Guest post by Gus Gates, Washington Policy Manager at Surfrider Foundation
Honestly, I really can't remember a time without the outdoors in my life. Being born and raised on the Oregon Coast, the beaches (our great birthright), the sand dunes, the national forest in my backyard, the rivers and the mountains are a huge part of who I am. They are why I work towards protecting special places along the coast in my career with the Surfrider Foundation.
For me, the Southern Oregon Coast has always been the place that matters the most to me. I remember my first spring break road trip to this area with my dad and brothers around the age of 12. As we rounded the corner at Port Orford and looked south towards the open ocean, sea stacks of Redfish Rocks, and the majestic Humbug Mountain, I fell in love and vowed to return to this place and eventually live there one day. One of my favorite stories about this place is from my bachelor party.
When you're trying to plan a bachelor party, you should just go to Las Vegas like everyone else, right? Wrong.
When you and your friends are avid outdoor enthusiasts and actively work to conserve these special places for future generations, you've got to plan something wild and epic. Having fallen in love with the Southern Oregon Coast, I knew exactly where I wanted to go when I started planning for my bachelor party.
My best man is the owner and pro guide of South Coast Tours, an ocean kayak outfitter operating on the Southern Oregon Coast. We assembled a crew of 8 including my best friends, my dad, as well as a couple of my closest co-workers. Some had their own kayaks, some hadn't really done much paddling, none of them knew that their minds would be blown by the amazing section of coastline that we were setting out to explore.
We arrived at my best man Dave's house in Gold Beach on Friday night. After a hearty BBQ with locally grown oysters, steak, and craft beer, the anticipation for the next morning was beginning to build. We knew that we had a narrow weather window for our open ocean adventure, since the Northwest winds were expected to pick up early and blow hard so we would need to be quick on the first day and duck behind the lee to get shelter from the wind at Crook Point.
We awoke early and checked the marine forecast, our narrow window looked like it was getting even narrower so we decided to go for it. Launching 9 kayaks at the crack of dawn off Pistol River must've been an interesting sight for any passersby on the adjacent HWY 101. As we hit the water, you could see the whitecaps from the NW wind only about a mile or two offshore and heading our way, we scrambled as fast as we could south towards the point where we would find shelter in the lee.
It might've only been a couple of miles that we paddled that first day, but we barely made it around the corner before the wind kicked up to about 30 mph. Safely on the beach, we set up camp, only to have our tents blown over and filled with sand from the howling wind. Most of us being keen fishermen, we had brought our gear and planned to go out and catch dinner from the offshore rocky reef, we had all of the fixings for gourmet fish tacos. We paddled out to try our luck, but you couldn't even feel the bottom as the wind and current were pushing us so hard. We gave up before it totally blew us south and made it impossible to even make it back to camp.
The area where we camped was part of the Crook Point Wildlife Refuge and access is restricted apart from wildlife biologists who monitor seabird populations and conservation workers who manage the land. Fortunately we were camping in the thin strip of dry say, part of the Oregon State Parks managed Ocean Shore Recreation area, or as former iconic Governor Oswald West labeled it "our great birthright". If it hadn't been for Oregon's legendary late 60's passage of the Beach Bill, we could've been charged with trespassing.
The next morning we awoke early, eager to get on the water knowing that we had about 10 miles of paddling to do before reaching our take out spot where we had parked a vehicle. Just as we predicted, the wind had died down overnight and the ocean now seemed more like a lake. We paddled south along the Mac Arch reef, and stopped for a few minutes to bounce a few jigs off the bottom since we had been denied of any real fishing and catching the day before. Within seconds we had a couple of beautiful LingCod in our kayaks, so we put them into our coolers on ice and commenced paddling. This stretch of coast, along Samuel Boardman State Park had always fascinated me over the years. With its many coves, beaches, arch rocks, kelp forests, and rocky reefs, I had stopped and hiked numerous times, but was left feeling like I hadn't even skimmed the surface. In our kayaks, we were able to paddle thru the arches, into the coves and secret beaches, and under freshwater falls.
It's hard to fully describe in words how magnificently beautiful this section of coastline was from the vantage point of the water, it was like we were in a remote wilderness area, and yet a major highway was just a short distance away. In all, we paddled about 10 miles on the second day, went thru 12 different arches and sea caves
It's truly awesome that there are wild places like this where you can be free to roam, even sometimes just outside your door. It's because of people who had the foresight long ago to recognize that these were special places that deserved to be protected, and when the time came they stood up and actually protected them, preserving their wildness for the enjoyment of future generations.
Surfrider Foundation's is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Learn more about our story as keepers of the coast, and become a member today!