The PNW – An Epic Road Trip

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It all started when … 

A recent change in jobs meant a 3 week lapse of employment, and I wanted to take advantage of this rare (for me) opportunity. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my free time than by heading North to cool off and seek some new places. My list of beautiful destinations and adventures in the Pacific Northwest has been piling up since my last trip in April of 2017 and I’ve been itching for another visit. This window of free time was never really a sure fire thing until the last minute and the whole trip was more of a rough idea for a few weeks. Once I finally got everything confirmed, I had 1 full day to get things planned out before I needed to set out.. 3 french presses of coffee and 12 hours of Google-fu later, I was armed and ready to embark on my quest. It just so happened that I had two good friends, Nick Pearsons and Will Cruz, heading out 2 days after this to do some mountaineering on Mt. Shasta in California. I figured this would be a hell of a way to kick start the trip, so of course I agreed to join them. 

The first day of my trip was spent driving through a headwind all of the way across Nevada heading straight to Mt. Shasta. Unfortunately I arrived about 20 minutes too late to catch the good light, so I ended up taking in the rest of the sunset and relaxing by the water on Lake Siskiyou with a stunning view of the ever beautiful Mt. Shasta. For those of you who don’t know, Mt. Shasta is a volcano sitting at 14,179ft elevation and marks the beginning of the Cascades mountain range. After taking in the sunset, I went to the trailhead to catch a few hours of sleep and wait for Nick & Will who were driving through the night to start the climb upon their arrival – I still think y’all are crazy for this! We set off at 5 in the morning and ended up finishing around 5 in the afternoon. The climb was a brutal 11 miles total with 7,300 feet of elevation gain – probably one of the steepest routes I have done. Luckily it wasn’t technical as we chose the Avalanche Gulch route. Being that this route is one of the top 50 classic American ski descents, I wasn’t about to pass up a ride down the mountain and brought my splitboard just for the occasion. I didn’t really get to ski too much going up the mountain, but I did get about 4,000 feet of vertical descent and every turn was worth the effort of lugging that thing up the mountain. All things considered, we had an excellent climb and everything went as planned. After Shasta I decided I wanted to take my road bike down the access road, but that turned out to be a bad idea as I hit a pile of gravel going quite fast and took a pretty gnarly spill. Luckily I barely missed an oncoming van and walked away with a few bruises and scrapes on just one knee. Life can be a very fragile thing; never take it for granted. Afterwards we got some take-out and headed to Lake Siskiyou to catch another sunset at Shasta, pictured below. 

Shasta


The next stop was Olympia, Washington to meet up with awesome landscape photographer and close friend, Jeff Larson. I stopped in Portland for the night on the way to break up the drive. The next morning I headed up to Olympia for a day of relaxation at Jeff’s place (thanks Jeff & Anna!) before 6 days of constant adventure & madness. After a day of rest, Jeff and myself sent it straight up to the Olympic Peninsula where we spent 2 days together exploring the Hoh Rainforest, Sol Duc Falls and Rialto Beach all within the Olympic National Park. I have to say that the Olympic Peninsula was certainly the highlight of the trip. We got to see a lot of stunning areas and unique landscapes, and never really had to deal with crowds. The Olympic National park is a world heritage site, and after being there I completely understood why. The beauty in that area is so immense that I cannot even put it into words. You really have to see it for yourself. As far as pictures from the Olympic Peninsula, I’ve got “Rush” & “Tidal” below, and the background image for this blog photographed near Sol Duc Falls titled “Lucidity”. 

Rush


Sadly Jeff had responsibilities and adult stuff going on, so he was only able to spend 2 days up in the Olympic National Park adventuring. I wasn’t done exploring this scenic country though and decided to stay another day before heading into the North Cascades. Not too much to report for day 3 on the Peninsula as I spent most of it napping and eating. Constantly being on the go leaves me hungry and sleepy all the time. Sunset finally rolled around and I caught it at Second Beach to photograph the big, sexy hunk of rock you see here in my “Tidal” image. 

