Timing, they say, is everything. But that may not always be the case.
It’s 4:57 pm—twelve minutes past the agreed-upon time, and only the few cars dot the East Campus lot without a stir. Jackson and friends are late. Bjorn and I had arrived ten minutes ago; we are now stopped in the middle of the parking lot, looking intently for our caravan companion. Soon, after a brief phone exchange, we clarify our meeting point and both pull into the front of clinic.
“Hi, I’m Bjorn.”
“I’m Jackson. This is Whitney.”
Good. We’re finally on our way, Bjorn and I headed to the Lake Mead Boulder Beach campground with a quick dinner detour, while Jackson heads to the Las Vegas REI to get a canister of fuel for his JetBoil.
Stephen and Alvin had already secured to campsites for all of us when we arrive, only several minutes behind them. Jackson pulls in right after us as well, having made it to REI three minutes before closing and walking out one minute later with the fuel.
The next morning, Corey and Tatum join us at the campground and we leave Lake Mead minutes before the exit kiosk opens to collect our entrance fee. The guy representing Reclamation checks us off. We then wait more than an hour for the outfitter to show up. Apparently, according to the Reclamation guy, the earlier group had too much gear, which of course would complicate the loading, unloading, and launching of their paddlecrafts.
Despite the supposed 9:00 am launch time, we put into the river nearly an hour later. But, that’s OK. We’re on a river trip anyways. Soon, we all launch and make our first stop at the Sauna Cave after a short paddle. We also check into Goldstrike and Boy Scout Canyons. In both slot canyons, hot water gushes out from fissures in the rock. Sandbag dams hold back pools of temperature-perfect water.
As we paddle downriver toward our campsite, the setting sun casts dark undulating shadows on the opposite cliffs that tower like giant golden screens.
Arizona Hot Springs buzz like Grand Central Station, overcrowded with so many groups. We tuck ourselves into a flat spot, set up, and head up the canyon for a pre-dinner soak.
Cassiopeia materializes just to the right of the North Star as we savor dinner. That inspires me to climb to the top of the nearby ridge and shoot some star trails under the glowing full moon. With long exposures, the otherworldly light awakens the terrain in an eerie way. I shoot some more star trails back at camp, where campfire flickers paint a reddish hue on the crumbly rocks.
Emily was supposed to wake us up for the meteor shower, the peak predicted in the early morning, after the full moon disappears below the horizon. But, it’s just timing details. Her alarm was set for “weekdays,” and we all slept in. I think Stephen gets up first, and we soon follow. Hot coffee around a warm fire is nice.
After breakfast, clean-up, and a nice long soak, we launch into a gentle headwind.
At the Catwalk just beyond the Gauging Station, Bjorn and Stephen haul boulders to plunk into the river. The first attempt creating too small of a splash, they repeat with a two-man boulder. The careening block threw up a splash the height of about four tall men. Satisfying. They then try to calculate the height based on time, using velocity, acceleration, and combinations thereof. I don’t remember the formula but remind them that the distance is related to a time-squared relationship.
Soon, a half hour before the expected arrival, we catch sight of Willow Beach and paddle up just in time as the outfitters turn around in the parking lot to load our boats.
“That’s perfect timing,” someone says. But despite the late start from the East Campus, delayed pick up the previous day, missed meteor showers, and even without perfect timing, this paddling trip flowed by as smoothly as could be hoped for.