Dicks Creek Falls

A few weekends ago, J took himself off for an adventure in his Jeep Chief, and headed a little ways down the road to explore Dicks Creek Falls. He came back with pictures that made me jealous that I’d not gone, so we went back out the day after Christmas.

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View from bottom of Dicks Creek Falls

Dicks Creek Falls is right off one of the Forestry Service roads here in Dahlonega. The road to the falls is narrow at times and it’s probably a good idea to take a vehicle with 4 wheel drive (especially if it’s been raining) – though we saw several cars make it in and out okay. A busy day (from our estimate) involves passing approximately five cars on your way in and out.

The parking lot for the falls is off to the right, and the falls are just across the road. It’s a short trail to get to a view of the falls, and the trail runs alongside the creek for awhile so you can explore a bit. I loved seeing the falls from different angles!

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View from bottom of the falls

We started at the bottom, and were stunned at the quantity and speed of the water coming over the falls. The Southeast received a significant amount of rain the week of Christmas, so the flow was much heavier than normal. In fact, a delightful spray, reminiscent of of our trip to Oregon, came up off the water and created the teeniest bit of fog.

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First view of the bottom of the falls

We moved up the falls rather quickly (that spray was cold!) and found that two creeks, Dicks Creek and another, converge just above the falls. The amount of water coming from both creeks was incredible. We put a hand on a tree that had fallen across where the creeks meet, and could feel the power of the water hitting the tree.

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Above the falls after the two creeks converge

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At the convergence of the two creeks

Here’s a really nice video of the falls on Vimeo by a videographer named Mark Smith from a few years back – you can see the falls as they normally are.

I highly recommend the drive out to the falls if you are in the area. We’ll be heading back throughout the year!

2016 Goals

A few days ago, I shared my word for 2016. I also mentioned, in December’s What I’m Into post, that I am setting goals in a new way this year. I want to share that approach here, along with how I plan to stay accountable to the goal setting and follow through process this year.

Sidebar: In January of last year (2015), I started a new job as a Project Director for internal strategic initiatives within the company for which I work. This new role was completely different than anything I’ve done before. We took the conceptual plan for six strategic initiatives, and created charter/scope statements, project plans and deliverables, identified risks and issues, and set milestones and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the year. I LOVE this type of work, and learned an incredible amount in 2015. For 2016, I hope to take some of what I learned professionally, and apply it to my personal life.

For 2016, other than picking a word for the year, I am not making year-long goals. It’s barely January, and I have no idea what the next 365 days hold. So to make goals that are a year-long means I will rationalize my way out of them by February 2, and then drift through the rest of the year.

Instead of making year-long goals, I’ve broken the year into quarters (how original!) and then, of course, into months. I’m picking a single quarterly goal, and then several smaller monthly goals. So far, I’ve picked the 1Q goal, and my January goals. As February nears, I’ll sit down and go through goals for February. And repeat with the remaining months.

I intend to create measurable, specific monthly and quarterly goals. One of my favorite things with the work projects is to go through and measure how close we are to the goal. The measurement shows progress that is rarely felt in the day-to-day slog. I would like to replicate this in my personal goals. I intend to recap the monthly goals in a post at the end of each month. My hope is to complete 2016 and have twelve posts to review showing measurable progress (and success!) toward specific goals.

So here are Q1 and January goals:

First Quarter: Achieve daily step goal everyday. Right now, the daily step goal is 7,000 steps. I’m working up to 10,000, and will likely move up in 500 step increments over the first three months of the year.

January Goals

  1. Get healthy. I have several appointments this month for various (minor) medical needs. More on this later, perhaps, but the overall goal is to a) make the most of those appointments and b) take time and put forth effort to heal / get healthy.
  2. Journal at least once per week (for at least five minutes) capturing the events of the week. I used to be an avid journal-er, but have fallen out of the habit in recent years. Five minutes seems short, but I’ve tested the timing a couple of times, and it’s the right place to start.
  3. Complete each day of the SheReadsTruth Genesis study. I’m so enjoying this study already!