Tidal


The next morning I headed over to the ferry so that I could cut off some drive time by crossing the Puget Sound. After a few hours of driving I finally rolled up into the North Cascades National Park, a place that I have been longing to see for quite some time now. The North Cascades are straight up magical with seemingly endless surroundings of dramatic glacier carved peaks towering above you, massive glacial lakes and all of the beauty you could ever imagine crammed into every inch of space there. The North Cascades is hands down one of the most beautiful and stunning areas that I have been to in my travels, and it really reminded me of the Dolomites in Italy. I was in the park during what is considered early season, so unfortunately a lot of the trails were completely snowed in and closed. This wasn’t the worst news though because it meant less people and fewer crowds. Aside from cars going along the highway and some tourists at Washington Pass Overlook (which is incredible btw) I didn’t really see too many people in the entire park. I spent 2 and a half days exploring the North Cascades shooting some photos, reading, relaxing at a peaceful campsite and also doing some road biking. It was so nice to have some downtime and solitude outside of the photography excursions to reflect on my trip thus far and take in the crisp mountain air. The following 3 photos are from the North Cascades National Park. 

Looming


Singularity


North Cascades Starscape


The next stop on my radar was to head down into Portland to meet up with some friends and have a chill night of camping as well as some waterfall chasing. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t chase some waterfalls in the PNW? After arriving in Portland I linked up with Michelle Gefre, Kolbi Lloyd, and Will Cruz (again) so that we could head out to camp. I actually met all 3 of these wonderful people through Instagram! Over the years Instagram has helped connect me with a lot of great friends and I am so grateful for that. We camped in an area in Washington just outside the Columbia River Gorge so that we would be close-ish to Falls Creek Falls. We spent the following morning hiking to the falls and enjoying the sights there. I’d have to say that this waterfall is probably my favorite in the CRG surrounding area! Pictured is Michelle below the Falls to give you some scale. 

Falls Creek Falls


Alas, it was day 9 and the the final day of adventure on the 10 day road trip, but it wasn’t over yet! I set my sights on Bend, Oregon and made off on my way where I would meet up with another Instagram connection and close friend, Brock Slinger. We didn’t really have much of plan set in stone and the weather was looking a little dicey, so a lot of stuff was up in the air. Brock figured that we should check out Smith Rock, so when I got there we had a beer and set off to race the sun to make it to the top of Smith Rock by sunset. We nearly blew out a lung on the way up, but we were rewarded with some dramatic light, colorful skies and gorgeous scenery – well worth the effort! Brock and I shot the sunset and then enjoyed another beer before making our way back to the car. That sunset was nothing short of epic and really tied the trip together for an unforgettable ending. I crashed in Bend for the night (Thanks Brock and Lindsay!) and the next day would drive straight home back to SLC. 

Smith Rock


3200 miles later (google maps wouldn’t let me add on more destinations for the sake of this screenshot) and the trip was over. My mind, body, car and wallet were exhausted, but my spirit and heart were full of joy. 


I’m sure I’ll have a few more photos from this trip that I will eventually get to, but this is it for now! I hope you enjoyed following me along for this journey and hopefully you’ll feel inspired to visit some of these stunning places one day. 

Cheers,
Ross

White Pocket – Hyper Reality

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I’ve heard tell that White Pocket is an alien landscape and a photographer’s paradise, and after visiting I’d have to say that it’s absolutely true. I was fortunate even enough to spend a weekend at White Pocket back in November of last year with my good friend and awesome photographer, Jeff Larson. We set out to spend 3 days at White Pocket for a weekend of exploring this odd & unique place and it was quite the experience!

There were several other rumors that I heard about WP and each was more intriguing than the last. Rumors from the quality of the the adventurous road to tales of otherworldly rock formations & bizarre color palettes – I had to go! One of the most fascinating things that I had heard however was about the “Salmon Light” as described by Sean Baghaw (He wrote an awesome piece about it, click here to read!). During short windows of the day, the landscape begins to glow and has a gorgeous pink/red hue to it. It was definitely something I had yet to experience. I can attest that all of this, and more, is true.

