A school trip to Lake Powell

Above: Lake Powell, the reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It was dark out. I did not want to get up yet. However, I was awake and kept thinking about the little things that I forgot the night before, the things to pack before I walked out the door to our annual field trip with my school kids to Lake Powell, near Page, Arizona. It is about 300 miles away from where our school is, so it is a long trip. We were scheduled to leave at 6 a.m., hence the need for me to get up at 4:30 in order to be coherent and somewhat organized as I helped load the buses with kids and their luggage.

To my surprise, when I got there the buses were already arriving. That meant that I could get things loaded, and organized, then have plenty of time to find out who was on the bus and who was not. There has to be time for the “shuffling” of kids from one bus to another to even out the bus numbers. There were only two buses this year, and all the kids that were on my bus wanted to stay with us (me and my colleague) on our bus. We still had a few empty seats, so it was fine.

Our bus was an awesome bright pink color! Our drivers, Milo, ahead on the lead bus (bright green), and Tom, driving our bus, were great, probably the best we’ve had outside of our district drivers a couple of years ago. Our bus, the pink bus, was brand new! It even smelled new, and I hoped to keep it clean. The kids did a very good job throughout the trip.

We left about 6:15, pulling out of the school parking lot with everyone on board. We traveled through rush hour traffic, which hadn’t yet gotten too heavy, and an hour and 15 minutes later we were nearing Sunset Point. I looked west out of the windows of the bus and could see the lovely winding dirt roads near Crown King. Someday soon I will ride them on my dual sport motorcycle. We also saw numerous hot air balloons! This is the last hurrah for them as the season is changing to the super-hot weather of summer. When it is hot, it impossible for them to go up.

We were in Flagstaff by 9 a.m., ahead of schedule. I ate the half bagel that I had packed earlier, before I left the house. I was determined not to be too hungry or too tired by the time I got to Lake Powell Resort.

North of Flagstaff, we turned at The Gap onto Indian 20, which has been recently designated as Temporary 89 north due to the landslide last year. It was a much quicker route than the original route, and definitely much quicker than the roundabout route we had to take last year, far east to Tuba City, then back in a northwest direction on Hwy. 98, to Page, AZ. This year was a breeze! We arrived very early, as usual, and had to kill time while the kids explored, ate lunch, hung out. Finally, the rangers were ready to do their presentations, and the kids sat down to listen.

What it is:

Under the water of Lake Powell is the lost paradise of Glen Canyon. I have seen films made in the 1960s of the lovely areas that are now lost due to the backup of the Colorado River. It’s too bad such great sacrifices have to be made in nature to support the ever-growing human population. No one ever talks about this aspect of dam-building and energy generation.

After the presentations, we walked across the bridge over the base of Glen Canyon Dam. Some kids said they were afraid of heights, but then enjoyed the walk anyway. It’s one of those pre-teen drama things, I guess. They were able to see the rafts far below the bridge, the ones that they would take down the river on Friday morning.

We got back on our lovely buses and rode the short distance to Lake Powell Resort. The rooms were not ready, so we had to put our baggage in a tiny room until we got back from the Antelope Canyon boat tour. This year we got our own tour boat and very nice personnel on the boat. The kids were able to really enjoy it this time and I saw many of them taking photos. They seemed to appreciate the beauty of the scenery, and no one complained about anything, not even about having to wear the life vests. The weather was absolutely perfect for an afternoon cruise on the deep blue water of Lake Powell.  The boat went deep into the narrowing canyon; however, this time we did not get to go far in, to experience the extreme tightness of the canyon, because another boat was headed out when we were about to go in. So, our captain turned the boat around, and sadly, we missed out on one of the most spectacular parts of the trip.

Back at the hotel, we took group photos of each class in their matching t-shirts. Each class was a different color, and mine were black, as usual. After all the voting on which color we would have, it ended up black anyway! We finally got the problem of the hotel rooms settled, and then we were able to retrieve our luggage from the small room and proceed to the actual rooms in which we would be staying. We only had time to drop our luggage and run (again) because we were due at the pizza party on the lawn near the pool. I hate it when they make us eat outside because they never serve coffee out there, and the adults can’t even have a moment’s peace to sit and sip. What is so wrong with letting the adults have a small pleasure once in a while? I don’t get it.

