I'd set my sights on Russian Gulch State Park after seeing photos online of a beautiful beach and bridge adjacent to the campground. I always made it a goal to get to wherever I was camping before sundown to have sufficient time to set up my hammock and cook my dinner before it got too dark, but this time I had gotten it into my head that I'd walk down to the beach to watch the sunset while enjoying my dinner, so it was of the utmost importance that I met my goal on this particular evening.
I made it to the park just in the nick of time to pick a spot that would work with my hammock and then walk down to the beach. As I walked down the trail towards the ocean, I envisioned a perfect sunset dinner on the beach. I got exactly opposite that. A stream ran down the beach into the ocean that let off the faint but apparent smell of sewage. In addition to the less-than-ideal stench, the beach itself was covered in horrid little jumping bugs (think about half the size of grasshoppers) that got everywhere (seriously…in my clothes, shoes, hair…it was a mess). I tried to stay positive and walked down to the water and over to some rocks only to find myself even more swarmed by the pesky little insects. Defeated, I went back to my camp and emptied my shoes of the now squished critters before eating my dinner by my fire.
The evening was quickly redeemed when the clear night sky revealed one of the most spectacular stargazing opportunities I'd had on the trip so far. Since my sunset photo plans had been dashed to pieces, I set up my tripod to experiment with the stars. None of the photos were perfect (if you zoom in you can see some blur in the stars), but they definitely capture the beauty of the evening. I even did some experimenting with the red light of my headlamp, which I thought made for a cool effect.