The weekend in WP turned out to be quite the roller coaster ride, too. I had recently got a new tripod and I was oh so excited to use it, but I think I was too excited because I ended up making a big mistake.. During the first spot I was shooting at for sunset, I quickly set up my rig and got everything ready to go, but apparently I didn’t secure my camera in the tripod properly. Well, long story short, my camera fell right out of my ball head and tumbled a few times down a cliff. My heart sank to my stomach and I was frozen in shock, but after I snapped out of it I quickly rushed down to see what was broken. To my surprise, the only thing that was really “broken” was full functionality of the zoom on my wide angle, and my screen was a little crooked. Otherwise, it was completely functional! Team Nikon FTW!! Pictured below is the battle wound.



Dropping my camera was probably the biggest and most unfortunate event of the weekend. The rest of our time was spent chasing light, searching for compositions and just enjoying some solitude in the beautiful Desert Southwest. We were lucky enough to get some great light during our sunsets & rises, especially on our last night when things went full nuclear (see my “Continuum” photo).

I really wanted to come away from WP with unique photos that would coincide with a vision that I have been pursuing for the last year or so now in effort to define myself and establish my photographic style. I have been steadily transitioning my imagery to have what I like to call a “Hyper Real” look, hence the name of the gallery. Dramatic light, vibrant colors, surrealistic views and dreamy imagery are the qualities that I am striving to capture & draw away from the natural world. I hope that my small White Pocket gallery will help give you a feeling to what it was like to be in this strange and breathtakingly beautiful place.

 

“Converge”


“Irreversible”




“The Hypnotist”


“Continuum”



As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my blog! Cheers.

Ross



Autumn at Ricketts Glenn, Pennsylvania

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Ricketts Glenn – A magical land of scenic waterfalls nestled into a beautiful forest that is reminiscent of something straight out of a fairy tale. Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I unfortunately hadn’t heard about Ricketts Glenn until I moved out to Utah. But as soon as I heard about a place with 21 named waterfalls tucked into the Appalachian forest on a single trail, I knew that a trip there needed to happen in the foreseeable future. Because I live in Utah, traveling across the country to visit home does not always make it easy to squeeze in adventures in between seeing my friends & family, especially when that adventure is 5 hours from my hometown.

On my visit home I budgeted an extra week of time into the trip just to spend some time exploring Appalachia to see what sort of natural marvels the East had to offer, and I was not disappointed. I ended up visiting Ricketts Glenn in NE PA, The New River Gorge area in West Viriginia, and also Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. I’m only going to be covering Ricketts Glenn for now, but I have to say that I was completely blown away with the natural beauty out East once I sought after it.

21 waterfalls – Yes, you heard that right! Although Ricketts Glenn sports 26 miles of hiking trails, the “Falls Trail” is the bread and butter of the park. The Falls Trail has 21 named waterfalls along the trail, and many other smaller unnamed waterfalls throughout as well, and the easiest way to access the falls trail is from the Lake Rose Trailhead parking lot.

When doing research for the Falls Trail, you will see a lot of warnings about how dangerous the trail is, how important it is to take safety precautions and also to have proper footwear. While the Falls Trail is no walk through the park, I don’t think it’s exceptionally difficult and I would not consider this trail to be overly dangerous unless you had some inclement weather conditions or were not taking care to be safe. I’m not saying this is a trail you could take your grandma on (sorry grandma), but it’s not what people make it out to be online. Wear some shoes/boots with good traction, bring a rain jacket and some food/water for the day, but don’t let the online descriptions deter your visit.

The trip began with my flight coming into Pittsburgh at 9 that first night, and with a 5 hour drive ahead of us we were definitely going to be losing some sleep. Such is the life of a photographer though; I’ve come to accept that. One of my lifelong best friends, Justin Smith, picked me up from the airport that night and we were on our way! As soon as we got checked into our AirBNB (which was awesome. I’ll put a link at the bottom of this blog) we got a little rest, then we set out in the morning to chase water and the good light!

Day 1 was spent focusing on the first 10 waterfalls before the trail forked after Erie falls, and the second day was spent focusing on the 11 waterfalls on the rest of the trail. Since I only had 2 days, it was crucial to make the most out of each spot, but not get too consumed in a single area. Finite time always seems to be a tough obstacle with those far away photography destinations, but proper planning and knowing what spots you want to hit will always help. Preparation is key!

