Sunday, December 1, 2013

Shore Acres Wave

Nature at its Best!

If you want to witness the raw power of the ocean, stand in awe, capture nature at its best and be inspired, then you must visit Shore Acres State Park during or after a winter storm. There is NOTHING like it anywhere! When the conditions are just right, which requires a high surf, the right tide level, continual wave action, low wind, a sunny day, and hitting the offshore rocks in the right place at the right time, magic happens. The rugged cliffs of Shore Acres rise between 80 to 100 feet above the sea. From November through January it is not uncommon for storms to generate these incredible, powerful, earth shaking works of natural beauty. Crashing waves often tower 150 to 200 feet into the air, and can douse the Sitka Spruce forest 200 to 250 feet away. A Shore Acres Wave is an awesome display of power. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Shore Acres Wave came to life. What made this event so unique from any other wave event is, there was no storm hitting us. The high surf advisory was generated from storms that hammered southern California. It is rare to witness this event with 70 degree weather, and no wind. The day was very perfect. This photo illustrates the aggressive power behind the beauty. The "triangle rock" stands 80 feet. Ominous crashing waves devoured the rock shortly after I took this photo. (Look at the first photo again...on the right side of the photo, you can see spectators enjoying the majestic show.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crook Point - Mack Arch

I have explored the Oregon Coast extensively…even collected sand from over 250 beaches from the mouth of the Columbia to the California border. But even with all I have seen and explored of the coast, there was still a four-mile section of the southern coast I had not seen…Crook Point.
Crook Point is a small, but spectacular, headland jutting out into the Pacific and is located halfway between Gold Beach, and Brookings. The point is bordered to the north by the Pistol River State Park, and Samuel Boardman State Park to the south.

Crook Point adjoins the Mack Reef Unit of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The adjacent rocks and islands host the second largest concentration of nesting seabirds in Oregon, with over 200,000 birds present from April through September. The headland contains rare native plants, unique geologic formations, one mile of undisturbed shoreline with extensively rocky intertidal areas, and a small stream containing native cutthroat trout.

The south portion of the point is privately own, and public access to the publicly owned beaches does not exist, unless you reach them by boat, or by air...or by permission The Crook Family has owned 200 plus acres of this small promontory and has passed ownership down now for generations. The actual headland is a wildlife refuge and closed to public access as well.
Late this summer, I met a member of the Crook Family. I was invited to visit and collect the sand I needed to complete my entire Oregon Coast collection. I arrived mid-morning to an impressive view from the backyard like no other. Sitting just off the shore of the southern flank of the cape, sits Mack Arch. The arch dominated the scenery. Mack Arch, also known to the locals as Arch Rock. The arch holds the title of being the largest natural arch on the Pacific Coast. Large charter boats and even a small plane could float or fly through it, (I wouldn’t recommend flying through it though). The arch holds such an impressive title, but it is rarely visible to the general public and tourist enthusiasts. Private property and fog are the reasons behind its obscure viewing opportunity. Another reason we can’t see the arch from Hwy 101, is that the opening of the arch is in a north to south direction. Most of Oregon’s arch openings are east to west. For being such a small point, the terrain was very diverse and complex. The north side features rolling dunes and beach grass, with scattered wind sculpted Shore Pines, a rocky cliffline and off shore basalt rocks are scattered about. The actual point is very barren, wind stripped of all topsoil, leaving the resemblance of a harsh desert environment, appearing to be void of life.

The south side is densely forested, mostly of Sitka Spruce, and five to six foot Sword Ferns. Thick layers of silent fog often shroud the southern side, while the northern side bakes in the sun, and winds torture the land.

