Press "Enter" to skip to content

Plant a flag

Beach 1, Kalaloch, April 2009

I made it a little further south down the coast this past week. A goal was to make Elephant Rock eventually this year, but I haven’t gotten half that far. I keep telling myself these aren’t proper goals, these trips aren’t consumables, nor is there anything to claim even if there is an end. I’m not Shackleton. Being a typical white male I sometimes feel as if I have been bioengineered to invade, sack and reclaim. Photography has these tendencies, if in relatively benign ways. Still, A little sign I’ve managed to miss completely these many trips reads Beach 1 along a turnout and the feeling of greedy urgency is undeniable.

The forest is dense from the road so it’s easy to miss it, but the reward is immediate. First a burl forest. Giant growths nest in the prime of sitka spruces like an unearthly egg in the throat of a python. There’s a short path that meanders around select deformities; boils, cysts and tumors often split open in a rictus of arboreal torment. Yet, as fascinating as the forest was –is– the sounds of the Pacific and the light streaming around the grotesque shapes were irresistibly compelling and I had to make for the bluffs.

The view for me touches off associations with classic empire building, manifest destiny, westward expansion. As if to emphasize the metaphor, a road of bone-white driftlogs at the foot of the bluff stretch north and south for miles like progress’s collateral damage. This is quite a ways north of the Columbia River and the Lewis and Clark route, but the differences seem academic. How they must have felt hearing and smelling the waters and crashing though, so close, your heart almost running ahead of you like a pathfinder. Yet once the awe settles, who could actually claim it?