Please welcome my guest, Babette James for a fearless tale!
Last August, I tackled
an adventure for myself and learned I could truly do far more than I thought I
could. I was out in Las Vegas for the Romance Novel Convention and I had added
extra days on after the convention for some vacation sightseeing and research
for my River series. I had several daytrips planned. I would go back to Lake
Mohave, the original inspiration for my series, I’d tour the Hoover Dam, take
the paddlewheel twilight dinner cruise on Lake Mead, go to Red Rock Canyon, and
the Valley of Fire. All nice safe touristy jaunts. Some friends and family
thought this was more than enough adventure since I was traveling on my own.
However, I wanted a real adventure.
I’ve always wanted to
see Black Canyon, which is the stretch of the Colorado River between the Hoover
Dam and Lake Mohave, and I wanted to be down on the river. I found a guided
kayak tour. It would be an easy fourteen-mile trip downriver, all flatwater,
with plenty of stops, from the base of the Hoover Dam to Willow Beach, perfect
for a kayaking novice like me. I’d been in a kayak before, but only for a
little fun bobbing around. How tough could it be paddling and floating gently downriver? All I needed basically was a
swimsuit, hat, sunscreen, camera, shoes that could get soaked, and my sense of
adventure. The tour company provided the rest. Wonderful!
The tour company picked
me up in the early cool dark of Sunday morning and delivered me, Mike, our
guide, and Terry and Karen, my fellow adventurers, to the launch site at the
base of Hoover Dam. Seeing that massive dam rising above me and the sky above pale
and soft with the glow of a desert dawn was an experience in itself. After a
brief lesson on paddling and steering, we were off.
The peace of floating
along on the river is perfect, the relaxing silence of wilderness I miss in my
life living here on the hectic East Coast. Just the birds and the crystal clear
water, and even those were gently quiet and solemn in the morning hours. The
water is cold there, a steady 54 degrees year round because of the deep water
releases from the dam. The paddling was easy and I could feel stress just
melting away as I snapped photos of the scenic canyon. We visited Sauna Cave, a
hot spring deep inside a narrow cave. I confess my claustrophobia got the
better of me and I had to stay by the entrance, but even that was a treat
because I could sit with the hot water spilling around me and just watch the
river roll by and soak in the peace. We stopped again for a short hike up
Goldstrike Canyon to explore and soak in another hot spring.
The breeze was rising a
bit, but welcome as it helped cool the August desert heat. More easy paddling over
gentle, luminous green water brought us to our lunch stop (and the
all-important bathroom break). I was
feeling some of the paddling, but my worries about my shoulder and my back
bothering me with all the exertion were for nothing. Mike said that meant I was
After a delicious box
lunch, we set off again. We spotted some bighorn sheep, soaked in the scenery
and snapped photos. The wind was still picking up and adding some chop to the formerly
placid river and paddling was becoming a real workout against the headwind. My
shoulder and back were holding up fine, but, boy oh boy my hands were beginning
The steady wind was
stiffening. And then there were the gusts. Even novice me knew that those
pretty little whitecaps on a flatwater river were a problem. Mike said guessed the
wind was about in the 30 mph range. If I stopped paddling, the wind actually
pushed me back up the river. And we still had six miles to go. Against the
wind. The longest six miles of my life. Lol
Mike, Karen and Terry
were experienced kayakers, managing the wind well, and making decent speed. I was
not. While I’m not an utter office chair potato, I was older than the three and
less fit, the whitecaps were scary in places, and I was running out of steam
quickly. Mike the guide offered to tie my kayak to his and give me a tow, but
my pride and the author in me were nagging me to grit my teeth and stick it
out. There was a story in this, I told myself and I had to keep going. I didn’t
want to be the one they had to tow out or come rescue. I had to keep paddling.
After Mike reassured me
my turtle-slow progress against the wind and whitecaps was okay, I started
giving myself goals. I would just focus on paddling as far as the next beach,
the next clump of bushes, the next bend in the river, two more paddle strokes,
another stroke, another... My hands were hurting, but breaking those impossible
six miles into little doable chunks turned out to be the trick. I discovered later after the trip we had also
crossed a short stretch of class 1 rapids.
Slowly, slowly I
paddled on. I learned how to find and use the stronger current of the river to
help pull me through the rough water, learned how to hold my paddle better and
use a push to help strengthen a pull, learned how get myself out of the scary
spots. I learned I could keep going way beyond the point I thought I’d have to
quit. I learned to let go of some fear. I learned I could focus beyond the
exhaustion and pain and still enjoy the journey and this beautiful river and
canyon I’d come to see.
Then the last bend of
the river and Willow Beach marina came into sight. The wind was as strong as
ever and the river a wide mass of choppy water, but my goal was in sight. No
giving up now!
We reached our
destination, I think about five hours late. My arms were so tired I couldn’t
push myself up out of the kayak, but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier over
an accomplishment as I flopped out like a clumsy fish. I’d done something I
feared was impossible, and I survived—and enjoyed it!
Then Mike said the
nicest thing: He was proud of me hanging in there, and after the trip we had, I’m
no longer a novice kayaker. J
I hope to use my Black
Canyon experience in one of the future books I have planned in my River series.
I also hope to go back someday and make the trip again. It’s too beautiful and
peaceful a place to resist the challenge.
As authors, our writing life is a journey, full
of beautiful scenery, peace, joy, stiff winds, pain, strain, whitecaps, and
rapids. There’s always a new skill to learn, a new problem, a new destination
to reach, and sometimes it feels so far away and impossible to reach. But we do
it, by setting our goals, weathering life’s rough waters, and we get there one
word, one scene, one chapter, one book at a time!
Wishing you all a lovely journey,
Come fall in love at the river
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About the Author: Babette
James writes sweetly scorching contemporary romance and loves reading
nail-biting tales with a satisfying happily ever after. When not dreaming up
stories, she enjoys playing with new bread recipes and dabbling with paints. As
a teacher, she loves encouraging new readers and writers as they discover their
growing abilities. Her class cheers when it’s time for their spelling test!
Born in New Jersey and raised in Southern California, she’s had a life-long
love of the desert and going down the shore. Babette now lives in New Jersey
with her wonderfully patient husband and extremely spoiled cats.
You can find Babette at: