My solo-trip through the Pacific Northwest, Part 3


The Pacific Northwest is Nirvana for outdoor lovers. Very likely you've heard that once or twice before, indeed it is! Spending three weeks exploring the region gave me a glimpse of its breathtaking beauty. I could easily spend three more months and barely scratch the surface, always in awe of the wonders found there.


I invite you to join me on this adventure that started on June'22 in Northern California; The journey will take us from Mt Shasta to North Cascades National Park, with stops at Mt Hood, Columbia River Gorge, Mt Rainier, back to Olympic National Park, to drive along the coast of Oregon down to Redwoods, CA to complete a loop.


With so much to cover, I broke the article into 3 parts, each one covering a full week. This is part 3. Read Part 1 here and read Part 2 here.


Week 3: From North Cascades (WA) through the coast of Oregon.


DAY FOURTEEN

This afternoon I left Seattle around 4pm with the goal of getting as close to North Cascades as possible. While driving route 530, I caught a glimpse of the last light of the day over this steamy river.

It was a long drive, either that or I was running out of fuel myself but I made it to Rockport where I found a wildlife viewing area and stopped to get some rest that night.


DAY FIFTEEN

TGIF!! My day kicked off to a good start, I got to see the elk crossing while the sun was still low, what a way to enjoy a morning coffee! Cellular reception was also good and my workday carried on without hiccups.


North Cascades National Park. This park is the least visited in this area. Its treasures are so underrated. Huge mountains with waterfalls that go forever. The views from the road are breathtaking however, there's more than the obvious for those that dare to explore.


Diablo Lake Overlook: Easily accessible, no hiking involved and with facilities available, this is a good spot to catch both sunset and sunrise as Davis Peak catches the soft light at both times.

Can you imagine yourself waking up to this view? It kinda makes you wonder what you want to do the rest of your life. I stood there for a bit, daydreaming until the morning caffeine woke me up.


One thing was certain, the exhaustion from the last days was still very present, no long hikes for me today which was a pity as the greatest treasures are hiding inside those mountains. Instead, I drove back to HWY 5 making a few stops along the road on my way out.

Olympic National Park: Located on the peninsula at the very Northwest of the USA, this park is amazing! beach, lakes, mountains, rain forest. Such diversity of landscapes. Though, the area is so large that the distance between main points of interest can be considerable. Cellular reception is also a challenge.


Along HWY 101 there are several beaches, I had three in my short list: Kalaloch Beach 3, Ruby Beach, and Rialto. Each of them selected for my specific photography interest, however all are beautiful.


Kalaloch Beach 3: The short trail to the beach is like stepping into a different world. So much greenery, ferns like there's no tomorrow. It is a short walk with many steps.

I was so much "in the zone", looking for compositions with the sun setting and the motion of the waves that I didn't see it until it was too late, a big wave coming to engulf me and my camera from head to toe.

My camera captured this image to remember the moment it died. In spite of all my efforts, some salty water had gotten into and affected the LCD.


I drove to where I could get reception and started searching for options online. Glazer's in Seattle was a God sent blessing. They were open on Sunday AND they had my same camera (Canon 6D Mark ii). Having a strategy made it easier to get some rest that night.


DAY SIXTEEN

Sunday, thankfully not much traffic. I arrived at the store on time, quickly completed my purchase and drove back to the park.


Hoh Rain Forest: It was past noon time when I arrived at the gate and there was a line of cars as the parking was full. One car in for each car out. I waited about 30 min. From the visitor center, I took the popular The Hall of Mosses trail, an easy 1 mile loop. Mostly walk under the shade of huge trees covered in moss. A very different type of landscape from what I had seen thus far in this trip. But although my eyes were delighted to see fresh subjects, compositions were not coming easy. I needed to train my eye (and softer light!).

DAY SEVENTEEN

The tide was expected to be low tide in the early morning, this was my chance to see starfish in the wild!


Kalaloch Beach (Take two)

In my research, this beach was almost a sure bet for finding starfish in the tide pools. No disappointment, before the sun had risen, an incredible population of starfish was exposed by the low tide.

