Trip ReportLost To The Sea, by Disaster Master
Lost to the Sea
large waves can carry old growth logs to the rear of the beach in an instant(or grab and take objects out just as massive) all in the span of seconds.
This beach was new to myself and my friends. I had stumbled onto access for it only a short time before.
Below Oregos's flanks local tribal members stood spread out on the shore, perhaps five or six in all. They held homemade gaffs; hooked spears. All were studying the wash before them. Suddenly one gave a call, and the rest responded and rushed into the shallows. They were after something, but what? The youngest
let out a whoop and twirled his gaff over his head. Impaled at the end was a three foot eel, still writhing as the eel-er placed it in a bag on the shore. That was wild!
What a magical place. We lost track of time as we unlocked the secrets of unknown boulder problems. These really were problems, difficult, and we were often completely engrossed. A few times we were nearly drenched when a sneaker wave would ride up behind us. We'd grab the pads and sprint inland. It seemed like a game of tag and the worst we got were wet ankles.
We must have seemed strange to the eel-ers as well, a small mob of boulderers with giant squares of foam strapped to our backs. We roamed the beach, ignoring the sea as we stared at the boulders, conjuring lines.
There was a lot to look for. Each stone lump seemed made from different types of rock. One was sandstone, the next chert, another mostly serpentine. Even the largest, over 25 feet high, had driftwood logs on top of it. We spoke of how Adam had lost his slippers near this place, grabbed by the sea in an instant.
Myself and Sean Leary were surprised once when we suddenly found ourselves in three feet of water one day near here.
I heard shouting. I looked towards the river's mouth and saw an eel-er running towards me, gaff in hand, waving his arms above his head. What the hell? “Eel-er in the water! One of our eel-ers is in the water!” he shouted. “Oh, sh#t, do you see him? He's wearing a blue coat.”
I looked out to sea and saw no sign. “Where did he go in?” My adrenaline was raging.
“Down there by the river's mouth, at the point of the south spit.”
I looked again. The river was pushing hard out to sea that day. To make things worse the surf was coming at the mouth diagonally, while the wind blew in a third direction. This created a huge zone of what kayakers call “funny water”. There's nothing funny about it. Currents swirl and dive, and there seems no way to tell where someone submerged might surface.
I called to my friends. “Hey, a fisher got swept out! Get up on the boulders for a better view. He's wearing blue."
The eel-er besides me was grateful. “Thanks, man. He went under five or ten minutes ago. We've called the Coast Guard.” He paused for another look out to sea. “We haven't seen him surface. I don't think he's with us anymore but I need to take him home, man. I need to get him to his family.”
This was heavy. Everyone on the beach now faced west, hands cupped over our eyes to cut the glare. I tried to be methodical in my search, moving my gaze slowly from the outside surf in towards the beach. This ocean was alive with seals and sea lions. They swam and fed in the same area we were searching, totally at ease with such harsh waters. I mistook one for the lost man several times, and my heart would leap to my throat. But it was always a seal. I saw no blue jacket. An osprey dived into the ocean in front of me, emerging into the air again with a salmon in its claws. That wet world was not for humans.
I looked up and down the beach. My friend Adam was running north, in case the man had been carried that way. Andre and Kopovi searched from the tops of other boulders. No luck, though.
After what seemed far too long, the Coast Guard helicopter arrived. Its familiar orange shape dived low over the breakers. Back and forth it swept, crewmen peering from the side door. Twice the rescue swimmer was lowered to the surface on his thin cable. Each time though, what they thought might be the eel-er was a broken buoy or net float. We could do nothing else. We packed up and left, passing more rescuers on the trail out. The ocean had slapped everyone on that beach in the face with a dousing of harsh reality...
The sea is a mirror, a placid reflecting pool with just enough surf to please the ears. It is almost inviting.
Not a cloud in the sky either. This was a day to set your soul free. Two weeks had passed and the crew was wandering Lost Rocks, the first place I ever climbed. Chunk after hunk of polished sandstone stretched out of sight down the beach. The energy of the group was contagious. Half had never been here before and babbled as they ran from rock to rock.
Kopovi and Adam were with us too. They had helped in the search for the lost man. Unfortunately, his body had still not been recovered. We had learned that his grown son had been swept out as well, but managed to regain the shore. What a different day that had been...
I let my mind relax and tripped out on the details. Landslides in the sand, little crabs near the breakers, and new problems. The sand level can fluctuate up to 20 feet here in places, so each trip is a new one.
