Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pistol River Beach

After  a couple of memorable hikes on the Oregon coast, made memorable for both right and wrong (tick bite reference from the day before) occurrences, it was time to head back home. Katchan would head to the Bay Area by way of Roseburg, and the rest of us back to good old Douglas County to stay. John and Edwin were in such a hurry to get home, they got away before Katchan and I could invite them to a getaway hike on Getaway Day. 

Low tide on Pistol River Beach
Still designated to be in charge by my one remaining follower, I chose Pistol River Beach, so off we went to Myers Creek Viewpoint, which overlooks the beach reposing on the south side of imposing Cape Sebastian. The tide was well out and the numerous islands and sea stacks were now bona fide landforms instead of islands, as they had been stranded by the retreating tide. 

Myers Creek sparkles in the sun
After scrambling down to the beach, we crossed Myers Creek, which was no great feat as the creek had fanned out across the sand, becoming no deeper than an inch or so. The morning was glorious what with a clear blue sky, imbued with that crystalline air quality normally reserved for a cold winter day. The sun sparkled on the creek like so many diamonds tossed by a jilted fiancée throwing a temper tantrum. Despite the sun, it was frigid cold, thanks to a stiff breeze blowing across the beach strand.

Time for all good hikers to go explore some islands
What makes Pistol River Beach special though, are the numerous islands and rock formations. These sea stacks rival those of Bandon Beach, which is more renown solely because it is located in a city, albeit a small one. Pistol River Beach is located between Gold Beach and Brookings and is not as visited because of the work to drive there. At any rate, the low tide had exposed all the islands and we were able to walk the sandy maze between them.

Walls of rock dwarfed us little people
It is a Pistol River Beach truism that every island has another island behind it. "But Richard," you say "that would make them endless!" To which I reply, "Yup". They did seem endless as we wandered between them. In some little bays, the walls of the islands loomed maybe 100 feet above us, and it felt like we were walking among the ruins of an ancient citadel. An island just off shore looked like an Aztec frog statue from the time of Nezahualcoyotl, waiting for stone flies to eat for all of eternity.

Anemones wait patiently for prey
As we made our way south along the beach, the large rock islands and towers abruptly ended at a series of tide pools sited in a field of small kelp and algae-covered rocks. Pink and blue anemones were "blooming" in the crystal water, resembling colorful flowers instead of the predatory organisms they are. Small sculpins (a spiny fish that inhabits tide pools) darted furtively among the nooks and crannies of the pools. Small crabs brandished their pincers to hopefully deter being picked up by curious humans. Beds of mussels were being preyed upon by colorful starfish and we spent a few minutes discovering and uncovering the various forms of life that exist in this small vignette of marine ecology.

Cross currents and tides
So, now that we hiked past all things rocky and islandish, be they gigantic, large, or small, it was all sandy beach walk across exposed tidal flats to the Pistol River, located about a mile beyond the tidepools. The river was flowing deep, the relatively clear water running with an aqua tint to it. Obviously, there'd be no wading across today, it would have to be a healthy swim instead, for those inclined to do such a thing.

The Pistol River blocks our way south

Blocked from further hiking southward, we followed the river inland until Highway 101 blocked further progress eastward. Here, the river pooled languidly behind the beach dunes and we explored the would-be lagoon until there was no more shoreline to explore. But hey, there were a whole bunch of sand dunes between lagoon and beach and we scrambled up the soft sand to attain the dunes.

Trails, used by the current residents of the dunes
Judging by the many footprints, this area gets a lot of visitors but not of the human kind. All manner of critter tracks criss-crossed the pristine sand and it was almost a shame to mar the dunes with our comparatively clunky boot tracks. By the time we reached the actual beach strand, the low tide had gotten even lower than a grifter's scruples, exposing and stranding even more islands than before.

Land forms on an alien planet
On the hike back to Myers Creek, we had acres and acres of glistening sand to walk on. The sand had been carved by retreating water into abstract formations that resembled a satellite map of a river delta in miniature. The even lower tide allowed for further exploration of the numerous stranded islands and we partook thereof before Katchan and I departed for home. This short hike was just perfect for Getaway Day.

A cinnabar moth basks on the beach
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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