The beautiful sunny fall day made for great photo opportunities. I collected my sand from five different sites along the point, and took advantage of being so close to this incredible nature wonder.
Harbor Seals, Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, common Gulls and Murres call this landscape home. Seaweed beds on the south side feed the allusive Sea Otter. While out on the actual point I noticed a young man, who I later learned works for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department. He was out collecting raccoon traps that were placed on the offshore rock islands to prevent the raccoon from stealing bird eggs. Upon his return to the main shore, he twisted his knee. It was bad. I offered to carry his equipment out for him. This allowed me legal access to the top of the point...(aka-the wildlife refuge), for additional photo opportunities. We slowly made it up the steep cliff, to the high flat barren point, where his government truck was parked. Within our conversation we discovered that he and his wife and I attended the same college…but not at the same time…I had graduated from WBC, years before them. What a small world. I felt privileged to receive access to such a beautiful “rarely explored” diverse landscape. The contract between the dry, windy land to the north, the wet, and foggy land to the south, the offshore rocks and Mack Arch to the west, and the basalt grassy/forested farmland hills to the east makes Crook Point a destination not to be missed…just make sure to get permission first

The Crook family has vacation rentals available to those who want a great retreat location destination. Anyone staying at any of their vacation rentals are given access to the beach even in front of the Mack Arch Wildlife Reserve.

For information and reservations for Crook Point rentals, check out-

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yachats River Trek


The Yachats River, pronounced YAH-hots, is derived from the Chinook Indian word, Yahuts, meaning dark water at the foot of the mountain...(aka - Cape Perpetua). This little river is nestled between the lush Sitka Spruce forested mountains of the Coast Range and ends where its water meets the lapping waves of the Pacific surf. A quaint little village, also named Yachats, lies at the mouth of the river. Our journey, (my mother and mine), began just after turning onto the Yachats River Road. We came across a couple canoeing up the still waters. A photo opportunity was at hand. They were residence of Yachats enjoying the peaceful fall, rare 85 degree day. The couple’s bright red canoe reflected perfectly in the dark water. As we continued up the river, the Coast Range widens and fields of lush farming lined this small river’s basin. Cows dominate the grasslands. Cows are nothing unusual to coastal rivers, but we came across a group of cows in which I had never seen before. We called them “Oreo” cows. These black cows had a white stripe that lined the center of their body. I later learned this unusual looking cow is called a Belted Galloway, or nicknamed a “Beltie”. The Beltie is native to Scotland, and used as a beef cattle. I did get a photo of the herd, but they were very skittish and ran away from us. The fall season was an excellent time to visit this little river. Thick mats of moss covered the shade dwelling native Big Leaf Maples. The colors of yellow and orange dominated the landscape. As the sun began to set over the ridge, glowing silhouette's of flouresent lime green lurked behind every tree. Native Vine Maples were scattered thoughout the banks of the river. Their fall color of red glowed with each turn...but the red leaves didn't take center stage.
Approximately 9 miles up the river drive we came across, what I would call the jewel of the Yachats River, the historic red North Fork Yachats Covered Bridge. This beautiful covered bridge was built in 1938, with a Queenpost truss, one of the few of this type remaining in Oregon, and was restored in 1989. The setting, a red bridge, a gravel road, a thick matted shaded forest, made me feel like I was in a fairy tale land. It wouldn't have surprised me if we witnessed a hobbits, or friendly trolls, and perhaps leprechauns going about their business. No such luck though. On the hill just above of the bridge grows a giant multi-branched Sitka Spruce. The base of the tree measures at least seven feet across, and stands approximately 200 feet. Though not the biggest Sitka Spruce, its branching structure was definitely worth photographing. The tree stand as if guarding the small covered red bridge...and possibly the home of the unseen leprechauns. Though this small river doesn't have any grand photogenic vista's, it does carry its own as a tranquil important watershed to the Coastal Range. Salmon and trout run free here, and so does the river.
My mother and I had a great little adventure. I was even able to capture a photo of my mom that might become her next Christmas card.

