Friday, December 1, 2017

Bandon Beach

Every year, around this time, rainy weather comes to southern Oregon, ready to hang out for the next 19 months, or at least it feels like 19 months. In the higher elevations and mountains, the rain translates to snow, making it time to search for lower elevation hikes with snow-free trails. Well, you can't get any lower than the beach, so consequently my winter itinerary is heavily weighted towards coastal hikes.

Foam, foam, foam on the range....
Because I've spent a lot of miles on beaches in less than optimal weather, I've entertained many an opportunity to execute a life-saving sprint across the sands with a sneaker wave lapping at my heels. And, after being truly invested in the outcome of the wave vs. human contest, I've learned that prudence dictates a) knowing what the weather forecast foretells, and b) consulting a tide table and generally avoiding high tides.

Postcard moment on the beach
High tide at Bandon Beach was at noon, give or take a few minutes. Accordingly, Luna and I lollygagged at home before heading out to Bandon later than normal, timing the drive for arrival pretty much at the crest of high tide. When we showed up at the Coquille River jetty, waves were marching up the river channel in intimidating fashion and no boats were trying to exit Bandon Harbor. The beach between the jetty and the rocky islands of Coquille Point was awash with waves rolling up into the driftwood below the dunes. But it was a receding tide and would only get better so we set out, braving the mild inconvenience of having to hike in driftwood and run from waves. For some reason, there were no other beachgoers out and about, we had the entire beach strand to ourselves.

High surf pummels an island
Because the tide was still high, walking around the front of Coquille Point wasn't going to happen, so we scrambled over some rocks at the neck of the point. Our reward was the fantastic scenery waiting for us on the other side. Bandon Beach proper curved away from us, culminating in Gravel Point. The bay was filled with roiling white surf peppered with rocky islands and sea stacks. Driftwood covered most of the inland part of the beach, and the clouds were spectacular, allowing just enough sun to leak through, causing the sea to shimmer with a silvery light. Of course, all Luna saw was her people walking their humans, too; she whimpered wistfully, longing to socialize with her kind.

It was a marvelously gloomy view to the south
The pace of our hike slowed noticeably here, as much photography abounded. So many pointy rocks to take pictures of, each affixed with a lordly seagull on top. The tide was noticeably receding by now, so we had enough beach to walk comfortably on. I wasn't sure of it had receded enough to let us walk past Gravel Point but no worries, there was just enough sand to get by with some judicious timing of the waves. Luna was in her element as we sprinted around the point before the next wave came in. She is just a little bit faster than me. More graceful, too.

Rock islands and a silver sea
As we continued to hike along the beach, civilization gradually receded behind us. Accordingly, Luna was set free and she sprinted all over the beach. There were seagulls to chase, creeks to splash in, and an entire ocean readily available for a frolic and caper. We should all hike like Luna. Me, I mostly took photographs of the spectacular cloud bank straight ahead to the south.

A cloud floats above the beach

In back of us, the sky was blue but straight ahead, it was all doom and gloom. The clouds were dark and foreboding, portentous even. Tendrils of black rain hung from underneath and the sun poked holes in the dark tapestry here and there. A storm was in the forecast but apparently it was sweeping in a northeastern direction and pretty much left us alone.

Luna, in her element

Haystack Rock was the last island big enough to have a name and we continued on past until there were no more rocks or islands at all. Just miles and miles of soft sand stretching all the way to Port Orford, if one was inclined to walk 27 more miles in soft sand. Crooked Creek made for a logical turnaround point, although we had to allow for some quality dog-splash time in the creek.

A sneaker wave comes in to make me run
On the way back, it was nothing but blue sky ahead, apparently we were hiking underneath the intersection of blue sky and black clouds. The tide had retreated, leaving us acres of wet sand to hike on while fluffy sea foam marched across the wet strand, propelled by a coastal breeze. A small wave rolled in, catching the light just perfectly, and I stopped to capture the scene. Click, click, the camera was doing its thing when I realized the wave was not going to stop for a while. Darn sneaker wave, even though it was low tide! Normally, you sort of casually jog from the larger waves but not this one, I was running at a full dead-on sprint with the wave literally splashing at my heels. The sprint lasted nearly 100 yards and let's just say that I'm no threat to Usain Bolt as I lumbered across the wet sand like an obsolete Imperial Walker from the very first Star Wars movie. Luna thought it was great fun though, leaping and snapping at her leash, deliriously happy to be running with her lord and master while being totally unclear on the concept of running to safety. For the remainder of the hike, we kept a more respectful distance from the surf.

Looks irritated with my photo-taking
The remainder of the hike was more uneventful as the weather improved over the miles. Good thing too, I'm not sure how many more such sprints I had left in the tank. There was now a healthy population of fair-weather beachgoers out and about, including a group that creates artistic labyrinths on the the sandy beach canvas. They invited us to play in the nascent maze but we still had several miles to go. By the time we reached the Coquille River, the setting sun imparted a soft golden glow to everything. It was a perfect end to a great day on the Oregon coast.

Perfect ending
For more photographs of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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