Rum-drinking Demons of the Redwood Coast


hile sweeping views of the coast can be seen from the road, there are few established trails, and there are no public directions on accessing a number of serene, magical beaches. 

Tonight, I’ve followed footpaths down a steep seaside cliff to view what is considered the most beautiful coastline view on the entire west coast of North America.  The downhill scramble has a treacherous quality to it. The wrong slip is certain death.

If this were a national park, this view would require a fifty car parking lot, a wide set of concrete stairs, buttressed by impossible supporting columns, protective handrails and gazebos with interpretive displays—-god bless them all.

Nobody should really be allowed to walk this treacherous walk, not only is it dangerous, but the varied footpaths to these views erode a fragile coast. 

In the end though, the way Oregon has protected its landscapes, by underplaying their value, is precisely what upholds their value. This Pacific Wonderland is all enter at your own risk, and that’s the way more wild land should be.

I make it to the bottom of the steep grade, my heart pumping from my incurable fear of heights, and I am crawling, not walking, along one of seven natural bridges.

As I stare out at the ocean, three more make their way down. One, a well-known professional photographer, and two more—-Instragram-era photographers. In all my years behind the camera, I’ve always looked forward to these certain landscapes which attract photographers. What kind of tripod do they use? What does their backpack look like? Are they wearing hiking boots or trail runners?

And, are they here to take a photo of themselves, their back facing the camera, their arms out in the air, taking in the wonder?

Indirectly, I bring this up, and I say that the age of Instagram has altered global trends in photography. “The direction is that the photo is about where the photographer has been. The photo is really there to serve the purpose of the photographer being the hero.”

“But maybe this is a trend that is already dying,” says the professional photographer. “We’ve reached full saturation of that sort of thing, and it may be on its way out.”

One of the instagrammers says, “All these stories about people falling to their death for a photo, and just last week, there was a story about a street in Paris where locals are starting to fight back against the Instragrammers.”

“It’s not the medium,” I say. “It’s that we aren’t really demanding more from those who are using the medium.”

I tell them the story of my friend who noticed a lady at his gym who, every morning, shared pictures of herself working out. But she never did the workout. She was there just for the photos.

The other instagrammer says, “I think we need to tell more of a story about the places we are visiting. What if we actually told our audience the significance of the place we are visiting. What if our photos could help us make each other smarter!”

Two of the photographers left, which frightened me, because I am still shaking from my fear of heights.

The photographer turns to me and says. “Do you mind taking a picture of me. All you have to do is push the button here.”

“Of course,” I say. He walks out onto the natural bridge, and crouches in a triumphant, awestruck pose. 

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