The Journal Vol.5
Hi everyone, we're back again for instalment 5 of The Journal. Thanks for sticking around and following along with our travels. Our journey is starting to get really interesting, nights are getting really cold making it more of a struggle to live out of the car. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) rain is upon us and it's been relentless some days. It's not all doom and gloom though, because when the sun shines, it shines brightly and we make the most of it. The best part of this time of year and being in this corner of the USA, means incredible autumn colours. Read on to see what I mean.
Waterfalls Of The PNW
Washington and Oregon are filled with gorgeous waterfalls and the best time to visit them is in the fall. October and November are full of gloomy, rainy days that make the PNW come to life. We spent a few weeks exploring Oregon and we loved it. There is great coffee, friendly people, not to mention the diverse scenery. There is everything from rugged coast and waterfalls to volcanoes.
Below are our Top 5 waterfalls to visit in Oregon, along with a list of essential gear you will need in order to stay dry and make the most of the beautiful places:
- Wahclella Falls - Easily an Oregon classic and a really short walk to access it. Best done on a rainy day or just after a big downpour.
- Tamanawas Falls - The hike to this waterfall is about 2.5km and follows a beautiful little creek the whole way. When you reach the falls, you can choose to admire them from afar or climb up and walk behind them if it is safe to do so.
- Koosah Falls - This waterfall is a very short walk from the parking lot and was one of our favourites. The sun popped out of the clouds for a few minutes and hit the incredibly blue water of the pool at the bottom and even gave us a little rainbow. Be careful though, if you can make it to the bottom of the falls you will get drenched from the spray and it is pretty difficult to climb back up to the trail when it's wet.
- Sahalie Falls - This is on the same highway as Koosah Falls. There is a paved trail around the falls which makes it easily accessible and very popular. While it isn't as tall as Koosah it was still beautiful and is framed by mossy rocks.
- Silver Falls State Park - This state park is full of beautiful waterfalls and walks and is great to visit in autumn because there are so many colours surrounding the waterfalls that make for a great photo. Our favourites were South Falls and Drake Falls. Spending a day in this area is enough to see plenty.
We used the Escape Hike 30L day pack as it has a rain cover tucked away at the bottom of the bag that is easy to pull out and cover the bag if it starts to rain or if you are getting sprayed by the waterfalls. It also fits everything you need for a day hike, including cameras, additional layers, hiking poles and food.
A good waterproof jacket is a must for any adventure but especially when you're planning to get up close to some waterfalls or if you're caught in a quick downpour. Swapped between our Cumulus GORE-TEX® jackets and our softshells (Alta and Perisher) depending on how wet we were expecting to get. The Cumulus is a superior waterproof jacket but the softshells do a great job too.
Staying dry in the Cumulus GORE-TEX® rain jacket at Spirit Falls and Wahclella Falls.
The incredible energy of the waterfalls was matched only by their sheer beauty.
Falls Creek Falls, Washington. Both wearing our Cumulus GORE-TEX® jackets.
Oregon Coast: Everything I Expected, And More
The Oregon coast was somewhere I've dreamed of for years. I came into this place with high expectations, and they were topped in every way imaginable. Both growing up by the ocean, we felt close to home in so many ways, falling in love with little coastal towns like Cannon Beach, Manzanita and Bandon. Life felt slower by the ocean with warm days, cool nights and gorgeous sunsets. Here are some of the highlights:
The Oregon coast: one spectacular view after another.
Olympic National Park: From The Sea To Summit Peaks
On the north-western tip of Washington - just two hours' drive from Seattle - is the beautiful Olympic National Park. Renowned for its lush prehistoric forests and stunning alpine scenery, I quickly fell in love with this little part of Washington. It's also known to be the steepest terrain and the most remote, hardest to access in all of the Washington backcountry. Facts like that make me even more excited to get out there and explore it for myself. We spent over a week in and around the mountains and ocean. Here's what we did:
La Push. On the edge of Olympic National Park is the region of La Push, home to rugged beaches, sea stacks and wild islands that surround the coast. The afternoon was looking a little gloomy as we started the short walk to the beach but we thought we would head down regardless. As the sun set, the clouds parted and left a little gap on the horizon - perfect for the sun to peak through and give us some gorgeous light. We spent the evening in the sunset glow wandering up and down the beach climbing amongst the piles of driftwood and admiring all the rock formations along the coast.
The grandeur of a setting sun.
Rialto Beach. To get to Rialto Beach requires a 2km hike north up the beach. The end view looks back down the beach from where you hiked from, with sea stacks, washed up wooden logs, and wildflowers scattered everywhere. It's a dream coastal scene, and one I'd dreamt of seeing before coming to the US. We have so many beautiful coastlines back in Australia, but nothing so rugged and uniquely PNW'esque.
Beachside in the men's Hamersley long-sleeve shirt (left), and the Escape 30L day pack in action (right).
Hurricane Ridge. Perched up in the high mountains of the Olympic range, is one of the finest views we've seen in Washington. A short and steep hike up to Hurricane ridge for sunset was such a beautiful way to end the day. With fresh snow on the ground and glowing light in the distance, this is a perfect short-day hike.
