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Autumn along the Smith River, Northern California

This is the season and holiday for gratitude, and we have so much to give thanks for with life, love, and shared experiences.

Great Blue Heron, Tolowa Dunes State Park. Northern California.

We are especially grateful for the opportunity to have undertaken this trip as we start for home in just a few days, and are focused on the memories, views, and wonderful time together with family and both old friends and those just made. Just under 7,000 miles traveled so far, nearly six weeks since we set out, together as a family, and immeasurable experiences, stories to tell, and a photography portfolio that will happily take me months to organize and share. Oh, the places we have been, the sights we have seen, and the people we have met!

Tolowa Coast Cypress Knees. Northern California

It is Wednesday evening, November 24th, the night before Thanksgiving. Stephanie and I, with our dog Willow, are safely and warmly ensconced in our small trailer, nearby to the beautiful Oregon coastline. Just a few hours ago, we were watching the clouds scud across the sky and listening to the tinkling of black basalt rocks rolling in the ocean surf at Cobble Beach, adjacent to Yaquina Head. Then a quick nostalgic visit to Otter Rock, last visited when our daughter was considering going to the University of Oregon’s Institute of Marine Biology at Coos Bay (eventually beaten out by the UC Santa Cruz), then a quick and quiet dinner, and catching the last light at Agate Beach.

Mono Lake, east side of Sierra Nevada Mountains. California.

We are a long way from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona which was the focus of my last update. Since then, we spent several days in California’s Death Valley National Park,* where on one winter day it hit ninety-two degrees. We spent sunrises and sunsets at Badwater Basin, Mesquite Sand Dunes, and Dante’s View. We enjoyed an afternoon at Ubehebe Craters, Teakettle Junction and the Racetrack: a dry lakebed where a combination of rain and wind conditions skid the rocks on the slick surface and leave a visible trail.

The Racetrack, Death Valley National Park. California

During the day, and after the sun went down, we spent time camped with our friends, a rare break from the typical five to seven hours of driving. A bottle of Port, some great food and conversations made this a truly laid-back reprieve and perhaps the first time we were able to fully enjoy the benefits of using our trailer as a basecamp.

Death Valley is different from anywhere else that we have travelled. I am pretty sure my mom would have described it as desolate (so different than her life experience), but we loved its vastness, the dunes, walking out on the salt plains before first light, and the colors and the shadows everywhere. I was in Death Valley earlier this year, but I guarantee these trips were not enough and that we will be sure to go back soon.

Crescent City Sunset. Northern California.

From there we wandered west to the Alabama Hills rock formations outside Lone Pine, set between the Sierra Nevada and Inyo mountains, headed north to Mono and June Lakes, and then turned west across Donner Pass and up the west coast. We spent another few days with our friend in Cresent City who has a wonderful house on a bluff overlooking the beach, and with amazing views of rocks, seals and even more fantastic sunrises and sunsets. What an amazing host!

Smith River Wild & Scenic. Northern California

We spent a day along the Wild and Scenic Smith River** looking for river otters, Tolowa Dunes State Park looking for porcupines (no luck for either of those), and found some beautiful, dappled sunlight among the close to 2,000-year-old coastal redwoods in the Stout Memorial Grove at Jedediah Smith State Park. From there, up the Oregon Coast to our quiet campground this evening.

Morning Mist & Light, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Northern California.

From here, we head home to Bellingham this coming weekend. It has been an amazing trip, and we have been lucky with our escapades. Sunny days, clear nights (except for last week’s Lunar eclipse), fair winds and little rain, no snow yet in the higher Cascades and Sierra passes, great light and landscapes, and we missed the flooding back home in Bellingham.

Hazy Morning Wakeup. Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge. Northern California.

Lots to be thankful for in this holiday season! I am especially appreciative that you have come along on this photography journey with me.

Web of Life on the California Coast! Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge.

Stephanie and I hope that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We hope the holiday provides that needed reprieve, an upturn for a rough past two years, and a jumpstart for the new year approaching.


*Death Valley has the highest ever recorded temperature in North America, at 134° on July 10, 1913. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America and the United States, at 282 feet below sea level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, is only 84.6 miles to the northwest.

** With its turquoise waters, surrounding forests, free flowing status, and salmon, steelhead and trout habitat, California’s Smith River is high on the list of most beautiful rivers in the country. More than 325 miles on all three forks of the Smith are designated as Wild & Scenic, making the Smith one of the most complete river systems in the country. For more information on the Smith, and local conservation work, see

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