Orange, blue, and purple were the prevailing colors in the scene, along with green anemone in addition to shells, algae, and a good number of crabs; an incredible ecosystem hiding in plain sight.


Like a kid in a candy store, I was going crazy looking for compositions that could talk about this world. Walking around is serious business though, one has to be very careful: a) rocks are very slippery and b) rocks are covered with those living creatures, do not step on them!


Rialto Beach. This afternoon was a windy, cloudy, and rather cold. The ingredients for a moody black and white frame. However, as the sun was reaching the horizon, its light reflected on the clouds and on the Moon itself, making it a beautiful [colorful] moonrise.

DAY EIGHTEEN

Anticipating poor reception in the area, I made reservations at the Forks RV Campground for the days I planned to work. It was a good decision.


In the evening, the almost Supermoon would rise around the time of the sunset. The soft light of the sun setting gives the moon a nice pink shade. My familiarity with Kalaloch beach became handy to quickly find a good spot before the light was gone.

It is a Supermoon because it is at perigee, this is the term used to denote when the Moon is the closest to the Earth.


DAY NINETEEN

Another day of work completed. My last day in the area. After doing a bit of housekeeping, I left the campground to not return.


Ancient Groves: One last hike on my way out. With the intention of getting to Sul Doc Falls, I followed Sol Duc River road and stumbled upon this 0.5 mile trail. The magical light of the afternoon coming through and reflecting on the hanging moss was so captivating! I loved getting lost on this trail covered with ferns and gleaming moss.

Notice how much the scene changes with the right lighting! And that is the reason I am most active taking photos early morning and late afternoon.


DAY TWENTY

Most of the day was spent in traffic around Portland, the only stops were to pick up Snowflake at the pet hotel, fuel, and at this random beach during sunset. The drawings on the sand called my attention.

We reached Cape Perpetua and stopped to rest. The sound of waves crashing the shore put me to sleep.


DAY TWENTY ONE

The geography of the area prevents the sun from reaching the beach in the early morning. The hills are too high. With no rush, we enjoyed a nice short (0.6 miles) hike on Captain Cook Trail. In the walk, we discovered a better parking area with clear view to the ocean and great cellular reception. A nice office in midtown Manhattan cannot beat the view.


Right off the parking area is a paved trail that goes down to a view point to observe the Spouting Horn and Thor's Well though most people, including myself, dare to get closer to the action.


Thor's Well: Like an ocean geyser, this sinkhole seems bottomless at it keeps draining the water that comes in. It is also known as the "Drainpipe of the Pacific".


The best show is during high tide which on this day was at midday. Several times I got a reminder to keep my distance.

Heceta Head Lighthouse view point: Just a few minutes down the road is this viewpoint. Sea wildlife is easily observed from the coast, there are colonies for seals and sea lions in the area. I also caught sight of a humpback whale.

DAY TWENTY TWO

At this point, I didn't have a plan. I just started driving. The Oregon Dunes was a nice find. Very scenic, very quiet, and very good cellular reception. After work, I continued driving south on 101 making random stops along the coast.

In one of those stops, I slipped and my tripod hit the rocks hard damaging the head, long exposure images became extremely difficult.


DAY TWENTY THREE

The fog rolling down the hills in the early morning caught me by surprise. I was barely awake running around for a good capture. By the time I got into a better position, the lighting was gone.

At every turn of the road, there was a new surprise, however the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor is beyond words. There are no photos here because my quick snaps make no justice - this place deserves more attention. My plan is to return, hopefully before end of this year, with more time (and a new tripod head). This was the last stop in my trip. I drove through Redwoods NP without stopping but I cannot wait to visit that park on my next trip!


Reaching the end of the trip was bitter-sweet. This road-trip exceeded all expectations and more. A humbling experience that challenged me and rewarded me in many ways. I am so thankful for the lessons and the opportunities and so thankful for Mother Nature.


I also appreciate you reading through this point, it means the world. If this experience has inspired you to go out and explore, let me know in the comments!

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