Mount Storm King
Location: Mount Storm King
Distance: 8.5km (return)
Elevation Gain: 714m
Mount Storm King is located in the Olympic National Park in Washington. It's only a couple of hours from Seattle so it's a popular destination for locals to have a weekend away. The Mount Storm King hike is reasonably short but is quite steep and involves some rock scrambles (with ropes to help) in order to get to the top. If you can make it to the top though, it boasts the most spectacular view of Lake Crescent below and the surrounding mountains. If you're ever planning to do this hike, we definitely recommend doing some research and make sure you are comfortable hiking in exposed places.
The wind was wild up higher on the ridge, and before we knew it we had our down jackets on and our Alpine gloves out and ready to go. Below is a breakdown of what gear we wore for this hike - as always layering is essential. This is pretty standard for fall mountain hikes in Washington.
The Mount Storm king hike offered up some quality rock scrambles and views out over Lake Crescent.
Lake Angeles Overnighter
Location: Lake Angeles
Distance: 11.9km (return)
Elevation Gain: 716m
After a few days off, we packed our hiking packs and hit the trail again. We first stopped off at the visitor centre in Port Angeles to inquire about hikes that other people don't normally do. The rangers pointed us in the direction of Lake Angeles, a relatively easy hike to an alpine lake in the Olympic National Park. My intention after seeing some photos of it was to climb up above the lake and shoot back down onto it for sunset. It took us two hours to get there, arriving at a rather icy lake and a beautiful campsite in the woods. The afternoon light illuminated through the trees and created a beautiful camp scene that was so distinctly North American. Soon after setting up the Expedition 2P tent, we hiked up above the lake to get the shot. I'd never seen this view before and was pretty stoked on my find! Later that night we fell asleep to the sound of distant cracking ice - so beautiful.
The Expedition 2P tent, Voyager 65L travel pack and the Explorer 75L technical hiking pack.
Lake Angeles selfie, kitted up with the men's Merino thermal quarter zip top and zip-off Larapinta pants.
What It Really Takes: An Adventure In The Olympic High Country
For this series, I wanted to show what it's really like as an adventure photographer and avid backpacker, to haul myself and Madison up to a spot like this. This trail was no joke, literally one of the steepest and most non-stop gruelling hikes of my life. This hike has only been topped by Brewster Hut in New Zealand, which I still think was the hardest climb I've done. To access this spot, it was over 3,400 feet of gain in 3.5 miles and for you metric folk, that's roughly 1,050m over 5kms. Definitely an easy feat in other parts of the world if the terrain wasn't as steep, however this hike has a gradient like I haven't experienced before. Sections were sometimes 70-80 degree scrambles, but we eventually made it, four hours later.
The lake had already frozen due to early autumn cold temperatures, but there wasn't any snow around, which made it a really unique and picturesque autumn/winter scene. We set up camp just back from the lake, our Expedition 2P tent was our tent of choice for a forecasted cold night ahead. Check out our campsite below and spot the distant yellow tent down on the grass.
Spot the camp site.
We set up camp near the lake and quickly got cooking to warm ourselves up. We delved into some Pad Thai and smashed some carrots and hummus in true backpacking fashion, it's always great to bring up good food to keep you going. As the sun dipped down, we hiked 150m higher up a ridgeline to get a view back down onto our campsite and distant views on Mount Rainier and surrounding peaks. Safe to say, we were blown away by our campsite's position.
With the lake already frozen, we were forecast for a cold night ahead: -4° it was saying. We packed our thermals, our insulated sleeping mats and our warm sleeping bags, the Travelite 500 and 700. These are rated down to 0°C and -3°C respectively, which is plenty warm enough if you layer up. Once the sun dropped beneath the mountains we huddled in the tent, which warmed up really quickly. The Expedition 2P tent is an alpine tent so it's designed for nights like these, keeping in the warmth and acting as our shelter from the cold.
This overnighter in Olympic High Country was one seriously hard - and cold - experience.
We were treated to the most ridiculous sky at sunset - it was truly one of those moments where you struggle to find words to describe it.
After a solid two months in the PNW, the wet weather and cold was really getting to us. We checked the weather forecast and California was set to have a few 20+ degree days over the next week. We instantly started heading south down the I5 and 12 hours of driving later, crossed the border into California, arriving at a little mountain town called Mount Shasta. Mount Shasta is 4,321 metres tall and is the second highest peak in the Cascades as well as the most southern.
Our intention was to be in the area for the afternoon, do a quick sunset hike and start driving back down to Redding, California. I jumped on Google and found this super easy and beautiful hike in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. This was the Heart Lake trail which ultimately looks back down onto Castle Lake and Mount Shasta. We got up there three hours before sunset and sat around drinking coffee and reflecting on our time in the PNW. It was so much warmer down here and such a nice change from the rain too. A change of pace is always appreciated when living on the road.
Amongst some spectacular scenery, my men's Heritage tee, Contour cap and Peak 700 down jacket.
Happy times on the road! Heading to Canada soon, so stay tuned for the adventures ahead.