Our next destination was a KOA in the coastal town of Waldport, OR. The lots were amply sized and surrounded by lovely views of the sea. If you went out at the right times, you could even see a myriad of seals beached on the sandbar that would appear in the middle of the outlet, resting with their pups. It was sadly that at this point, our luck with the weather would run out. It is fascinating how quickly you really appreciate something once you lack it long enough. In our case, it was seeing blue skies. The whole week was so cloudy and overcast, that even the slightest hint of blue peeking through was considered a hope for good photos. The area of Waldport was definitely full of exciting places for photography, but for the week we were there the unpleasant weather put a bit of a damper on things.
Despite the ongoing drizzle we did make several excursions to scout out potential locations to shoot. The first of which was to the remains of collapsed sea caves called the Devil’s Punchbowl. Due to several large openings at the bottom of the bowl, waves fill and crash into the interior giving similarities to a punchbowl. At the edge of the parking lot there was a walking path that people had undoubtedly been using for a long time, as it was well worn, but it ended at the steep cliffs near the edge of the bowl. After some investigation, we found an easier path by going down a few streets and following a trail that wound down the hill and to the beach below. We made our way across the beach and over slippery, moss covered rocks to reach a narrow side entrance. Note, that we did this while it was low tide to avoid it being filled with water, and kept a close eye on how the water was moving so as not to let the tide come in on us unexpectedly. We spent some time exploring and marveling at being down inside the hollowed out structure created by wind, rain, and the pounding of the sea, and then made our exit. We walked along the beach back to our truck as the rain became harder. This is definitely a place we will come back to when the weather is more suitable for shooting.
As the week went by we were displeased to see no break from the rain. It was only on the last day that the sun finally burst forth and chased the clouds away. Taking advantage of the weather we decided to drive down the coast and see as much as we could. The Sea Lion caves were our first stop and are known not only for being one of the largest sea caves in the world but also for the abundance of Steller sea lions which visit the area. During this time of year however, most of the sea lions prefer to hang out on the rocks just outside the cave to raise the recently born pups. We made our way out to the cliffs and you could hear the growling and barking of the sea lions long before you could see them. Looking down to the rocks below, you could see them covering every open space they could find. The pups were nestled in between the larger bodies of the adults. A bald eagle hovered over the perches of the sea lions, riding on the currents and scouting for food, before a group of seagulls came whiling in and began diving at the eagle, driving him away back into the interior and towards the forest. Once we were done watching the sea lions we took the single elevator into the belly of the cave.
The viewing area was covered by a wires to prevent people from climbing any deeper into the cave. Initially, it seemed as though the cave was completely empty however, after looking more closely, I noticed what appeared to be a solitary bull sea lion that was quite massive. After several minutes he was roused long enough to use his flipper to scratch himself, very much like a dog, before turning belly up, nestling into the rock, and promptly going back to his nap. Aside from the bull sea lion, the cave was filled with countless pigeon guillemots with bright orange legs and black & white bodies. Up a staircase behind the observation area, led to a great view of Heceta Head lighthouse perched an opposing cliff. Brandon snapped a few photos of the lighthouse and we made our way back to the surface. On the other observation deck above ground you could more readily see the large groups of sea lions sprawled out on the rocks below. They bellowed and barked loudly as they vied for the best spots on the rocks, mothers making sure to keep their pups safe from encrouchers and giving a gutteral howl of disapproval if the other sea lions came too close.
We left the Sea Lion cave and made a stop not ten minutes away at a pull off from the road. A winding staircase lead down to the rocky shore where you could hear water whirling and making odd noises as the waves crashed in and were sucked back out again. This is where we found Thor’s Well. At the edge of a plain covered in volcano rock there was a gaping hole, about a fourth the size of the Devil’s Punchbowl. If the waves hit the hole just right, a large splashing of water would surge out and up into the air with a loud woosh and then be sucked back down again, leaving a dark blackened hole covered in an extraordinary number of mussels and barnacles. The shells glittered from the water and I couldn’t help but pity anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall into Thor’s Well. It promised at the very least a heavy maiming on the sharp edges that filled the entirety of the inside, if you were lucky not to be sucked out and drowned in the swirling maelstrom of the ocean. A group of tourists took a chance and got extremely close, and within a matter of moments the ocean rushed forwards in a massive wave that crashed against the shore hard and drenched them. They laughed and squealed as they hurriedly made their way away from the edge, and I breathed a sigh of relief that none of them had been knocked into the gaping maw. We watched the waves and began to devise a pattern to the waves which would give us a chance to shoot and create some interesting effects with the long exposures.
