Road Trip Panoramas: Cape Flattery
I woke up one Tuesday morning and decided, rain or shine, I'm going to visit the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States in Cape Flattery, Washington. So far the pacific northwest has lived up to its reputation of being foggy, under constant rain, and generally unfavorable for day trips. My assignment in Tacoma has seen only a handful of clear weather since I arrived three weeks ago, but I was determined! I wasn't going to come all the way from Denver and pass up this chance.
The journey to the cape was about 7 hours round trip, and I knew I would be shooting in several places for at least another 3. At least, I had planned to. My camera is "weather-sealed" but not necessarily weatherproof. Getting to US 101 from the Seattle/Tacoma area was fairly easy, if not a a bit winding at times.
My first stop was a general store on the Olympic Highway, along a curve that crested the tip of Discovery Bay. Emily the Australian Shepherd was kind enough to pose for a quick portrait.
After a quick bite in Port Angeles, I continued on. The weather was looking great, but I was warned by locals that it could turn from one minute to the next. "How do you guys plan anything?" I asked one gas station attendant. "We don't let the rain bother us," she said. I suppose my people in Arkansas don't let the summertime heat bother them (which is not to say we don't still complain).
There is a birding trail along Cape Flattery Trail, which is a well paved two-lane road from Neah Bay to the footpaths that lead to beautiful Pacific Ocean scenery.
Do not drive all the way to Cape Flattery without stopping to visit the Makah Reservation Cultural & Research Center in Neah Bay. They don't allow photography of any kind, but in my opinion, the memory is well worth it -- and there are plenty of items and Native history books in the gift shop to memorialize the stop. Every dollar supports the Makah people, and every item is either crafted or published by the Makah tribe.
As a side note, I wish I had stopped before, not after, visiting the cape. I may have been able to experience it with a better perspective, if not a slightly deeper appreciation for the local Native history. So learn from my lesson.
The coastal beaches from Juan de Fuca Strait into the Pacific is characterized by rain, fog and elephantine boles that have washed ashore. A little detective work revealed that this stump is probably a Western Red Cedar. It's roughly 10 feet from sand to the tip of that outstretched barb of root, making it pretty average in terms of size. Fun fact: The five largest recorded specimens of this tree have all been discovered either in the Washington peninsula or Vancouver Island.
I tried to make time to pull over for shots like this, but I had to save daylight for the main event. The trail was exactly as described on TripAdvisor. Densely wooded, well worn, sections of woodplanked walkways, et cetera. I'm not absolutely sure, but I seem to have heard another visitor mention that all of the lumber used was locally sourced.
I have to tell you about the noise. It was loud. The sound of hikers plodding through rain, clopping their hiking boots against these thick, wobbly planks sent me back to the sixth grade, when a house was being built next door. The boots like nail guns, "Pop, pop, pop, pop." and the hiss of wind and rain squealing like distant power saws. The sharp laugh I heard as I negotiated a blind corner around a fallen log just about made me shit myself. I was wearing a hooded jacket, so the sounds were all amplified at once, and mono-directional. It was definitely weird.
Once I reached the overlooks, the rain began to let up. It was beautiful. That hissing sound turned out to be not just rain but the crash of waves against the cliffs below. I didn't realize how close I was to the sheer drop that met Pacific waters. Good thing there were a couple of spots with railing in case anyone didn't trust their feet. That should have been me, but I'm a fool and my camera is like Popeye's spinach, so I didn't exactly use the platforms with railings, per se (at all).
And I'll be honest. The real reason I made this trip was because I wanted to get a self-portrait that didn't involve a studio backdrop. I've taken self portraits before, but I wanted to create something that I feel like represents me. Not just, "I'm here next to something cool, here's proof!" But something deeper. Something that shows my passion for travel, for taking things to the limit while learning about and respecting the land and waves and mountains we live in. I thought the extreme northwest corner of the contiguous US is a good start. It's not Alaska, but hey... gotta save some goals for next year.
So without further ado, here's my new "self portrait" that I came all the way out to the Pacific ocean to create.
One side arising while the other side flows
Mind on the horizon, steady she goes.
Hands in my pockets, always got a map packed in one.
Keys in the other, still going, but I'm never gone.