The Not So Disappointing Cape

Thursday forecasted for big waves and massive swells along the Oregon and Washington coast's. Randy ( and I opted to meet up in the morning at Cape Disappointment in Washington to grab some photos of what was likely going to be a rather epic show. 

Upon arriving, I noticed the gate to the beach was closed and that there was a sign up outside of the ranger's office stating, "dangerous waves today". I parked, walked in to get a Discovery Pass (Washington parks pass) and talked to the lady working inside. She said this was the worst storm they had seen in a long time and that the waves were even carrying driftwood over the road... That's pretty intense as I have been here before during high surf, but nothing like this. 

I parked, grabbed my gear and started to walk down the closed road (it was still open to foot traffic). About 20 yards beyond the gate was a washout area that was littered with driftwood and debris - that in itself gave an idea of how torrential the sea was. I made my way over toward the viewing area to find Randy, along with at least a dozen other photographers, and found myself some space to watch the water. I didn't shoot for the first 10 or so minutes, I merely stood there and watched. I won't lie, I was a bit disappointed at first - I've seen bigger waves than what I was currently watching from the same location. The waves were big in the sense of water volume, but they weren't big in the way of tall. I waited for a bit, and while I waited, the swells grew in size and became more frequent.

I started to take some photos just as a heavy rain storm rolled in - most of us took cover under a tree to wait it out. After the rain stopped, the sun poked out for a brief period - almost like it was the calm before the storm - shortly after...a relentless onslaught of massive waves pummeled the shoreline. I've seen the beach wash out all the way to the grass before, but only once in awhile - this system was sending wave after wave all the way up the beach, grabbing the driftwood that come to rest on the shores and dragging it back out to sea. It was incredible! But it was also terrifying. On several occasions, walls of water would change direction and make their way towards the wall of trees, logs and stumps that created a barrier between us and the sea - watching a wall of water roll up above the barrier made me think to yourself, "are we gonna die?!?" Numerous times the water would come crashing in and lift the barrier, the trees cracking as they moved, and then drop it back down in place - with each retreating wave, the sea became more and more of a floating forest littered in wood. At one point a big wave hit the barrier and a less fortunate photographer was hit by the wave - he wasn't injured, but he and his gear were both soaked.

This became the beginning of a cycle of never ending massive swells bombarding the coast. I have never seen the ocean appear so angry - wave after wave crashing into the rocks, water exploding in every direction, the thunderous roar of nature's fury reminding us of her raw power. It was incredible. 

I had to leave as I had an appointment, and as I got in my car and closed the doors and turned the car on, it started to pour rain. Then, moments later, hail. I told myself, "well I left just in time!" I was a little sad I couldn't stay and continue watching the show, but also thankful I wasn't getting soaked. I sent a text to Randy on my drive out - he responding telling me that a wave had broken through the barrier, catching several photographers and their gear. I wasn't surprised and rather thankful I wasn't caught in that. After that, the park rangers shut the viewing area down to avoiding anyone becoming seriously injured or even killed. Sadly, I heard that a few people died that day - just a reminder that we are not above nature. 

If you get a chance to watch a winter storm along the sea, I highly recommend it, but be cautious. Never turn your back on the ocean and never underestimate it's power.

Other photographers I had the privilege of meeting on this trip include: Jennifer Grand (, Jim Patterson (, and Kevin Russell ( Please visit their websites and admire their work as well.

TJ SimonComment