Editor’s Note: This poem The Autumn Wind was written by former NFL Films President and co-founder Steve Sabol. The poem was first used for the Oakland Raiders’ official team yearbook film in 1974, of the same title. It also epitomizes everything that happened on the Rangers’ annual retreat this year. You can read the full poem at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Autumn_Wind Also, many thanks to Tsunami Rangers Jim Kakuk and Steve El Rey King as well as guest Jerry Albright for the great photos of this year’s retreat!
The Autumn Wind
The Autumn Wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun.
He’ll knock you ‘round and upside down,
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.
Conditions were not ideal. When Andy Taylor checked the NOAA forecast the morning of our departure it called for swells 7 feet at 7 seconds and high winds gusting up to 35 knots. On top of that, wind chop to 8’ was predicted. I launched with the First Wave: Captain Kuk, TR Scott Becklund, and me. We beat through the chop and the wind, keeping to the inside as much as possible, but we had big waves as well so care was needed. Nearly to our destination, we paused at a sheltered spot before threading the caves and rocks that guard our beach.
As we paddled into Thunder Cove, we noticed a stairway that had never been there before. Allowing access from the cliffs above down to the beach, it was reinforced with wooden treads and even had a railing. We found the recent footprints of a small person (a woman? a child?), and a very large dog. This caused some consternation. The Rangers have been coming to this hidden place for nearly 30 years because it’s so isolated. Civilization had finally found us.
We selected tent sites and unloaded boats while waiting for the rest of the team. Squinting into the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the wind patterns on the sea, we soon saw the Second Wave approaching through the rocks. Deb, Paula, and Lance had arrived! Lance is from New Zealand, part of the Rangers’ Kiwi connection.
Now we were waiting for Michael, Jon, Steve, Jeff, and Jerry. Since conditions had worsened throughout the day and they were coming in late there was some speculation that our companions might wait till morning, but after a long interval we saw them shimmering toward us over the waves. Our team was complete!
We discussed whether or not to remain at Thunder Cove given the presence of the stairway. The general consensus was that it was going to be fine, and if someone came down to challenge us we’d come up with a story. But no one came, and the wind and waves dropped somewhat as the evening lengthened. We had a great party. After a smoky summer in the Rogue Valley it was wonderful to see the brilliant stars and the Milky Way overhead.
We were moving leisurely the next morning. After breakfast a pod of kayakers took off to play in the caves and rock gardens, but quite a few of us decided to stay on the beach. Looking out at the whitecaps our general attitude was, “We already did that!” Those who launched were also going to check out other beaches to see if there was an alternative in case we decided to move.
It stayed windy as hell all day and the swells stayed up. Jerry found cougar tracks at the far end of the beach, so he and I took off on a little trek to do some tracking. We found quite a few tracks and determined they were recent. When we got back to camp, Jerry found another track up by a little spring trickling out of the cliff behind our tents. We found deer tracks there as well, and it looked like the cougar was stalking a fawn. We actually found a dead fawn, or what was left of it, on the sand. It’s a wild place.
That night we had another great meal and a party and mercifully the wind dropped again and the night was quiet. However, the rough conditions would continue and maybe even worsen so we decided to bolt the next morning. We’d been on the beach two nights, the wind was still whipping the surf and sand during the day, and the presence of the stairway was disconcerting. We launched first thing even before breakfast or coffee in order to beat that wind.
The launch was dramatic. Swells were coming in at 8 to 12 feet. The entrance to the cove had taken on the appearance of a boiling cauldron. Tall waves rolled briskly through the rocks, and once out of the protection of the rocks the sea was chaotic. As I started to cross the less protected area a wave dumped a long fat strand of bull kelp across my bow. It slid down the bow and smacked into my stomach where it remained, pressed uncomfortably into my belly. Acting like a sea anchor, it arrested my forward progression. Maintaining control of my paddle I grabbed the kelp with both hands and hoisted it over my head. It slithered back off my helmet and I dug in to the next wall of water rising up in front of me. Doing this stuff with a fully laden boat is just hard and I was glad to get through the mine field and into shelter around the point.
We made it out without incident, although Deb told me she submarined right into the kelp as well. Capt. Kuk, Michael Powers, Jon, Steve and I took off to find a new camp site. After one potential option was found to be washed out, we settled on another small beach we named Shaman Cove.
It turned out we loved our new beach! Good call, Captains! Our tents were huddled together close to the cliff but hey, we’re a team! We can get cozy! We had just enough room at high tide not to worry about getting wet that night, and everything turned out dandy. That day we broke a record. The Tsunami Rangers have never before left a beach at 8:30 in the morning especially sans coffee! The team can move!
Shaman Cove was idyllic and completely sheltered. Some of us took off to explore, but others decided to have another beach day. We set up a target and tossed tomahawks and knives. Paula distinguished herself by being the only one to stick two tomahawks at once.
Our last night was pretty fab. Lobster tacos courtesy of Scott, Jim, and Steve, and the tequila flowed and the fire glowed as we mellowed. Once again, the wind and waves dropped to almost nothing as stars filled the sky. Don Miguel, aka Michael Powers, was promoted to Admiral and given a ceremonial paho (prayer stick) to commemorate the event. Interestingly, after the promotion several people went beach combing and Michael found something wonderful. A flawless makau, a Hawaiian fish hook carved from bone on a woven twine necklace.
It was totally dry. At first we thought it belonged to Deb or one of the Kiwis but no… it didn’t belong to any of us. My theory is that a wormhole opened in the universe and dropped it so Michael could find it, a gift from the Great Beyond. Since no one else had a better explanation, I’m sticking to my story. The strange thing is we had been all over that beach all day and no one had seen it till Michael picked it up. He decided to give it to his daughter Marika, an intrepid wilderness guide.
The next day we packed up and paddled back to the take out. Despite conditions, it was a great trip. A good team can flow and adapt to extreme situations. This was a hard trip in many ways, but I came home exhilarated. We have an awesome team. I was reminded again how much I love these guys. The support, the cooperation, the effort, and the skills and talents each of us brings to the experience all combine with deep love to make for the best camaraderie in the world.
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