We made our way back to town, a little put out at the fact this had been our only day to really go out and get any photos, but it made for a wonderful day and we were appreciative to get whatever time we could. We got the RV ready and hit the road, deciding to stop at the Yaquina Head lighthouse on the way. Apparently, it is the same lighthouse that has been used in several TV shows as well as the movie, The Ring. The lighthouse was located at the end of a sprawling cape covered in tall grass and an assortment of blooming wildflowers. Seals could be seen down on the shore below, the beach closed to visitors to try and protect them, since a mother will possibly abandon a pup if a human comes between them. A tiny seal pup was left high up on the beach and my heart ached seeing the poor tiny thing alone. The naturalist said he had been there since the early morning and they hoped that the mother would return when the tide came back in. When we left I checked on him again and the tiny baby had managed to get himself to a sizable puddle formed by the sea in a crag of the rock and it made me hopeful that he would keep fighting and survive. The naturalist on site informed me that they had reached out to local rescues if his mother didn’t return, but that there was nothing that could be done in this case, as none of the rescues had a place for seals and could do nothing else for him.
The drive to Cannon Beach was smooth and simple, a straight continuation up the 101 and along the coast. The RV Park was on the far end of town and located right next to Ecola state park. It was a perfect place to stay for the week. It put us right in the middle of all of the best photography spots in the area. When you first drive through the town, the first thing you notice is the little boutiquey shops lining the streets, the town is full of restaurants and hotels lining the beach. Walking along the beach in the evening a ritual as you watched fires dot the beach as people came out to enjoy the evening ocean air.
Each morning, I did my daily run down at the beach, which is where you can find Cannon Beach’s most famous feature, Haystack Rock. We had heard through some web forums that puffins had come to roost upon the massive hunk of rock that stands alone along the beach. The puffins roost at the very top of hidden within the grass, only coming out to fly around and hunt for food. Unlike most of the other birds that roost there, the puffins are much smaller, and their wings flap madly to keep them in the air. They fly in arching circles around the rock in search of food, preparing for the chicks that are on their way. We spent several mornings going along the shoreline trying to find the puffins, we could see them flying, but had no luck finding a way to get close enough to get photos of them.
When the tide begins to go out, Haystack Rock also provides a habitat for the myriad of life left in the numerous tide pools that form. Barnacles crusting the rocks, kelp, and anemones curl up into themselves and blend in with the rock as they become exposed from the water. If the anemones have enough water, they stay open to reveal a dazzling array of vibrant pinks, purples and greens. A nature preservation group does their best to come out at the low tide and put out signs asking people not to step on the rocks and instead go only where there is sand so as not to disturb the marine life growing there. They also rope off the area to keep wayward tourists from trying to climb up to the main rocks of Haystack so as not to disturb the puffins.
In the afternoons we explored the local state parks. One of the forms that Brandon had read suggested a hidden water fall in the park across the street. The forums said if you went past the toilets, just off the trail there was a small path that lead down to a waterfall about eight to ten feet tall. We walked around the trail, down the path, across the bridge, we even walked down to the beach, and hiked our way up the small creek to try and find the waterfall. The creek was rough to try and navigate and ducking between the tangles of underbrush and picking our way across rocks resulted in wet feet. The only thing we found was a good way to wear yourself. After trying a few other side trails and having no luck, we decided to cut our losses and move on.
Fort Stevens ended up being a much better location for us to shoot. We went out to a nature reserve area and found some terns that were hunting along the coast. They glided along on the harshly whipping wind and dove into the waters, expertly grabbing fish for their meal. We also got to watch a hot pursuit as a seagull chased a tern who had made a large catch, swooping, chasing, diving, and reeling about in the air as the gull tried to steal the fish before the tern managed to shake him off. As sunset was approaching, we headed south down the coast to the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale. We accidentally stumbled into a group out doing a photo workshop, so getting the best spots for the sunset was a bit like jockeying for the best spot at a concert. We managed to find a few spots and get some shots as the sun began to dip below the horizon and a vast array of colors shone through the lattice work of the remains.
We also took the time to indulge some of our nerdier vices. We took a day to ourselves and went out hunting for Pokemon in Pokemon GO and going to see the new Star Wars movie Solo, which we both throughly enjoyed. Star Wars being one of those classic nostalgic joys from our childhoods and getting to see the new film gave us a chance to just relax. Sometimes you need to take a little time for yourself when traveling constantly. Sure, traveling all the time sounds ideal and like one long vacation, but constantly being on the move can also wear you out. A small break can be exactly what you need.
This weekend we are headed up to the Olympic peninsula and then back down to the Columbia River gorge for the next couple of weeks.