Lost Rocks inspires odd behavior. Boulderers (often nude), trippers, stoners, and natives are most likely to be encountered. Even the tourists who find their way here seem to finally loosen up. Today was no exception, especially for Adam and me. We climbed in a fury, only half conscious of the passing time and the individual moves. We were lost completely in the magic.
Sometimes we were too lost. At one point I was about to make a committing dyno 10 feet up a beautiful triangle of sandstone. Adam and Kopovi were supposedly spotting me. Unfortunately, Adam was too far gone then to be of much help. And Kopovi was distracted by the arrival of a blonde female boulderer on the scene. I threw, exploded off and landed flat on my back, surrounded by my “spotters”. At least the sand was soft.
Eventually the fog came in. Our arms had faded into satisfied coals. I felt made of rubber as we trekked out along the surf. The beach was not finished giving up surprises though. At one inlet, a sandal had washed up on shore. It was filled with the most amazing creatures. They were sea worms as long as your
fingers, with white, red-rimmed shells for heads. The strange creatures had grown all through the straps of the sandal, over 30 in all. Lost at sea, they floated about on their private ship, the SS Tommy Hilfiker. Absolutely amazed, we continued on, charged by this unusual beauty...
Have you ever been in a car crash? cruising along, great song on the radio. Then BANG! Instant mood change. Instant downer. That's what it felt like when we came to the next rocky point. On a boulder facing the ocean someone had painted bright blue graffiti. “Alt H. 2000.” It had not been there in the morning. Beside the rock was a paint can that must have washed up that day. The jerk had forgotten his rain pants as well. It seemed like a case of opportunistic vandalism.
We were enraged. We grabbed rocks and scraped at the paint with no results. So we heaped sand on it and piled rocks on top of that. Who did this? We thought we had seen everyone on the beach that day. The only suspicious one was some loner who kept riding up and down the beach on his ATV. We usually don't see those on the beach. We took the paint can and set off to see if we could find the culprit. This place and day had seemed almost sacred. This Ass had defiled the temple.
At the far end of the beach, near the river, we noticed some tents going up. The ATV tracks led there as well. We wondered aloud what the heck was going on here? As we neared the tents we saw children, some native, some not, playing tag, a BBQ grill and lots of folding chairs.
I approached an older woman. “Hi there. Sorry to intrude, but someone graffiti-ed a rock down the beach today. It really bummed us out. We were wondering if you might have seen anything suspicious.”
To my surprise the lady laughed. She turned to a thirty-something man beside her. “Did you write on that rock?” she asked in a lighthearted way,her voice reflecting a lifetime of cigarettes.
“Yea,” he replied. This was the ATV rider. He looked at me as if I was intruding. I wasn't sure how to respond.
“Are you folks having a reunion or something?” I asked.
“We're preparing for a funeral,” she said.
“For the fisherman who was swept out?” I guessed.
The rider turned to me. “Yea, that was my Father, that's his name I painted over there.” He looked on the verge of anger or tears. “I was the other one who got swept out.”
It was if we had been hit with psychic rockfall. I was blown away. His dad and the blue jacket went out to sea, and blue paint came back instead. He had seen it as a sign to make a memorial. Those were probably his father's pants beside the writing. This was not the vandal we had been expecting. This was a man in pain. I took a deep breath and pointed at my friends. “Me, Kopovi and Adam here were across the river that day. We helped look for your dad. We're all sorry he's gone.”
The man's eyes glazed over. “That's f*#ked up,” he whispered, lowering his head.
“We'll leave you be, man,” I said.
We walked up the winding road behind the beach, staggered by the past few weeks experiences. We could see the man below us sobbing against a boulder. Such great sorrow. What do you say to that? Some things come full circle and some remain unresolved.
We had parked on the shoulder of the hill above the river and the beach. My starter was out, so we could push start it there. Behind where we parked is a white metal cross, a memorial to unknown others. I placed the blue paint can there. Too bad he did not put his Father's name here instead, I thought. Then again, in grief I may have done the same. There, near that cross, we spoke our own memorial to the lost man.
As we did I looked west. Past the cross, through a break in the flowering azaleas, I could see the funeral party. The tents were up, the kids still played, and the sea was glass. The late light had just turned golden. To the north, the mouth of the river emptied into the sea near where the eel-er was washed away. In the same space we searched weeks before, a pod of whales was playing, leaping from the sea; making their own memorial and celebrating Life.
Recent Trip Reports