Friday, April 25, 2014

Babette’s Black Canyon Kayak Adventure

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 paddling correctly.
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 to ache.
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

Summertime Dream is available on (Print and Kindle):
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Clear As Day is available on Amazon in Print and Kindle: and at all other eBook retailers

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:


  1. Hi, Brenda! Thanks for letting me visit here today and share my river adventure.

  2. Babette, Good for you! We need to seize those moments sometimes -- we feel so brave when we accomplish that daring-do. The bravest part for me, I suspect, would have been donning the bathing suit! LOL. Great post!

    1. Hi, Laura. Thanks! lol Finding a bathing suit for the trip was its own challenge.

  3. Hi, Babette! I love your adventure. I like kayaking too. Kudos to you for breaking it down to managing parts and accomplishing. And I don't doubt for a sec you will be able to use this in a book. I should use mine.... Oops, an idea. Hugs

    1. Thanks, Vicki! I definitely want to do more kayak trips. lol hopefully without a headwind.

  4. Wonderful story! Congrats on making it past your fears.

  5. You did it! A wonderful feeling of accomplishment for sure!