Then it was on to the gift shop where the kids bought over-priced objects, like colorful plush stuffed snakes, hoodies that said “Lake Powell” on them, various jewelry trinkets, and candy. Yes, candy. Well, they might as well enjoy it, I thought, as long as they don’t over-indulge.

Finally, it was time for the kids to go to their rooms and get to bed. The chaperones and teachers went to their respective rooms as well, and my colleague and I, who I always room with, thought we would be “out like a light” immediately. Not so. I think we had been so over-tired and stressed all day that neither one of us could fall asleep. We both tossed and turned all night, but finally toward morning I fell asleep. But not for long! It was time to get up early, get breakfast, and get packed.

One of the highlights of the trip, at least for the adults, is the fabulous buffet breakfast that is always available in the Rainbow Room. The kids were polite, and filled up on lots of delicious food, including eggs and bacon, fruit, Danish rolls, cereal, and orange juice. At last there was coffee for the adults, and we all took full advantage of it. Then we all went back to our rooms, finished packing, said good-bye to the resort, and boarded our buses once again.

The buses took us to the dam, where the kids would take different buses to the base of the dam, where they would get on rafts and do a smooth-river float down the Colorado, eventually ending up at Lee’s Ferry, where our buses would pick them up and take them home. Since I have been on the rafts many times, I drove a chaperone’s car to Lee’s Ferry so she could enjoy the rafting trip. It was lucky that I had planned to do it anyway because it turned out she had a car with a manual transmission, and no one else was comfortable driving a “stick shift.” So, I set out from Page behind the tour buses, with Milo and Tom driving them in front of me, and I had some peace and quiet, at least until I found out the CD left in the player was a Lady Gaga CD. I listened and sang for a while, but then I was getting too distracted on the narrow curving road near Lee’s Ferry. In front of me I saw the buses swaying in the gusty wind, and bouncing on the rough parts of the road.

Soon we were parked in Lee’s Ferry, and it had taken us only a short time to drive there. Last year when I had to do this drive, it had taken the whole 3-1/2 hours to get to Lee’s Ferry due to the detour caused by the landslide on Hwy. 89 in February, 2013. This year we made record time on the shorter route.

It was once again a hurry-up-and-wait situation. “We could have had another cup of coffee at the Denny’s in Page!” remarked Milo. I wished we had. I sat and talked with the two bus drivers, sitting in our bus for an hour and a half. They are two very interesting men, people who have experienced a lot in their lives, and done many things. It was interesting to listen to them.

Finally, I saw the first rafts and recognized the kids as they came around the bend leading to Lee’s Ferry. I grabbed my camera and took photos as the rafts docked and the kids disembarked. Some were cold and wet, but we had warned them about that! After a short time, we were all back in our buses again.

The drive to Cameron Trading Post was soothing, the buses rocking over the uneven road. Some kids fell asleep, and I handed out snacks and water to a few of them that remained awake. Many of them were looking forward to reaching Cameron because they could buy lunch and souvenirs there. However, our time at Cameron was short, that perpetual hurry to get to the next thing, so I think some of the kids didn’t have enough time to browse. The bus drivers had gone into the restaurant to eat, and as they later said, “barely had time to wolf down a burger!” It’s too bad, I love Cameron Trading Post, and I always wish we had more time there. What would it matter if we were a few minutes later getting home?

Once we were back on the buses, we were sealed in for the trip home. I always love this part of the trip because most people are asleep, including the adults, and it is reasonably quiet. We watched a couple of “G”-rated Disney movies, the only kind we can play, but the drone of the bus’s engine put many to sleep from just south of Cameron almost to home. There was a brief stop at Sunset Point for the drivers to take a break, but the next thing I knew we were pulling into the school driveway, parents anxiously waiting the arrival of the buses to take their tired but happy children home for the weekend.

It was another good trip, and I know the kids really enjoyed it. I am so pleased that we were able to take them since for some it is the only time they will get to experience a road trip like that!


2 thoughts on “A school trip to Lake Powell

  1. Just as I did last year, I have to question your sanity. An overnight trip with sixth graders? Actually, any trip with sixth graders. It seems you must truly be called to be a teacher. I’m glad you had a good time and captured a couple of photos for us and remembered all the detail for a captivating narrative.

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