realize how many relatives you have until you own a houseboat.”
My favorite day at the lake was the morning I took my own 20-foot powerboat out to explore some of the canyons. After putting down a $400 deposit, I was given a brief instruction on how to operate the speedy boat: shown how to put it in drive, neutral and reverse and where the throttle was to increase or decrease the speed, and then out I went to see how daring I could be on the water. After figuring out how to get out of the marina (I hit three cul de sacs before finding the right finger into the larger lake) I pushed the throttle to three-quarter speed. The wind blew the hat off my head and that was fast enough for me. I found my way to the ninth buoy (the buoy’s are the way you learn to navigate the lake) and there, in small lettering around a white buoy, was Navajo Canyon. I veered right and entered. Alone, by myself, no one else around, surrounded by the salmon-colored canyon walls. I pulled back the throttle to slowly take it all in. It was very spiritual.
Back at the resort, which on a scale of one to ten, I’d rate no higher than 6 ½, I ate buffet-style breakfasts, veggie burgers for lunch (after being told that the only way to order a hamburger was well-done because the resort is part of a national park, and in national parks they fear mad-cow disease, so all meat must be cooked black), and salmon or halibut for dinner. The gift shop had some interesting books about the area and assorted tee-shirts and Native American jewelry. There were two outdoor swimming pools, which were nice to soak in during the times when the sun wasn’t directly overhead (it gets very hot in Arizona, with the temperature easily rising above 100 degrees). And there was a small exercise room where one could run on a treadmill, bicycle or lift weights—activities best done in the early morning.
Not being a boating person myself, I must say that I enjoyed Lake Powell. The tourists who came spoke dozens of different languages. There wasn’t a drunken college spring vacation feel to the place, as it’s a bit pricey for young folks, who are better off hanging around public beaches in Miami or Acapulco than having to fork over $400 deposits just to rent a powerboat, and another $400 to pay for its use. The heat was oppressive, but it’s a dry heat. And the sandstone mountains and cliffs were inspiring. If I had seven or eight friends I could tolerate for a week, I could see recommending renting a houseboat. And if those friends became intolerable…there’s always the resort to check into.