A Mother’s Day to Never Forget on High Island Creek

Mother’s Day at our house means that Mom (that would be me) gets to choose the family activity for the day. Since I’m the most adventurous in our family and definitely the most adventurous Mom my kids know, they tend to be very skeptical of any activity I may choose. Don’t get me wrong, my children don’t stray away from adventure all the time; they are just normal kids who know that family time does not equal friend time and that seems like the end of the world. Ok, maybe I do think my kids are crazy for wanting to spend every living moment indoors in front of a screen.

Laura (7), Ben (10), and Noah (6) all set for our Mother’s Day kayaking adventure

Regardless of all the obstacles with the kids, Bryan and I enjoy ourselves. I love the peacefulness and the purity of the outdoors, while Bryan loves water sports and really loves taking pictures. He attached his new GoPro head cam (a 170 deg wide waterproof point-of-view camera that records video or continuous photos at a given interval) to Ben’s kayak and several of those photos can be seen in this article.

I spent the previous evening researching and Googling as much information I could find on the creek, since I knew this route was not traveled often. I found next to nothing for paddling information which should have clued me in that this route was even less traveled than I had originally thought (which usually means there’s a reason for this in the paddling world).

Some great wave action!

Upon our arrival at our put in location, we noticed the creek was indeed moving quickly and was looking very inviting. Bryan decided to lead (accompanied by Noah), followed by Ben, while Laura and I pulled up the rear. Since I am the most experienced paddler in the group, letting Bryan lead in this quick creek was my first mistake. (I have a theory that one mistake during a paddling outing makes you uncomfortable, two mistakes will at least make you miserable, and three or more mistakes might kill you.)

For the first mile or so, the going was quick and fun while we avoided the numerous overhanging branches and occasional deadfalls, which blocked up to three fourth of the creek. But we were negotiating the creek well and we were all having a good time. The creek was full of standing waves while making quick meanders throughout this wooded area. It required good boat control but we were all easily enduring the challenge which only improved our confidence. Then, it happened.

Ben was padding his kayak beside me when we heard Bryan yelling, “Right, right, right!!!” (telling us that we should try to go to the right). We look up in time to see Bryan and Noah broad siding a large deadfall that completely spanned the creek. They proceeded to scrape their bodies against the tree while being flipped under it. They came up on the other side separated from the kayak. Seeing my husband flip was frustrating, but seeing my six-year old flip was nerve racking. Knowing that I couldn’t do much for my youngest son at the moment and that I needed to help my other two kids stay out of danger helped me keep a sane mind. While Ben and I were paddling to a good portage point, we heard Noah and Bryan and it sounded like things were in control given the circumstances. Bryan is a great swimmer and we all were wearing PFDs (personal floatation devices) as we always do. Also, we have learned to always attach all our dry bags and important “luggage” to our kayaks. (You ask, where did you learn that? Why, that is another horror story altogether.)

Bryan and Noah in the distance about to get taken out by a deadfall

It took the older two kids and me over ten minutes to portage one tree (and it felt like 20 minutes). The stinging nettle and briars were everywhere. During the portage I glanced down to find blood running down my leg, amongst all the other scratches. And this was only a 25-foot portage.

Our first portage of the day

After portaging, we paddled our kayaks a short bit over to where Bryan and Noah had found shore. Albeit wet and scratched up (from the down tree), they seemed in good spirits, except Noah lost one of his Crocs (sandals) and was a bit upset by having only one. However, it was then that Bryan informed us all that he lost his paddle in the ordeal. That bit of information changed all of our moods, as the paddling day might be over for Bryan and Noah if we didn’t find his paddle.

As Bryan began to walk down the creek to do some paddle searching, Laura started whimpering, being unsure and a bit scared of how we were going to get back to our vehicle. While I was helping Laura onshore to ease her anxiety, we heard a scream and suddenly Noah was floating beside us having falling in while walking the steep bank. I grabbed Noah by his PFD while he was yelling, “My Croc, my croc!!” as his remaining shoe began floating away. Ben saved the day by jumping into the water (which was at least 5 ft deep) to rescue the Croc.

After this ordeal, I deposited all three kids onshore with instructions not to move or end up in the water, so I could paddle downstream a bit to search for Bryan’s paddle. I gave up after about a quarter mile of searching and Bryan had no luck either. We returned to our kids for a family meeting, in which Bryan, Ben and Noah decided to walk back to our vehicle accompanied by two kayaks. Bryan was not looking forward to the walk as Noah had only one Croc, so as a result, Noah was going to ride in the kayak while Bryan dragged it through the brush. I would continue on with Laura, since it was Mother’s Day after all (and our cell phones worked so we could communicate if issues arose).

Laura relaxing cozily in front of Mom

After paddling maybe another 200 yards downstream, I spotted the tip of Bryan’s paddle. My first thought was, “That saves $100”! Once retrieving the paddle, coordinating with Bryan, and returning the paddle (much more difficult than you would think, since we were on opposite sides of a creek that was way too wide to toss a paddle across), our happy family was once again in our kayaks and heading downstream.

It should be noted that we are only a mile into our journey, yet two and a half hours of time as passed! At this point, I told Bryan that I would lead as I have the most experience reading and negotiating rivers. If we approached more deadfalls, I wanted to guide us all in the best decision to maneuver through the obstacles.

We all enjoyed paddling in the standing waves

Less than one half mile later, we were up against another deadfall. In fact, we encountered several deadfalls in the next three miles. We were able to wiggle our way around some, but had to portage others. Laura and I also got totally soaked by flipping over ourselves while waiting for the boys to finish a portage; during the wait, the flow pushed us sideways right into a lodged log right beneath the surface.  The only tragic part to this flipping however was the wet Barbie dolls Laura had brought to play with while being “bored” in the kayak.

When we were actually on the creek in our kayaks, we had a blast. Ben was whooping and saying how much fun he was having. I loved the tight turns, standing waves, and challenging steering. Yet, for the sake of our entire family we needed to cut our original route short from 12 to four miles (yes, quite a change) as we were running out of daylight, and our legs could not stand too many more embedded thorns resulting from the portages. We were all relieved to see an old footbridge which marked the early take out point. Even though I enjoyed the challenge, I breathed a big sigh of relief when we were all standing on dry ground.

Proof that our kids survived Mothers Day – they are standing on an old, abandoned footbridge at our take out

Yes, our ride home was full of relief that we were all unharmed, but also full of talk from the kids that they were never going on another river kayaking trip again. I’m not so sure about that; my birthday is coming up in June.

Molly can be contacted at john5_24@hotmail.com and Bryan can be contacted at bryan@bcochranphotography.com

2 thoughts on “A Mother’s Day to Never Forget on High Island Creek

  1. Molly,

    Your adventure was great reading and I felt like we should all push to have these types of adventures with our families. You are right that kids spend way too much time in front of lifeless screens.


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