2019 PHOTO ANNUAL | A Journey To Lake Powell Along Route 66
by: Corey Marotta & Bryant Thomas // photos: Russell Spencer
“Driving up what has to be one of the gnarliest roads in America, the Moki Dugway Pass, was the beginning of what would be a tense few hours.” – Bryant Thomas
When you visualize the Southwestern United States, images of golden, barren deserts, vibrant hues of reds, vertical spires, the Grand Canyon and some of our nation’s most amazing national parks come to mind. Throughout the 50s and 60s, vacationers created life-long memories driving through this section of the country on historic Route 66, ushering in the automotive road-tripping culture. “Getting there is half the fun,” wasn’t only a popular marketing slogan, it was touchable and embraced. Ultimately these adventures were about creating memories with friends and families, and something you couldn’t wait to share with those yet to experience.
Boating, in many ways, shares the same emotional DNA with the road-tripping golden age of the automotive era. It’s adventurous, invites community and creates memories. That in itself has no monetary measurement and something we wish for everyone to experience and make a part of their own DNA.
In the spirit of adventure, and while embracing “getting there is half the fun,” we set out to do the same with friends from Axis Wake Research and our own Alliance team members. A road trip across some of our nation’s most amazing landscapes while paying homage to those before us. Through iconic sections of Route 66, camping amongst the wolves, a true and unplanned dirt road detour, river rafting Glen Canyon, an elusive Condor sighting on the rim of the Grand Canyon, driving down through Monument Valley, and then up the 11%-grade Moki Dugway pass, all to reach our final destination – Halls Crossing and the Bullfrog Marina – we without question lived half of this adventure just to reach our final destination: a houseboat trip on one of the most amazing bodies of water on our planet, Lake Powell. For us, the other half had just started and at the end our crew is forever bonded. We share an adventure and memories unique to us all, while imploring others to do the same.
We hope this photo feature encourages you to create your own road trip and boating memories. Ones that will inspire multiple generations after you. That being said, I dedicated this trip to my father Johnny Marotta, someone who embodied life’s adventure while inviting others to enjoy time together. Through a barren desert on a two-lane road, destination Lake Somewhere, with a boat in tow.
Official kickoff while standing on the corner in Winslow
What else can be said about a trip so few will get to experience? On paper a 4-day road trip across the Arizona high desert prior to a 4-day houseboat trip on the boating paradise of Lake Powell looked daunting, but incredible at the same time. Having grown up boating in Tennessee, the photos and stories of wakeboarding on Lake Powell seemed so alien to anything I’d ever experience. This was the place of the original Brostock, video parts, photos and infamous stories.
Before meeting the crew in Phoenix I had already driven for 6 hours from Las Vegas to pick up our Just Ride Tour truck to help tow one of the two Axis vessels during the trip. The first two days were mellow enough driving through the constantly changing Arizona landscape through Winslow, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. A late night arrival into our campground south of Sedona the second night made for some initially tense, but ultimately funny conversations with the silver haired campground attendants. Bec immediately proved how killer she is at driving and backing boats in, something that would come in handy over the coming days.
Home for the night after our first day on the road
As we moved North to the Grand Canyon, we were greeted by an amazing sunset with the true beauty of the canyon in full effect. Best of all, I’d imagine we were some of the first people to park a towboat next to the canyon wall. Capping the night off with a dinner at the historic El Tovar kept our National Lampoons theme alive. The next morning, the final crew members rolled in and completed our the squad. Nick Cankar from Wakeboard Naples was on hand to provide the comedy (some intentional, some not), Nate Reid, Malibu/Axis central territory manager and all-around houseboat expert was sure to keep us up and running (well, maybe not so much…) and Austin Keen caught up with us to round of the crew of athletes.
