In the course of writing his Outside story on public access to beaches bordering private property along California’s Russian River, Chris Colin tried canoeing down the river and landing on contested pieces of shoreline to see what would happen. Among the more unexpected encounters with irate landowners? Violent golfing.

Two-thirds of the way into our trip, we came upon a pirate flag flapping above a small spit of sand. I hollered up a guileless hello to the two men standing nearby. In response, one disappeared into some trees. He returned with two large dogs, which he led down to us.

Clearly we were meant to be frightened away. But I wasn’t ready to leave, so I tried to de-escalate the situation with chatter: a mindless remark about dog breeds, then an explanation of what the hell we were doing there.

“I know about the goddamn high-water mark,” the man spat…

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