After leaving Mount St. Helens we began our journey back south, and to the coast.
We had seen Bigfoot, a crater, waterfalls, mountains, and drank a LOT of coffee, so we were ready to see the ocean. It’s been a while and the thought of putting our toes in the chilly pacific was sort of an affirmation to us about where life is taking us.
We pit stopped back in Portland with another stop at R.E.I. A quick lunch (Pieology again!) and on our way toward the 101.
To be honest the coastal trip is sort of a blur for some reason but I’ll do my best to recollect it all as it happened.
The drive down from Portland to our first stop was fairly boring but not too long and I was honestly shocked at the state of the upper Oregon coast and the sort of disarray it seemed to be in. It was like they built it all for the Goonies and just left it to rot.
We stopped in a place called Mo’s seafood near Astoria, OR for our first taste of pacific clam chowder in a bread bowl, not exactly the seafood selection I was used to coming from the east coast but great none the less and very familiar.
After leaving MO’s we strolled the beach and then headed further south towards Yachats, and Thors well which would be the stop for the night. On the way we visited the Devils punchbowl and searched around for critters at low tide!
It was a really awesome place and somewhere I wish I would’ve spent some time with good light!
We also pit stopped by a really cool lighthouse, another place I wish I had the time to wait around and shoot!
Now we were on our way to Yachats a little further south and instead of car camping this night I decided to spring for an ocean front Inn, and I’m so glad we did. The room was awesome, the beach a stones throw from our balcony, tide pools galore and one of the best meals I’ve ever had!!
After dinner the sky looked grey and flat but I decided to take the ten minute drive to Thors well just in case it opened up. On our way it caught fire and we were running behind due to TERRIBLE directions we found online. But I made it just in time for the very last light, not at low tide but a few hours before high tide.
The sky was on fire with soft whispy clouds, the surf was turbulent and waves were crashing and spraying 10 feet over my head but I finally got a frame with the motion in the water I really wanted to convey!
After a few fast, furious and stressful minutes of shooting the light was gone. We headed back to the Inn and I was pretty happy with the luck we had finding it at the last minute and the light we had.
The next morning after our first night in a bed in 5 days, sleeping to the sound of the crashing waves feet away from our balcony we set out further down the coast, and stopped for yet another coffee (coffee #22/46). We took our time stopping here and there but eventually ended up in Brookings, near the famous Wizards hat and Bandon Beach. We scouted the beach for sunset and ended up back at the car finding a quiet place to take a nap since we had hours and hours to kill. After the nap we drove back into town to a few shops, tried some interesting gelatins at a specialty gourmet candy shop and ate lunch at some dive bar. Again another town that time seemed to have forgotten.
Then we headed back to the beach and geared up. Unfortunately low tide and sunset did not coalesce, so I was forced to be further away from the iconic rock than I wished. I made several attempts to get the right streaks and water motion I was looking for. The birds were flying around, landing on the top of the rock adding to the scene. The sky erupted with golden crepuscular rays and textured clouds. Again I was very lucky.
While shooting the above photo of “Gryffindor” I was kneeling down with my camera fairly low. My knees and tripod feet were sinking in the sand when a rogue wave crashed into me, just missing my camera but filling my waders with cold pacific water. I took it as my time to pack up, and get back to the car and find a cozy place to park and sleep.
Sometimes car camping can be suspenseful, even though you aren’t hurting anyone its still fun to be taboo. Although sometimes paranoia sets in and its tough to sleep worrying about being hassled during the night.
The next stop in this tour was Samuel H. Boardman State Park, a massive stretch of coastline covered in amazing sea stacks, natural bridges and secret beaches. Although by the time we arrived it was grey, wet, and lifeless. We peaked around a little and decided to continue on to the redwoods knowing wed be back on the way to Portland and hoped to have better weather later on.
Truthfully at this point I was beginning to burn out, mentally, physically, and creatively. Normally my creativity is in directly relation to my ambition, and my ambition was at a low.
By the time we got to The Jedediah Smith Redwoods the fog we’d hoped for was long gone, and the weather was a mix of grey, and stark sunlight. We hiked around but decided to try elsewhere, the Del Norte Redwoods, where the Rhododendrons were blooming making for a really nice forest scene, although without the fog, it was less interesting and I struggle tremendously with forest scenes. I just do not shoot them enough to see interesting compositions naturally.
After hiking around for several hours, with hundreds of mosquito bites we called it quits. But I needed to make a decision, did we stay near the redwoods to come back for the possibility of fog in the morning, or did I head back north toward Samuel H. Boardman to hopefully catch better weather and maybe even some morning light and color?? It was a big roll of the dice for me. I decided to head back north, and find a hotel not far from SHB.
On the way back we stopped to check out what would turn out to be the best tide pools we had been to yet. Keep in mind that Lacey is a marine biologist and no star fish were harmed. (One big name female photographer unfriended me over this….).
But when we woke up to the sound of rain I knew I made the wrong choice, as per usual with weather. But Lacey convinced me to head out and try anyway, in the pouring rain we made our way to the spot, but along the way I experienced one of the saddest, most heart breaking moments and deepest connections with wildlife I have ever had. If you don’t know me well, perhaps this will help shape your idea of what kind of person I am despite my blunt brashness.
As we drove down the 101, nearing the Natural Bridge pull off we noticed a squirrel dragging itself across the road in the cold, pouring rain. This alone was enough to break my heart, but it was quickly apparent that it was just hit, and paralyzed from the waist down. I stopped the SUV in the middle of the road to prevent it from being struck again. I ran to it, and slowly picked him up, he didn’t fight, instead he curled up, stared at me and slowly took his last breaths as I shielded him from the rain. I sat there on the cold guard rail stroking his head until his eyes closed forever. I found a big fern in the woods near by, surrounded by a thick mat of moss, and cleared a small area to lay him down, to be reabsorbed by the earth. I was heart broken, completely overwhelmed by my passion for nature and animals. I know it may seem silly to you but for me, it hit home.
After this, we stopped back at the hotel, cleaned up, grabbed our gear and decided to head back to Portland where wed spend our last couple of days hitting the gorge again, finding better compositions at a few falls that I previously wasn’t too happy with.
Back in Portland we had our first Ramen experience at a mega hipster spot but were completely blow away by how good it was.
We also decided to check out the Portland Japanese Gardens, and they were awesome, the famous tree was seemingly no where to be found, until I bent over to fix my shoe and looked over at the 4′ tall maple.
This trip was really special. 8 Days exploring the west coast, and photographing so many beautiful sights with the love of my life. I feel that the imagery I have created as a result of the trip is some of my most meaningful and most true to myself. Its always an amazing feeling being overwhelmed with inspiration and beauty.