And that’s it. I find these goals to be attainable, but still a challenge in discipline. And, to boot, these are all goals I WANT to achieve.

What are your goals for the new year?

2016’s Word

I wasn’t going to write about this, not yet, except that I started seeing others write about it, and I want these words and ideas to be all my own and not a honorable copy of someone else.

I’d clearly decided not to do a “word” for 2016 – I have a horrible, horrible time keeping the focus on something like this, and the last few years have not yielded any real success in keeping focus on a concept summed to a single word.

However, there’s a word that will not go away, and that leaves me both quietly satisfied and somewhat cautious about its pursuit. That word is faithful. Faithful to God, to prayer, to commitments, to efforts, to myself.

As I worked through the SRT Advent study, the practice of prayer came back in tiny fits and false starts. One day, out of 28, I sat down and communed with the Lord through prayer. And this one day left such an impression on my tired, dried up soul that I knew I must have more. And the thing about prayer, always, is God doesn’t go anywhere. He’s always right there where we left him. So if I sit down to pray and I cannot find God, that’s in me, not in Him. (At least this is a truth I profess and hold to – though others, absolutely, may have a different experience.)

In pursuit of that sense of communing with God, I intend to faithfully pursue the practice of prayer, first and foremost. I also intend to pursue the notion of living out faithfulness, that steady, sure, unyielding commitment, in areas of my life that have not always looked like I am pursuing faithfulness.

Perhaps a side note about my personality is helpful here. I tend to be all or nothing – to jump into something headfirst without necessarily thinking through the commitment. When I do think through the commitment, days or weeks after the start, I usually rationalize my way out of whatever the commitment was. And so in this year, with a somewhat reluctant but convincing commitment to faithfulness, my hope is to show faithfulness in actions and follow through as opposed to intentions alone.

If none of that even remotely makes sense, the practical outcomes will look, I hope, something like this: an intentional, flourishing prayer life; a husband with a deeper sense of my faithfulness; family and friends convinced I value their person and their relationship; a soul nourished with regular study of God’s word; and, last, a garden that produces beautifully throughout the growing season.

So there it is: a word for 2016 when I did not really want one. Truth be told, I am excited and delighted to have had a word find me for once. Cheers to 2016!

What I’m Into | Dec 2015

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December started with a trip to the DC area for a business meeting. It was a quick trip, and the flight home was one of my least favorite in recent memories. We essentially bounced our way back to Atlanta. But we made it home safely, and month continued.

We started the She Reads Truth / He Reads Truth Advent Study with our Bible Study group. While the study is not necessarily designed for a group, it worked well for us. Each week has five readings, and we spent time going through the points that stood out to us in the readings. Personally, I have so enjoyed this study. The comparison of Jesus as the true and better figure against prominent Old Testament figures was eye opening as I had not studied Christ in that light before. Also, even if you’ve not done the study, and despite it being well after Christmas at this point, I HIGHLY recommend the devotional from Monday, December 21. Russ Ramsey, author of Behold the Lamb of God, wrote the last week of devotionals, and I found Monday’s took my breath away.

I splurged on Pandora One this month, given that listening to Christmas music 24/7 makes for a ridiculous amount of ads otherwise, and worked to hone my Traditional Christmas radio station to perfection. I find myself wishing Christmas music had the same enchanting effect all year, but I’m afraid it would lose the specialness if that were attempted.

Reading wise, I’ve been working through Middlemarch by George Elliott. It’s literally the only thing I’ve read this month. I’m enjoying it, and also looking forward to moving on once it’s finished. I love Elliott’s wit – dry and observant in the best way.

I’m looking forward to planning a reading list for 2016. I tend to lean heavily on the classics – which I almost always enjoy – but would like to plan to read a bit more widely in the next year. My Goodreads To Read shelf is enormous and varied. I’m working through a reading challenge, and will share once complete.

