Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Brophy Canyon to Cache Creek Ridge Trip Report

Unseasonably cool weather was the order of the day, as 17 of our intrepid hikers opted to go the full route. This meant they had to brave two creek crossings, moo-cows, moo-cow-patties, unbridled scenery, and spending the day with me. Adventurous lot!

We parked at the pull-out at the mouth of Brophy Canyon, off of Highway 16, and began our trek down to Bear Creek, where we would have to cross. Sam brought the plank-o-matic, which is only version 1.0b, Douglas fir edition. Unfortunately, the plank wasn’t long enough to reach across the creek, so we opted to wade across, with some removing shoes and others deciding that wet shoes wouldn’t be a big deal. I was with the former.

We began our ascent out of Brophy Canyon, enjoying the views of Cortina Ridge. It was one of those blue-sky-big-fluffy-clouds days, so we got some great pictures. Visibility was excellent and the air was clear. We hiked our way up past the cows grazing, said our obligatory ‘moo’s’, and moooved on. Lunch was at the ruins of the old stage stop. During lunch we saw a few pieces of heavy equipment grading the trail/farm road, as well as carrying out some car bodies and other trash left over by the previous owners. We gave a healthy round of applause. They didn’t notice.

Then we were off to Cortina Ridge, where we finally saw Cache Creek and enjoyed our views of it the rest of the way back down to Bear Creek. A quick car shuttle and we were back at the trailhead.

Fabulous time!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good tent for summer camping

Ok, is this really a tent? Given that camping in California is pretty mild, the REI Bug Hut 2 is pretty much all you need for most seasons. In the Putah and Cache Creek area, this is perfect for early Fall, Spring, and Summer camping. It doesn't weigh much, has a full floor, is free-standing, and can sleep two comfortably.

I made a rainfly out of 4-mil plastic, with grommets attached so it can attach firmly to the tent.
Overall, it's a great value, and keeps the bugs out.

It's become part of my lightweight backpacking setup.

What kayaks to buy?

I know this blog has been pretty gear-focused of late, but this time of year I always get the request as to what types of things to get for backpacking/boating/general recreation.

Since it's now kayaking season on Cache Creek (and yes, I've already gone this year), people often ask what boat I have. Those who know me know I like good gear, but also like inexpensive gear. Why pay more than you have to for the same amount of fun?

My boat is the good-old Sevylor K79SB, aka. Orange Torpedo, or as I call it, the Disposaboat. It's a self-bailing version of the classic Sevylor 'Tahiti', originally made for Orange Torpedo raft trips; a company that runs whitewater tours in the pacific northwest. The boats go for under $150, and have plenty of room for you and your gear, especially on overnight trips. Despite what they say, they do not work with 2 people. I've tried it. It's not great.
But, for one person, these boats can't be beat at their price point.

Another good, relatively inexpensive boat is the Aire 'Tomcat'. A two-person version of this will run about $399, lightly used at That's the best price I've seen.

Whatever boat you choose, remember you life vest. In Yolo County, it's a County ordinance that you wear one while boating.

The image above is from last Wednesday, on my Orange Torpedo on Cache Creek.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Finally got a flashlight I will use

Though for ultralight backpacking purposes, a tiny coin-cell LED light is preferred, I also like this one. You can find numerous sellers on Ebay. Don't pay over $8 total, including shipping. Search for 'Squeeze light'.

Here's the problem: Most of the time when you own a flashlight, you use it for a while and then the batteries die. Ok, sure, you can get rechargables, but that means you need to plan ahead before a trip. I'm usually just making sure I have food.

So with this one, you squeeze the dynamo to charge a capacitor (some have onboard batteries which are recharged by the dynamo) which then gives you power to run the light. You never have to worry about batteries again. Perfect.

Reviews of the 'shake lights' were poor, but these dynamo lights really work. I bought a few for camping and for home use. Since my kids like to play with flashlights, this solves the battery problem for them as well. They've also learned to squeeze it....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trip Report on the Bear Creek/Craig Canyon Hike

Winter turned to summer with little time for spring. This, of course, meant it would be hot, or at least really warm. I don't really mind hiking in the heat and I always pack lots of water. I ran through it on this trip. The hike was short. Surely no longer than 5 miles, but most was cross-country. I'd wanted to hike up to the 'other' Blue Ridge, shown on USGS maps south of Highway 20 and west of Highway 16.

So, leading a small group, we hiked directly west of the BLM 'Cowboy Camp' parking area and trailhead, fording Bear Creek and starting directly up the grassy serpentine hills. The hills west of the trailhead have grass slopes, with a nice covering of chapparal on the top. Elk had blazed a trail that was easy to follow through the thick brush.

At the top of the hill, we were greeted by a barren rocky surface with large rock buttes which served as vista points. Continuing south along the ridge, we saw a nice herd of elk snaking their way across the slope. After several minutes of photos, we continued on to a nice rock butte for lunch. My hydration pack still had a large block of ice contained within, so though it was 95 degrees, I still felt cool.

Lunch over, we trekked down to Craig Canyon, pausing to look at an old hunting camp site, complete with rusty stove. Though it hasn't rained in quite some time, the creeks were all flowing substantially, including those coming out of the dry hillsides. Most impressive!

The trip concluded with another crossing of Bear Creek, and a nice one-mile flat hike back to the Cowboy Camp. I'm increasingly fond of Bear Creek. Lots of ancient sea-bed outcroppings and gorgeous plunge-pools. Numerous ledges form waterfalls and cool, green pools beneath. One of these days I need to map them all....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kayaking season has begun on Cache Creek

Flows started going up for irrigation last week, so now through August it will be sweet!

For current flow conditions, check out Yolo County Flood's website, and click on Water Releases.

I plan on doing the Rumsey run next week....the wilderness run from Highway 20 will have to wait until I get more free time....

The Rumsey Run is great in that you can do the run in 2.5 hours, then be back home in time for lunch.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Low Water Bridge Now Passable

It seems like Rayhouse Road and all the trails beyond (Blue Ridge, Frog pond, Fiske Creek, etc.) have been off limits forever, what with so much flow coming down Cache Creek and crossing over the low-water bridge. My normal rule of thumb is that if it is 1500cfs or under, you can cross. Most all of march it's been over 3000.

Well, I checked this morning and the river is running under 600cfs at Rumsey, so if you are planning a hike this weekend, try out the frog pond or blue ridge, as the bridge is now passable!

Next up: irrigation releases and rafting season!