Pistol River Magic

After a significant absence from a special natural place in your life, upon return to that place, the question always remains: does that place still hold up in your heart and mind? Or have you moved on? Has the place moved on, been developed, burned up, overrun with tourists?

Pistol River on the Southern Oregon Coast is such a special place for me. I discovered it by accident 20 years ago with my dogs. Then, more recently I established a regular relationship in a tumultuous time in my life and the Pistol River estuary and its ocean beach helped restore me.

Pistol River itself is one of the few Oregon estuaries not exploited for economic gain. Its channel meanders, changes, stops, starts, and annually gets cut off from emptying into the ocean. After a long summer of no rain, a person can literally stand across the mouth of the river with one foot on the north bank and the other on the south, and let the water trickle underneath your legs until it finally finds its way home. I’ve done it! It’s one of my awesome Oregon experiences.

Last week, I was there at 6:30 in the morning. It was drizzling. Not a single person was there. It was low tide and I walked south down the beach to see what was happening at the river mouth.

Driftwood everywhere. Beaverwood everywhere. Agates and shells. Gray and white waves. I saw a pair of geese atop a rock. They honked! I felt more energized the first ten minutes of my walk than I had the previous ten months.

I reached the river mouth. A dozen harbor seals were bobbing there and staring at me. Then I noticed a dozen or so seal pups hauled out on the beach. They took notice of me and began wiggling toward the water. Now I’ve seen a couple baby seals do this on separate visits to the beach, but not a dozen at one time. Plop! Plop! Plop! They went into the water and made ripples. I saw the converging ripples of a dozen baby harbor seals finding the safety of the river. It was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever witnessed.

I backed away and got out of there so they could haul out when they needed to without feeling in danger.

Time was all on my side. I explored. I found a exquisite pile of driftwood and went to work. As I worked, I recalled a visit to this very beach several years ago in the height of the pandemic, with someone very dear to me. We built a fort and saw some otters playing in the river.

We were on the verge of building forts together, but she couldn’t pull it off and I wonder if she thinks about that wherever she is.

A half and hour later I had built a sturdy and beguiling fort well above the spring high tide line and knew it could last all through the summer. Or it could fall apart in an hour. So be it.

I broke a sweat building. Driftwood fort sweat. It’s an elixir to me.

As I walked away from the fort to do whatever might come next, I saw a bald eagle land on a piece of driftwood a hundred yards down the beach.

When a bald eagle shows up, you know it’s on.

Then another one appeared!

I headed toward the car, but not before finding a piece of beaverwood shaped like a rapier. I picked it up, slashed the air, and did my Three Musketeers shtick until I reached the trail to the dunes.