Category Archives: California

Fighting My Fears

Patrick’s Point

Evening Fog at Patrick’s Point

Some locations are so magical you are drawn to return. That is the case with Patrick’s Point State Park, CA. Being my third or fourth time at this campground I just can’t get enough. When I routed my trip, I intentionally planned a night to stay at this memorable spot. Our family discovered this spot a few years ago when Austin toured Humboldt State University in Arcata. He didn’t choose the school, but we still love the location. The camp sites are great, there are showers and beautiful beach access to Agate Beach. The reward for the steep path is this beautiful beach. Morning and evening fog is common and the agates are plentiful. This year, I came prepared and carried my full pack of lenses ready to shoot anything my heart desired. I started photographing waves. Tide was coming in and the crashing waves were mesmerizing. I spotted two loudly chirping, juvenile peregrine falcons. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what they were at first, so once I captured a good image, I sent it to a friend to identify (thanks Mary!) What I thought was a mamma bird with the juveniles was really a pair of turkey vultures. The falcons appeared nervous even though they aren’t on the food chain for vultures. One of the vultures did “fly by” very closely and maybe it was to intimidate these young falcons.


When one of the falcons landed on a snag not too far away, I slowly inched closer taking a few shots along the way. I stopped easily 10 times before I feared going any closer. It appeared I made it nervous. It’s head twitched more, it defecated and I knew it would fly off soon. I zoomed my Olympus 40-150mm lens wider to allow room for the wings in the frame and sure enough, it took off. Still using burst mode, I got off four shots that were sharp but it flew toward me FAST and I couldn’t keep up with it’s movement. It was almost dusk, so, I switched back to capture images of the crashing waves. I took several with fast shutter speeds and as it darkened, I switched to slow shutter speeds.

Solo Footprints

The next morning, I returned to the empty beach. Imagine having a beautiful beach to yourself. In the past, I have photographed many banana slugs on my way to the beach, but there were very few that morning. So, I enjoyed waves and the solitude before returning to camp for breakfast and packing to move on up the coast.

Trees of Mystery

Hidden Beach

On many occasions, we have stopped at the tourist attraction, Trees of Mystery in Orick, CA. Mostly we stopped to use the restroom, look at all the touristy things and buy fudge. Never have we toured the trees. And I didn’t this time either. But, I found a great trail to Hidden Beach across the street from the Trees of Mystery. I read about it before my trip and despite the trail feeling secluded, I ventured to the beach. It was a ½ mile hike to the beach on a closed in “rainforesty” trail. I set up my running app so I could follow the distance. This is not a trail I would normally do on my own. But I read many reviews, carried my pepper spray and hiked FAST. After .10 miles, I told myself, “Before long, you will be at .20 miles” Then at .15 miles, I told myself, “only .10 more and you will be halfway.” And that continued until I arrived at the beach, which really took .60 miles! This beach was amazing. Driftwood covered the edges of this pristine beach and there was one other family enjoying the tranquility as well. I spent an hour taking it in and then returned to the teardrop. On the return hike, I only looked at my running app twice. Progress.

Me at Hidden Beach


Finally, I made it to Oregon! Our family has driven through many of these southern Oregon towns but never had time to stop. So, I stopped at Harris Beach State Park just north of Brookings and spent three days. What a gem. Oregon State Parks are tremendous with clean bathrooms, free showers and great prices. Not to mention gasoline for my car just dropped .60 a gallon when I entered the state. I arrived just in time to check in and parking has been mastered! I backed in superbly to this spot, I took a photo and sent it home! My skills have progressed

Harris Beach State Park

and I back in the trailer like I know what I am doing.

I have come to realize I can’t see or do it all. So, I am focusing on the spots around me and only venturing further off the path if it seems worth it for my study of water or my own personal interests. The beach was .35 miles from my camp spot and I spent a lot of time there. Tidepools and crashing waves kept me very busy. Clouds and fog settled in each night, so I didn’t go out for sunset, but after two weeks in, I have mastered campfire abilities and enjoy the

introspective time to myself.

Beating Fear

At the trailhead of the Shrader Old-Growth Forest

In addition to researching online, I bought the book, The Photographer’s Guide to the Oregon Coast. This book has every (well, maybe not) photogenic spot along the coast from North to South. Of course, I am traveling South to North, so I am reading the book backwards. I read about a great trail 13-miles inland from Gold Beach, just 40 miles from my camp. The Shrader Old-Growth Trail is a 1-mile loop of old-growth Douglas firs, Port Orford cedars, a stream and ferns. It sounded like a great trail and a nice change of pace. So, I went. The anxiety that overcame me at the trailhead was alarming. With not a car in sight for the past 13 miles, I feared the isolated trail. Immediately, I thought of my sister-in-law that hikes avidly and always chooses the trails most frequented. This was not that trail. My heart raced and breathing was difficult. I tried relaxing by photographing a few flowers at the trailhead and walked 25 feet down the trail. I just couldn’t keep going. Fear got the best of me. I returned to camp and my campfire.

