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Olympic Coast Alex Pullen-0490The sea is a mysterious force to me. In the evenings, I sat and listened to her murmured secrets, hushed whispers, and thundering crashes along the shoreline. I was content with the salty breeze and the sunsets to wash me clean. This was not water I felt inclined to swim in. The rocky shores of the Washington coast, the frigid water and the unpredictable nature of the grey swells left me satisfied to watch her from the polished stone beaches (not to mention the rumors of great white sharks).

The coast of the Pacific northwest had been calling me for some time now. Every once in a while I would catch myself staring slack-jawed into the horizon, grateful for the opportunity and audacity to manifest my dreams. Walking amongst some of the largest trees on earth, and spending time with the sea have been compelling forces in my life recently. The thick forests, moss and opportunity to foray for mushrooms had been tantalizing me for months. It’s been about two weeks since I left Durango to photograph a wedding here in Washington. I spent most of that time solo and am happy to say I now have someone to share these moments with. A few nights ago my partner Marion arrived in Seattle where I picked her up, and together we journeyed back to the Olympic coast for more adventuring.

Olympic Coast Alex Pullen-3145Our goals were to hike, foray and spend time on the beaches. Like myself, Marion does well off trail and away from crowds. We spent much of our time among the Olympics silently looking for fungi, listening to birds and cooking meals on the tailgate of the truck. A highlight was spending a few nights in the Ho Rainforest. Unlike, a tropical rainforest which you’d find near the equator,  the temperate rainforests of the northwest are made up of mostly coniferous trees or evergreens. Giant Sitka Spruce, Hemlocks and Cedars make up the towering upper story of the forest. The monolithic trees are fed by the tufty soil and damp foggy rains that come in off the north Pacific.  Shafts of light that make it through the canopy fall onto broadleaved maple trees, equally adorned with moss and lichens. Below these, the orb-like sword ferns almost had a glow as they feed on the diffused light that finds the forest floor. Continually, the size of the trees left us in awe. Sadly, you’d need a helicopter to photograph them justly. We counted 190 paces walking along a downed segment of a windblown Sitka Spruce one evening.

After spending three nights in the Ho Rainforest we decided to leave the deep valley on a hot and smoky morning. It had been sunny and in the 90’s for the last few days, which was very uncommon for this part of the U.S.. The drought in California had very clearly extended up in the Oregon and Washington. We heard rumors of 100 degree heat waves in Portland and wildfires just to the south of us in the National Park we were in. Seeking cooler air we spent the next few nights exploring the coast. Walking on the stony beaches we wove in between the gigantic trunks of long dead trees. Reminding me again of how foreboding yet compelling this coastline is. The trees laid along the shore thirsty, like the bleached bodies of nameless elephants, timeless, hungry and longing for the end of their journey to the sea – just yards away.

We spent these last few days on the coast frolicking on the beach, searching the tide pools for treasures and listening to the tireless calls of the sea. But as with all things, our time visiting the coast had to come to an end. We departed the coast with gratitude, thanks and promises to return. We had about two weeks left of our trip, and ambitious goals of visiting some of the West’s most iconic landscapes along our route home to Durango. Before leaving the coast entirely, we stopped in Seattle to visit some friends of friends, replenish our stores and take a well earned hot shower. After what turned into three delightful nights of imbibing, eating great meals and sharing stories we had to leave our new friends in Seattle, and make our way East and ultimately begin the journey home. Check back next week for Part 3 of Due Northwest as we begin our eastward journey through the North Cascades, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons.

Thanks for reading and please check back again. To see other writings by Alex Pullen click here, or if you would like to see more of his work, visit him at alexpullen.com