We left the shaded valley and returned to the beach, where the sun was still out and very warm. After a bit of agate collecting we went to eat at the Blue Whale Restaurant in Yachats. The sun was getting ready to set, so we got our Swiss potato soup and freshly baked bread to go, and we ate dinner watching the sun set. It was a fun day exploring the beauty of the Yachats River with my mother.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tsagaglalal and Temani Pesh-wa

Tsagaglalal and Temani Pesh-wa
 "She Who Watches" and "Written on Rock"
Gorge petroglyphs moved to place of honor
(Story excerpt from the Sunday, March 28, 2004 Oregonian Newspaper article by TERRY RICHARD)
Photo's by me...Steven Michael
Nearly a half-century ago, rising waters behind The Dalles Dam forever changed a wild stretch of the Columbia River, submerging salmon-rich Celilo Falls, the Long Narrows below it and hundreds of ancient sacred petroglyphs.
 The surrounding lands long had been a gathering place for people from the Warm Springs, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce and other tribes. Some lived there permanently, while thousands more visited seasonally to harvest spawning salmon, to practice their religion and to join the annual opportunity to trade and socialize.
The petroglyphs -- drawings that were chipped or ground into rock to depict tribal legends, hunting scenes and mysticism -- are evidence of these gatherings. One narrow slot just above the river had so many thousands of drawings that it was named Petroglyph Canyon.
But as the reservoir rose behind the new dam, most of these rocks were covered by water.  A few were pried away and stored at the dam, perched against a wall of the fish ladder beneath roosting birds -- not a fitting home for what tribal elders consider sacred icons that provide a cultural connection between modern people and their ancestors.
 A plan to give them a more fitting, permanent home took shape in 1996, and eight years later 43 petroglyph-covered rocks have been moved to Washington's Columbia Hills State Park.

Formerly called Horsethief Lake, the state park is indisputably the best place to see native petroglyphs in the Northwest. The park is also home to Tsagaglalal, "She Who Watches," one of the most famous rock images in North America.
Because of past vandalism, viewing of the Tsagaglalal image is limited to an escorted tour twice a week by the Washington State Park service.
 "Jody Heath, was my guide.  It was very obvious that Jody loved sharing her heritage with others, and she also respected the land in a spiritual manner."
 The famous Tsagaglalal, "She Who Watches", Native American rock art is a combination of two styles, a petroglyph (carved into the rock) and pictograph (art drawn or painted onto rock).  There is a legend about the art's origin that is hauntingly prophetic of the impact humans have made on the earth.
"There are several versions of the legend, but the one that was told on the tour was by the Wishram people:"
"...After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on.
Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked "What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?" "I am teaching them to live well and build good houses," she said. 
"Soon the world will change," said Coyote, "and women will no longer be chiefs." Then he changed her into a rock with the command, "You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here."
All the people know that Tsagaglalal sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.
A petroglyph trail named Temani Pesh-wa, (Written on Rock), displays petroglyphs on their original slabs of rock and leaned up against a natural rock formation. Vegetation is slowly growing around the petroglyphs, giving the man-made display an increasingly natural atmosphere.
Chipped into 5-foot-long rocks, the petroglyphs are easily visible. They depict deer, mountain sheep and the humans who hunt them. They show thunderbirds, owls, fish and a mysterious creature with long flowing tentacles.

Facing east upriver, the rocks sit within a mile from where most were taken in Petroglyph Canyon. The canyon is covered by Lake Celilo, the impoundment behind The Dalles Dam.
When the rocks were removed from storage at The Dalles Dam, they were swathed in natural fibers and trucked in a bed of gravel for protection. None was broken during the move.
When members of the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through in 1805, they noticed a settlement of 1,500 at Big Beach in the future park. Before construction of the dam, the Columbia was placid and wide as it passed the settlement, then seemed to turn on its side as it rushed through the Long Narrows with what Clark described as a "bad whorl and suck."
The river's transition afforded a natural setting for large gatherings during late summer. The Native Americans harvested huckleberries nearby at Mount Adams, speared salmon from the Columbia and staged games on one of the rare flat spots along the river.
And, they chipped designs on the rock walls of the canyons. Some of those images finally have been given a home that closely matches the respect, awe and wonderment felt for their original site by their creators.
"Seeing and learning of the historic native ways, and culture, allowed me to appreciate the diverse regions found within the Columbia River Gorge.  The petroglyph's and pictograph's within the park are a" must see."

To get there, from Interstate 84 take Exit 88 for The Dalles Bridge. Cross north into Washington and drive three miles to State Route 14. Turn east and drive 1.5 miles to the park's entrance.