HEEEY YOOOU GUUUUYS!!!
Our journey up the Oregon Coast continues. After leaving Bandon we drove about 2 hours north to the town of Reedsport where we stayed at the Umpqua River Lighthouse State Park. The campground was pretty nice; however, the swarms of mosquitoes must have followed us from Bandon. At times there must have been hundreds of those little blood-suckers setting up camp on our trailer, waiting to attack. Poor Melinda kept getting mosquito bites on her face. After we set up camp, we drove through the park to check out its namesake, the Umpqua River Lighthouse. The lighthouse itself was pretty, but it is stationed within an active Coast Guard station and is surrounded by a chain-link fence, parking lots, and Coast Guard housing. Needless to say, it was pretty much impossible to get a decent photograph. Since photography wasn't in the cards, we walked around the beach for a little while and had a nice lazy afternoon.
The next day we decided to check out the Oregon Dunes, which is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America. Stretching nearly 40 miles, from Coos Bay to Florence, these dunes make Jockey's Ridge in North Carolina look pitiful. I'm sure the dunes are pristine and gorgeously sculpted after a nice windy day; however, when we arrived they were anything but. Unfortunately for me, the dunes see a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There were footprints and tire tracks for as far as I could see. We walked about a mile through the dunes trying to find a decent area but decided to turn around when it became clear that it was a lost cause. Melinda was a little disappointed, so I decided to act like a goofball to entertain her. After returning to camp, we made the decision to leave two nights early since there wasn't much else to do around the area. We considered staying one more night since it was already 2pm and leaving would mean forfeiting that night's camping fee, but decided that moving on was the best choice.
|Thrill Seeker, Innovator, Hero|
We packed up and continued north to the campground at Beachside State Recreation Site, located just north of the charming town of Yachats. On the way, we stopped by the often photographed Heceta Head Lighthouse which sits perched on a beautiful cliffside overlooking the ocean. We hiked up the headland to check out the lighthouse and the keepers quarters, which are purported to be haunted by the ghost of an elderly woman, nicknames Rue. Many sightings of Rue are reported while standing outside the house looking up into the attic, but unfortunately Rue remained in hiding while we were there. After returning to the car, we decided to visit the Sea Lion Caves which is a little tourist trap located about a mile up the road. Since it was rainy and dreary, it seemed like the perfect way to kill some time. After dropping 28 dollars on admission, we made our way to the elevator that took us a few hundred feet down into the cave where the sea lions gather, only to find that there wasn't a single sea lion in the cave. Not one! I know, I know, the cave isn't a zoo and the sea lions come and go as they please, but it felt like a complete waste of money. Thankfully, there was one other viewpoint along the cliffside where we could look down and see sea lions gathered on rock outcroppings, so it at least wasn't a total bust. It was funny watching them run around, get slammed with waves, and make goofy sounds.
The main reason for visiting the Yachats area was to photograph the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area (or as Melinda liked to call it, Cape of Perpetual Rain), which is part of the Siuslaw Nationl Forest. With coastal landmarks given names like Devil's Churn, Thor's Well, and Spouting Horn, you pretty much know you're in for a treat even if you have never seen or heard of any of these places before. The coastal area within Cape Perpetua has the most wild, treacherous, and pissed off water that I have ever seen. It's certainly not the kind of place you go skipping along the coastal edge while holding your partner's hand and taking in the scenery. There are viewpoints from the handful of parking lots where you can see the landmarks and observe the wicked tides from a distance, but you really can't appreciate how powerful it is until you get up close. I decided that I would first head down to check out Devil's Churn. This phenomenon is a narrow channel in the Oregon coastline that funnels water inland for several hundred yards until it becomes an off-white, frothy pile driver. During high tide, the waves rush in and ram the end of the channel, sending up curtains of salty water and spray. It was pretty amazing to stand at the end of the channel and watch the waves come rushing towards me. It certainly got the adrenaline pumping. The waves pound the sides of the channel the whole way down and then disappear underneath your feet where the channel ends in a cave. The force of the water hitting the cave wall is so strong that it rumbles the ground underneath your feet after letting out a loud boom. (Sorry for the lack of photos, I'm completely backlogged)
The next area we ventured to is a spot called Cook's Chasm, which is where the landmarks Spouting Horn and Thor's Well are located. Spouting Horn is a truly awesome phenomenon. At high tide, once enough pressure builds up from the incoming surf, a small blowhole in the rock spouts a stream of water at least 50 feet into the air just like a whale would, it's quite a sight to see. I was most excited to shoot the area commonly known as Thor's Well, though it has no official name at this time. Thor's Well is a water driven fountain that is fed from the incoming tides. When it's empty, you can see the inlet hole where the water enters and fills up the well. The key to getting a good photograph is being at this location around high tide, otherwise the well will not fill up and water will not flow over the top. The downside to being here at high tide, is that the well and surrounding area become very volatile. The force at which the well can eject water into the air is impressive to say the least. The first time I shot here it was an overcast day and the tides where high enough that it would fill up, but not so bad that I was going to get completely soaked. I wrote these off as practice shots for finding a composition I liked. It became very interesting over the next two days and shooting here was a lot of work. I had to constantly have one eye on the well and one eye on the incoming waves to know if there was a powerful gush of water about to blow up in my face.
