I love Edward Abbey's 1975 novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang," a wild tale about an unlikely band of prototypical eco-warriors storming the ramparts of development, trying to stop progress in the Four Corners area, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet. That's why it was a tough sell when my husband suggested a houseboat expedition on Lake Powell, the desert lake created by the Glen Canyon dam that epitomizes all that the Monkey Wrench Gang fought.
But who can resist the land where those characters fought their campaign and led law enforcement on a merry wild-goose chase?
With our younger daughter, we made Las Vegas, that glittering temple to human ingenuity and artifice, the gateway to our desert adventure.
We stayed at the Mandalay Bay, dodging man-made waves. Our evening's entertainment was the Blue Man Group, with its message of nonconformity.
And we wound up the night under the artificial Italian skies of the Venetian, with singing gondoliers and itinerant musicians and jugglers providing the entertainment.
Then, joined by a friend, our foursome headed for Lake Powell, breaking up the four-hour-plus drive with a canyoneering expedition and an overnight in Zion National Park.
Zion is roughly halfway to Page, Ariz., and Wahweap Marina, where we boarded our houseboat with its accompanying powerboat.
A powerboat is a must-have when houseboating on Lake Powell. The lake is 186 miles long and lined by one canyon after another, giving it nearly 2,000 miles of coastline.
The best — and sometimes only — way to explore these canyons is by powerboat, because it can zip up the lake far faster than a lumbering houseboat and squeeze into narrow canyons that sometimes lead into quiet little grottoes.
It does, however, make Lake Powell possibly one of the most fossil-fuel-profligate vacations out there.
One other must: a waterslide on the houseboat. When Aramark Parks and Destinations, which operates Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, surveyed users about amenities they wanted on boats, waterslides ranked No. 1. Not air conditioning, which despite temperatures in the 90s we didn't have to use.
There is no understating the grandeur of desert buttes rising up out of azure waters, even for those of us who mourn the drowned canyon underneath the waves. It's a crazy juxtaposition of sea and desert that is stunning. There is nothing like viewing a red desert cliff wall through the plume of a water-skier's wake.
We spent our days waterskiing, wakeboarding, floating in inner tubes, fishing (usually in vain) and wrestling with a recalcitrant generator, important for many reasons, including the fact that it kept our beer cold.
We made day trips to spots such as Rainbow Bridge, heading out early one morning to beat the crowds for a quiet look at the nearly 300-foot-high sandstone arch. (View some video highlights from the trip below.)
We slept under the stars on the top of the houseboat every night and watched the moon grow fuller, rising above the buttes silhouetted against a navy blue sky.
The sky, in fact, is as dramatic as the contrast between desert and lake. Sky and lake interplay, with clouds reflecting perfectly in the lake.
We were fascinated by the melodrama of storms that can blow up quickly on the lake. The sky darkens, clouds pile up, lightning forks strike cliff tops and winds stir up whitecaps on the water.
During our biggest storm, those winds blew our houseboat sideways, partially onto the shore, much to our surprise and chagrin. We had anchored with the goal of providing maximum depth for our all-important waterslide without thinking about a windstorm.
A Good Samaritan neighbor arrived in his speedy powerboat and pulled our houseboat out after the storm. Lesson learned: Use four ropes and anchors, not two, and dig deep holes for those anchors.
My favorite mooring was Face Canyon, where we had our own private view of water, butte and skies, and we faced a massive bay good for waterskiing. That night, a few lights twinkling in the distance were the only inkling of other people anywhere on Earth.
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas (www.lakepowell.com) pays commission on houseboats, powerboats, personal watercraft and tours.
Houseboats range from $4,000 to $12,500 per week during peak season. Clients can rent houseboats for less than a week. Special rates, such as the 50% prepay, are not commissionable.
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.
Here are thoughts for clients planning a Lake Powell vacation: • Bring toys.
These can be water skis, inner tubes and wakeboards. • Pack fishing gear.
We didn't catch any fish, but we had fun trying. • Carry
"Stan Jones' and Steve Ward's Boating and Exploring Map," for the best descriptions of the lake, and the easier-to-read National Geographic map of the lake. • Stock up
on groceries and beverages in Page. Marinas on the lake sell basics, but their real purpose is selling fuel and bait. • Unplug.
I occasionally got reception on the lake, but there was no point. We communicated with the marina by radio, which was a lot more fun.