Shrader Old Growth Forest

After a lot of soul searching, a new day, and counseling by my husband and sister I am proud to say I returned to the Shrader Old-Growth trail. I told myself, “a 1-mile loop should not be difficult.” I completed the loop and even took a few photos along the way. Of course, I did hear every leaf falling, branch breaking and trickle of water from the stream. But, I finished the hike. It took several hours to feel relieved and proud of my accomplishment. As a matter of fact, at first, I thought I lost 10-years of my life, but now I am ready to take on the next challenge.

Stay tuned for Fourth of July at Humbug Mountain State Park.

Bodega Bay

Edith-E boat

Edith-E. OMDIMII, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250

After leaving the San Jose area and visiting with family, I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Bodega Bay. Outside Petaluma, there is a boat on dry land that has seen better days. We stopped by it last year, so I made this my lunch spot. The Edith-E is not any more seaworthy.

When I was young, my parents drove up Highway 1 and I remembered them talking about Bodega Bay. Those memories placed Bodega Bay on my map. Although we have traveled up to the Redwoods several times in my 26 married years, we haven’t driven this stretch of Highway 1. My campground was in Sonoma Coast State Park – Bodega Dunes. Most of the camp spots were individual alcoves. Very cozy. Except for what I am confident are ticks. I found one walking on my arm and it didn’t live another day. Backing in at this campground was successful. I think the practice with my Uncle Ron in the San Jose area did the trick, I’m ready to do it again – tomorrow.

View from Kortum Trail. OMDIMII, 12-100mm, ISO 400, f/16, 1/60

I arrived early afternoon, so as I often do in new towns, I went to the tourist center. This lovely woman has lived here most of her life and was more than willing to highlight “must see” areas on a map for me. The Sonoma Coast State Park includes 16 beaches, some which are only accessible at low tide plus many hiking trails and vistas. I headed out quickly, hiking a few miles along the Kortum trail scouting for a good sunset location. This time of year, it is common for fog/marine layer to settle in morning and night, so I tend to look at shooting early

photo of sunset

Sunset captured with iPhone

evening light as much as sunset. With the sun setting at 8:30pm, I found my spot at 7pm. When the sun finally set, I went to a different pullout to watch. Of course, when the light was spectacular, I pulled out my iPhone for a quick snap. Sometimes, I get so engrossed in capturing the image I forget to enjoy the moment. So, I enjoyed. When I got back to camp, I made a campfire and relaxed.

Shell Beach

Starfish worth falling for! OMDIMII, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125, 12-100mm

Low tide was at 7:30am at Shell Beach, a wonderful location with a short steep hike to the shoreline. My camera gear included two camera bodies (Olympus OMD1MII and OMD5MII) with my 12-100mm and 60mm macro lenses. I did have more lenses in my pack, but these are my “heavy lifters.” This time, I even took a black matboard with me in case the tide pools were too reflective. The board would be used to shade the pool. As soon as I stepped on the beach I saw a handful of people searching tidepools and heard one say, “There’s a starfish.” I got so excited, I almost ran over there. This was a negative low tide, so more slimy rocks were exposed than normal, so I am sure you are not surprised when I slipped and fell on my back like an upside down turtle. The only damage was to my pride. For the next 2 hours, I photographed starfish. At one point, I saw movement in the rocks, furry movement. It was a momma sea otter and 3 of her young. They were avoiding me, but I got one shot off without moving closer to worry them.

photo of otter

Sea Otter. OMD5MII, 60mm macro, ISO 400, f/7.1, 1/80 sec

After Shell Beach, I took a short drive to Bodega Head. Again, many great trails to hike with stunning views and grabbed fresh halibut tacos from a local restaurant. They were good. The highlight of my day was walking to the beach from my campground. I saw on the map there were several beach access spots, so I went for a look. After hiking .3 miles on a deep sandy trail, seeing a road surprised me. I thought the trail would lead me to the beach. So, I walked the road. There were very few cars and only one other pedestrian on this road. I did confirm that I was heading in the right way to the beach though. Little did I know it would be another .7 miles walking the road before I would arrive at the beach! If I had known that, I might have driven. The beach was worth it and I walked awhile and got my feet wet. All in all, a great day with many hikes and a little down time too. Next blog will be from Oregon.


Big Sur/Asilomar Beach

Plaskett Creek
Big Sur in sunlight

Big Sur in sunlight

After leaving Morro Bay, I drove along internet-less Highway 1 to Plaskett Creek Campground. Since the road is not open between Morro Bay and Big Sur, I drove around the closure for 4.5 hours to end up 60 miles north of Morro Bay. The beautiful drive along Big Sur gave me a great chance to scout and pull off at several vistas while it was sunny. One regret… next time, when I pull off at a vista I will take more than just iPhone photos instead of thinking, “Oh, I will come back tomorrow.” I did go back the next day, but the fog/marine layer never lifted and the images were completely different. So, here is an iPhone shot of the Pacific Coast at Big Sur and one of the marine layer/fog. My campground was perfect. Plaskett Creek Campground is a secluded spot with Sand Dollar Beach walking distance away, fire rings and a nice slanted driveway to back into. I did make a campfire but that was odd, with all the fire restrictions in Flagstaff and Arizona.

