Plan B from Bodega Bay

Recently I drove my son and two other boys on their scout troop’s annual weekend outing to the Bodega Dunes campground in Bodega Bay. We left I around 4 p.m on a Friday and made good time, arriving just before sunset. I had to work the next day, so I couldn’t stay overnight, but I figured I could get a nice sunset shot or two before leaving for home.

It took about half an hour to offload my son and the scouts and get them situated in their campsite. There isn’t a view of the ocean from the campground, which is located just beyond the northern town limits. The most direct route is about a half-hour hike over hilly terrain to the beach. For me, the quickest way to the ocean and the sunset was back to town and to the Bodega Head, which looks westward to the sea.


The sunlight was fading fast, so I knew I needed to hurry. A relatively thin ribbon of clouds arched overhead and was quickly turning aglow with a beautiful golden color. Though it was probably miles wide, it took up only a narrow portion of the vast skyline culminating in an arrowhead point on the west.

For sunsets, clouds can be a wonderful thing. They’re like cooking with tofu or rice. In and of themselves they don’t have much of a taste but will ad texture and pick up the flavors of the other ingredients that you’re cooking with. A cloudless sky at sunset can be pretty flat and boring. There will be some warm color at the horizon, but there rest of the sky will turn just a deeper blue until fading into the blackness of night. Clouds can pick up the evolving hues of a sunset. From capturing warm oranges and yellows to fuschia-like pinks set against the deepening blue sky, clouds and make the setting sun come alive (there can be a problem of having too many clouds, which can block out the sun altogether).

Keeping an eye toward the west, I drove as quickly as I could. This proved to be harder said than done. Part of the road wound its way through the small town and then became a narrow country road along the eastern base of the peninsula that made up the hilly headlands that helps to protect the small cove on which Bodega Bay sits.

Over the hills of the headlands I could see that the clouds were rapidly turning pink, meaning that the sun was dipping below the horizon (or had already done so) and I was running out of time. Moreover, there was another problem. Out of the corner of my eye from the north I could see that a high-altitude jet was racing toward the clouds as I raced toward my vantage point. Trailing behind the plane was its contrail. The last thing I wanted in the natural scene was an unnaturally, ruler-straight line of the plane’s vapor trail bisecting the photo.

I drove the best I could but soon realized that I was going to be too late to avoid the plane for sure and possibly also the sunset as well. I started to slow down the car feeling a bit defeated when I glanced eastward across the bay. I was concentrating on the sunset so hard that I had ignored the view in that direction.


The clouds that started in the west arced through the sky all the way to the eastern horizon. Although it wasn’t quite as vibrant as clouds in the west, it was still picking up a bit more subtle yet still gorgeous deep magenta color. I quickly pulled over and made a short walk to a small beach along the road and made some quick pictures before the color faded away.


I did make it up to the viewing area of the Bodega Head, and, indeed, most of the color was gone by the time I got there. It reminded me that it’s always good to have a plan but be flexible enough to change gears when things don’t go according to that plan.

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