|Why I Destroy Gear|
The second day of shooting here was a success, I was completely happy with the shot I took and we had some beautiful puffy clouds backlit by the sun. It was ideal conditions for that time of day. Melinda accompanied me down this time to see it for herself. I think she was impressed ; ) So why did I go back a third time? I don't know, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I just wanted to experience that feeling of standing on the edge of something with such awesome force one more time.
|Also why I destroy gear|
On the walk down, I noticed three other photographers had already arrived and set up. I assumed this would be the case since high tide was going to coincide with sunset that evening. I made my way down and introduced myself, and they asked me if I had shot there before. I proceeded to show them the photo that I took the previous day and they really loved it. They asked where I was standing (they were set up about 8 feet from the well on a ridge of rocks that would keep them safe from the incoming water) and I told them they needed to move up to the edge of the well. You can certainly shoot Thor's Well from many angles that will keep you at a safe distance from the water, but to get a shot looking into the well you have no choice but to get a little wet (or soaked). For the next two hours we all shot there together, getting completely obliterated by water countless times. At one point, three of us were lined up next to each other when the biggest wave that I had seen yet exploded out of the well, rocketing water into the air. We turned around and covered our gear as quickly as we could only to take the full wave crashing on our backs and soaking us from head to toe. We frantically were wiping down our gear but laughing our asses off at the same time. For the rest of the evening we were all shaking either from the cold, adrenaline, or a combination of both. I decided to pack up and just enjoy the rest of the sunset once the extra shirt I brought down was now too wet to wipe my lens clean.
|My Photo Buddies and Great Company for the Night|
Soon after, the other photographers were once again hit head on with no warning by another huge gush of water. They called it quits right about this time. In the end, I was left with a non working shutter release cable. I ended up fairing well but my shooting buddies sacrificed a camera battery and possibly some brand new camera bodies that cost over 3,000 dollars (I really hope your stuff is alright!). This is one of those shots you most definitely work for. My expectations were met and it lived up to being as treacherous as I have heard. It's an experience I won't soon forget and one that I look forward to doing again in the future.
In between shooting at Cape Perpetua, we made day trips to some of the surrounding coastal towns. We visited the quaint seaside town of Newport and stopped by the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which ended up to be pretty fun. It's not as big as our aquarium back in Baltimore, but it was definitely awesome. The best exhibit by far was the Passages of the Deep, which allowed us to walk through a suspended underwater acrylic tunnel surrounded on all sides by sharks, bat rays, and other creatures of the deep. They also had several outdoor exhibits with seals and sea lions, but the most fun was watching the puffins in the sea aviary. When we arrived, the puffins were bathing themselves and one puffin in particular put on quite a show.
|I don't know who was more surprised. Melinda by the fish, or the fish by the size of her HANDS.|
|Awesome Chowder House in Newport|
Across the Yaquina Bay Bridge we visited the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, which is the only wooden lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, and the often photographed Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon coast and was used as a setting in the 2002 horror flick The Ring. We drove up to Lincoln City to search for Japanese glass floats on the beach and then stopped in Depoe Bay for some hotdogs and ice cream.
|Yaquina Head Lighthouse|
|Melinda Eating a Weiner.......|
After a week in the Yachats area, we drove further north to check out the Three Capes area and stayed for a few days at Cape Lookout State Park. We drove the Three Capes Loop, which tracks close to the ocean past Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares. It is also one of the worst state maintained roads we have driven on yet. Unmarked, innocuous looking dips caused us to continuously bottom out our car and at one point I'm fairly certain our trailer became airborne. I almost had a heart attack. It rained much of the time we were here, but we had a few hours of good weather. One cloudy morning we decided to walk on the beach next to our campsite and noticed thousands of sand dollar fragments littering the sand. Of course, that sent us on a mission to find one whole perfect sand dollar. We must have walked four miles on the beach, combing the sand with our eyes and feet, until we found THE ONE.
