Posted by: kerryl29 | August 10, 2015

Day 8: From (Oregon) Coast to (California) Coast

The morning of Day 8 would represent my final hours on the Oregon Coast.  I would check out of my Gold Beach motel this day and head an hour or so south to Crescent City, where I’d stay until the morning of Day 11.  I’d spent a bit of unexpected time in the Del Norte County redwood groves on Day 7; now I’d be poised for several more, theoretically uninterrupted days in the forest.

But first it was time for what I thought might be my final coastal shoot of the trip.  When I headed out the door, well before first light, it wasn’t certain what kind of a morning it would be.  There were a lot of clouds in the sky–real clouds, not the marine layer–and it was unclear whether a sunrise would be in the offing or not.  But as I’ve always suggested on this blog, you can’t win if you don’t play, so I decided to head to a coastal location and see if the conditions would prove to be favorable.  I drove south, and when I hit the open area of Myers Beach, I saw what I thought were the early signs of color in the clouds in the sky to the south.  With that as inspiration, I decided to go for broke:  I would make a third and final trip in an attempt to satisfactorily photograph Secret Beach.

I’d visited Secret Beach three times already in the past week, once as a pure scouting expedition and twice to photograph–with modest success at sunset on Day 2 and as part of an utter (figurative) washout during the evening of Day 5.  I had been truly impressed when I scouted the area but the conditions, for a variety of reasons, had been disappointing on each prior attempt to photograph the place.  This would be my last chance to do the place justice.

I reached the trailhead and was very surprised to find, at this early morning hour, a car in the unofficial parking area.  Great, I thought.  Now I’d have to contend with someone else down there–again.  (the presence of other people on the beach had been a real problem during my second attempt at Secret Beach photography on the evening of Day 5.)  Nevertheless, I rapidly gathered my gear and made a very quick descent of the short, steep trail to the beach.  When I got down to the low cliff overlooking the beach I found the car’s occupant–fast asleep, with his surfboard at his side alongside a small campsite he’d concocted.  To my distinct relief, there would be no competition on the beach this morning after all!

The light was already coming up and things were looking very promising.  Partly cloudy skies were lighting up with early morning softness.  The conditions were so good, in fact, that I quickly set up for a series of images from the low overlook rather than immediately descending to the sand.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

After finishing atop my perch, I climbed down the facing of the rock I had been standing on (you can see the edge of that rock in the foreground of the image below) to the beach itself.  The footprints that had so bedeviled me on the past couple of attempts to photograph Secret Beach were still readily apparent–it was obviously going to take a major surge of surf to wipe the beach completely clean–but I determined to work around them.  The sky conditions were too favorable to let this opportunity slip away.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

I gradually moved up the beach, with a pause at the mouth of Miner Creek.

Miner Creek Estuary, Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Miner Creek Estuary, Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

After hopping the creek, I was able to walk up the beach to the south and I focused on compositions that avoided the footprints entirely.  The sun was making its presence felt by this time, but not in a way that was objectionable.

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

Secret Beach Morning, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

It had been a very pleasant morning’s shoot–I’d finally had the opportunity to photograph Secret Beach without the interference of other photographers and under interesting skies to boot.  There’s something extra satisfying about accomplishing something that had previously been so elusive.

Now it was time for the drive down to Crescent City.  I arrived too early to check into my motel–they asked me to come back in 30 minutes, by which time a room would presumably be ready–so I made the short drive down the coast highway to the overlook for Enderts Beach, the northernmost edge of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  It was partly cloudy on the northern California coast at this point, but I found a few perspectives that I thought were worthwhile.

Enderts Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Black & White, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

After shooting wide, I pulled out the telephoto lens and, looking at the beach immediately to the north of the overlook, played around with some quasi-abstract images utilizing the rocks and tidepools on the beach.

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Enderts Beach Abstract, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

I spent closer to an hour than 30 minutes at the overlook and by the time I returned to the motel my room was ready.  After checking in I began the trip to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, located to the south in Humboldt County, in search of the elusive redwood grove blooming rhododendron.

Rather than further burying the lead, I’ll tell you right away that I didn’t find a single blossom all day, but the trip certainly wasn’t a waste of time.  Along the way, I found a couple of terrific–utterly unexpected–coastal shooting locations along the coast highway, 10-12 miles south of Crescent City.  (More on this later.)

I reached Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, south of Klamath, and made my way to the jumping off point for the aptly named Rhododendron Trail, where I’d been directed as the likeliest place in the park to find flowering rhododendron.  The trail could only be reached by hiking up the Cal-Barrel Road–which was closed to vehicle traffic for maintenance, but open to hikers.

Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

While I was ostensibly looking for rhododendron, I tried to keep my eyes and mind open to other photographic possibilities.  It was mostly cloudy by this point, and the winds were minimal, so the conditions were good for forest photography.

Towering Redwoods, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Towering Redwoods, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Grove, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Grove, Cal-Barrel Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

After hiking for about a mile on the Cal-Barrel Road I reached an access point to the Rhododendron Trail, and I saw lots of bushes…but no flowers, of course.  Still, there were things of note that caught my eye.