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We visited Jekyll Brewing a few days before Christmas. We really enjoyed the visit! Their beer is delicious, and they had a great tour. We learned how the saying “so-and-so’s drunk as Cooter Brown” came to be: essentially, Cooter Brown (a real person) spent the four years of the Civil War plastered because he was not willing to pick up arms against his neighbor. A true Southern-ism. We’ll definitely be back.

We are spending this last week of December hanging out at the house in a bit of a staycation. This wasn’t necessarily our first choice, but it’s been really nice, and likely exactly what we both needed before jumping into a new year.

Speaking of a new year, I’ve spent a good bit of thought on how to structure my plans for the new year. I find, historically, that setting huge, lofty goals for the year in December often breeds frustration by March because things have changed with life in general – even if only slightly. And so I am working on a framework for planning for the new year, and am really excited to start using the concept. I’ll share here once everything is laid out. Sneak peek: my Get To Work book is invaluable!

Looking forward to January. I love a new year. Am working on a couple of projects and using my Get To Work book. Santa (aka Justin) brought a new camera lens (the 24mm for my Canon T3), and I’m looking forward to using it more in the new year (see more in the 2015 Christmas Home Tour post).

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Joining Leigh Kramer at leighkramer.com for the last What I’m Into of 2015. Thanks for hosting, Leigh! Looking forward to more great recaps in 2016.

Christmas Home Tour 2015

I’ve not written a Christmas Home Tour post before, but I so love this tradition of some of my favorite blogs (namely The Nester’s Annual Tour of Homes and Emily’s at Jones Design Company). I particularly enjoy seeing the way Christmas style evolves over the years for so many of us.

This Christmas is the first we’ve had at home in our rental house. Last year, we had the incredible opportunity to travel to Italy and spend Christmas with my sister and her family. The trip was lovely, and a really neat way to spend Christmas. This year, however, my sis and her family are back in the States (yeah!) and we are staying close to home – visiting J’s parents’ for Christmas, having family and friends over throughout December, and enjoying the long winter-ish evenings in the glow of Christmas lights.

And so one rather gloomy day a few weeks ago, I pulled out the camera and played with a new lens J gave me for [early] Christmas. All pictures taken with a Canon T3 and a 50mm or 24mm lens.

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The floorplan of the rental is a teeny bit awkward when it comes to adding a tree to the mix. We debated the location, but opted to put the tree in this corner of the dining room. To the right (and not pictured), is the kitchen, and the picture was taken standing in the living area. The selling point for this location was that we could see the lights from almost anywhere in the house (bedrooms/office excluded). I’ve really enjoyed being in the kitchen and still being able to see the lights. And we’ve spent MANY evenings this month sitting in our favorite chairs reading or watching a movie in the glow of the lights.

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Our table is fairly simple – burlap runner from Hobby Lobby a few years ago, our china with chargers, and colorful placemats and napkins (from Target a few years ago). We find ourselves enjoying the china more by nature of it being out.

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Having a mantle to decorate was fun! The once-live-now-very-dead garland is from Home Depot, and most of the other items are from around the house. The card holder on the right is from Pier 1. And the stockings are from Pottery Barn. It’s been so warm here in Georgia this month that we’ve only had one fire – but adding the white lights to the garland countered the empty fireplace most nights.

I hope you enjoyed these quick snapshots of our home this Christmas! I am joining The Nester for the It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful Christmas (aka #idhtbptbbchristmas :-)).

What I’m Into | November 2015

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November, though a delightful month, feels like it’s lasted an eternity. I’m not sure I can still remember when November actually started – or what I was doing. I do know that November has encompassed lovely, lovely days. Like the days in which my sister and her family stayed at my house. Or the days where I explored Lisbon in the soft late fall light. Or Thanksgiving day when my littlest niece spent two hours sleeping soundly on my shoulder (she’s seven weeks old).

