Night Light of the North Coast: The California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove

Post by David Wilson

It is quiet among the giant redwoods late at night, and oh, so dark. The redwood forest has always fed my soul, and my photographic imagination sparks in the dark. Night provides a canvas of black, within which lies a latent image for me to reveal with strokes of painted light.

Nighttime scene at the California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. June 2017. Photo by David Wilson.

So it was as I stood before the Hearthstone at Women’s Federation Grove (California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove) in Humboldt Redwoods State Park late one summer night. So still, so black. Without my light I could see nothing, but I felt the great forms of the towering trees around me. Through an opening between their crowns some stars peered down into the scene.

I wanted to photograph the Hearthstone, and use my lighting to make it stand out against its surroundings. In the complete blackness I could selectively illuminate the areas I chose, leaving the surroundings in darkness. I used my flashlight to light the scene, bouncing it off of a warm-toned scarf to soften and warm up the light. Before opening the shutter I had draped the scarf over one arm, then during the exposure I bounced my flashlight off of it while slowly walking from one side of the the structure to the other behind my camera, bathing it in an even light. The 30-second exposure was barely enough time for me to light the structure evenly.

The light in the trees behind the Four Fireplaces wasn’t planned. My friend arrived during the exposure, the headlights of his car shining through the trees from behind the building as he approached along the winding little drive into Women’s Federation Grove. I saw him coming as I made the exposure, and I feared his headlights would ruin the image, but I also hoped that their back-lighting would be exactly what the photograph needed. It turned out to be the latter, another of the serendipitous accidents that so often grace my outings and add magic to the images I bring home.

The California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove is a day use area situated amongst magnificent redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants. With access to the South Fork Eel River, picnic tables and restrooms, it’s an ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon. In the summer a footbridge crosses the river, making both banks accessible.

Nighttime scene with Milky Way, as seen from the banks of the Eel River at the California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. June 2017. Photo by David Wilson.

The Grove entrance is a few miles north of Weott on the Avenue of the Giants. From Highway 101, either from the north or south, take the South Fork/Honeydew exit, and travel a short distance south on the Avenue. The entrance will be on the right immediately after you cross over Highway 101. For more information on the site, and on Humboldt Redwoods State Park in general, the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association Visitor Center is located south of Weott on the Avenue of the Giants, and on the web at .

To see previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. If you’d like to keep abreast of my most current photography or peer into its past, you can follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx . I update my website less frequently.



  • So good ✨ I forgot that place was there. Very cool !! Thanks ✨

  • Awesome pictures ,So have they unlock the gate and started opening the bathrooms back up? We were down there earlier this year for 4-H and it was all locked up tight as a clams patootie.

  • Beautiful photos of one of my favorite places in Humboldt. Thanks, these are stunning.

  • Julia Morgan, a true visionary, the first California woman licensed architect designed this. Many of her buildings were public ones, designed for women and girls. I’ve seen and used some of them and they are singular, gorgeous creations. Her most famous design was Hearst Castle. She lived very modestly and was fiercely private, quite unlike some of her clients.

  • Many happy times spent at the “Fed”. Lots of fun, lots of friends. Rain or shine a great place to be. Many of your photos are of places near and dear to me. Awesome light painting!

  • Thank you for your comments everyone, I appreciate them.

    THC, I’m not sure what its current status is, but I assume it’s open and operational. These pictures are from last summer, actually.

    I try to do new pictures for Night Light of the North Coast each week, but things like the moon being too bright, or the cloud blanket, or life, make it hard to get out for a real late night every week to capture something. Sometimes it is a matter of finding company to bring with me, because I don’t really like being out there by myself. You know — lions, tigers n bears… and people. I think people are the scariest (tigers would be a real long shot).

    But this weekend just gone, I did make a trek around Trinidad Head in the light of the full moon to take some photos for Night Light of the North Coast. My brother and our friend visiting from the prairie were with me. I’ll try to have something good from that trip next week, or soon, but I haven’t gone through them all. Being full moon, they look like daylight photos, but with a strange sky that has a some of the brighter stars shining through.

    • Hey david i b honor to be your company at any of your adventures/ wild hair up you @$$. Lol. Hold a flashlight or norhing just being presence to help you do your magic wilo be kool with me. It dnt matter if its 3am and its icy cold. I know you dont know me. So its prob a long shot. But i couldnt resist on offering. When the door was open.

      • Thanks, Baked Bean. I appreciate it, and I love your name, but you’re right that I’d want to know you first. 🖖

  • Thanks for sharing your art. Much appreciated.

  • Thank you those are amazing

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