Story by Lee Juillerat • Photo by Jim Coffee
WHEN JIM COFFEE lived in Las Vegas, he liked to take full moon hikes.
But when he moved to Gold Beach in 1999, he had to find another way to enjoy moonlit outings. "You can't hike here [at night] because the forest canopy hides the moon, so we started kayaking."
Those first sea kayak outings were with a small group of friends, a group that's significantly expanded. And because those trips were mostly during full moons, picking a name was easy, Lunartics.
Paddles during full moons are still the group's staple. But because of uncertain weather, full moon outings are done only during the months when daylight savings time is in effect. Year-round, however, Coffee and his fellow Lunartics paddle at least once a month, and often more than that.
Several outings are held on the Rogue and other rivers near Gold Beach, but it's not uncommon to drive an hour or more. "There are a lot of choices, usually coastal rivers more than the ocean," Coffee says. "We try not to do the same trips very often."
Two favorites include Hunter Creek, a "tight little creek" near Gold Beach, and the Siltcoos, which travels from an inland lake through tall conifers and dunes on its way to the ocean. During one ocean outing, done only when conditions are safe, paddlers saw two gray whales: "That was a real treat."
I joined Coffee and other Lunartics for a daytime paddle along the Rogue River, a 10-mile mostly flat-water stretch from Quosatana, about 14 miles east of Gold Beach, to Huntley Park. A swift current pushed us downstream while geese and low-flying ducks buzzed overhead, river otters displayed their comical flips and spins, and ospreys patrolled for fish. We glided beneath the Lobster Creek Bridge and chatted with sport fishermen until too quickly reaching the take-out.
Most Lunartic outings last three to five hours, not including shuttle times. Coffee's e-mail list numbers about 125, but the number of actual paddlers, usually in single-person kayaks and an occasional canoe, generally ranges from four to 10, and sometimes as many as 16.
"Most of us have day jobs. This is something we do for fun," Coffee says.
Howling at the moon, however, is optional.
FYI: For more information, visit www.kayaklunartics.com. Jim Coffee can be reached at 541-247-9779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.