I started reading Middlemarch (Eliot), finally, after the book sat on my shelf for several years. I’ve found Eliot’s writing to be more digestible than I anticipated. Her depiction of small town life has made me grin many times as I’ve recognized my hometown in her descriptions of Middlemarch.

We’re also doing the She Reads Truth / He Reads Truth Advent study with our Bible study group. It technically started in November, and I’ve looked forward to starting it all month.

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I logged almost 12,000 miles in air travel in the latter part of November. The first trip was a business trip to Lisbon, Portugal. This trip was my first international business trip, and it was the perfect first solo international trip. We spent 1.5 days in meetings with a partner, and that experience could not have been better. I am so impressed with the work ethic, intellect, and humor of the Portuguese colleagues we worked with – not to mention what a great city Lisbon is. More on the trip in a future post.

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J and I started decorating for Christmas this past weekend. Last year, we visited my sister and her family in Italy for Christmas – which was wonderful, but did not feel quite like Christmas without decorating our house and going through traditions. So this year we’re starting early, and soaking in the twinkle lights and hot cocoa. Also, we’re using live garland for the first time – I’m in love!

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We’ve had some of the prettiest mornings lately. My body clock has been a bit off the last few weeks, so I’ve been up long before the sun, and have caught more of these beautiful mornings than usual. These pretty mornings have given way to equally pretty days, which have been so nice.

In the World Wide Web, I’ve particularly enjoyed Emily Freeman’s A Prayer For When You Need Some Confidence and have been digging through Elise Cripe’s archives on Goal Setting. (Have you seen her Get to Work Book? It’s pretty awesome!) And I finally finished the second season of StartUp on a recent drive home. So good!!

The things I would prefer not to remember about November but should still capture are falling down the stairs at my parents’ house on Thanksgiving (it hurt – and I yelled about how bad it hurt… people came running…), and letting myself get so worn down that my cold / eye infection resurfaced for a second round. I guess if that’s as bad as it gets, November was a good month!

December starts tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to a holiday season centered on time with my favorite person, good hard work to finish out the year, and spending almost every night of the month in my own bed. Here’s to little blinking light bulbs, Advent studies, cookie parties, gift wrapping, and hot cocoa.

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Joining Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into. Thanks for hosting every month, Leigh!

A Walking Enthusiast’s Guide to Chattanooga

Justin loves to walk. We’ve had many an adventure walking through the streets of new and old cities. I wanted to share a recent trip through Chattanooga as I highly recommend the route we took.

First, drive across the Market Street bridge and park in Coolidge Park. You do need to pay for parking here, but all the lots in downtown Chattanooga require payment, and it’s not unreasonable. We love to go first thing in the morning and never have a problem finding parking. Also – the parking in Coolidge Park has a two hour limit. We did this route in a little under two hours. If you plan to linger longer, just stop by and refill your meter before heading across the bridge.

Coolidge Park is a great place to explore. You can get right down by the river, or ride a carousel! They also have public restrooms (in the pavilion). More on Coolidge Park here, and see reviews here.

From Coolidge, head to the corner of Market and Fraiser. A new-ish coffee shop, Revelator, sits in the first floor space of an old brick building on the corner. The full glass facade and painted brick interior draw the eye in and around the shop. Minimal furniture, sleek white countertops, and cool blue tones give a welcoming but cool atmosphere. The menu, though also minimal, covers the essentials. Hot and iced coffee, hot chocolate, tea. A tray of baked fig crumble bars sat by the register when we visited.

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We recommend getting your food “for here” and your coffee “to go” – and then spend a few minutes watching the barista make each coffee order fresh with a Chemex and delightful coffee drip pot. Justin had the iced coffee and I had a regular coffee. We split the fig crumble bar. All was delicious.

Revelator Coffee

Next, walk a few doors down on Fraiser Avenue to a great second-hand bookstore, Winder Binder. We’ve always had luck finding a few titles to bring home. Quality is high, and prices reflect both quality and availability of the book. We certainly don’t find the awesome deals we score at McKays, but browsing is enjoyable, and the art is neat.

