Caves and tunnels and rock gardens, oh my!

There’s something magical about a sea cave. Those on land or hiking in the cliffs above aren’t aware of the marvelous places nestled in the rock just below their feet. Motorized boats can’t get close enough to see them, and they are unaccessible by land.

A kayaker in a sea cave can’t help but feel a deep sense of awe, amazement, mystery and solitude. Water drums in cracks in the walls, surf echos in dark corners and the hollow smell and cold still air in the cave all make it unique. Some caves have underground rooms, and mysterious colorful light shines up through the water.

Last week Mark, Michael Morris and I drove up the coast to Southern Oregon, one of our favorite sea kayaking destinations. Steep cliffs, waterfalls, caves, long tunnels, exciting rock gardens and an occasional wild goat on the cliffs above make the place unique. In all the times that we’ve been there we’ve never seen another person on the water. It’s a great place to step away and play for awhile.

Launching in a gentle breeze.

The thing about Southern Oregon is that if conditions aren’t favorable, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get off the beach. The coastline is exposed, and large swell can make playing in caves and rock gardens treacherous. Wind is always an issue, and this particular day, the wind was blowing from the south, creating up to seven foot wind waves. The swell at three to five feet was small however, and launching from the beach was incredibly easy. We paddled north with the wind, knowing that it might be challenging paddling back if the south wind picked up as predicted.

Lingering in the rocks.

One of the first features we reached was a deep cave with a waterfall in front. We took turns going inside and marveling at our incredible surroundings. Throughout the day we tucked into cove after cove, exploring every crack, tunnel, archway and cave, some mild and others wild.

Mark exiting a cave and passing a waterfall.

Michael and Helen making their way though a row of archways.

One of many tunnels.

After several miles we turned back and were immediately hit by a strong headwind. After paddling hard for about a mile and watching (and feeling) the waves around us get larger and more powerful, we stopped for a break and to regain strength for the journey back. We opted to take the most direct route, straight into the wind, and for the next two and a half hours we remained focused as we slogged back.

The journey back.

Finally we arrived back at the launch, tired but completely satisfied with the day. Southern Oregon is a magical place, and I can’t wait to return.

Back at the beach.

Photos by Michael Morris, Helen and Mark.

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