I woke up pretty early on day 3 (sleeping in a tent with a rooster nearby will do that to you.) As I mentioned in the last post, I was served up a delicious breakfast by my Airbnb host before making my way down the Washington coast to Oregon.
First stop: Ruby Beach. With the morning fog still rolling in from the ocean and the beach nearly deserted when I arrived, it felt like I stepped onto another planet. While similar to La Push, Ruby Beach also somehow feels completely different. The beach is rockier, the driftwood is more scattered, and the tide pools are further inland. I had an amazing morning exploring here.
As time passed, a few more people turned up to explore the beach as well. I was enjoying having it to myself, but I did appreciate having some people in photos for scale to help show just how insane these rocks are.
I loved this little rock tunnel, for some reason it reminds me of The Little Mermaid.
I even managed a sneaky selfie with my camera remote! Sadly it didn’t work as far away from the camera as I would’ve liked, so this is the only selfie I have of the whole trip. Whoops!
I didn’t want to leave Ruby Beach, but I still had a good four hours of driving left before I made it to my destination of Cannon Beach, Oregon, so I had to move on.
The drive down the Olympic Peninsula is truly gorgeous, with highway 101 flanked by enormous trees for most of the drive out of Washington. Crossing the Columbia River into Astoria, Oregon was particularly spectacular — I wish I had stopped to take some pictures, but the drive was so relaxing that I simply pressed on. I stopped briefly in Seaside (a busy beach town with indoor arcades, sort of like Point Pleasant for fellow my NJ readers) for an extremely late lunch before arriving at my hotel in Cannon Beach.
Cannon Beach, situated just south of Ecola State Park, is much quieter than Seaside. I was hoping to photograph sunset here with the main landmark, Haystack Rock as my backdrop. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating. Damn those pesky microclimates! Can’t complain too much, though, as it was still a picturesque way to end the day.
Next up: Cape Kiwanda, and another night in Cannon Beach
I woke up early on day 2, full of excitement and nervousness about embarking for the Olympic Peninsula and beginning the actual driving portion of my road trip. Before picking up my rental car I made crucial stop at Top Pot Donuts. If you’re in Seattle (or Dallas now, too) you need to go and you need to get a glazed old fashioned. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
After that there was only one thing left to do — go pick up my very first rental car. I’ve had a loaner from my car dealership before, but never a rental car that I’d be covering long distances in. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I was given a Mitsubishi Mirage. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven a Mirage before, but this particular model is so light it feels like you’re driving a go kart that someone put doors on. Somewhat disconcerting.
After folding up a sweatshirt to sit on so I could see over the steering wheel (no, really) I made the short drive to the ferry.
I could have taken a more southern route to hook over to the Olympic Peninsula, but part of the Seattle experience is taking the ferry so I overrode my GPS and hopped on the ferry to Bainbridge Island.
My first stop after docking was Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, about a 2 hour drive away. I stopped in the park welcome center in Port Angeles to buy a National Park Pass (which I only used once, so I have a good excuse to go to a few more national parks this year!) They warned me that the wait to drive up the mountain was going to be over an hour due to the beautiful weather and the parking lot being at capacity. I took my chances, and the wait was actually only 20 minutes! When I got up to the top and saw the view, even a two hour wait would have been worth it.
Coming from New Jersey where our highest elevation is under 2000 ft, it’s always incredible to travel somewhere with mountains. Hurricane Ridge has an elevation of over 5000 ft, with stunning panoramic views of the Olympic National Park. I would love to see it in the winter, with snow blanketing the mountains.
After spending approximately way too much time up there, I had to get a move on if I was going to make it all the way west to my Airbnb and La Push for sunset. I knew I’d be passing Lake Crescent and the oft-photographed Storm King Ranger Station, so I made a couple of quick stops along the way.
I eventually made it to my AirBnb in Forks on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. This was the riskiest accommodation choice I made — a canvas tent with no electricity. I somehow forgot to take pictures of it (my bad), but there’s some on the listing page. My worries ended up being unfounded — the tent was quite cozy with warm comforters on the cots, and a nice clean bathroom just a short walk past the other tents and cabins on the property. The next morning I was even treated to fresh blueberry pancakes and free range eggs at the campfire, while their chickens and a goat hovered nearby looking for scraps.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After checking in and dropping off my suitcase, I headed out to La Push to catch sunset. La Push is a community on the far west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, located within the Quileute Indian Reservation. It’s home to three spectacular beaches, aptly named First Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach. I was aiming for Second Beach, as I’d seem some gorgeous photos and youtube videos taken there, but I made a quick stop at First Beach to see the giant redwood that washed ashore a few years ago. I wish I had taken a better picture of it, but the light wasn’t working in my favor and I didn’t have much time.
With sunset quickly approaching, I hopped back in the car and made the short drive to Second Beach. Second Beach is set a bit of a distance back from the actual ocean, and involves a half mile-long trek through the forest (not terribly difficult before sunset, but definitely a bit freaky when you’re alone, dusk has settled, and bats start flying around you at chest height…) All I can say is it’s well worth it.
I’d seen countless pictures of the beach, but nothing could have prepared me for just how huge the sea stacks (aka the giant rocks in the ocean) are in person. Pictures don’t do it justice. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I was completely in awe the entire time I was there.
Sunset was absolutely breathtaking — definitely an experience that will stay with me forever. As I was leaving I passed a few campers getting ready to settle into their tents on the beach for the night. As I speed-walked through the forest back to my car, I could only imagine how incredible waking up to that view the next morning would have been.
