Friday, November 21, 2014

A Portage and A Paddle in the Mohave Desert - April 7 - 8, 2013


Map of portage and paddle; White Hills, AZ to Cottonwood Cove, NV
Map of portage and paddle; White Hills, AZ to Cottonwood Cove, NV

One portages a kayak across land to connect two bodies of water or to avoid obstacles on a river. This portage, however, was from my house to the water, a distance of 28 miles, where I usually just drive my truck. Why in the world would I portage this distance? I have no idea, maybe to see if I could do it. But for some reason I had had a hankering to do this for quite some time. And so now, it was that time. 


The route was 28 miles and had an overall elevation drop 3784 feet, yet along the way there was 1000 feet of climbing to do and all of it on desert dirt road. 


Distance and Elevation Profile for House to Willow Beach Portage
Distance and Elevation Profile for House to Willow Beach Portage


My plan was to portage from my home in White Hills to Willow Beach and then paddle to Katherine's Landing.

 
Seda Glider outfitted for a desert crossing...
Seda Glider outfitted for a desert crossing...
   


I left my house on Sunday morning at 4:10 AM hiking, pulling my kayak down to the water at Willow Beach, 28 miles. 


Portaging out of White Hills
Portaging out of White Hills


Physically, it was kind of hard, no sugar coating that. But once the sun was up, I couldn't stop myself from stopping to take pictures. 


Portaging across Detrital Valley
Portaging across Detrital Valley


The desert was completely alive with Spring. Sadly, my camera ran out of juice part way through the portage, sad because there was so much more to share, sad because I did not get any photos of the paddle portion. 


Portaging across Detrital Valley
Portaging across Detrital Valley


After my camera was kaput, I did employ my GoPro as a camera for a few shots, but the quality is not as good. I arrived at Willow Beach at 7:10 PM.


Descending into the Black Canyon
Descending into the Black Canyon


It took 15 hours to accomplish that portage, seemed slow to me, but it was all I could do. 

I paddled into the night remarkably fast considering I was so worn out from the hike. I always love paddling at night but on that night; the paddling was fabulous. The air was blustery but warm, I paddled without a shirt, I wore just my pfd as an upper garment. The silhouette of the cliffs against the night sky full of stars was unbelievable. I could not stop arching my head up to look. I was so happy that I was right there at that moment; on this planet of ours, in that canyon, on the water, in the dark, moving forward from my own physical exertion, seeing and feeling all of it. I felt so lucky.

Although after 12 miles, my feet and hands were screaming. I am just not recovered from the Everglades Challenge, a 300 mile kayak race I had done just a few weeks earlier. After crawling into my tent, I just laid there for two hours, my body too in shock to fall asleep.

The winds blew throughout the night; though my camp was in a sheltered cove, at one point the swirling gusts lifted the bottom of my tent up 3 feet (at least!), I awoke with my feet pointing up to the stars. My comment to the wind was, “Are you kidding me?”

In the morning, the cliffs, and the sky, and the clouds, and light were biblically beautiful. But paddling into winds of 40 to 45 mph, with ferocious gusts up to 60; it was alternatingly toilsome and exciting. Movement forward was slow, at 3 mph, slower than I would have liked. But I would not have wanted anything else but to be there on those waters paddling; the dark blue waters, the whitecaps, the vibrant skies, the Vultures soaring as gracefully as they always do, the Coots in the hills and valleys of the waves acting as though nothing is out of the ordinary, the occasional Grebe surfacing from its dive surprised to see me and then diving again.

Then suddenly the headwinds stopped, the water contained barely a ripple, the overcast became thick, the clouds lowered, visibility was reduced to 5 or 6 miles, the sky and water were gray. Rarely do we see sky and water like this in the desert. It was beautiful and I was moving fast again and after downing a 5 Hour Energy Drink, I was feeling no kind of pain in my hands or feet… just reveling in the beauty that surrounded me… seeing Egrets standing on Salt Cedar snags… listening to the bantering and carryings-on of the Grackles… watching a Red Tailed Hawk in a steep and determined dive… paddling across aqua green shallow waters as I cut the cliffs… and the feeling of my paddle engaging the water… pulling my boat forward smoothly, trying my best as I always do to perfect my stroke… I could not have been happier.

I paddled the last 14 miles to Cottonwood Cove at 5.6 mph. My original intention was Katherine’s Landing another 20 miles, but on that day, Cottonwood was just fine. I ate at the Cottonwood Bay Cafe, laid down by my boat on the beach, and napped in the Spring weather of intermittent sun and occasional sprinkle.


Link to some photos are here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.462381603832397.1073741837.104156329654928&type=1&l=0d48f25816.








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