This summer I visited Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon. It was my first time to the area in about four years, the longest stretch away as a photographer since my first visit over a decade ago. Shortly after my last visit the area become rather controversial with discussion of shutting it down as I touched on in prior blog talking about closing off areas due to potential safety concerns, something I am mostly against.
Well, here we are today and this location has again prompted me to bring up a topic that I am unfortunately seeing pop up more and more from photographers I know. This was the first noticeably visible change I have witnessed from a place I have visited over many years that went from being treated well to being treated poorly by those visiting. You may also recall this is the location where a group of people were caught on camera tearing down a beautiful hoodoo several years ago. This deliberate destruction under a completely inexcusable reason was a shock to us all, myself included.
Here is the before and after of the hoodoo at Cape Kiwanda, or as I liked to call it – Thor’s Fist.
It feels like as a society too many of us are not ashamed to do whatever we please with little to no regard to the long term impact or other people. From vandalism to destroying property to leaving trash behind they all add up to degrading the value and experience that the rest of us experience when visiting after the fact.
I am not saying any of this because I believe I am self-righteousness and above others in my indirect or direct impact to areas I go. I am no angel yet I do think about my actions to try and have a reduced impact on the beautiful places I visit for photography. The one thing I probably do most is pick up trash, even if it’s just some empty cans or water bottles I can stuff in my pack. At a young age I littered by throwing a pop can out of a moving car. The brakes screeched the car to a halt in the middle of the road. My Dad demanded I get out of the car and left me there to find it and walk the rest of the way. Most parents would not do something like that yet I am glad he did as it obviously had the right impact on me.
Back to Cape Kiwanda. I was rather surprised the volume and size of the carvings I saw all over the sandstone. A number of spots were great contenders for abstract compositions that I had to pass on because there was too much of the area scratched, written or carved on. Everything from “Johnny was here” to “Billy Bob loves Susie” type comments. Although sandstone does deteriorate over time most of these will be here for many years before they fully fade away. All of this scratched, and in many cases deeply carved, into the walls and ground of a very photogenic Pacific Northwest icon. Simply put it takes away from the natural beauty. No one would like it if their car or home were carved up by a stranger. How is this any different? The photos here of all the writing I saw is only a small portion that I happened to snap with iPhone to put this in perspective.
Here is the kind of beautiful abstracts you can get with the sandstone here.
I feel like the like the only way it will eventually stop is if enough people say something about. If we remain silent it’s likely to continue. This is my way of bringing visibility to this issue. We also need to not be afraid to speak up when are witnessing people doing really dumb things to in our outdoor sanctuaries. Early this year I was at a popular viewpoint at Zion National Park. I was sitting there enjoying the view with my family and as I look over I see two kids about age 10 to 14 throwing large rocks over the cliff below where people might be walking hundred of feet below. The mom and grandpa just stood there saying nothing. It took another parent and myself speaking up telling them how stupid that is and to stop before the grandpa mumbled something that they should leave. The mom said nothing even as I looked right at her. I am not a perfect parent yet this is not how you do it. If you make a mistake own up and learn from it.
Also, for those that might be wondering although the Cape Kiwanda location has heavy signage and fencing to stop people from entering, it is not illegal to enter the cape. In fact there was a nice state park ranger right next to the fencing on my last visit that confirmed this for me during our conversation. I thanked her for her service as I would rather my tax dollars and park fees go to having people like her there to help educate visitors from doing stupid things than shutting it off for everyone. Let’s hope we can start respecting it again to ensure it stays open for many years to come.
The tipping point that got me to write about this topic was a recent drive with my 8 year old daughter. We were up in the mountains and came across a very large natural rock wall with extensive and colorful graffiti. Granted it was along a main road yet here we are in the outdoors many miles from cell phone reception or any services and this was staring us in the face. I didn’t say much other than something like it’s too bad seeing all of that.
This was my daughter’s response – “It’s sad, it’s just fine without all the writing.”
She is right, it’s just fine without it and in fact more than fine, it’s better. We could all do good with a mindset like this to reduce vandalism and destruction to the places we enjoy out in nature. Our population is large, still mostly growing and the numbers of people visiting the outdoors is only increasing. I am realistic that this means it won’t be some Utopian paradise with zero signs of impact yet we can each do things to try help lesson our impact and keep these places truly enjoyable and accessible for decades to come.
Location: Portland, OR
Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.