The last time I went around the rock monolith known as Lone Rock was in a kayak. This time it was on foot, with a group of friends, some of whom I’d kayaked with. What a difference a few months makes! Lone Rock is not alone these days.
It had been something I wanted to do for some time, since I’d never known Lone Rock without water around it. I wanted to walk all the way around the butte, if for no other reason than to be able to say that I did.
We drove as far down the dunes of Lone Rock Beach as we could and hiked from there, making a bee-line to the rock. We had heard that the ground was muddy and others who had tried to hike there ended up in kneedeep mud, but not today.
On the north side it was mostly dry and relatively solid, so we made our way around the north side. On the south side of Lone Rock we could still see mud flats, with expanses of standing water, so we avoided those areas for the time being, keeping to higher ground. There were some soft areas, but they were easily avoided. We used our hiking sticks to test the ground if we weren’t sure how solid it was. Some places were somewhat solid at first, but if we moved our feet much, it would get soft and sticky. Best to just keep moving. Certainly not suitable for a vehicle.
Wahweap Creek was flowing clear and shallow through the mud and silt. Walls of silt collapsed as the creek undermined the walls. On the other side of the creek was the base of Lone Rock. We looked for a way across and after some looking, found a makeshift bridge of driftwood that others had built. It looked precarious, but it was more solid than it first appeared.
Once across the creek, we made our way to the base of Lone Rock and found it amusing to touch the rock while standing on land, for the first time. It was surreal. None of us had known Lone Rock as a monolith without water around it. It had always been an island.
We continued hiking around the rock, finding some boulder covered slopes and slickrock to traverse. At first we were in shadows and it was cold. Soon we were bathed in sunlight again. We found a boulder where someone had scrawled “Lone Rock” and couldn’t help ourselves from taking a group shot.
As the water that filled Lake Powell receded, it exposed things that others lost: a mask and snorkel lay face down in the mud; a cable sticking out of the dried mud, connected to a small anchor, that got away from its boat; a hundred feet or so of thick steel cable half buried in the sand, long ago abandoned. I thought of what stories might be attached to these objects. I thought of how much more litters the ground as the water recedes.
On the way, the patterns in the silty mud kept drawing attention. It was as if nature itself was making art. Sometimes there was a clump of pinion pinecones, coming from far away to accent the geometric patterns. Even the pattern of driftwood and other flotsam was intricately laid down as if by an artist larger than any of us. My mind wandered to a kayaking outing where we floated our way up a side canyon with the kayak cutting through a layer of driftwood on the surface. Now I was standing on that driftwood.
As we rounded to the south side, it was easier to keep out of the mud flats. There were boulders scattered from rockfalls of time past and slickrock to provide solid ground. We had gained some elevation now and could see even better what lay to the south. Below us was one of the ‘lagoons’ of trapped water in a mud flat. Great for reflection photos and a nightmare to cross. Beyond, we could still see the edge of the water level in the reservoir. Lone Rock beach was almost deserted.
We continued circumnavigating Lone Rock. Before we knew it, we were all the way around and ready to head back to our vehicles. We couldn’t have had a better day. Highs in the 40s with no wind in January. On our way back, some speculated and wondered if we’d ever see Lone Rock as an island again. No one knows for sure. What we knew though, was that we had a fun, relatively easy hike and did something none of
us had ever done before.