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip – I hope you enjoy! Oh, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled along the way for the unnamed smaller/unique waterfalls because they can be quite captivating! In fact, one of my favorite spots that I have a photo of below wasn’t even named or along the main trail, but there was a nice side trail that led up to the peaceful little spot. I named it the Grotto, but by no means is that anything official.


Mohawk Falls – “Coexistence”



Unnamed – “The Grotto”



Conestoga – “Fall Rush”



Erie – “Intimacy”



B. Reynolds – “Emanate”



Ozone – “Fingers of Flow”

Thanks for reading and I hope you got some good information and/or inspiration to pay a visit to this wonderful place. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Glenn and hopefully I can help answer them. If you’re looking for a place to crash in the area, we had a great stay with Jackie and Chris at their AirBNB – https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11872938.

Autumn at Ricketts Glenn, Pennsylvania

The story behind the photo
By //October 31, 2017

Ricketts Glenn – A magical land of scenic waterfalls nestled into a beautiful forest that is reminiscent of something straight out of a fairy tale. Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I unfortunately hadn’t heard about Ricketts Glenn until I moved out to Utah. But as soon as I heard about a place with 21 named waterfalls tucked into the Appalachian forest on a single trail, I knew that a trip there needed to happen in the foreseeable future. Because I live in Utah, traveling across the country to visit home does not always make it easy to squeeze in adventures in between seeing my friends & family, especially when that adventure is 5 hours from my hometown.

On my visit home I budgeted an extra week of time into the trip just to spend some time exploring Appalachia to see what sort of natural marvels the East had to offer, and I was not disappointed. I ended up visiting Ricketts Glenn in NE PA, The New River Gorge area in West Viriginia, and also Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. I’m only going to be covering Ricketts Glenn for now, but I have to say that I was completely blown away with the natural beauty out East once I sought after it.

21 waterfalls – Yes, you heard that right! Although Ricketts Glenn sports 26 miles of hiking trails, the “Falls Trail” is the bread and butter of the park. The Falls Trail has 21 named waterfalls along the trail, and many other smaller unnamed waterfalls throughout as well, and the easiest way to access the falls trail is from the Lake Rose Trailhead parking lot.

When doing research for the Falls Trail, you will see a lot of warnings about how dangerous the trail is, how important it is to take safety precautions and also to have proper footwear. While the Falls Trail is no walk through the park, I don’t think it’s exceptionally difficult and I would not consider this trail to be overly dangerous unless you had some inclement weather conditions or were not taking care to be safe. I’m not saying this is a trail you could take your grandma on (sorry grandma), but it’s not what people make it out to be online. Wear some shoes/boots with good traction, bring a rain jacket and some food/water for the day, but don’t let the online descriptions deter your visit.

The trip began with my flight coming into Pittsburgh at 9 that first night, and with a 5 hour drive ahead of us we were definitely going to be losing some sleep. Such is the life of a photographer though; I’ve come to accept that. One of my lifelong best friends, Justin Smith, picked me up from the airport that night and we were on our way! As soon as we got checked into our AirBNB (which was awesome. I’ll put a link at the bottom of this blog) we got a little rest, then we set out in the morning to chase water and the good light!

Day 1 was spent focusing on the first 10 waterfalls before the trail forked after Erie falls, and the second day was spent focusing on the 11 waterfalls on the rest of the trail. Since I only had 2 days, it was crucial to make the most out of each spot, but not get too consumed in a single area. Finite time always seems to be a tough obstacle with those far away photography destinations, but proper planning and knowing what spots you want to hit will always help. Preparation is key!

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip – I hope you enjoy! Oh, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled along the way for the unnamed smaller/unique waterfalls because they can be quite captivating! In fact, one of my favorite spots that I have a photo of below wasn’t even named or along the main trail, but there was a nice side trail that led up to the peaceful little spot. I named it the Grotto, but by no means is that anything official.


Mohawk Falls – “Coexistence”



Unnamed – “The Grotto”



Conestoga – “Fall Rush”



Erie – “Intimacy”



B. Reynolds – “Emanate”



Ozone – “Fingers of Flow”

Thanks for reading and I hope you got some good information and/or inspiration to pay a visit to this wonderful place. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Glenn and hopefully I can help answer them. If you’re looking for a place to crash in the area, we had a great stay with Jackie and Chris at their AirBNB – https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11872938.