Van Damme South, September 14th 2008.

After the big pot luck party the night before, yoga on the bluff early in the morning and a big pancake breakfast, none of us were ready to go paddling early. Mary Ann Furda asked me when we would be ready and I suggested it couldn’t possibly happen before 11:00. We didn’t leave camp until 11:30. A large group of BASKers were going to Elk. But this requires a long hike down the bluff and an even longer (seeming) hike back up with your kayak in tow. A smaller group of us went to Van Damme Beach instead where the carry to the water is shorter.

We launched and turned our prows south. The first interesting spot is Cemetery Cave. I told Linda Brown, a friend of Mary Ann’s, the story of how this cave was named after all the kayakers that died in there. Then I told her the real story about the cave leading to a beach in a sinkhole that opens up into the Little River Cemetery. However, when we paddled into the cave there was a group of people on the beach already. They had climbed down to go abalone diving! We watched one guy start to swim out the cave and then we left to give him room.

It seems like a long time since I have been in many of the caves and arches in the area south of Van Damme. One of these is “Mike’s Cave of Doom” which was a fun place to play on a day like this one with calm waves. The water was so calm we all went into a cave I have never been in, the Waterfall Cave. First you enter a narrow crack of a cave. There is no room to paddle and you pull yourself along by holding onto both sides with your hands. The ceiling opens up after a while and you see some sky overhead. The cave continues but first a waterfall pours down over the opening. Behind the waterfall there is enough room to turn your kayak around for the trip back out again.

We stopped for a lunch break and then continued on around a few more points and through a few more caves and arches. Then we turned back towards Van Damme. I broke away from the group and went outside as we approached the beach. I knew the tide was getting low and there might be a chance to surf over the reef. I did manage to get one nice ride, but the swell was mostly small and the huge burden of kelp this year calmed the water down even more. Mary Ann joined me trying to surf the mild waves but we both gave up and forced our way through the kelp to get back to the beach and our cars. The long weekend of enjoying the Mendocino Coastline was over.

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