Broad-Leaf Maple, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Broad-Leaf Maple, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Spring Greenery, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

Spring Greenery, Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California

After about three miles of hiking the Rhododendron Trail and seeing zero blooms, I began my return walk to the parking area.  It was late afternoon by this time and I still wanted to check out the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park, further south.  I found the grove, then made a long drive up Bald Hills Road where, I’d been told at the visitor’s center the previous day, there were stands of lupine to be photographed.  The drive revealed a grand total of perhaps a dozen budding plants.  It was obviously too early in the season for thick fields of lupine so, chagrined (and a bit irritated that I’d wasted all this time), I returned to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.  It was only about 90 minutes until sunset.

I strolled around this upland redwood grove, which was much thinner and comparatively less impressive–at least at first glance–than the lowland groves I’d seen in the state parks over the past two days.  I had the grove entirely to myself this evening and as I moved around I began to appreciate it more and more.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

The undergrowth was pretty impressive and there were indeed some flowers in bloom, including redwood sorrel.

Redwood Sorrel, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Redwood Sorrel, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Unfortunately it was growing increasingly dark in the grove and it was a bit breezier than had been the case earlier in the afternoon at Prairie Creek.  The wind made the fern fronds dance and the comparative lack of light made it harder to gain the shutter speeds necessary to freeze everything.  I had to be patient and try to wait for lulls in the breeze.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

After completing the Lady Bird Grove circuit, I figured the day’s photography was over.  I was at least least 30 miles south of Crescent City by now and by the time I got back there it would surely be dark.  The Redwood Highway, heading north, was practically deserted and I made good time on the road.  By the time I reached Klamath I could tell that a marvelous sunset was materializing.  To my chagrin, I had nowhere to photograph it.  I continued north and then, suddenly, the second coastal location I’d seen earlier that day opened up in front of me as I rounded a sweeping curve in the highway.  There were three pullouts on the west side of the road overlooking what I later determined was Wilson Creek Beach, at the very southern edge of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  The sunset wasn’t quite over so I zipped off the road at the second pullout and sized things up very quickly.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I don’t like scrambling around when the light is changing.  I like to be in place, well in advance, to be in position to take advantage of great light as it impacts a scene that I’ve already familiarized myself with.  Unfortunately, there was really no opportunity to scout out compositions or move around much.  The entirety of my prior experience with this location was as I drove by it earlier that day.  When I arrived at the pullout that evening, the light was already fading and I didn’t move more than a few hundred feet during the entire brief shoot.  There simply wasn’t time.

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Considering that this sunset shooting opportunity had been nothing but an unexpected grab, I was very pleased with how the evening had ended, bookending the morning’s experience at Secret Beach.  Now that I’d found Wilson Creek Beach, as long as the marine layer stayed away, I had a very attractive, potentially versatile coastal shooting location just 15 minutes away from my base–something I hadn’t expected to find.

I would make use of this discovery, more than once, in the days ahead.

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Responses

  1. I’m thrilled that Oregon finally treated you to those perfect conditions (sleeping surfer included) that morning at Secret Beach (which is not quite so secret anymore!)

    I did get down south this past Saturday but only had time for a quick hike at Myers. At least the clouds in the middle of the day were interesting for a change. Wishing I could have hung around for sunset with the latest wildfire breaking out 17 miles up Hunter Creek. A bit too close for comfort. I suspect the smoke particles might have made for some great color if that fog bank I was seeing didn’t roll in and blot it all out.

    In my very humble opinion there is no possible way to catch the true majesty of the redwoods, with or without rhododendron blooms. They are simply too massive and surreal. Having said that, you did come up with some very lovely images that do give a glimpse of the giants I love so well.

    • Thanks.

      I’m not sure it’s really possible to do any locale justice via photography, but I get your point; the redwood groves are probably as difficult as any ecological milieu, simply because of how problematic it is to capture the size of the trees.

  2. I thorouhgly nejoyed your post. I get to live in OR. and see these wonders often. So glad you used the opportunities at last.

    • Thanks very much. You’re very lucky to be able to enjoy these marvelous sites on a regular basis.

  3. I really don’t know what to say any more other than you are so good at photography that I look forward to each of your posts to see what you’ve shot this time. This post is no exception, the photos are fabulous!

    • Thanks very much!

  4. Your research, advance preparation, and long time field work enable you to take advantage of every opportunity, spur of the moment or otherwise. It’s fun to see this area through your lens.

    • Thanks very much, Ellen!

  5. I like your writing style and your photo…Wow are amazing! Beautiful colors and saturation! Ciao Mattia

  6. […] I mentioned in a thematic piece posted a few weeks ago–and as I (hopefully) demonstrated in a post or two since–the notion that sunrises on the West Coast aren’t worth photographing is, […]

  7. […] had spent time in the coastal redwood forests–several hours farther north–two years earlier.  But I never ventured this far south on that […]

  8. […] parks–Redwood National Park.  I’d photographed in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove during my previous visit to the area, two years earlier.  At the time it had been too early for any rhododendron blooms, […]


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