The PNW – An Epic Road Trip
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.