getting by with a little help from my friends

I apologize for the delay. I've been trying to get a blog post up every week, but sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge. Between editing photos and organizing words together in a manner that sounds intelligent these posts actually take quite some time to get up. Add in two friends flying out to see me back-to-back and my time for blogging becomes practically nonexistent. 

Where we last left off, I was in Montana getting ready to head north to Glacier National Park from Missoula. I arrived at the western end of the park on Thursday, November 10th. There are typically only two campgrounds open during the winter season: Apgar on the western end and St. Mary's on the eastern side. Connecting these two campgrounds is Glacier's famous "Going to the Sun" road that bisects the park over roughly 50-miles. Unfortunately, I found that due to ice and snow at high altitudes, the road was closed off about 20-miles in. This meant that it would be about a 90-mile detour to visit the other end of the park and I wouldn't be able to photograph many of the scenic overlooks and vistas I'd been hoping too.

On the plus side, though, Apgar Campground turned out to be free in the offseason and the photo below is what my view from camp looked like. Not too shabby, eh?

I wonder what it would cost for this view at a hotel?

While the west side had the nicer campground, I preferred the landscape of the east side more. Rolling grasslands suddenly giving way to massive, snow-capped mountains more closely mirrored the Montana that existed in my head. When I arrived at St. Mary's on my second day, I was awestruck by the views, but dismayed to find out the campground was closed due to construction. While the other campground back west was extremely beautiful (and free), this meant that I would have to make the 90-mile commute every day if I wished to shoot this part of the park. Luckily, though, it's a very scenic 90-mile drive. 

The long commute turned out to the be the worst of my worries though. Every single day on the east side brought some of the strongest winds I've ever encountered. With the winds came dark clouds, spontaneous downpours of sleet and rain, as well as dynamic and fleeting light that would linger just long enough for you to appreciate it. All of these things combined made Glacier National Park one of the most challenging places I've ever shot. To compensate for the rough conditions I opted to shoot black and white. This helped emphasize the texture in the stormy clouds and enhance the contrast in the snow-capped peaks. 

Couldn't decide if I liked this shot more in black & white...

...or color

Dynamic light near St. Mary's Campground. This beam of light materialized in the blink of an eye and shone down on the fields like a massive spotlight. I was driving in the opposite direction when I spotted it and, despite the rain blowing directly into my face, managed to get a few shots off before it disappeared just as quickly as it arrived. 

Two days into my stay at Glacier, my best friend Tyler flew in to keep me company. He's pretty cool and stuff. 

Stud - about 4-miles deep into an 8-mile hike...luckily no signs of grizzly bears

On Sunday (11/13), we hiked 8-miles alongside St. Mary Lake, bear-spray at the ready. Luckily, we didn't see any grizzlies, we actually didn't see much wildlife at all save for a few birds. I got the sense that the still of winter had arrived weeks ago. The trees were barren and creaked as we walked by. Many had fallen over from the wind, blocking the trail in front of us. All in all, it was a quiet, peaceful hike filled with good conversation and beautiful views, but I have to admit I'm glad I had some company. 

Hiking around St. Mary Lake

Hiking around St. Mary Lake

At Ferguson's Diner in Spokane. We didn't know till we got there, but a famous scene with Johnny Depp from Benny and Joon was filmed at this diner. 

After spending two nights in Montana, we continued westward. The plan was to spend two days driving to Seattle, after which Tyler would fly back to Houston on November 15th. 

We spent most of our day driving through heavy rains across Montana, Idaho, and into Spokane before arriving at Riverside State Park in the afternoon where we quickly set up camp before embarking on a casual hike through the grounds. The air was brisk and the rain had ceased, giving way to cool temperatures; a perfect night for camping. The following day was the 15th of November and I would be celebrating two-months of life on the road. However, it would also mark the 10-year anniversary of my brother, Grant, passing away, and this was weighing more heavily on my mind.

Every year, I acknowledge the day in my own quiet way; but this year I had something special planned. I had in my possession a beer that traveled all the way from Belgium and was considered unanimously to be one of the best beers in the world. Called Westvleteren 12, it was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law and had been sitting in my closet for over two years just waiting for the right moment to be opened.

So after two years of waiting, I made a toast to my brother and finally enjoyed a delicious bottle of Westvleteren 12 while sitting around a campfire listening to classical music with my other brother. It was a damn good evening. 

