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Elk on the beach! A Pacific Ocean Camping Adventure

Updated on May 22, 2017

The sights you see when you have a camera.

You always know that you are going to see some amazing sites on a tour of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Be it camping in the Grand Canyon, spending a night in Death Valley, celebrating a birthday in Yosemite and driving down California's Highway 1. However one of the most memorable moments may only last a few moments but has to be seen to be believed.

Camping amongst the dunes on the Gold Bluffs Beach, you are literally at the edge of the world. If you look east you can see the Gold Bluffs from where the beach got its name, covered with large groups of Douglas fir and the odd Redwood interspersed. To the west is the vast expanse of the ocean, waves breaking over the grey sand that goes on for miles in both directions. There is no electricity apart from in the shower block; it is just you, your tent and a fire pit. You are left at the mercy of the elements and the critters.

Dunes at the edge of the world.
Dunes at the edge of the world.
Not so Gold Bluffs
Not so Gold Bluffs
Marshmallows over a fire on the Pacific.
Marshmallows over a fire on the Pacific.
Elk on the beach.
Elk on the beach.
Nearly Full
Nearly Full
Roosevelt Elk line the road sides
Roosevelt Elk line the road sides

When camping in the woods you hear noises or various critters throughout the night. When camping at the beach you hear the waves. A bear locker is provided for any items that may attract a potential Yogi. The road leading to the beach is through thick woods where you have to have headlights on in the daytime because the canopy can be so thick in places. The lights also act as a warning to the many deer roaming to get out of the way.

After passing the unmanned hut at the entrance to the camp grounds you have bluffs to your right and dunes to the left. An unpaved road takes you to the camping area where it is first come first served. If there is a space available you can put your tent in it. In the summer spaces are at a premium with queues of people waiting to claim a plot as soon as one becomes vacant. It is probably also slightly warmer, very slightly. It is not a beach like the sun kissed ones you associate California to be. The sand is very grainy and grey, the mist descends off the bluffs after it has built up in land over the thousands of square miles of Redwood forests.

As dusk falls there is a sense of peace and tranquillity in the area. The constant sound of the waves breaking, the crackle of firewood from the fire pits that adorn every camping plot and the bugle call of Bull Elks are the soundtrack of the night. There is no over crowding and a lot of open space so at you night you can just sit and stoke the fire, open a beer, roast some marshmallows and just relax. One might even see an Elk on the beach, walking along sniffing at drift wood, letting off the odd cry. This is something that probably happens at this beach all the time, it may not happen that often, especially with the giant herd so nearby. Taking a stroll seeking solitude from the rest walking up the beach not fearing being shot by hunters but just amateur photographers. Lit by the moon light and the glow of the flames you can look round and can take in the scene to see fellow campers standing, chatting and taking pictures of the Elk before the darkness gets to great and the fires die out.

The next morning all that is left is that you tidy your plot and pack away your tent before the next residents arrive. Recover everything from your bear locker and load the car, truck or SUV. Leave no trace except the indentations of your tent and the foot prints to your car. If you are lucky then the Bull Elk you had seen the night before may be there to give you one final bugle call as you leave and head back to the Highway for your next adventure.

Gold Bluffs Campground, Orick


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