On 7-18-12 my friend Will and I departed Gold Beach for an overnight expedition paddle to Brookings. We planned to kayak, surf and fish along the way, covering the 30 miles in two days. Will, a freelance writer and avid recreationalist, was the perfect cohort for an expedition that would consist of fairly long paddles with only short breaks to surf, explore and fish for dinner. On day one we got some good, powerful surf near the tip of Cape Sebastian which is only accessible by the water. Unfortunately, Will snapped his board on his third dredging wave. He was forced to paddle back to the kayaks anchored fairly far from shore due to the sizey 8 foot surf. Will caught a couple more on his half board and graciously let me snag a few before paddling back to the yaks.
After surfing, we reached Crook Point Wildlife Refuge and Mack Reef Archipelago in good time with the help of a stiff 12 knot north wind that developed at our backs. Once at Mack Reef, Will and I fished for dinner and quickly reeled in a Green Ling Cod which we made into a tasty fish soup. We happily devoured our meal while taking in the amazing scenic beauty of the refuge and Mack Reef. We built a fire and settled in to enjoy some home baked cookies and a little Pendleton whiskey to sooth our paddling muscles. The crazy gaggling of 1,000’s of Leach’s Storm Petrels woke us up around midnight. I’ve never heard such a sound and we were truly amazed by the cacophony of calls from these elusive nocturnal birds.
After a fairly sleepless night on the beach we departed the incredible Mack Reef complex with a southerly heading into pea soup fog. We explored many secret coves accessible only from the water and paddled around picturesque offshore islands. We worked our way south through intermittent patches of sun and fog all through the second day. We managed to paddle through 12 rock arches, a few wide enough to fit a fishing boat, most so small it was a tight fit for the kayaks. We rarely saw another human on this remote stretch of coast, but we enjoyed seeing numerous birds, dolphins, seals, other marine life and some awesome geology.
Halfway from Crook Point to Brookings, a 12 knot south wind picked up, making for some tough paddling through whitecaps into the wind. To make matters worse, sporadic rain kept us from staying dry and added a little bit of chill to our long and slow paddle south. When we thought the paddling couldn’t get more onerous, thunder and lightning kicked in. The new weather certainly made the last leg more exciting. We wondered whether a fiberglass paddle would attract a bolt of lightning? Finally, we rounded Chetco Point around 8pm and road the south winds into the Chetco river boat basin cold and wet, but truly satisfied with an excellent adventure!