Westvleteren 12

I swear we're not lost

We eventually arrived in Seattle early in the afternoon and were greeted by heavy rain and fierce cold - you know, good ole Seattle weather. So Tyler and I drove around exploring, eating oysters, consuming bloody marys, and having a jolly old time before I dropped him off at the airport around 10pm.

Twelve hours later I arrived back at the airport to pick up my friend Jordan. 

Jordan - getting ready to go rob some place

Jordan - sipping back on some light, refreshing Dr. Pepper

We left Seattle-Tacoma Airport and Jordan told me that his only request was that we spend at least one night backcountry camping. I was happy to oblige. I knew that, like Glacier National Park, certain high elevation roads and campgrounds would be closed for the season, and this would be a great chance to get some stunning mountain shots. 

After spending one night in the park, we drove to park headquarters to consult a ranger. He recommended a 4-mile hike up to Deer Park Campground and guaranteed us we wouldn't see a Sasquatch, much to my disappointment. 

At the trailhead

Jordan gazing into the abyss - aka adjusting his GoPro

Hiking to Deer Park Campground. Photo courtesy of Jordan Long

After driving miles up winding mountain roads, we arrived at our trailhead and prepared to set forth. What followed was one of the most challenging hikes I've ever done. The park ranger had told us the hike would be roughly 4-miles and "slightly" uphill at times. This was a lie. What he should have said was that the hike was 6-miles and incredibly steep almost the entire way up. To say I struggled is an understatement. However, when we finally arrived at camp, all angst and frustration from the hike slid away as we were greeted with some of the most awe-inspiring views I've ever seen. 

Early evening from Deer Park Campground

As sunset arrived, waves of orange and yellow fog rolled in, making the mountains seem on fire. 

Sunset from camp. Photo courtesy of Jordan Long

Took this from camp at Deer Park. Modeling and additional light provided by Jordan Long.

The next day we hiked a considerably easier hike down from the mountain and made our way to one of the most popular areas in the park: the Hoh Rainforest. 

The Hoh Rainforest

Hiking in the Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest

View from camp at the Hoh Campground. Photo courtesy of Jordan Long

Taking photos in the Hoh Rainforest. Photo courtesy of Jordan Long

The Hoh Rainforest doesn't feel like it belongs in this world. Covered top-to-bottom in dense moss, the forest seems timeless, like something from Middle-Earth. Tall spruce trees tower above the ferns and banana slugs who dwell below. Even the air felt different (to me at least). 

The Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest

One thing I hadn't anticipated was how enormous Olympic National Park was. To put it into perspective, Acadia National Park in Maine covers roughly 76.5 square miles. Olympic National Park, by comparison, spans a whopping 1,442 square miles! This was actually Jordan's second time here in the past year, and I can now understand why. After four days, I felt like I had just barely scratched the surface. So by the time I dropped him off at the airport on November 20th, I had made up my mind to stay at the park a little longer. 

The following day, I drove back into the park on the 101 heading west. My goal was to explore the most northwestern point in Washington: Cape Flattery. Cape Flattery was named by the famous explorer, James Cook, who discovered it in 1778. While it is a part of the Olympic Peninsula, it is not a part of Olympic National Park. It is actually located on an indian reservation belonging to the Makah tribe who have dwelled in the area for close to 4,000 years. 

at Cape Flattery

After taking a quick selfie at Cape Flattery, I spent the rest of the afternoon scouting photo locations for sunset. But one thing I learned after almost a week here, is that the weather changes fast and what was a nice day turned into a gloomy, overcast evening spoiling my chances at getting a great photo. 

The forecast the following day was rain and lots of it. So I decided to conclude my time at Olympic and begin heading south. My next destination was Mt. Rainier but the rain seemed to have followed me.  After two days of unsuccessfully "waiting it out" I finally gave in and drove first to Aberdeen, WA (birthplace of Kurt Cobain), and then to Astoria, Oregon (birthplace of The Goonies).

At present, I'm in Portland, Oregon where I've been staying with my friend Tierra for the last two days. Sometime in the next few days, I should arrive at Crater Lake National Park in south Oregon. However, the Pacific coast holds a special place in my heart and I have since decided to take my time as I head south down the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Until next time, hope you guys enjoy the photos. Here's to two more months of living free on the road!