Next up will be Day 3 at Ruby Beach, Washington and Cannon Beach, Oregon!
I arrived in Seattle late at night and checked into my Airbnb in Capitol Hill. The next morning, I met up with an old friend from middle school. We had a delicious brunch at a place called Glo’s Cafe in Capitol Hill (you know it’s good when there’s a line out front), and walked around at Pike’s Place for a little while before I had to head to the whale watching tour I’d booked.
The whale watching tour is one of the first things I booked when planning this trip. My very first obsession (if you know me, you know there have been many) was with the movie Free Willy. I was in the first grade when it came out and instantly became enamored with all things whales. I read every book about whales in the children’s section of the library. Incidentally, this is the year I graduated to reading grown up books because I absolutely needed to know everything I could and that’s where I could find more reading material.
I’d been whale watching as a kid in Cape Cod, but I’ve never see Orcas in the wild. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying this was about to be the culmination of a lifelong dream of mine. Normally the tour would have taken us out west to the San Juan islands, but there were reports of some transient Orcas right near Seattle so they took us there instead.
A bit of Orca background–there are three resident pods (family groups) that come back to the San Juan islands every summer. Transient Orcas are usually found in smaller groups than residents, and roam further distances. Transients are actually genetically different from the resident pods, even though they look similar to the untrained eye.
After about 45 minutes of searching, we finally found them. A family of five–a mother and her four children. The naturalist on board was able to identify the mother based on her markings, and it turns out she’s only a year older than me! Kind of crazy to think this animal and I have been on this planet for almost the same amount of time.
Legally vessels must stay 100 yards away from Orcas due to their vulnerability, so for much of the day we were observing them from quite a distance. Then, after not seeing them for a few minutes, they suddenly surfaced incredibly close to our boat!
It was such a treat! There may be rules against boats getting too close to the whales, but there’s nothing stopping the whales from swimming closer to a stopped boat!
It turns out we were incredibly lucky that day. The resident pods in the San Juan Islands had gone too far west and we wouldn’t have been able to see any Orcas had we traveled where the tour normally goes. Another tour that launches closer to the San Juans actually came all the way down to Seattle to see them!
They also gave us quite a nice backdrop when they swam south, with downtown Seattle in the distance.
Eventually they swam too far south for us to follow, so we finally parted ways. We headed back north towards our launch point of Edmonds, where the crew had just heard reports that two Humpback whales had been sighted.
On the way there we spotted this adorable little harbor seal (you might need to squint a little to see him) just floating out there, seemingly curious about us.
And what luck! We came across the Humpbacks and watched them from a distance as they fed. Diving deep and resurfacing every few minutes.
I arrived back to my Airbnb just as the sun was setting (after having a nice chat with the shuttle bus driver, who ended up hailing only 20 minutes away from me in NJ!) I remembered that the listing said there was a rooftop deck with views of the city so I hightailed it to the roof, with my dinner in tow, for the perfect ending to my day in Seattle.
In a little over 24 hours I depart on one of my most ambitious trips to date–a 9-day solo road trip from Seattle to San Francisco. Am I crazy? Potentially. Am I excited? Very.
Truth is, I’ve been admiring the Pacific Northwest for some time. The majority of photographers I follow and admire on Instagram are part of a PNW community of photographers, and after seeing all of their pictures of gorgeous scenery over the past few years I’ve decided I need to head west and see it for myself. I’ve been itching to get out on a photo adventure, and as beautiful as New Jersey can be (I know this flies in the face of what most people think of NJ, but if they’d get off the turnpike they’d know what I’m talking about) I’m overdue for a trip for some new sights.
While I’ve been to both Seattle and San Francisco, I’ve never spent any time between the two. I’m very excited for some of the things I have in store. I used Roadtrippers.com to plan the majority of the trip. It’s an excellent resource for planning–you just input your start and end points, and then Roadtrippers populates your route with suggestions for sights to see along the way! The only drawback is that I ended up adding way too many sights to the trip and had to edit quite a few out. Some day I’d love to spend a whole month or two roadtripping out west so I can get in everything I’ll miss on this trip.
I’ll be whale watching for Orcas in the San Juan islands (if you knew me and the extent of my Free Willy obsession in 1st grade, then you’ll understand just how epic this is going to be), hiking in Olympic National Park, catching some (hopefully) breathtaking sunsets in La Push and Cannon Beach, driving through the Avenue of the Giants, and (also hopefully) waking up at the crack of dawn to catch sunrise on Mt. Tam. Check out my road trip Pinterest board for a taste of what’s to come!
A lot of people are surprised I’m going by myself. Why am I going alone? Well the older I get, the busier friends become, and groups trips aren’t always possible. Especially ones like this, where time is limited and I have enough “must sees” on my list for three people. It ended up not being a very flexible trip for others to come along.
So yes, I’m a little nervous to undertake some of the longer driving days on my own, but I moved to London for a year by myself so I think I can handle this. Plus, Oregon is the only other state aside from NJ where you don’t have to pump your own gas, so that’ll be comforting. I’ve also made an 8+ hour long playlist of all my favorite music from high school, in the hopes that nostalgia combined with scream-singing will make the time pass quickly.
I’ll be recapping each leg of the trip in blog posts (and possibly videos) when I return along with some road trip tips I pick up along the way, so get excited! I know I am. In fact I’m buying a new external hard drive especially for this trip, because something tells me my poor computer isn’t going to be able to handle all the pictures I’ll be taking. If you want to follow along with me in real-time, add me on Snapchat (jennirose28) and, of course, Instagram.