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After your stroll through the bookstore, stop by your car and drop off any purchases you might have made. Then head up to the Walnut Street Bridge.

The Walnut Street Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge in the US. It’s one of my most favorite steel bridges. At one end, the end we started at, is the North Shore – with all the shops and park space along Fraiser Avenue – and the other end sits between the Hunter Museum of Art and the Tennessee Aquarium (I highly recommend both!). The view from the Walnut Street Bridge is second to none as you’re looking south at the heart of downtown Chattanooga.

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From the end of the Walnut Street Bridge, make your way over to the Maple Street Biscuit Company on Market Street. We ate here for the first time this trip, and it was really good. We both had The Farmer, and Justin ordered grits as well. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was really conducive to sitting and chatting while eating. Everything on their menu looked great – it was hard to pick a single biscuit!

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We finished lunch at the Maple Street Biscuit Company and decided to head back to the car. If you want to continue exploring, the MSBC is a perfect spot to start from for visiting the Aquarium, the Bluff View Art District, the Riverfront, or Hunter Museum of Art. Or if you’re finished exploring like us, the walk back to the car was the perfect compliment to finishing a delicious lunch

What are your favorite walks in Chattanooga? Favorite spot for a cup of coffee? Recommendations for lunch? Would love to hear!

Three Days in Oregon – Day 3

Our last day in Oregon was my favorite. The day dawned cool and overcast, like the others, but the clouds started burning off and we saw gorgeous blue sky and the sunshine. We started the day with coffee from Siuslaw Coffee Roasters and donuts from Big Dog Donuts. I recommend both.

We drove north, and pulled off at the first overlook we passed. The view, in the clear day, was breathtaking. We could see at least ten miles, down to the jetty near my brother’s house.

Oregon coast | grey ceiling blog

We then visited Thor’s Well. Totally cool. It’s an opening in the rocks that fills from the bottom up as waves roll in. I loved the starfish hanging on the side!

We spent a long time standing on the rocks watching the waves roll in. I could’ve spent all day there!

Oregon coast | grey ceiling blog

Our next stop was a beach. Nestled between two huge, rocky hills, the beach was wide but short. Standing on the beach felt like being in a bowl. We explored the rocky border, and found a small section of beach separated from the rest of the beach by a big rock – almost a hidden cove, if you will.

Haceta Head Beach, OR | grey ceiling blog

We took a quick break, and headed north to Yachats for lunch at the Luna Sea Fish House. The food was really good, and we got to sit outside, which was lovely. We also grabbed coffee at The Village Bean Coffee Shop, which was my favorite coffee of the trip. Delicious!

We spent the rest of the day back at the Haceta Head Lighthouse and beach. The trail to the lighthouse from the beach is easy – wide and sloping – and offers amazing views of the beach as the altitude rises. Once at the lighthouse, you can take the trail further up behind the lighthouse, and even over the top and down to Hobbit Beach.

Haceta Head Lighthouse, OR | grey ceiling blog

We also saw sea lions sunning themselves on rocks below the lighthouse! They’re really neat creatures.

View of the lighthouse from the beach.

View of the lighthouse from the beach.

We loved our time on the West Coast. This was J’s first trip to the Pacific Ocean, and he found it enchanting. We can’t wait to go back!

Three Days in Oregon – Day 2

The second day of our trip to Oregon started overcast and humid/foggy. J and I were delighted – it was the middle of July and we were in pants and light jackets! (If you missed it, here’s more on Day 1.)

We did so much this day. We started by exploring the North Jetty, then had a delicious food truck lunch, then headed a few miles north and hiked an awesome trail.

Our first stop of the day was the North Jetty, which is super close to where my brother lived. The bouy at the end of the jetty produces a low whistle every so often (about every 30 seconds, from our timing), and we could hear the whistle when we were going to sleep each night. I took a short video of the sound while we were at the end of the jetty (please forgive the shaky video quality). It was super neat to climb all the way out there on the rocks.

