Monday, December 11, 2006

Opal Creek... getting there...



When I was living at Opal Creek (1989 thru 1992) a good friend of mine - Greg Burke, I've linked to his photography under the 'friends' links - showed up with a group of folks from Bend, Oregon to spend the weekend at our big lodge. He was amazed to see me living in the heart of what at the time was Oregon's biggest front in the battle between saving or cutting old growth timber.

Well, to tell the truth, so was I. I mean here I was living in this beautiful old mining town which was inside a locked gate 10 miles up a gravel road deep in the Willamette Nat'l Forest... how the heck did I get there?

I was living in Santa Maria, California, driving forklift and truck for a large hardwood lumber company (JE Higgins as a matter of fact). Due west of Santa Maria is the Guadalupe Dunes. In 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife report called the Nipomo Dune Complex “the most unique and fragile ecosystem in the State of California” and ranked it #1 on a list of 49 habitats in need of protection.

The dunes are a magnificent pile of sand, the highest dunes anywhere along California's coast. I used to spend copious amounts of time there, camping near the top of the dunes, hiking, taking photographs, fishing and just enjoying my splendid isolation. Just to the south of the dunes is what the surfers used to call Perfix Beach. A beautiful stretch of wild coastline that was no less than a 2 mile walk from whichever direction you decided to hike in from and home to a magnificent, right-left break, often with a good curl or even small tubes. And you could camp right on the beach. Seals, deer, coyote, mountain lion (!), pelicans and nine million species of shorebird. Dolphins and an occasional humpbacked whale... all lived or visited. I was in good company.

My friend Mark brought what he described as a very close friend of his from Texas out to California. That Texas friend was Paul, soon to be known as Tincup (see previous post). Like I say... it was a two-mile walk, from anywhere, to get to Perfix beach. When the sand was dry it was loose and gave way underfoot, making hiking a task. I was fishing the surf for perch one fine autumn day when I see my friends way up at the top edge of the dunes.

When they finally got down to me Paul was winded. Heh... now thats an understatement... he was huffing and puffing! And the first thing he did when he was on the beach? He lit up a cigarette. And I wondered at the time, what the heck was this soft, out of shape property manager doing hiking all this way? He came to meet me.

Cool.

Little did I know that Mark first would find Opal Creek, invite Paul when a job opened up, and then invite me when another opening was available. In October of 1989 I made my first trip to Opal Creek...
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