Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sisters Rocks State Park -- and a Nice Sunset

One of Oregon's newest state parks lies about halfway between Gold Beach and Port Orford, off Highway 101.  Totally undeveloped, even unmarked, the views are well worth the effort required to find the spot!  Even on this day when the sky was blue and the air warm, the mists kept a veil over most of the coast.  That distant headland is Cape Sebastian.

The quest was for a secret sea cave, which William Sullivan wrote about in an article in the Eugene Register-Guard On June 29.  We never found that, but the spot was spectacular and we really didn't mind, although the mist did adversely affect the clarity of the photography.  Frankly, to me it was one of those places that is so spectacular you really can't capture it with a camera, anyway.  But I tried. Somehow, probably because I was so captured by this one vista, I didn't get any photos of the three large sea stacks that lie at the end of the road, and where the sea cave is supposed to be.


There is no sign on the highway, other than a standard Oregon State Parks sign with no name.  About 13 miles south of Port Orford, and about 14 miles north of Gold Beach, between mileposts 314 and 315, an old rocky side road turns to the west beside a bluff.  Sullivan advises parking your car immediately, and I have to agree, but we were in a pickup with high ground clearance so we followed the rutted road a short distance to a locked metal gate.  Trust me, there is absolutely nothing on the highway that indicates any reason to pull off the highway here.  We had serious doubts we were in the right place, but it was the only possibility between those mileposts so we gave it a try. A short walk down the road leads to the above vistas plus more to the north all the way to Humbug Mountain and three giant sea stacks from which the park takes its name. 

Earlier, we'd scouted a location for some sunset photography and arrived at Pistol River State Park just in time to watch the day come to a glorious close.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crissey Field State Park

You'd never know it's almost December.  Warm sunshine and clear blue skies (despite the photo above!). I'm not sure why the camera faded this out -- we are still adjusting to one another and there was a bit of glare for it to deal with.  I've been to Crissey Field often and generally it's a quiet beach for solitary strolling.  Not today!  I've never seen so many visitors -- with and without dogs.  All drawn to the same sunshine that pulled me from the house, no doubt. As you can see, the waves were big and coming in one on top of another.  Mesmerizing to watch.

When I first arrived, a couple of surf fishermen were trying their luck but, unfortunately, weren't having any.  At this point the wind had a real bite to it and I pulled out my rain jacket to use as a windbreaker. So glad I had it with me -- I was chilly in my cotton sweats.  I walked all the way to the first point in the distance and would have gone further, but the tide was too high and I didn't want to scramble over rocks.  It's a good distance, as it is.  A fine walk for a Saturday morning!

This is what greeted me as I emerged from the path that led from the visitor's center (oddly this center is closed on weekends -- surprising because it's not only a state park, it's also a "welcome to Oregon" visitors center).  It sits barely over the stateline from California. 

Clearly, I was fascinated by the waves breaking in tiers all along the beach.  Capturing this with a camera is not all that easy -- you really can't sense the size of these boys but it's fun trying.  The sand along this beach is quite different from those nearer Brookings and further up the coast.  It's blacker and grittier and more filled with driftwood and rocks near the water.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Indian Sands -- and A Few Other Spots

Surf crashing off the Indian Sands area

I took advantage of an unexpected bit of sunshine this morning and headed out on a short hike in an effort to see some places I hadn't seen, and to play with my new camera.  My first stop was at the Indian Sands viewpoint, which is just south of the Thomas Creek Bridge viewpoint. The above photo was taken using the camera's extreme (24x) zoom, and I'm pleased with the results.  Not great focus on the exploding waves, but I suspect I could have controlled that by using manual adjustments rather than leaving it on automatic.

Off into the forest I went, to see what I could see.  I found the trails here to be really confusing.  Shortly after starting down the trail there is a fork -- a nice looking trail angles off to the left, and what appears to be the main trail continues straight ahead.  I opted to stay with the 'main' trail, but almost immediately the trail forked once more.  No signs of any kind.  For no particular reason, I opted for the trail to the right, as they both went downhill and I assumed they'd either meet up again shortly, or at least both take me to the same place.  In the end, that's what happened.

The trail I took is nicely cut with switchbacks that take some of the sting out of the fairly steep descent.  Lots of offshoot trails branch off this one, but I found it easy to follow what I assumed was the primary trail. Both this and the other trail did end up at the same spot, where a warning sign tells of dangers ahead in the sands and cliffs.  Some amount of scrambling is needed from this point to reach the Oregon Coast Trail, but there are several choices with greater and lesser degrees of difficulty.  When I returned, I decided to take the other trail, to be sure it ended up at the same place and to see what I missed.  This trail is steep and straight, not one switchback, and is fairly slippery with packed clay, particularly on a day after a hard rain.  There was enough forest duff along the sides of the trail to stay with and avoid slipping, but given a choice, I'd opt for the other, longer, trail with switchbacks.

Lots of mushrooms out in the forest today, including a few of these, which have always fascinated me.  You see them in forests everywhere, but you don't really want to mess with them.  They are mildly poisonous, also hallucinogenic.  It's the amanita muscaria -- not to be confused with its cousin, the amanita verna, or destroying angel, which is deadly.

Indian Sands is a large area of craggy dunes that are not particularly soft.  Much of that sandy-looking stuff is actually a hard, somewhat slippery, substance that's probably a result of continuous exposure to high winds.  Much of it is also sand.  I would have explored more today, but the winds were really strong and a bit obnoxious, so I opted to cut my visit short.  This is my second outing to this particular point, although from a different trailhead.  I'd hoped to continue on across that ridge, but -- it just wasn't fun.

Back in the car, I headed south towards Brookings but stopped at the House Rock viewpoint.  Again, the winds were strong and annoying, so I only stayed for a moment.  Lovely views, however, and plenty of hiking opportunities.

Interesting how the camera captured this image of Whaleshead Island in black and white.  I took this photo from another stop, a wide pullout just before reaching Brookings.  I loved the way the waves looked in the glare, and wondered how the new camera would handle such conditions. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tonight's Sunset

I just captured this from the Port of Brookings Webcam (link off to the right), and couldn't resist putting it up here.  I think it's about the prettiest scene I've ever seen this webcam capture. 

Have you missed me?  I've been out of commission for awhile, with my camera in the shop for repair and on seemingly endless 'parts hold'.  Nikon, bless them, decided yesterday to replace it and promptly shipped it overnight and I am now back in business and awaiting another lovely day for photography.  I walked in the redwoods this morning, saw a huge herd of Roosevelt Elk along the highway with the ocean and surf in the background.  Could have killed for my camera, but alas, it had not yet arrived.  Kudos to Nikon, by the way.  They not only replaced the camera with a brand new one, they also gave me a significantly upgraded camera rather than a direct replacement.  Could be they just didn't have any of the other kind left in stock, but I'm sure they could have found something in the same price range to send.  I took the new baby out for a test run and am very pleased with it.  Not quite a DSLR, but nice.