Northern Beaches

I’ve wanted to come up to this area in Northern California for a long time and out of a whim, I gathered a few friends and headed up north towards Ft. Bragg. Given the recent fires surrounding the area, we weren’t sure whether we going to get anything due to the smoke, much less being able to gain access to the place we came up for.

Setting up camp, I made a rookie mistake and left, of all things, my tent! Luckily, the campgrounds are car sleeping friendly so I just inflated my pad and slept in the SUV … phew!

Just a handful.

First stop, Glass Beach. From all accounts, this beach got its name roughly 60 years ago as it was used as a dump site. I guess back then, they weren’t too concerned with environmentally disposing of human trash, so they simply backed up trash by the truck loads until about 1967 or so. As the roaring seas rushed in and out everyday, everything but the broken glass disappeared. After years of ebbing and flowing with the tides, the glass shaved itself into smooth pebbles of white, blue, amber and different shades of green. Even as people have taken them, there’s still enough along the shores to marvel at. If you visit, please resist the urge to take any and allow others to enjoy the beauty that nature has turned human waste into.

Next stop, after a nights rest (in the car) is another magical place that has eluded me for years, is a place that could easily be overlooked. Not only is it not the easiest to find, but you have to hit it just right or else Mother Nature hides it from view. Almost alien-like perfectly rounded boulders peek above in rushing Northern California shoreline waters. Thinking … how did they get here? They’re certainly too heavy to be washed up from the ocean and if they did, why are they not swept out to sea? Standing back from the shoreline, it stands up against a sheer cliff wall of sandstone. My guess is, parts of the wall gave way to the crashing waves over time, causing landslides into the ocean (you can see remnants of a slide on either side of where you stand). Fallen earth and hardened driftwood all tell me this is the probably case.

Like the glass bottles sharp edges, huge chunks of sandstone were given the same treatment (by the ocean) and made these perfectly mounded orbs not but 30 meters from the cliff. After allowing the sun to set below the horizon on this moonless night, darkness begins to set quickly. Attempting to catch a vertical Milky Way, for first-timers at this location was sort of a crap shoot, but thanks to apps like TPE or Photopills was able to get a pretty good idea of what to expect. Not having been here before, access back to the car from the beach was always back of mind concern for me and the others, so I didn’t want to stay too late into the evening.

Waiting for darker skies, we had to move our position 4 or 5 times as the tide rushed up closer and closer to the cliffs much of swiftly than anticipated – which only heightened my awareness to getting back safely. But, in the end, you can always find some composition that’s acceptable before calling it a night. In the above photo, by the time we left (~8:30pm) the water table had risen 1/2-way up that dark band on the right!

Do your scouting for best times to go, be respectful and leave no trace behind, leaving it so others can enjoy the same experience you did.

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