Friday, May 7, 2021

Bandon Beach (Face Rock to New River)

Late one night, I found myself mindlessly perusing YouTube videos and somehow got onto the subject of sneaker waves. I sort of consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject because I've had the dubious pleasure of running from the sly surf many a time, with the outcome being uncertain in several of those mad sprints. I can state from experience that sneaker waves really are that sneaky, they look just like normal waves until you realize too late that what looks like a normal wave just keeps coming and coming. Anyway, watching videos of people getting chased by sneaker waves made me want to go hike at the coast. Weird, but then again, that's me.

The coast is calling and I must go...

The basic plan was to hike on Bandon Beach from the Face Rock Viewpoint to the New River and back. High tide was cresting at the start of the hiking festivities, so from here on in the tide would be waning and I'd be less likely to have to flee any would-be sneaker waves like a lumbering pregnant rhinoceros. Despite it being high tide, it was not overly high, leaving me plenty of beach available to hike on.

The still formidable remains of the morning storm

I had driven to Bandon in a miserable rainstorm which did not augur well for today's outing. However, the storm broke up shortly before my arrival at the trailhead and it wound up being a mostly sunny day on the beach. But a large wall of clouds, remainders of the morning storm, piled up menacingly above the town of Bandon all day. Likewise, a cute little cloud bank formed and re-formed just out over the ocean but never migrated from that spot. Both cloud banks were a favored photography subject throughout the day.

Rock gossip "She thinks her barnacles make her SO special!"

Bandon Beach is spectacularly adorned with islands, rocks, and sea stacks piled up in acute jumblage and the scenery attracts beachgoers the world over. But hike south for a bit, you then pretty much have the beach to yourself, not counting gulls, oystercatchers, and twittering flocks of sanderlings. Once you hike past the end of Bandon, then it's nothing but a beach in its natural and wild state for the next 20ish miles, of which I'd only be hiking about 4 of those miles.

China Creek weaves its way to the ocean

After the first mile or so of hiking, Bandon Beach showed me its Johnson. The first of three creeks requiring a wet ford across was Johnson Creek, well engaged in every creek's quest to join forces with the ocean. Next up and maybe a mile further was Crooked Creek, which really was crooked as it sashayed across the beach. Last but not least was China Creek, which was likewise snaking its way across the sands. Needless to say, boots got wet on this hike.

Haystack Rock and island friends

Just past the Devils Kitchen area, whose name reminds me I need to brew up another batch of salsa, the fantastic island scenery recedes behind as one hikes south, with looming Haystack Rock being the last of the islands large enough to have a name. Flocks of seagulls floated around the imposing monolith topped with green vegetation while waves broke against the island in futility. These islands are part and parcel of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and no doubt serve as rookery for the oceanic waterfowl population. 

Nothing but empty beach lies ahead

Once past Haystack Rock, it was just a handful of much smaller rocky islands stranded on the beach by the receding tide, with each island or rock formation being smaller than the preceding one. And then just like that, it was nothing but soft sandy beach with no rocks at all, just miles of wet sand glistening in the mid-day sunlight. Lane, Dale, and I backpacked this stretch of wild coast several years ago and came to hate hiking in the soft sand but loved the coastal scenery.

The New River gracefully curves across the sands

At just under the four-mile mark, the New River hove into view. The river looked more like creek as it was roughly the same size as China Creek and was an easy splash across. While the river was not that large, the vast expanse of bare sand at the river's mouth was an indicator that this river does carry plenty of water in winter. The mouth of the river is migrating north and was about three miles from where the map said it should be. In fact, when I've been here before, the New reached the sea at the confluence of the New and Twomile Creek. However, today Twomile Creek was nowhere to be found so presumably the New has migrated further north since my last visit, proving that a large river can go anywhere it wants to.

The tide was quite low on the hike back

After lunch on a large driftwood log at the river's edge, I went upstream (searching for Twomile Creek) along the graceful bends of the sinuous river. I ran into one lone hiker and we were both a little surprised to have company at this lonely place. And from there, it was a 4'ish mile walk back at waterline toward the rock formations of Bandon Beach and the relative throngs of admirers thereof. The ocean had drawn way back because of the low tide, creating a maze of sandy walkways between the islands, allowing for exploration of tide pools and such.

Kind of hard for waves to sneak up on me today!

Well, because of the waning tide, I did not have to make any mad dashes to safety, as there had been no sneaker waves sneaking up on me. I was most grateful for that, as well as for hiking on our beautiful Oregon coast on a sublimely beautiful day.

A small bank of puffy white clouds float just offshore

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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