Caines Head in B&W

My brother Rowan, his black lab Padfoot, and I decided to do an early season backpack in the Caines Head State Recreation Area, located outside of Seward, Alaska. The Caines Head area consists of beautiful rugged coastline, temperate rainforest, small waterfalls, soaring eagles, hiking trails, public use cabins, and World War II history. The Rec. Area is particularly good for an early season hike, as most of it is around sea level, so snow is a lesser concern. This year has been particularly warm in Alaska, so snow on this hike was pretty much nonexistent. And we were lucky, catching a beautiful stretch of weather. First day was cloudy, but the rest few days were sunny with highs in the 50s.

For more information on the Caines Head State Recreation Area, visit Alaska State Parks.

Click on an image to open it in a lightbox (especially useful for the shots in portrait orientation).


A few miles down the trail. Crossing Tonsina Creek. Rowan watches Padfoot playing in the Creek.

Remains of a bird in a spruce.

The trail meanders around a mixed Sitka Spruce/Western Hemlock/Cottonwood forest in the Tonsina Creek bottoms.

The trail leads to the beach. The route goes along the beach at low tide for the next three miles. Alaska State Parks recommends hiking it at a +3 low tide or lower.

High contrast shot of the mountains across Resurrection Bay.

Hiking the beach.

Old tree remnants (1964 earthquake?) dot the inital section of the beachwalk.

About halfway down the beach route, a small stream empties into the ocean. We found this waterfall a little up the drainage. It's a good place to stop if you are still waiting for the tide to drop a bit (or a good place to hang out if you get caught by the tide!)  I shot this one at f/16 and a 1/10 sec exposure with the 40mm. I tried going slower, but this is about the best I could do by bracing on a rock without a tripod. It's not perfectly crisp, but good enough.

Padfoot got leashed as he was eating too many dead birds off the beach. There were several eagle nests sitting above the beach, resulting in a plethora of carcasses for him to eat. He would puke into the wee hours of the morning.

Panning shot. Hiking the beach berm near the Callisto Cabin, the first of the two rentable cabins in the Caines Head St. Recreation Area.

Cliff face.

Derby Cove. This is where the beach route ends and the trail heads back into the forest. It's also the location of the Derby Cove cabin, which would be our camp for the next few nights.

The Derby Cove cabin. We spent two nights here. Normally, I bring my tent but given the potential for rain and chilly April temps, the cabin seemed like a good bet. They are rentable via Alaska State Parks.

Creepy night shot by the fire. Rowan may have been annoyed with the camera by this point.

Hitting the trail. Day two. Sunny and windy.

Sun in the temperate rainforest.

North Beach.

North Beach. Site of some sweet campsites, State ranger station, pavilion, bear boxes, and the beginning of the WW2 road that heads up to the Head.

Remains of the WWII-era military pier at North Beach. From here, old military roads go to the remains of Fort McGilvray on Caines Head and onto South Beach, where the Army had a garrison.  The pier was usable up until 1964, when land in the area dropped by five feet due to the Good Friday Earthquake.

Pier remains from the road to the Head.

We ran into several of these hemlock-dominated bogs near the road.

Padfoot on ice.

Where's Rowan?

Massive fallen Sitka Spruce stump over the road. The thing had two full size trees coming out of it.

Ammunition magazine on the way to Fort McGilvray.

Ammunition magazine.


On the road.

Battery 293 at Fort McGilvray on Caines Head. There are two emplacements that held 6'' guns. The Army constructed the Fort between 1942 and 1944 to protect the ice-free port of Seward. It was dismantled in 1947.

Light at the end of the tunnel. Inside the main bunker at Fort McGilvray.

Exploring the fort by headlamp.

The little viewing pillbox bunker on top of the Fort. This one still has the blast shields in place. This is the best preserved pillbox I've seen yet in Alaska. The ones I've encountered on Kodiak have deteriorated a bit more.

Inside the pillbox looking for enemy ships.

Hiking the old military road from Fort McGilvray to South Beach.

The view from South Beach. From left to right: Fox, Hive, and Rugged Islands.

Padfoot enjoying a sunny day at the beach.

Remains of the garrison at South Beach. 500 soliders were stationed here between 1941 and 1943.  The Kennedy Co. sure made some good fire hydrants. This one is poking up from a stream bed.

Remains of the garrison at South Beach.

Hiking back over the saddle from South Beach to Derby Cove. This is the biggest burl I've ever seen in the wild.

I had to slip one color photo into this collection. The rainbow just doesn't show in b&w. On the inland route back to the Derby Cove cabin.

Back to Derby Cove after a long day of exploring.

Small fire on the beach.

Sunset on Resurrection Bay. (OK, another color shot).

Sunrise over Resurrection Bay. We had to get an 8am start to beat the tide.

Back in the Tonsina bottoms.

A final image of morning sunlight through the spruce.

A word on the photos: I took most of these photos with the Canon 5D Mark III coupled with the 40mm f/2.8 pancake. A few are with the 85 f/1.2L, which I sometimes haul along for its magic abilities, especially wide open.