|Derek von Briesen | profile | all galleries >> Lake Powell: Summer 2008; Winter, 2009||tree view | thumbnails | slideshow|
New images from eight days on the lake March, 2009. Amazing time with virtually no one on the lake. Spent three days in the Escalante arm of the lake exploring intensely beautiful side canyons with 500' tall, multi-colored sandstone alcoves, ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs. Compared to last summer's trip, off-season is the time to go!!
Lake Powell in the summer is extraordinary. Its massive size, towering buttes, subtle varieties of light, myriad colors & patterns of sandstones are so breathtakingly beautiful as to almost overwhelm. Everyday, monsoonal forces build as the day progresses, billowing white thunder clouds turn to darkening skies, threatening and then finally giving way to transitory downpours. So much to explore, so much beauty to behold.
Contrarian that I am, I thought the perfect literary companion piece for my week on the lake would be Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang, a long-ago penned fictional tale recounting the gonzo antics of a gang of four, intent on dismantling, delaying, destroying the work of rapacious corporate robber barons whose insatiable appetite for natural resources and cheap electrical power threatened to despoil their treasured canyon country forever. For them, the ultimate travesty, the unspeakable tragedy, was the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, permanently sentencing the vaulted amphitheatres, the tens of thousands of native ruins, the isolated wild of “a place no one knew” to inundation beneath hundreds of acre-feet of reservoir water, what Abbey’s eco-raiding hero Seldom Seen Smith derisively describes as “that Glen Canyon National Sewage Lagoon Dam!”
Nostalgic, epic, revolutionary, incendiary--redolent of the madcap writing style of such seventies icons as Hunter Thompson, Tom Robbins, John Nichols, and Tom Wolfe—MRG is also funnier than hell and its influence and that of its author have been huge; if you haven’t yet, read it some time.
For me, the sad irony, heartbreakingly oxymoronic, while floating on this lake for the first time, is the only slightly conscious yet nagging feeling of cognitive dissonance that results from the knowledge of such an environmental crime juxtaposed with the instinctual revelation in the beauty of the place. The area’s finest landscape photographer, Gary Ladd, describes the obvious paradox: “Lake Powell is grossly offensive and incredibly beautiful . . . . an unforgivable mistake and a miracle of ingenuity.” He goes on to say, “As an environmentalist, I’m disgusted . . . . as a photographer, I’m absolutely captivated. It’s a truly amazing place.”
Again, Ladd: “broken beauty is beauty still.”
Undeniably beautiful it is. For this lake newbie, ‘twas a stroke of great, good fortune being able to see it for the first time with wonderful, new friends in a spacious houseboat, with a small powerboat and kayaks to access just a few of the innumerable long, narrow side canyons. Huge thanks to Tim O’Neill for his generous invitation and to my lake companions Kim, Joel, Lance, & Randy. Thanks Gary for your continued inspiration, artistry and stewardship.