Following the Lewis and Clark Trail to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean was only one part of my vision in traveling to the Northwest. The other part was to again view some of the sights that my wife and I had visited almost 36 years ago when we were first married.
On leaving Oregon, I put the Lewis and Clark Trail behind me and followed Highway 101 along the Pacific Coast through Washington State to Olympic National Park.
It was a very beautiful and and peaceful drive. I have driven the Pacific Coast Highway through California, and this was a much more enjoyable experience. The Washington coast is much like Oregon. They are long, interrupted by huge rock outcroppings with fragments extending out into the surf. During my drive, the weather was cool and sunny with enough morning and evening fog to make the photography interesting.
Traveling alone, I could stop as I pleased to shoot the rocks and surf. The best part of using a digital camera is that I can shoot for hours playing with the composition and then go through and select the keepers. My goal in shooting ocean and landscapes is not much different than shooting events for the newspaper. The game I play is to find one or a handful of images that best communicate what I see and experience at the moment that I press the shutter.
My personal favorite beach shot was a man by the name of Jon Maxon fishing in the surf at Kalaloc Beach at sunset. I like the play of light and shadow as he seems to be casting his rod toward the sun. Jon and his family were staying at the same campground overlooking the ocean where I was staying.
The next morning, I drove to the Hoh Rain Forest campground. In the afternoon, I followed the Hall of Mosses Trail, which is one of the best known trails in the park. I was really disappointed with the experience. There were too many people, and the weather was just too darn bright and sunny for a rainforest.
The following morning I hiked 6 to 7 miles along the Hoh River Trail until deciding it was time to turn back. I was carrying entirely too much photography gear and not enough water. It was a strenuous hike, and my images were just ho hum.
On my last morning at the campground, I got up early and revisited the Hall of Mosses that I photographed the first day. In that short early morning hike, the clouds and fog hung low over the peaks and glades and I was all alone. I had the trail all to myself. I finally made the images I had envisioned. The light and the weather was what I had hoped for.
Leaving the Hoh Rain Forest, I circled to the far side of the park to Hurricane Ridge. When I had visited years before, the low clouds prevented me from seeing anything. On this day the skies were relatively clear and I was rewarded with an awesome view of Mount Olympus and the entire Olympic range.
When I left Hurricane Ridge and Olympic National Park, I really didn’t have plan. When I was preparing for my trip, my thought was to stay as far away from the traffic congestion in Seattle area as possible. But I just couldn’t get that close to Seattle and not make at least a short visit. While waiting for a ferry to cross the sound, I booked a hotel room within blocks of the Seattle Space Needle. As I drove toward the city, the traffic and road construction was intense, even on a weekend. I did manage to find my way to my hotel and spent that evening and the next morning revisiting Seattle landmarks that were touchstones to my past.
I did enjoy my ride to the top of the Space Needle and I did make a few nice shots of lights on the waterfront and harbor. But my favorite Seattle landmark is the Pike Street Market. I know from Facebook comments that many remember it from the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” and various other movies and shows. The market is totally unique.
Yes, I did watch as fish vendors entertain customers and tourists throwing a big fresh fish of some kind across the counter from one vendor to another and back again. I also had a nice Sunday brunch of fried eggs, sauteed salmon, scallops and other delightful tidbits at the sound view — delightful little restaurant with a view of the harbor and the sound.
Leaving Seattle, I drove southeast to Mount Rainier National Park. The 14,410-foot mountain is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. It is the most glaciated peak in the continental United States and I think has the shape of giant ice cream sundae. I did not stop to stay long, and only took photos from some of the turnouts, but the mountain is a very impressive sight.
As I write this commentary, I am sitting at a picnic table at Glacier National Park hoping to finish this before my computer battery dies. Glacier National Park is the last national park on my northwest adventure, and I will share some thoughts and images on this park next week.
Joe Burns is a photographer for the Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise.