Posted by: kerryl29 | June 1, 2015

Day 1: Scouting the Southern Oregon Coast (Part I)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I last spent time on the Oregon coast in July, 2009, during an extended trip to the Pacific Northwest.  That experience was something of a whirlwind, as I covered the coast from Cannon Beach in the north to Bandon–and parts south–in a span of about three days.  It was an absurd itinerary and led to at least as many frustrations as it did good photo opportunities.  During the parts of two days I was based in Bandon on the prior trip, I explored as far south as the area around Myers Creek Beach, just north of the spot where the Pistol River empties into the Pacific Ocean.  The Oregon coast extends as far south as the area around Brookings, the southernmost coastal town in the state, just a few miles north of the California state line.

On this particular trip, I decided to base myself for a full week in the small coastal town of Gold Beach.  I felt this gave me the best proximity to the areas on the south coast that I was most interested in visiting and photographing–areas that I either scarcely had the opportunity to view on my previous trip or didn’t have the chance to see at all.  Based on some reading I’d done since my first trip, I’d reached the conclusion that the far southern Oregon coast–essentially the area between Gold Beach and Brookings–provided the biggest bang for the buck.  I was, however, willing to investigate spots as far north as Bandon.

To help make all of this a bit easier to visualize, I’ve included this map of the south coast:

south coast map

The blue flag represents Gold Beach.  Brookings (green flag) is roughly 27 miles to the south.  Bandon (black flag) is a bit more than 50 miles north of Gold Beach, with the town of Port Orford (red flag) almost exactly halfway in between.  There are no other towns of consequence along the approximately 80 miles of coast between Bandon and Brookings (and the largest of these communities–Brookings–has fewer than 10,000 year-round residents).  This area was to be my working environment for a week, with the plan to spend the bulk of my time in the area beginning about eight miles north of Gold Beach and Brookings (a span of about 18 miles of coast) covering Pistol River and Samuel H. Boardman State Parks.  This stretch of coast is almost entirely undeveloped, has no services to speak of and has, by reputation anyway, some of the most beautiful beaches and coastal vistas in the world.

My route from Portland took me south on I-5 to Roseburg, where I stopped at a supermarket to pick up provisions for the trip, and then west on SR 42 to Bandon.  It was early afternoon by the time I reached the Coast Highway (US 101) south toward Gold Beach.  I stopped to scout a number of spots between Port Orford, where the highway skirts the coast, and Gold Beach and by the time I reached Gold Beach it was after 3 PM.  After checking in to the motel and unloading the rental car I had about four hours of daylight remaining.  Other than the minimal remnants of marine layer clouds, the skies were completely clear and a very stiff north wind–something that would be a constant presence for days–was blowing.

I headed south on the coast highway, took a brief look at South Beach–on the southern outskirts of Gold Beach–and made plans to return to this location for sunrise the following morning.  Then I resumed the southward journey and made my next stop at Cape Sebastian State Park.

I produced few images on this day due, I think, to several reasons:  limited time; a mind more attuned to scouting than actual image making; and some difficulty getting into a “groove,” at least partly a function of a lack of intimate familiarity with the locations.

Cape Sebastian

You can see Cape Sebastian, even though it’s unlabeled, on the map above;  it’s the small bulge south of Gold Beach.  Cape Sebastian is a conifer-laden promontory that rises more than 200 feet above the ocean and provides views up to 50 miles both up and down the coast in clear conditions.  It’s also one of the windiest places on the Oregon Coast and with an already stiff breeze blowing, it was ferocious at times on this afternoon.

A trail from the south parking area takes you out to some of the views to the north; the best views to the south are arguably from the parking area itself.  I wandered down the trail–part of the extended Oregon Coast Trail which, at least technically, runs the length of the state, from the Columbia River to the California state line–about 3/4 of a mile, noted what I felt were the best possible spots for a northward view, then returned to the parking area for my gear and produced this shot.

Looking North, Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Looking North, Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Back at the parking area, I photographed Myers Beach and other parts of Pistol River State Park to the south.  I anticipated that this would be the only time I’d visit Cape Sebastian, given that I’d obtained these shots–which are relatively limited due to a copious amount of undergrowth and less than optimal climatic conditions–but I was wrong.  Somewhat ironically, it would take conditions that were less than ideal for the views that Cape Sebastian is known for to encourage me to return later in the week.

Myers Creek Beach from Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Myers Creek Beach from Cape Sebastian State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach

The Coast Highway climbs steadily from Gold Beach as you approach the heights of the entrance to Cape Sebastian State Park and descends abruptly back to sea level on the other side of the cape.  The road bends sharply to the east and just as you reach the beginning of the curve the sea stacks of Myers Beach come into view.

If you don’t feel something the first time you view Myers Beach as you approach it from the north on US 101 you’re probably not conscious.  I can recall my first experience doing so, on a sunny July afternoon in 2009; I was viewing something special and I immediately knew it.  The light was awful that day and I was more than 60 miles away from my base at Bandon so I didn’t have time to do much more than exit at one of the three Myers Beach pullouts and gape.  But on this occurrence, in May of 2015, I had time.  This time, I got out of the car.  This time, the light was improving (even if the sky was almost completely bald).  This time, I got out my gear and made my way down to the beach itself.

Myers Beach Surf black & white, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Surf black & white, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach–also known as Myers Creek Beach (the names are used essentially interchangeably) reminds me a lot of the beach at Bandon.  It’s long–miles long, its northern end abutting Hunters Cove, at the southern foot of Cape Sebastian, and extending all the way to the Pistol River outlet stream to the south–and, depending on who’s counting, another mile or two all the way to the northern edge of Crook Point.  It’s also deep, and directly accessible from three roadside pullouts.  And it has sea stacks…lots of them, many of them directly accessible at low tide, and plenty of smaller rocks to boot.  What makes it arguably better than Bandon is that there are no nearby accommodations.  So, while Bandon Beach seems to be becoming ever more crowded, Myers Beach–10-odd miles south of the town of Gold Beach and nearly 20 miles north of Brookings–is never crowded.

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I parked the car at the second of the three Coast Highway pullouts, climbed down to beach level and spent some time wandering around.  The wind was blowing steadily out of the north and producing some pretty good-sized surf.  It was close to, if not at, low tide and I wandered around a good deal of the northern half of the beach.  I ultimately settled on an area that had a small sea arch–impossible to see except when a minus tide allows one to reach a viewing spot amidst the stacks that’s typically underwater.  The sky was, as I mentioned above, almost entirely devoid of clouds, which was unfortunate, but I still hung around this area of the beach until the sunset light faded completely.  By that time, some clouds had filtered into place to the northwest.

Myers Beach at Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

Myers Beach at Sunset, Pistol River State Park, Oregon

I had hoped to scout a good chunk of Boardman State Park–south of Pistol River–that afternoon, but had never so much as made it there, let alone had the opportunity to poke around.  I planned to rectify that the next day, after a morning shoot at South Beach.

 

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Responses

  1. I’d have been ecstatic to come home with anything close to those photos for the entire week, and you were just scouting! I’m really looking forward to the rest of your posts from this excursion, the Oregon coast is a place that I’d like to visit one day.

    • Even better to live here 🙂

      • Most of us will have to take your word for that. 🙂

    • Thanks. Not much actual photography on my part that first day. In fact, I spent a pretty good chunk of time scouting over significant parts of the next three days as well, but there was a lot more image making too.

      The Oregon Coast is, indeed, quite beautiful and well worth the time and trouble it takes to visit, so I encourage you to do so if you get the chance.

  2. So utterly wonderful to see these familiar spots through your eyes or lens! Beautiful work as always!

  3. Kerry: Happy to see more of your great work and narrative…as you know, I look forward to it. Your work is inspiring to many of us!

    • Thanks, Dan. Much appreciated!

  4. Very beautiful…the photograph itself reveals the beauty in the photography

  5. Incredible work here Kerry. I mean it always is but these shots really stick out as top shelf to me.

    • Thanks very much, Terry!

  6. […] mentioned in the previous post, Day 2’s sunrise was to be spent on South Beach, at the far southern edge of the town of Gold […]

  7. […] continued to coincide with the rising sun and the early light remained exquisite.  As I’ve noted in earlier posts, Myers Beach is long, broad and flat and when the wind isn’t gusting the […]

  8. […] end of Nesika Road, just west of the coast highway.  Besides, I’d scouted the location on my drive in three days earlier and the beach looked […]


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