|The Three Graces|
After leaving Cape Lookout, we drove north up to Astoria and camped at Fort Stevens State Park (another place with a TON of mosquitos). Ever since I was a kid and watched The Goonies for the first time (and the 100+ times I've seen it since), I have wanted to visit Cannon Beach and Astoria. Since it was raining on the first day we arrived, we decided to visit some of the Goonies filming locations in Astoria. The first stop was Mikey and Brand's house, which sits up on a hillside overlooking the Astoria-Megler Bridge which leads to Washington state.
Yes, I did the truffle shuffle. We also stopped by the Clatsop County Jail, which is now the Oregon Film Museum. Inside housed tons of Goonies paraphernalia including Data's costume and the bike Sean Astin rode in the movie. We also stopped by Ecola State Park, which has nice views of Cannon Beach and was where the restaurant set was built for the movie (it was taken down after filming). The following day, which was also rainy, we visited Cannon Beach to see the iconic Haystack Rock. Sunset didn't appear to be promising, but we decided to head out anyway and it turned out to be pretty decent. I got soaked of course and Melinda sat up further on the beach watching the other photographers run away from the water.
|Peter Iredale Shipwreck|
|Spirits Leaving the Ghost Ship|
After nearly a month of coastal travels, we bid farewell to the Pacific (for now) and headed inland to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. We decided to stay at a KOA in Cascade Locks, which made a nice base camp for exploring the area's waterfalls. There are nearly 50 accessible waterfalls on the Oregon side of the gorge alone, far more than we could see in four days. Our first stop was Elowah Falls, where an easy 1.5 mile roundtrip hike takes you to the base of the falls where McCord Creek plunges 289 feet into a canyon of moss-covered basalt lava. Shooting here was tough because the water was so rough and you have to actually get in the water to get a good photo. It took me almost twenty minutes to make my way onto a rock in the middle of the creek. Next up was Multnomah Falls, which has to be the most popular waterfall in the gorge area. Dropping a total of 620 feet, it is the second highest waterfall in the country and is truly amazing to look at. There is a nice viewing platform at the base of the falls and you can also walk up to Benson Bridge for a closer look at the upper section of the falls.
The following day we checked out Horestail Falls, hiked the 3-mile roundtrip trail to Wahkeena and Fairy Falls, and hiked the 2 mile roundtrip trail to Wahclella Falls. The most annoying part about these hikes were all of the Memorial Day morons on the trail. Seriously, two way traffic people! Doesn't anyone know trail etiquette these days? A kid on his phone plowed into Melinda and I had a few choice words for his mother. The following day when we visited the Eagle Creek Recreation Area to hike to Punchbowl Falls, the Memorial Day morons were out in full force and we watched a guy in a brand new SUV drive in reverse at 20 mph, almost clipping cars that were frantically trying to back out of his way before slamming his car into a large boulder over in the grass. I can confirm that yes, no matter where you go, the entire country is filled with idiots.
|Hiking to Punchbowl Falls|
The 4.5 mile roundtrip hike to punchbowl falls was far less entertaining than the parking area, but the views were stellar. At times the trail skirted along a very narrow, very muddy, and very wet cliffside which brought some interest to the hike. When we arrived at the falls, I set up my gear in the water and stayed there for the next hour and a half.
|Freezing My Ass Off|
The water was freezing and it didn't help that I was only wearing shorts and water shoes. When I finished shooting, I realized I couldn't feel my legs anymore and actually had serious difficulty moving my legs to walk out of the stream. One of the other photographers graciously offered to catch me if I fell. While in the Columbia River Gorge area, we decided to travel a hour south to check out Mount Hood from Trillium Lake. The weather has been pretty temperamental here all week and we were uncertain what the sunset would be like. It can be completely cloudy and rainy one minute and bright and sunny ten minutes later, only to return to rain ten minutes later. Sunset was fairly lackluster but the clouds surrounding the peak of Mount Hood were phenomenal.
We are leaving the gorge tomorrow and heading north to Olympic National Park in Washington. From what I understand, it rains there all the time. Yay.
|Shooting Wahclella Falls|
|Two Headed Monster|
|Dear Ms. P, if you're reading this, we'll be home soon baby.|