Shhhh....It's A Secret
If it hasn't been made apparent before, the southern coast of Oregon is one of my favorite places in the state. The ruggedness of the coastline here is incredibly beautiful - old chunks of the coast stranded at sea creating a minefield of beautiful rocky features. It's stunning and makes for some truly remarkable areas to visit.
I had planned this trip with a friend back at the beginning of April - the coast was due for a negative tide meaning some of the beaches and coves that are typically inaccessible were reachable. The main area I really wanted to visit was Secret Beach. I have been to Secret Beach a few times now, but not once have I been down on the beach, and I certainly haven't been on a low enough tide to access the back two coves. Tide aside, it was nearly a perfect time for the Milky Way to be visible over the water.
I drove down on Friday morning making a pitstop in Coos Bay to deliver an aluminum print. As I made my way closer to towards Bandon, the skies started to become more and more overcast - it was hard not to be frustrated, but I had my hopes high that it would clear the further south I drove. I was meeting my friend in Brooking - the entire drive down was overcast. This is a result of warm temperatures inland coupled with much cooler temperatures along the coast - it creates a blanket of fog and clouds that sits over the water. In many areas where I could see inland, blue skies were visible, but over the water...nothing but fog and clouds.
We met up in Brookings, grabbed some lunch and snacks and made our way to Secret Beach (that is the actual name). Earlier in the week I suggested we camp there, as one of my main focuses was to get photos of the Milky Way over the water. We arrived at the parking area for Secret Beach, hiked down to check things out and see if there was any space to put up the tent. There were two ladies down there with their tent already setup - there isn't a lot of flat space here, so we politely asked them if they wouldn't mind being "neighbors" for the evening; they kindly obliged. So we hiked back up, grabbed our bags and made our way back down to setup for the night.
I was hopeful that the skies would clear at some point, after all, the forecast kept saying the skies would break several hours later - each hour I checked, those clear skies were being pushed back an hour. This went on from sunset all the way throughout the night. I set a few alarms in hopes of looking out of the tent and being greeted with starry skies, but it never happened. My final alarm was around sunrise time - I was hoping to get down on the beach for a sunrise with some color and beautiful clouds, but no...just a blanket of gray greeted us that morning. The overcast skies aside, this was a truly beautiful place to setup for the night and taking in the views and listen to the sound of the ocean.
We got up, got ready and made our way down to the beach. The Milky Way wasn't my only focus - Secret Beach has a few coves that are only accessible during very low tides. This weekend had several tides that were in the negative markings, thus providing us with access to the back coves. The low tide revealed some truly remarkable wonders - tide pools, sea grass, starfish, sea caves and an area referred to as "Thunder Cove" - at least that's what the other people we encountered on the beach were calling it. Thunder Cove was incredible to walk up to - after crossing a stream, climbing through a rocky area that is normally underwater, crossing another stream and following the beach to the very back, there is an arch opening in a giant rock face that reveals the mystery of Thunder Cove. The closer you get, the more the cove opens - lush green cliff walls with a waterfall trickling down, a sandy beach with driftwood trapped on the banks - it feels like walking up to a scene from a SciFi film it's so incredible. I really can't put into words the thoughts that overcame me as it really felt like a fictional place created in the mind of an author - it just didn't seem real.
Accessing this cove was still very difficult - I won't say impossible, but no easy feat. There is a small strip of sand between the rocks that connects the two coves, however, the water level was still too high, thus the strip of sand was mostly underwater. One could opt to take the rocks above the shoreline, however, they were covered in shellfish and a fine layer of slippery sea salt spray. Lugging around a bunch of camera gear, I didn't feel like taking my chances and slipping off the rocks and into the water - hell, even without camera gear, I don't think I would take those chances. In fact, my friend Rachel was the only person who went back to Thunder Cove, and we encountered a fair amount of people on the beach that morning - no one else braved the rocky outcroppings to make it back to the beach.
I was a bit sad I didn't get back to the cove, but I'm a firm believer in sometimes things don't happen to encourage you to go back, and that's exactly my plan. Plus, the other beaches had so many marvelous wonders to enjoy, I kept myself busy. The tide pools were some of the best I have seen so far - filled with different sea life and the most starfish I have ever seen. I've seen starfish along the coast before, but usually they are few and far between and hard to get to, but here there were groups of them together that were so close I could have touched them (which I didn't, because I didn't want to). There was a beautiful sea cave carved out of one of the rocks - it actually connected the two beaches together, though the one end still had water in it. Another one of the many beauties along the beaches was the sea grass - I was calling it (to myself) mermaid hair: it was long and glowing green and just made me think of hair. In addition to the wonders of the ocean, there was a beautiful stream that flowed from the rocks above into the water and carved out a truly phenomenal cascade of small waterfalls before reaching the sandy beach and flowing into the ocean. The water was strikingly clear and the features it had carved in the rocks were fascinating.