Cache Creek Wilderness Run, August 23rd to 24th 2008.

In the spring when I went to Baja, Andrea Wolf and Herb Howe mentioned that they love running rivers and wanted to share that with the rest of us. So the two of them scheduled a run through the Wilderness section of Cache Creek and invited all the rest of us who were on the last Baja trip. We would do half of the run on Saturday, camp on the side of the river and finish the run the next day. Cache Creek has a reputation for being a mild white water run with rapids that are only class II.

I have not had very good experiences with rivers and don’t plan on going out of my way to kayak in them. That was one reason why Andrea suggested this, she wanted to give us a positive river experience. The description of the river being class II had me relaxed about it until our first un-named rapid. This river doesn’t get flooded out often, so trees grow over the edges and become “strainer” hazards. We had to be very careful about staying away from the edges. Kate DesLauriers, who was on this trip in a “safe” inflatable kayak, kept getting swept into the strainers. She ended up with bruises on her arms from running into trees. I went down every rapid the first day with great trepidation. It was humbling to see Andrea and Herb leading the way and teaching us what to do. We’ve been in ocean wind and wave conditions were I felt comfortable and they did not. Now it was my turn! I think my biggest source of discomfort is not knowing how “close to the edge” I am in moving water. Was I milliseconds from flipping over back there, or did I have a big margin of error? If I go over here am I going to be banged over the rocks or trapped under a branch?

We launched close to the middle of the day and landed at a camping spot early in the evening. Because of the hot dry weather and lack of space in small river kayaks, we brought minimal gear. That meant no tents, just sleeping out under the stars. Everyone else set up their sleeping bags on the sand near the water but I set mine up on a gravel bar a short distance away. I have done a lot of camping out of my kayak in the last ten years, but I almost always sleep in a tent. Part of the reason for this is the marine layer bringing fog and drizzle to the ocean shore almost every night. Even on clear nights a heavy layer of dew condenses out of the air near the ocean at night. So sleeping under the stars was a new unique experience for me on this trip.

The next day I think I was a little more comfortable on moving water. I suspect experience would eventually allay my fears. We went down through one rapid after another, leading up to a rapid with my name on it: “Mad Mike”. This was a class III rapid, but it was very short. Andrea and Herb went down and called us down one at a time. I shot through it with no problems. Don Fleming went over at the bottom and his boat escaped from him and Herb (several times) so there was a long delay before we called Kate and Doug Hamilton down.

I have a tendency to power my way through rapids so I’m always catching up to the people in front of me. So I started hanging farther and farther back. After Mad Mike we had a long almost continuous rapid around the campsite at the Highway 16 take out. Herb says there is a path through this and he led everyone else through that path. I apparently missed the path and went bang-bang-bang over a lot of shallow rocks on this. But apparently I wasn’t far enough over the edge to get in trouble and my brace kept me upright through it all.

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact