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 (see above), made numerous weekend trips to the area over the years, moved there as soon as I got out of college, and continued to work on the conservation of this rugged area where the Siskiyou mountains meet the wild Pacific Ocean…I knew exactly where I wanted to go when I started planning for my bachelor party. I chose my best man wisely, not only is he one of my best friends, but he is also 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 (who are also great friends). 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, 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.
I knew this area fairly well, having surfed and fished around there for years, and participated in efforts to nominate the Crook Point/Mac Arch Reef as an area for consideration during Oregon’s process to identify potential marine reserve & protected area sites. Despite it’s outstanding subtidal ecology and the long distance from the nearest fishing ports- meaning that the fish and shellfish populations hadn’t been overharvested- it was shot down from further evaluation of becoming a fully protected reserve due to local pressure and politics. However, a few years later it would receive stronger protections due to it’s ecological importance, and recreational significance as part of Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan, Oregon’s locally led version of marine spatial planning under the fledgling National Ocean Policy.
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 site 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.
So being a bachelor party, of course we brought libations and the “party” commenced on the beach under the setting sun in a little wind protected nook with some of the finest craft beer in the land from the nearby Arch Rock Brewing. Amazingly, it was still cold as we brought it in our Hydroflask growlers in the holds of our kayaks. We began brainstorming on what our options were for dinner…it looked like it was either peanut butter and jelly, or we could try and see what we could come up with from the intertidal zone. Fortunately, we were able to get a bunch of mussels off the rocks and there wasn’t a harmful algal bloom happening at that time which might’ve struck us with paralytic shellfish poisoning. (always check for advisories before harvesting!) We cooked up the mussels over the fire and used the fixings from what were supposed to be gourmet fish tacos to eek out a pretty tasty and nutritious meal. Bachelor livin’ at it’s finest!
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 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 it’s 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 *one of my friends managed to flip his kayak while inside one of the really narrow caves, but escaped unharmed after quickly climbing back onto his boat. My dad still get’s a little misty eyed when talking about that area, and describes it as the best trip of his life.
I think 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.