The Challenge of Mile 305, contributed by Steve Bauer
|Hi, I'm a CoastWatcher; my friends call me ‘Mile 305’. Getting to my area requires a very low tide, a very stout rope, and a deliberate effort to forget how difficult all the previous trips were. |
The day after Thanksgiving 2008, a crab boat named Network sank in Tillamook Bay. Two men were lost. The remains of one man washed in about ten days later.
I met with Rockaway Beach Police Chief Ed Wortman and volunteered to make a one-man quick trip through Mile 305 on December 10th. It takes 15 minutes to descend the cliff and 30 minutes to walk the mile, which stretches through eight coves and numerous caves and caverns. It takes another 30 minutes to return and get past the water and onto the rope. Low tide was scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Total darkness was scheduled for 5:05 p.m. And somebody scheduled rain and wind without my consent.
At 3:30 p.m. I descended to near-ocean level. Because the tide was more than an hour away from its maximum ebb, I spent extra time playing hopscotch through massive boulder gardens to get to sea level itself. About that time, the rain began. I traversed the mile from north to south. On the outward leg of the hike, I inspected areas near the water. In one place, birds were eating away at something, so I investigated. Not a human body. Phew! Further along, two separate landslides pitched rocks down from the cliffs above. Nothing hit me, and I was wearing a hardhat -- but as big as a couple of the rocks were, the hardhat wouldn't have made much difference.
I made all eight cove areas by 4:15 p.m. and started back. The wind and rain began to intensify. By the time I got to the boulder garden, it was exactly 4:45 p.m., and low tide. Crossing the rocks was difficult. I got a third of the way up the ascent and watched daylight wane. When I managed to get to the top of the cliff, it was almost fully dark over the ocean, and totally dark during the woodland hike on the way back to my car. I got there mostly by feeling the trees and kicking at the trail to be sure I wasn't headed west (and back out off a cliff) by accident.
I took pictures of several bits of marine refuse, but none of it belonged to the Network. From one perspective, the trip was a waste -- no tangible results. On the other hand, it did help to fill in a bit of the debris scatter pattern, just by verifying that nothing from the boat was on my mile at that particular time.
The next day, I went for a walk, in bright sunshine, on the shores of Rockaway Beach. On my way back -- there it was -- a good-sized chunk of the Network. The police, the Coast Guard, and I spent the next half hour on the phone, and getting the chunk into the hands of the proper officials for documentation.
Having visited this area for five or six years, I have now broken my promise to myself never to go there during the winter low tides, and never to go when rain and wind are making the cliff, the boulder garden, and the sea floor a very slick, wet triple hazard. But when people are missing, and someone might be comforted by having a loved one's remains located and laid to rest, it's best just to put on the hardhat and go looking for the missing, while doing your best not to become one of them.
Getting to my area still requires a very low tide and a stout rope. But after this trip, the next ones will probably seem like luxury vacations.