Brian's Photo Blog — Article 97
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Southern Oregon Coast Outing
Tuesday 15 May 2012   —   Category: Outings

Late afternoon yesterday I got back from a four-day photographic outing to the southern coast of Oregon. During those 83 hours I drove 800 miles, hiked an unknown number of miles, and took about 2,000 pictures! It seems like my outings are never just casual strolls through the park, but are more like endurance tests! I push myself to see and experience and photograph as much as possible in the short amount of time I have in that part of the state.

Last Friday I hit the road early to head for Bandon, which I have been to a few times in my life. (Check out the Oregon Coast 2009 photo album for the results of my last photographic outing there.) This time I did not take any pictures in the Bandon area — because it was the farthest south I had previously been on the Oregon coast, it was simply my starting point for heading even further south.

Up until my lunch in Port Orford I had not taken even a single picture! But after some fish and chips, I got down to business! During the afternoon and evening, I took pictures in the following locations: Gold Beach was my “base camp” for the next two nights. After an excellent dinner at Spinner’s Seafood, Steak & Chop House, I spent some time photographing the impressive Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge, (pictured) which carries U.S. Route 101 over the Rogue River. Once I had checked into a beach-side room at the Pacific Reef Resort, I got some incredible sunset photos (pictured below) two nights in a row from the patio right outside my room! After a night of rest, I was ready for the next day’s adventures

Saturday I trekked inland from Gold Beach to explore the lower Rogue River canyon up to the historic hamlet of Agness, where the Illinois River merges into the Rogue River (pictured). Once back on the “main” road (Forest Road 33), I drove about 12 miles up a winding, gravel road — gaining about 2,000 feet in elevation — to the top of Agness Pass. From there I descended down the other side into the South Fork Coquille River canyon, all the way to the small community of Powers.

On the way back to the Rogue River, I stopped for a two-and-a-half-hour hike to Elk Creek Falls (pictured) and the Big Tree Observation Site. After following the same route back to Gold Beach, I enjoyed another excellent dinner at Spinner’s, then another awesome sunset, then another night of rest.

Sunday I continued my journey south, visiting various sites such as Further on, I stopped at many beautiful spots in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, such as While at Whaleshead Beach, the fog started rolling in, around 10:30 AM or so. By the time I got to my next stop, Cape Ferrelo, the fog was such a pea-soup that I decided not to walk the half mile from the parking lot to the tip of the cape. Instead, I drove a few miles south to Brookings, where I turned inland towards my next target, Vulcan Lake (pictured).

It was “only” thirty miles away, but in the Oregon wilderness, that can be a long trip, as it was in this case. After 15 miles on a paved road — half of it a one-lane road with pullouts — there was another 15 miles on a tortuous, rocky road (pictured), ascending from an elevation of 200 feet to 3,730 feet at the end of the road on Moores Ridge. That 15 miles took me 75 minutes to drive, as I had to stay in first or second gear — and I kept the four-wheel drive engaged the entire time.

After that exhausting 75-minute drive, it was time for the exhausting 75-minute hike. The guide book said it was “only” a mile-and-a-half walk — that doesn’t sound too bad, right? But because of the heat (mid-80’s?), the steepness of the trail (switchbacks up 460 feet in elevation to 4190 feet, and then down 310 to 3,880 feet at lake level), the weight of my pack full of camera equipment, water, and other supplies (25-30 pounds?), and my fifty-year-old, out-of-shape body, it was quite a workout for me! But finally, more than three-and-a-half hours after leaving Brookings, I finally arrived at my goal!

Was it worth it? Well, I did feel kinda proud of myself that I made it all the way to this remote lake where a relatively small number of people have ever been. I didn’t wimp out, but persevered! I brought back an empty water bottle full of Vulcan Lake water, and a few of the orange-red rocks from the area as a souvenir of my accomplishment! But then I had to do it all again to get back to Brookings! I eventually got to Crescent City, California, in time for a dinner, checked into the Best Western Hotel, and crashed into a sound sleep.

Monday, the last day of my trip, I headed home on U.S. Route 199 through California’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Smith River National Recreation Area. Besides gorgeous views of the Smith River gorges, I was able to walk among — and photograph, of course — the giant redwood trees in the Stout Grove (pictured).

Leaving California behind and continuing up Route 199, I realized I would arrive in Grants Pass — only three hours from home — by 11:30 that morning. As I felt that it was too early to end the day’s exploration, I decided to make an unplanned side trip to visit the Rogue River area west of Grants Pass. So, before reaching Interstate 5, I turned north on Oregon Route 260, took another couple of roads towards Merlin, then headed northeast on the Galice Road to Galice.

On the way I passed through Hellgate Canyon — with its funky yellow bridge (pictured) — and I stopped for a picnic lunch at the beautiful and well-kept Indian Mary County Park.

After about two hours of exploring on my side trip, I finally reached the end of the journey — the Grave Creek area (pictured). The boat ramp at Grave Creek is the beginning of the “wild” stretch of the Wild and Scenic section of the lower Rogue River for whitewater kayakers and rafters, as well as for hikers.

By now it was about 1:30 PM, and I still had about four hours of driving to get home — I was tired, and ready to get there. So I hightailed it back with a minimum of stops. When I was just a couple of miles — and a couple of minutes — away from home, I got stuck in a big traffic jam around Linn-Benton Community College — so close and yet so far! There was no other way to get home except for the road I was on, so I just had to wait it out.

Apparently there had been an accident a couple of hours earlier, and two of the four lanes of South Pacific Boulevard were still closed. Since I had my camera at hand, I took the last photo of my trip while stuck in traffic. It was a sobering way to end my four-day journey. I am very thankful that I was kept safe through all the miles of roads and trails.

And so the sun sets on the short version of my trip! I plan to write more details once I have the photos processed and gathered into albums. I have a LOT of work to do, because I have finished processing only half of the photos from last month’s outing to Southeastern Oregon. Since then I have also taken photos of my eldest daughter for her senior picture, and I took a day trip to Abiqua Falls last Wednesday. Add the 2,000 photos I took on this trip, and you can realize that I’m buried under an avalanche of photos that need processing. So I may not post too many blog entries for a while as I concentrate my efforts on digging out.
For a complete list of all the blog entries and photo albums resulting from my trip to the Southern Oregon Coast, be sure to check out the May 2012 Southern Oregon Coast Photo Outing Recap
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 97
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