After our jetty trekking, we headed in town for lunch from BoxLunch food truck.. Sooo good. I had a BBQ hotdog.

View of the North Beach in Florence, OR from the North Jetty.

View of the North Beach in Florence, OR from the North Jetty.

View of the North Beach in Florence, OR from the North Jetty.

View of the North Beach in Florence, OR from the North Jetty.

We headed north up US 101 after lunch. The wide city road quickly turned into a more narrow, winding mountain road. The coast to our left, sharp hills to our right. We stopped at the first overlook, and stood on a rock wall, breathless at the view of Haceta Head Lighthouse in front of us.

View of Haceta Head Lighthouse from overlook on US 101.

View of Haceta Head Lighthouse from overlook on US 101.

We kept going north, and stopped on the other side of the lighthouse. We headed down to Hobbit Beach via a short trail through dense, beautiful vegetation. We practically had the whole beach to ourselves. The wide sand gave way to cold, slow waves coming up on the beach. We found tide pools around rocks. The view down the long beach was my favorite.

View down Hobbit Beach.

View down Hobbit Beach.

Looking out at the water on Hobbit Beach.

Looking out at the water on Hobbit Beach.

We jumped back in the car for a short drive to the St Perpetua trailhead. I loved how so many of the places we visited were marked by small pull off parking areas. Made the area seem to be designed for locals, which I love.

The St Perpetua trail is beautiful. Huge trees and green vegetation on both sides of the trail. We climbed and climbed up a number of switchbacks. The higher we climbed, the more mist we could see and feel rolling over the top of the mountain.

There’s a shelter at the very top of the trail overlooking Cape Perpetua. We stopped here to take pictures and catch our breath.

View of Cape Perpetua from the shelter at the top of the St Perpetua trail.

View of Cape Perpetua from the shelter at the top of the St Perpetua trail.

Glorious trees and vegetation on the St Perpetua Trail.

Glorious trees and vegetation on the St Perpetua Trail.

Salmonberries on the St Perpetua trail.

Salmonberries on the St Perpetua trail.

We finished the second day sitting by Devil’s Churn and watching wave after wave roll in. We walked out as far as we could, and sat for awhile. Then we climbed back to the very back point and peered over the ledge. Such powerful force in play.

Wave rolling into the opening at Devil's Churn.

Wave rolling into the opening at Devil’s Churn.

Three Days in Oregon – Day 1

J and I spent a long weekend in Florence, Oregon with my brother and his girlfriend. They were delightful hosts – fresh coffee and hot bacon every morning, comfy bed, plenty of hot water – and spent three days showing off their part of the Oregon coast.

We took a late flight out Thursday night, and finally got to my brother’s place around 3AM EST. I don’t remember the last time we were that tired. We woke up the next morning and took a walk down to the coast, which was a less-than-five-minute walk from their house. A small campground sat at the end of their road, and we walked down a steep trail from the campground to the water.

We spent the first day exploring the coast near their house and visited the south jetty. The day dawned overcast, but the clouds burned off and we saw a lovely mixture of blue skies, puffy white clouds, and ocean fog.

We saw sea lions (!!) playing in the surf here. We were standing near the jetty, eyes westward looking over the ocean, and saw two heads pop out of the surf. We stood stock still, and they started playing in the surf. They’d pop their heads up, then pull the rest of their body to the surface in a back float. They’d bend in the middle slightly, duck their head in the water, and disappear. They repeated this for ten to fifteen minutes. I couldn’t get a good picture of them, so I perused the Internet for good pictures for you to see: this video of a sea lion playing with surfers takes the cake.

We finished the day with dinner at Homegrown Public House that evening – it was delicious. Would definitely go back.

Florence, OR | grey ceiling

View of the Siuslaw River (middle) with the south jetty/beach (left jetty) and the north jetty/beach (right).

Looking south at the South Jetty in Florence, OR.

Looking south at the South Jetty in Florence, OR.

Looking down the South Jetty from the beach.