Pacific North Wonderland
Seldom sunny and forever misty--if you are lucky enough to call the Pacific Northwest home, please don't ever leave and let us stay with you! From the Oregon shores, to the Cascades in Washington, all the way up to British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest is a pocket of stunning mountains, challenging trails, beautiful beaches, and a whole lot of hipster. Mother nature was clearly picking favorites, and they have the greenery to prove it.
We asked MOBsters Ben Matthews and Joe Haeberle, professional photographers and adventurers, to tell us about some of their favorite adventures while spending time in the Pacific Northwonderland--they took an epic road trip and filled us in on their favorite PNW spots below!
After making our voyage from the high prairies and mountains of Wyoming to the state where it’s illegal to pump your own gas, Oregon, we were stoked. We knew that salty water was in our near future. After a quick stop in Portlandia, we made the short drive to the coast to the quaint little town of Cannon Beach, OR.
For some of us, it was our first time in our lives to see the Pacific Ocean. It was a magical moment to see that seemingly never-ending water and the large rocks that appear to come out of nowhere in the water. We walked down on the beach and let the crisp water touch our feet and quickly realized that the Pacific is, indeed, much colder water than its eastern loving brother, the Atlantic. We were only there for a few minutes before the rain came in, strong and sideways. We took shelter back in our cars and waited for it to pass. It didn’t seem like it was going to pass, so we started the car and got ready to leave. Just as I was putting the car in reverse to pull out of our parking spot, the sun came out and the rain started to trickle off and stop.
Obviously, we got back out of the car and went back on the beach. The way the sun was shining through the clouds and onto the beach was incredible. We ran around like crazy people, whooping and hollering, running into the water a little too deep… all of us had sea-soaked pants by the time we left that place. It was awesome.
Our jaws dropped as we walked onto Third Beach. Six of us had been crammed in a car for the past eight hours and we were jonesing to get out and go. After driving across the Northern Rim of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, we’d seen all the road we needed.
We got our bags packed halfway around the peninsula in Port Angeles, WA, so everyone had their packs ready to go. All we had to do was step out of the car. In Olympic National Park alone, there are 611 miles that await you. We decided to do a shorter hike to Third Beach.
At first, right out of the car, there was just forest. Not that we weren’t impressed, but we wanted more. After about a mile and a half hike, we hit the beach, and man, was it amazing. With huge pillars of stone sticking out of the water, a waterfall, and the perfect beach to camp on, we were in heaven.
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We spent the night lounging around in the beauty around us. We set up each of our tents, and I was actually able to celebrate my 21st birthday surrounded by friends, on a beach, hammocking. The only worry I had was the weather; it would be too cloudy for sunrise the next morning. To me, that was perfect.
Trail information on Third Beach here.
The Hoh Rainforest
One of the crazy parts of Olympic National Park is the diversity of the landscape within it. There are snowcapped peaks, glacier fed rivers, rocky coastlines, and one of the only temperate rainforests left in North America. The Hoh Rainforest gets roughly 12 to 14 feet (!!!) of precipitation each year. All of this water creates a landscape with many shades of green, as a result of the many types of mosses, ferns, and coniferous and deciduous trees throughout the area.
We wandered through the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail to simply experience the beauty of the area without having to exert ourselves so much, especially after a backpacking trip along the coast. We set up our hammocks for a bit and just relaxed for a bit to take it all in. The mosses hanging over our heads giving us the occasional drip on the head, the incredibly clear water of the glacier fed streams, and the Hoh River flowing nearby with a handful of people fly fishing in its waters. This place is incredible.
The Hoh Rainforest is one of the only protected temperate rainforests left in North America. It used to span from Southeast Alaska, all the way down to the central coast of California. But because of global warming and deforestation, the size of the forest has shrunk immensely. The preservation that the National Parks System has put into place in the Hoh Rainforest makes it a very special place to visit. I would recommend everybody see it at least once in their life. You never know when it will be gone. There are many threats to our national parks and I encourage you all to do your research and find a way that you can do your part to keep our wild places wild.
After getting a feel for the area and experiencing the coastlines of the Upper Left, we were ready to actually experience the water of the Pacific Ocean. So we drove north a ways to Anacortes, WA, got packed and left the stability of land for a journey through the San Juan Islands via sea kayaks.
All six of us were on the water, two in single kayaks and the other four in two tandem boats. We had eight miles of open water, currents, and headwinds ahead of us before we made it to our final destination, Cypress Island. The San Juan Islands are a conglomeration of small and large islands off the coast of Washington. Cypress Island, in particular, is owned by the Department of Natural Resources, so it is totally vacant and protected. Camping is allowed on the island as well, so we were packed for a night under the stars on this island.
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We made it about halfway to our destination when the current and wind became so strong that we had to just wait it out for a bit before crossing the last stretch of open water. We waited out the current, based on the NOAA data for that day, on one of the small beaches of Guemes Island. After some snacking and napping, we were back in the boats to make the final crossing. We were still fighting the current a bit on this stretch, but the wind had died down, so that helped. We made it to the island just as the sun was setting. We set up camp, made some warm dinner, and crawled into our sleeping bags for the night.
More information here if you're thinking about planning a San Juan kayak trip!
On the last leg of our trip, my friends and I were wondering what would be an accessible and beautiful place to sit and watch the sunset.
Just outside of Anacortes, WA, we found a gorgeous State Park full of history and stories only nature could tell: Deception Pass. With over 2,000,000 ancestors annually, this state park has stories to tell from thousands of years ago about the Salish tribes of the Northwest.
A quick walk across a 177-foot bridge (don’t look down!) will put you at the trailhead for a hike down to the ocean, amongst small cliffs where you can sit and watch the perfect sunset while skipping stones, watch a campfire, swim, or just hang out with friends.
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On our recent trip, we ended a week of camping and kayaking by setting up Kammoks and watching the sunsets. As we reminisced about stories from the past week of adventuring, we saw boats in the distance and had the chance to remember how lucky we were to be in such a beautiful place.
It is necessary during trips like this to remember the good times and the bad, and to debrief on such things. Enjoying the simplicity of a sunset at a place like Deception Pass, surrounded by looming trees and ocean-smoothed rocks is essential.
Book a camp site at Deception Pass here.
About MOBsters, Ben & Joe:
Ben is an adventure photographer currently based in the American West. He has a strong passion for the outdoors and keeping our wild places wild. Photography is just one way for Ben to inspire people to get outdoors and explore the beautiful world around them. You can usually find him in the mountains, on the river, or somewhere in between. Check out more of his work at www.bentmatthews.com.
Joe is a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Wyoming, who loves love! And he is passionate about telling the story of love through photography. After spending time in a month-long mountaineering course in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School, Joe fell in love with the outdoors and has since developed a heart for promoting the outdoors and getting outside.
You inspire us, MOBsters! Keep exploring.