By Melissa Bowersock
We have some stunning scenery in Arizona, particularly Northern Arizona. My husband and I used to live in Flagstaff, and we had a 16-foot tri-hull boat with an open bow. Every other weekend, rain or shine, summer or winter, we’d head for Lake Powell. And we always took our Malamute, Cody, with us.
You might think a Malamute would be an odd choice to have in the desert, but of course Flagstaff suited him to a T. He actually did very well at Lake Powell, also, partly due to the fact that Malamutes (like Huskies) have a dense undercoat that not only keeps them cool but protects them from the sun. At shedding times (spring AND fall), we’d comb multiple trash bags of hair off of him.
Cody loved the boat, and got the hang of it immediately. Because of the open bow, he could jump in or out easily. He loved to swim, and he also liked to chase fish in some of the shallow pools that became cut off from the lake as the water level changed over time.
Hiking Lake Powell brings its own set of challenges. Most of the shore is either sand or sandstone, both providing good traction for dog or human, but it’s also sloped with some steep grades for climbing. There are some places with a lot of loose rock that has fallen from the cliff faces, and those are more difficult to navigate. Because my husband and I like to hike (I’m a photographer, so I’m always looking for a unique viewpoint), and because Cody was so game, we actually took him up a lot of places that were pretty challenging. Once we climbed clear up to the shoulder of Cookie Jar Butte, having at times to lift and carry Cody over the rockier sections. He was a trooper, and I got the shot of a lifetime from there.
Lake Powell has gotten more well-known, and more crowded, as the years go by, but with 1800 miles of shoreline, it’s still not hard to find an empty beach. Since you can avoid the heavily congested areas, it can be an idea place to let a dog run and not have to worry about dog-people or dog-dog encounters that might go south. Be advised, however, that there is plenty of wildlife there, and it’s not all the Disney kind.
Once we were hiking up a sandy draw and Cody was ranging ahead, investigating all the smooth holes that water tends to carve out of sandstone. Suddenly he yelped and pulled back, and when we examined the hole he had just checked out, we saw a rattlesnake there. It had bit Cody right in the cheek, and being that near the head, we were terribly worried.
We had to hike back to the boat (probably a mile), then motor back to Wahweap and call an emergency vet. This was a Sunday morning, so we rousted the vet from breakfast and met him at his clinic, where he gave Cody anti-venom.
Cody had become drowsier as we hurried him to the vet, but luckily never swelled up badly or had any other reaction. The vet thought perhaps the snake’s fangs had penetrated the skin of his cheek and had actually ejected its venom directly into his mouth—not the bloodstream—and for that reason Cody’s reaction was minimal. Thank goodness. The only aftereffect we noticed was that Cody ate like crazy for about six months after that. Who knows why?
When we did venture to places that were more crowded, and of course, we put Cody on leash. He was what I call an “uncle dog,” so mellow that he would allow puppies to play all over him, pulling on his ears and tail. He was that way with humans, too, just super laid back, even though his coloring and his facial mask sometimes made people wary. Once we went up to Rainbow Bridge and just happened to dock our boat next to a tour boat that had already been there for a short while.
As we walked up the trail to the Bridge, all the tourists (all seniors) were walking back to the dock, and of course we passed them on the trail. I swear each and every one had to stop and pet Cody, and we heard about every dog that every one of them had ever had. I thought we’d never get to the Bridge! Cody loved it.
Lake Powell, like every place in Arizona, has to be approached with an eye to the weather. In the summer it gets brutally hot, so finding shade and having water (if you’re any distance from the lake) is a must. In the winter time, it gets extremely cold, which was more uncomfortable for me than for Cody.
During the monsoon, the lake is notorious for monster storms. One time we were motoring back to Wahweap from upriver after a squall had come through, and we pulled a couple of fishermen out of the lake near Padre Bay. They had been out in a canoe, which was capsized by the storm, and had lost everything they had in their boat. Luckily they didn’t lose their lives!
Another time we were on the lake when a massive storm came through, and we found shelter behind Castle Rock. Trying to get back to Wahweap during the storm was foolhardy, so we hunkered down and missed an extra day at work, but at least we were safe. The next day we found out that dozens of houseboats moored at buoys in Wahweap Bay had been either badly damaged or even ripped from their moorings and sunk. Monsoons up at Lake Powell are not to be trifled with!
With proper preparation and respect for the power of the natural world, Lake Powell can be a paradise for both human and dog: plenty of sun, cool water, and stunning views. What more could you ask for?