Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Low Tides Will Reveal More Beaches to Enjoy
By Tom Baake
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Perched atop a rock usually awash, a visitor gets a closer look during a recent minus tide on the beach in Bandon.

While riding ATVs in the Oregon Dunes and fishing are among the top draws for folks visiting the South Coast, a trip to the beach is high on the priority list for many. And with our miles of beaches and scenic shoreline, we can certainly accommodate. In fact, the timing couldn’t be better right now, as there will be 18 low or minus tides in the month of June. With the ocean “rolled back” on so many occasions, we will literally have more beaches to enjoy. Not to mention the tidepools!

This will include the lowest tide of the year, a minus 2.2 on June 15.

To get in the mood, a friend and I took one of my favorite beachwalks in Bandon during a recent minus tide. We decided to outfox a potential north wind on the return by doing a car shuttle, leaving one at the China Beach access along Beach Loop Drive and returning to our starting point at the South Jetty of the Coquille River.

The beach at the South Jetty – and the one at the North Jetty too, for that matter -- always has a fantastic assortment of cast-up driftwood, and as is usually the case, visitors had created some imaginative forts and shelters. We admired their creative architecture as we threaded a route toward firm sand closer to the water’s edge.

What a day! All the elements seemed to align – sun, surf, gentle breeze, cottony clouds. A gull called out right on cue. We strolled happily. Happy, however, for only about two minutes, at which point we slogged into a stretch of beach covered with a soup of small wet rocks and tiny shell fragments. We sank slowly into the mire, assessing our options.

We craned our neck to see if there were firmer footing either at the top of the beach or right along the waterline. The upland provided only slow-going powdery sand and the water’s edge was almost like quicksand. Our shoes were already soaked and we hadn’t even gone a thousand feet. The fun had been so fleeting . . .

It must have been that initial rush that kept us plowing forward. The promise that the feeling might be recaptured. And sure enough, as suddenly as it started, the bed of stones and shells abruptly ended, revealing good old solid wet sand again.

About three-quarters of a mile from the jetty we came to the headlands of Coquille Point, and even at the lowest point of minus tide there was no way to get around the point and still stay strictly on sand. But we easily made our way through well-trodden gaps in the jumbled stones at the foot of the headlands, following footprints of many previous beach-walkers.

Once through the gap, the way opened onto the really scenic part -- perhaps the best-known stretch of Bandon beach -- with its dramatic offshore rocks known as sea stacks framing a series of gently curved headlands and protected coves, all overlooked by a lineup of spectacular custom homes.

At about 1.5 miles was Cathedral Rock, just inshore from iconic Face Rock. The minus tide made it easy to walk in and marvel at this strange bit of geology – with its soaring, cavernous interior space -- and to check out its other two entrances that are usually submerged.

Devil’s Kitchen viewpoint was passed at just over 3 miles, and China Creek viewpoint at 3.7 miles. This was where our shuttle vehicle was parked, but we were having such fun we decided to keep walking down the beach to where New River enters.

South from China Creek, the upland part of the beach was roped off to protect nesting seabirds, but the wet sand remained open. Truth be told, though, the beach southward is pretty flat and featureless, especially considering how picturesque it is where the seastacks stand sentinel.

We reached New River at about 5.3 miles. Here, too, was Fourmile Creek, which enters New River as it nears the sea. We lingered to study the always-fascinating dynamics of river confluences, watching the almost-hypnotic whirls and rips and cross-currents and vortices play back and forth across incoming wavelets and outgoing river currents.

The north wind, meantime, was starting to kick in and we were glad to have the relatively-short hike back to China Creek. A good workout nevertheless. Maybe next time we’ll bring our bikes . . .

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.)

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