September 16 -19We didn’t think it would be a problem getting into Ft. Stevens State Park. After all, there were 500 sites in the campground. When we looked online to make a reservation, there was one site open for the days we wanted. We thought that had to be a mistake. There must be only a certain amount available for reservations and the rest, first come, first serve.So we took the site and discovered that we only got it because it was a late cancellation. This place is very popular. Our site, while tight was just fine. The park is tightly managed, and we saw roving golf-cart patrols often. I was especially happy since it was a full hook-up site in a very shady location. The rain we had last night down in Florence, was heavy up here around Astoria. So much so that many campers canceled or left early, expecting more. Rain showers were forecast over the nest several days, and yes, we got them. Short torrential downpours, then sunshine. It seemed to keep the potential crowds down a little.After getting settled, we went out to see the shipwreck that is the reason we came here. We saw an image of it at the same show we saw the Cape Perpetua night shot and wanted to see it for ourselves. The ship is the Peter Iredale that ran aground in 1906. Its bow still protrudes out of the sand. Far in the rear, a couple of poles signify the back of the ship. I thought this would be a pretty easy image to get, but it took repeated visits to get something I liked.We walked around the beach a bit more before driving out to the South Jetty to get the lay of the land. From out here, the mouth of the Columbia River is so wide it is hard to tell what is ocean and what is river. Even though the campground is full, we found plenty of out-of-the-way places to wander. Out here on the jetty was a stillness that was very enjoyable after the drive from Florence this afternoon. We just walked and played with landscapes. Saturday morning we intended to be up and out at the shipwreck early to avoid crowds, but the rain forecast for the afternoon began around 5 AM and didn’t stop until around noon. We waited until there was a break in the rain and finally got out there around 10.It was quite calm in the campground, but just a mile away at the shoreline, the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to stand still. The ocean waves were lapping at the the wreck now and was beginning to approach what we were looking to photograph. But still the light was not particularly good. The scene was dramatic, but without any light on sky or water, it was too dull. The rest of the day did not get much better weather wise.We did a little tour of the Astoria Column, dedicated to the travels of Lewis & Clark. The column is large and sports the story on its facade in a nicely done spiraling mural. Also spiraling up, were the 164 steps inside the column that led to the top observation deck and allows for grand views – on most days anyway.The view would have been better on a nicer day, but this is the day we chose, so we made the best of it. Looking down from the top gave some interesting perspectives. We watched from the bottom as some visitors hefted off the side little wooden airplane gliders. I noticed them for sale in the visitor’s center but didn’t make the connection.We walked down off the point, into the surrounding forest to look around. Among the trees were remnants of past flights. We found some with their messages still intact, though somewhat unintelligible.We walked a little more into the forest before heading out. Before leaving town, we looked for and found an eagle observation deck a little outside of Astoria, but no eagles were to be found. We were tired out by now, so headed back to camp. Sunday morning was very cloudy and overcast. It rained more during the night and we thought today would be a repeat. By 9 the skies were clearing so we headed out to the beach to check out the shipwreck again The clearing skies had brought out the crowds again and they seemed to like hanging around the wreck best.Later in the day, we went out to the South Jetty area again. This time we started out from a nearby birding observatory and walked around the point of this part of the jetty. We were just playing around out here, looking for compositions. It was a nice late afternoon walk in lovely clearing weather.Extending our stay another day in hope of catching the shipwreck in good light didn’t work out too well but that’s how it goes sometimes. It was time to move on to Kalaloch campground up the coast about 90 miles. I had a little time before having to pack up and leave this morning, so I got up early to photograph an old fish shack we’d passed earlier. While I was out, I figured I’d check the shipwreck one last time. It was still clearing as I walked down to the beach. Big thunderheads were in the distance and streaky light was banding across the beach.The scene felt like a fine old Dutch painting – soft light and towering clouds over a flat landscape. The light this morning was the best we got and I am pretty happy with the images I made. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it often doesn’t turn out exactly how I envision.
Kalaloch Beach & Quinault Rain Forest
Tuesday, September 20
Our original plan was to stay at South Beach Campground about 3 miles south of Kalaloch. We tried to make reservations for the 100+ site Kalaloch, but there was absolutely nothing available for our dates. South Beach, at about 60 sites, is more of an overflow place to park, and first come first serve. It has always been closed when we’ve been here, but it is now the only choice.
As we pulled up to the gates, we discovered it was closed for the season. There really is no convenient other camping where we could fit the Lazy Daze anywhere around here so we thought we were out of good options. Now we’ll have to drive another 40 miles to Forks and stay at an RV Park a long way from everywhere we want to be. We stopped at the nearby ranger station to ask about alternative spots, and were happily informed that Kalaloch had gone to first come first served the day before, and South Beach had closed the same day. That’s why there was nothing available for us. There were probably still plenty of sites available. We zipped right over and started the hunt.There are really just a handful of great sites here. Many of the rest are in deep shade or along the highway or tightly wedged in next to each other. We were a little too late for the primo sites, but did manage a nice private one with a 11’ hedge all around. The image above is from the roof of the LD.A short low tunnel had been cut through the hedge leading from the back of the site maybe 30′ out to the edge of the bluff above the beach. The clearing was just large enough to fit 2 chairs and it was here we spent several evenings watching the sunset and making photos. The bluff is a good 50′ above the beach. It was a bit precarious, but worth the risk.After getting settled, I took a short walk down the beach to visit on of my favorite trees. Sitting up on the bluff, it has been undermined to the point it just clings by roots to the edges. I expect to find it on the beach one of these trips. It’s always been a problem getting a good image because of the difficult lighting, so I visited it several times over the next couple of days. But what happens so often when I set up a tripod, happened here. Folks started coming by and lingering in front of me. I can’t really blame them – I’ve done the same thing on occasion, but it does stop me from working. Just as these folks began to move on, a bus load of Japanese tourists came by. It was a selfie frenzy. I decided to walk down the beach instead of trying to out wait them.
Quinault Rain Forest
Aside from the wonderful campground, we were here for a couple of hikes in the Quinault and Hoh Rain Forests. Quinault was first up. Even from where we are camping, it is a 30 mile drive into the park, so we were up early and were on the trail by 8:30. I guess you could say it is just another rain forest, but I find them all so wonderfully challenging to photograph and walk through.Here in the rain forest, there is just so much stuff. How does one make sense of it all? How do you pull compositions out? There is also the extreme silence of the place. How can someplace so crammed with life be so silent? It might be a little different during a storm, but now there is just a special kind of quiet.The trail is well maintained and moves through forest, bog and eventually finishes along Lake Quinault – about 5 miles in all. We eventually came to a high bridge over the creek where trees and ferns hung below over the water. Mary made some wonderful images here 5 years ago during our last visit when the water was a bit higher. We lingered here again for a good while. After emerging from the forest, the trail crosses the road and out to the shore of Lake Quinault. We walked along, checking out the boats and mini piers and took a short break at the lodge. Before taking off on the hike, the ranger mentioned there was rain expected later in the afternoon. Turns out it was just exactly at the time we finished our hike. As we left the shoreline and walked up to the car, the first drops were felt. By the time we reached the car, it was absolutely pouring! We had our rain gear, so we would have been fine, but it can be miserable hiking in a cold rain so we were happy to reach the car where hot coffee and snacks awaited.
A little later after dinner, Mary and I took another walk on the beach to the tree. This time only a few people happened by, but I could work around them. The cloudless sky made the bluff turn absolutely orange near sunset and it was difficult to determine just what the color should be.As the sun went down, we finished our walk along the beach and back to camp. Coming up, Hoh Rain Forest hike.