I’ve been sleeping out of the truck now for 12 days. The hours consisting of lonely sunrises on the beach and sunsets in the rainforest. After many miles of driving on mostly two-lane highways, I have come at last to where the tall trees meet the tireless sea. “Why am I here?… For a job“, I keep telling myself. “A job… and grand adventure…”
My plans to visit the coastal Northwest began during a dry and loveless November in Durango, Colorado. I got a call from a friend seeking a wedding photographer. The small wedding would take place mid-summer in Forks, Washington at a quiet bed and breakfast near the coast – and he wanted me for the job. Excited to take up the gig, I began planning soon afterward. My scheme not only included taking the job, but turning it into month long road trip. I needed dependable wheels to make the 5,000 mile journey to Washington and back. In the spring I bought a 15 year old truck and began getting it ready for the trip. Since I make my living freelancing, this would be a great opportunity to photograph some of the West’s most iconic landscapes and National Parks. I told my employers in advance about my plans, and that I would be working part time during the trip. They were enthused, and said they would send work for me. Hallelujah. Summer grew onward, and in mid July weeks of preparation manifested into the wide open road, and one adventure after the next.
My enthusiasm waxed the first day of the four week road trip, when I stopped and greeted the mighty Colorado as she cut through western Utah. Elated that I had begun this grand pilgrimage westward, I bathed in the swift and murky waters that ran between heavy sandstone cliffs. There were many miles yet to drive, so I forced myself to leave the Colorado and continue onwards. I climbed into the San Rafael Swell, a rising staircase of cracked red stone and jagged spires that rose into a grey and threatening sky. Through the stormy mesa I continued, ever westwards, chasing the sun.
I passed entirely through the rounded and turbulent valleys of Utah, and by dinner time I crossed into the great basins and ranges of central Nevada. At sunset I forced myself to break from driving, stretch and observe the elegant landscape before me. A purple valley covered in green velvet lay silent though pricked with ivory wind turbines. Slowly turning, the stand of turbines cast elegant shadows in the fading light. Camping wayside the road that night, I had lucid dreams and watched the stars wheel under my eyelids.
The morning was fresh and I rose early to finish crossing the many passes and shallow valleys of Nevada. Blessed, I left her bearing gifts from the desert and ascended a dry pass over the Sierra Nevadas. Breathing slow and deeply I flew down-down-down into the chaotic and thirsty central valley of California, where I visited my sister for a few nights. We very much enjoyed our time together, but my commitments called me onward, and I left my sister, the heat, and the abundant vineyards for the coast of northern California. The soft call of abalone and salty air was too strong to resist any longer.
I cut west again to the red wood groves and traveled north up the historic Highway 101 and spent my first night on the beach, listening to the tireless call of the sea. Hours I sat there, silently in the sand, reconciling the months of planning and days of driving it took me to get there. Driving these long distances gave me both the alone time I need to feel free, strong, and wild, yet also so much that I was appreciating and missing all the loved ones in my life. The next morning I woke on the sand and had to tear myself away from the dunes and the curved beaches asking me to venture them. “I’m not there yet” I said, “I’m needed farther north and I’ll be needed there soon.”
I drove for three more days up the coast, stopping to work from coffee shops along the way. In the afternoons I’d relax on the beach and explore the small coastal communities of Oregon and Washington. I arrived on day eight of my journey at the Manitou Lodge Bed and Breakfast just outside Forks, Washington. It was drizzling rain and the last stretches of road were dismal and foreboding. The trees thick and the sea-mist hanging below the clouds even thicker. The large eves of the lodge shed the rain and a warm light radiated through the windows. Inside there was a delightful group gathering for the wedding the next day. A young group of friends and family members exchanged stories as young children played in the misty yard and hid in the ferns outside.
The wedding was a success and my official job is now done. All the guests have left the Manitou Lodge and I too have left seeking the sea and silent beaches. Tomorrow, I will take a ferry across the Puget Sound to Seattle and rendezvous with my partner in crime, the one and only Frenchie, Marion Bouquet (for more on the back-story of this adventure-laden modern day romance check out: A Spark in the Distance).
Once reunited, our plan is to visit Olympic National Park and explore the temperate rain forest. Then together we’ll travel to Glacier National Park and the Grand Tetons on our way back to Durango. Check back in the coming weeks for the continuation of this series.