The Top Lessons I Learned Achieving My Long-Standing Goal of Kayaking the Grand Canyon, and How They’ll Impact My Romance Novels.
Author Stacy Gold kayaking in the Grand Canyon
Recently, I achieved one of my biggest, hairiest, most audacious goals—kayaking the entire 226 miles of the Grand Canyon (from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek). On top of that I did it in 12.5 days. Carrying all my gear in my own boat. At age 51, after having two rotator cuffs reattached to the bone and assorted other injuries and surgeries. It’s a goal it’s taken me thirty years to achieve.
My first invitation to paddle the Grand Canyon came way back in 1990. I was a raft guide at the time and was offered a spot rowing a raft. But it was a fall trip, and I was due back in college. A few other invites to kayak along with raft trips came my way over the years but the timing was never right. And seven years ago I was supposed to do almost this exact same trip but, I blew out my shoulder mountain biking.
I’d started to think maybe it was never going to happen. Or at least not under my own steam and I’d have to ride in a raft as a passenger. So, this was a huge deal for me.
When I got the invite for this trip, I jumped on it despite dealing with a host injuries. I mean, my body isn’t likely to be any stronger or healthier next year or the year after. It might be, but there are no guarantees. While I wasn’t 100 percent sure I could physically do it, I did everything possible to get in as a good a shape as I could. Then hoped it would be enough.
And it was. Just barely. But it was.
Here Are Seven Lessons I Learned Kayaking the Grand Canyon
- I am tiny. Miniscule. And the world keeps turning and people keep doing things and it all continues whether I’m there to witness or experience or not. It’s very freeing to remember that the modern world is something of our own creation, but there’s a whole other world out there that’s far older, and to me, more real.
- The Grand Canyon is bigger and more astonishing than my mind can comprehend, even weeks after my trip ended. It’s like trying to imagine the true size of the universe while staring at the milky way. Your brain hurts and you just…can’t. Which leads me back to point number one.
- It’s gotten harder to find ways to step outside my comfort zone, but the Grand Canyon pushed me to new limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. I realized that I’m still capable of so much more than I ever would’ve thought.
- Take the SHEWEE. I’ve always scoffed a bit at having to carry a little plastic funnel to take a piss while wearing a drysuit—especially since my drysuit has a zippered drop seat. One of these showed up with our rental equipment the night before the trip, AND at the put-in nestled in one of the other guy’s gear. Still, I scoffed. Then I found out I didn’t need to pee below the high water line in camp, I had to pee IN the water. So, despite the universe doing it’s best to push one on me, I spent two weeks balanced on rocks and logs, and/or getting my feet wet, every time I peed.
- Once is not enough. I must go down the Grand Canyon again. I always thought I wanted to paddle it one time. Now I realize there are so many side hikes and things to see I could probably spend months there and not get to it all. In fact, it might be impossible to spend enough time exploring the Canyon. Not to mention the first few days were so overwhelming I’ve had to piece them together from my notes and photos. I’d like a redo.
- I’ve gone through journaling phases in my life but hadn’t been in the habit in a while. So, I bought a pretty new one, and on night three forced myself to sit down and catch up. I wrote the day’s events and emotions pretty much every evening from there on out. It’s amazing how much my brain scrambled and squished moments and places and experiences but this way I have somewhere to look to make sense of it all. And to bring back more memories.
- Do the hard thing. Go for the big, hairy, audacious goal even if you aren’t 100 percent ready. All you have to be is ready enough. Strong enough. Good enough.
How will kayaking the Grand Canyon influence my future romance novels?
You can trust that pieces of the experiences on my Grand Canyon trip, and all I learned along the way, will make their way into my outdoor adventure romance novels. I’m already working on both a rafting romance and a kayaking romance. With a whole lot of forced proximity and tons of things that can go wrong—and really, really right—on a multi-day river trip in the middle of nowhere , it’s a no-brainer.