Big Sur in Fog

Big Sur in Fog

Parking in Carmel

90 degree parking job with assistance!

I spent one night at an RV park in Carmel. That was fancy. But the worst parking so far. My dad told me if I couldn’t back in, relax and drive around the park and try again. Well, after twice around the park, an employee finally helped direct me to back in. In my defense, it was a 90 degree turn I had to back the trailer into. Current backing up tally – 2 and 1 (one fail).


The 24 hours I spent in Carmel was mostly at Asilomar State Beach. What a great place. I stayed for sunset and returned early in the morning for low tide. A sea star caught my eye and while scrambling to it, I had visions of me getting wet, but I stayed dry and got the shot. The kelp intrigued me as well.

Sea star

Sea star

Some days, I am out “shooting” until after sunset, so I make simple meals. So far, I have added chicken to cup o noodles and made my own potato and veggie soup. I have not made Austin’s famous mashed potato and jerky burritos – nor will I! Lunches are often turkey jerky, fruit and a boiled egg. Keeping it simple allows for more time shooting. I’m off to civilization for a few days visiting family in Los Gatos and catching up on photo processing. Then I will be on the road for three weeks by myself.

Morro Bay

photo of sunset

Morro Bay at sunset

For four days, I toured around Morro Bay with my good friend Joni. It was a perfect transition for my solo trip.

Morro Bay is a relatively quiet area with so much to see. This is my second time there and I chose to start my trip here (even before Joni decided to join me) because it was familiar territory. For some reason, I feel safer in places I have been before. I know, that is a false sense of security. My favorite location was Montano de Oro State Park. The Bluff Trail came highly recommended in our research and it didn’t disappoint. Many of these coastal locations warn users about poison oak, I googled a photo and saved it to my phone before the trip. Shortly after starting the walk, I mentioned poison oak to Joni and -almost instantly she spotted a three-leaf vine. I pulled up my google image of poison

Joni after saving her phone.

oak-it was a perfect match. Check. One item off my list of what to identify, now, I can avoid of poison oak

We continued along the bluff trail taking every side trail possible to take in the rugged view of the Pacific Ocean. I was scouting for sunset shots when I heard a scream. Looking at Joni (where the sound came from) sitting on a ledge, I thought she was calling to the cormorants. Then she exclaimed, “I dropped my phone!” That is one of those stomach dropping moments. She pointed down from the ledge to a 25+ foot drop to where it had fallen (not visible) and asked, “Do you think I can get down there?” It was a good 25+ foot scramble down to the area but the route looked doable. So, she did. Safely, she scooted on her butt and found her phone. It landed face down on rock and did not appear to be damaged. Good ole iPhone! Now for the difficult scramble up but not before I took a few snapshots of her! She scrambled up like a pro and had her phone. I have to admit, while she was scrambling for her phone, I thought, this is when people call 911 to be rescued… I’m glad we didn’t have to call.

photo of rocky shore

Bluff Trail

We spent hours walking Bluff trail and I found a spot to photograph sunset. After hiking many miles, we came across a ground squirrel in our path. He was running ahead of us until he stopped in his tracks. There was a stick in front of him…wait, no, it was a rattlesnake. I live in Arizona and never see rattlesnakes, but come to the California coast and we found one on our second day. I grabbed a photo while he scurried off the trail. We took a short break in the car for snacks and then returned to the tidepools of Corallina Cove for low tide.

photo of crabI could have spent hours at the tide pools. Even more than the images, listening to the waves crash with the incoming tide and watching the ebb and flow of the pools mesmerized me. Photographing sea urchins, barnacles and a crab kept me entertained for two hours. When photographing the crab, I broke all the rules and hand held my 60mm macro lens with my arms extended to position the camera closer to the crab. Extending my arms away from the body increases the chance of camera shake which could result in blur, but when I moved my body closer to the crab, he hid in his hole. The only

photo of heron

Heron at Sunset

choice was to extend my arms and use the LCD panel to frame my shot. It worked.

This was my first photo journey with a non-photographer. Most of my photo journeys are with my husband who has an art degree, or my good friend and fellow photog, Vicki Uthe. I can stop anywhere for photos and they join me or entertain themselves in the nature that surrounds them. I wasn’t sure how it would go with Joni, but she was prepared. When she remembered her book and a blanket, she found a nice spot to relax, or she found a rock to sit on and enjoyed the view. I was free to photograph to my hearts content. During the rest of our camping in Morro Bay, we walked the boardwalk of the Elfin forest to view pygmy oak trees, ate spectacular Mexican food at Taco Temple…twice. With food that good, you may as well go twice. Took a day road trip to Monterey to visit Joni’s friend. This prompted another great meal but instead of Mexican, we had clam chowder and fresh fish. Yum. Here is the tally on backing in my teardrop trailer – I am 2 and 0, meaning I’ve had 2 successful back-ins and didn’t have to drive around the campground for a new attempt at backing up.