“When we made it to the Grand Canyon, it was absolutely crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it before!” – Bec Gange
The final push to the lake was hectic to say the least. Driving up what has to be one of the gnarliest roads in America, the Moki Dugway Pass, was the beginning of what would be a tense few hours. While trying to get some towing shots through Mexican Hat we sent Austin and Nick ahead in their car to wait. Turns out, while they were turning around to wait we ended up passing them and heading up the pass. With cell service non-existent, we assumed they just went ahead up the pass and saw their car at the top. As we approached the top of the pass and their car we quickly saw it wasn’t them, but the same vehicle with a husband and wife in it. With time short before the last ferry for a few days at Halls Crossing we made futile calls to their phones. We finally arrive to find the ferry waiting for us, but no Austin or Nick. With the one bar of service I had, managed to get a line out. Come to find out they were waiting for us for roughly a hour before figuring out they had missed us and high tailed it 100 mph through the desert. Come to find out it also rains in the desert as a constant, cold drizzle welcomed us to Lake Powell.
Best way to attract wolves at the Lynx Lake Campsite
Not a paved road in site, cheers
We woke to a muddy, cool morning at Bullfrog Marina. After topping off the gas tanks and launching the A22 and T23, we were off to the seldom visited north end of Lake Powell – Little Rincon to be exact. The motor up was easy, spirits were high, the sun was out and it was a perfect 80 degrees. Finally the trudge and madness of the drive up was over and the part of the trip everyone was looking forward to was here and the lake and weather were not disappointing.
Optimistic for the day to come we set off to bed. Next thing I know, I’m waking up in the dark but with lightning and motors running. A microburst was blowing in fast and we had to secure the boat. Nate, Tony, Corey and Matt were out making sure the anchors were secure and lines were tight. The rain, thunder and hail started and winds kicked up. We went back to sleep for a bit as the sun started to come up. The winds kept coming, blowing the lake out completely.
We ended up sitting around making our own fun all day as we waited on the weather to pass. To some extent, it is these unplanned down moments that define a true adventure. You are tested in your ability to adapt to simple things like whatever Mother Nature decided to pass your way. You actually get to stop, talk to your traveling companions and learn who they are. In an odd way, this could be looked at as one of the most valuable days of the adventure. Dinner was an amazing Italian spread put together by Corey, Cole, Russell. Matt as Tony, Austin and I scavenged for firewood. Spirits were high after stuffing our faces with pasta and burning the world’s most beautiful and expensive bonfire of driftwood I’ve ever seen.
Campfires, houseboats and no cell service
Day 5 and finally on the water
“The dude is good at wakesurfing. He makes it look so easy, smooth and fun. Even with the rough water, he looked like he was having a great time.” – Tony Carroll
The following morning we woke up before the sun and got the crew ready to ride. Nick was the guinea pig testing the waters for Tony and Bec. Tony came out next swinging with his clean technical style against the red rock walls. Bec closed out the morning and left everyone’s jaws on the floor. We headed back across the lake the light and winds are still good, so Austin hits the water in our cove – Lake Powell was providing!
The rest of our time on the lake was full of good food, good times and challenging weather. A hurricane was pushing up through Baja and winds were high so finding good water was tough. Shots were acquired, beers were drunk and bonfires of driftwood were burned to finish our last night. The next day we would return to Bullfrog and say our goodbyes. Nate and I would head back to Vegas, with the rest of the crew going to Phoenix. We Drove through snow and rain in southern Utah and reflected on a trip of a lifetime.
Was it amazing? Yes. Was it as beautiful as everyone thinks? Most definitely. Was it challenging? One hundred percent. I couldn’t imagine doing this with any other crew. It was a mission and the mission was an ultimate success.
“By the far the most amazing scenery I have ever seen on a trip and would definitely go back. I inspired my family so much with the photos they did the same trip a week later” – Bec Gange
Lake Powell has over 2,000 miles of shoreline, Tony Carroll finding his
“Austin, what are you cooking for dinner?”
Perspective from the top of Horseshoe Bend
Lake Powell games
Mile Marker 41 and our backyard