Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

It's time to list some of my favorite columns for the year.

The list is based on the columns I enjoyed writing the most and the feedback I received from readers (there's at least two of you out there).

"Secret Beach is not a secret" (July 2): I received a few emails chastising me about this one, which claimed that Secret Beach, the official name for Miner Creek beach north of Brookings, is not the secret spot some people think it is. I understand and can respect that position, but it's not one to which I subscribe. I'm not big on the whole "us versus them" mentality when it comes to bragging about our local beauty spots and sharing them with visitors.

"It's only 30 miles people!" (April 2): In this column I tackled the issue of taking short pleasure trips out of town, say to Gold Beach or Crescent City. The concept of driving more than 30 miles "just for fun" is foreign to some my neighbors. An acquaintance of mine said some Brookings residents declined to attend an event in Gold Beach simply because it was "too far away."

I don't get it. I'm always looking for excuses to get out of town. I must admit that the recession and the rising cost of gas has curtailed some of our outings. However, the Graves family doesn't skip trips simply because 30 miles is an inconvenience.

"Bravely entering the Jungle Book" (April 9): As you might guess, this was a column about my 8-year-old daughter Alia and her first foray into the world of community theater via Disney's "Jungle Book." She joined more than a dozen young actors who delighted audiences. Theater is a wonderful stage for our children to learn new skills that will serve them well in life.

"Seek solutions to homeless issues" (Sept. 3): On a more serious note, I wrote of homelessness in our area and the failed attempts to address it. Spurred in part by the cleanup of a homeless camping area at the south end of the Chetco River bridge, I wrote: "What is the ultimate solution to the chronic homelessness in our community? I don't have one. Rural towns and metropolitan centers across the nation are struggling to find one, and Curry County advocates for the homeless are doing all they can to simply feed, clothe and keep the homeless dry during the winter months."

I always like to offer some hint of optimism in my column, but came up short this time. In the end, I settled for this: "Perhaps there is no single solution. Perhaps its a combination of solutions. Perhaps all we can do is offer free food, sleeping bags and a kind word."

"Battling the meth monster" (May 14): I've addressed this issue over the years, but this time it hit closer to home when a drug bust involved a suspect house not more than a half a mile from my Harbor home. It was a sober reminder of the stranglehold that methamphetamine has on our community.

"Puppies on the hunt for litter" (Feb. 5): A mother and her 4-year-old daughter started a children's version of the volunteer trash collecting group known as the Trash Dogs. "Not only would it be a good way to get our children together for some fun, it would teach them the importance of keeping our area clean and tidy," the mother said.

"Plight of the zombie parents" (Sept. 10): This one, about sleep-deprived parents suffering through their childrens' first week back to school, struck a funny bone with several parents. It seems my wife and I were not alone in our misery.

Thank you all for reading At the Helm, and for the comments you've shared.

Happy New Year!