and I can do it in the dark!
By "it," of course, I mean kayaking. By myself.
So my plan was to get to Willow Beach, about 15 miles south of Hoover Dam at about sunset (which, you'll notice from the above photo, that I missed by a good half hour), paddle upriver until the sun set and the moon came out, then turn around and paddle back by moonlight.
I put the boat in, and paddled lazily across the water, more like a narrow lake than an actual river, watching the hundreds of bats swirl and dive above the water. A few bright stars and airplanes started to become visible over the cliffs. It seemed like an evening made for being on the water.
What I failed to take into account is the fact that, particularly on a river in a canyon, there is a pretty severe gap between the sun dropping over the horizon and the moon rising high enough to be of any help. It's also very dark during that time; too dark, in fact, to see the shore well enough to park and wait.
I kept paddling upriver, and upriver, and upriver, looking over my shoulder with increasing agitation for the bright yellow rim of the moon, and all the while it just got darker and darker and spookier and spookier outside. Remembering the motor boats that tear up and down the river, I tried to stick to the shoreline, but it eventually got so dark that submerged trees seemed to jump out in front of me, and, given the way the sound of the locusts, ducks, and whatever else was out there carried over the glassy water, I figured I'd have ample warning of an approaching engine to get out of the way.
I still couldn't rest easy. I tried to calm myself by imagining worst-case scenarios. This sounds like it would work, because I'm a strong swimmer, my boat is sturdy plastic, and it doesn't seem likely to get lost or attacked out in the middle of a river, so the list of reasonable worst-casers doesn't seem like it would be that bad.
But oh! my imagination works better than just about any other part of me. I imagined hungry man-eating water tigers, floating dead bodies that were, in reality, zombies, and a parallel universe in which the moon was never coming out. I imagined Deliverance-style wildmen lying in wait along the banks (in reality, much to steep for anything but bighorns, and only bighorn-navigable in places). I started counting strokes, telling myself that I could turn around and check for the moon after 100 strokes, then 100 more. After 300, I got too creeped-out to count any further.
After about an hour in which the moon stubbornly failed to appear, I turned back downriver. The darkness in this direction felt a little less ominous, probably because it was, at least, familiar. Going with the current this time, I made it back to the marina fairly quickly. My pants and shirt, which I had stuffed behind my seat, were soaked, but my camera was miraculously dry. I balanced my boat on the roof rack, and got it tied down in just a few minutes, using the light from the restroom windows to see. When I got back into the car, I was surprised to see that it was after 10, and I had been on the river for almost two hours.
Now I am tired, and smell like a lake. I need a shower, a bowl of cereal, and to crawl into bed with a cranky gray cat.