Say Hello To America 2016: Week 6

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My sixth week on the road was primarily spent exploring the Pacific Northwest. Washington lived up to its reputation as it rained or was overcast all four days I was there, but the inclement weather didn’t prevent me from loving every minute in this beautiful state. Week 6 also saw me enter my twenty-third state, visit my eleventh National Park, and pass 11,000 miles driven.

Sunday | The day began with a morning walk along Cannon Beach for photos of the famous Haystack Rock. Hearing about the crazy-high temperatures in the Portland area, I was delaying the inevitable as long as possible. A short drive further up the Oregon Coast brought me to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis & Clark set up camp for the winter before heading back east.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Finally, I headed east and towards the face-melting temperatures. But first, a stop at Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge! This waterfall is an iconic photo opportunity and I’ve long wanted to photograph it for myself. Magically getting a parking spot and fighting the throngs of picture-takers, I snapped my own shot and made the short climb up to the bridge spanning the upper and lower falls. Absolutely worth the stop!

Sunday ended with me reaching the 100Β° Portland, where my friend Jen was gracious enough to host me for the night. We hit the town for quite possible the best wings I’ve ever had and drinks. Fortunately for me, she knows all the best spots and I just followed her lead.

Multnomah Falls | Jen & I recreating our 2013 #fromwhereistand photo

Multnomah Falls | Jen & I recreating our 2013 #fromwhereistand photo

Monday | A visit to Peninsula Park Rose Garden — a formal French garden and Portland’s first public rose garden — was the perfect way to start off my Monday. A quick goodbye to Jen and it was back on the road to make my way to Willapa Bay, Washington.

The Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA was my seventh KOA Kabin experience and one of my best. Very isolated, there wasn’t too much to do in the area but that was made up for by the extremely friendly owners and an awesome trail down to a beach overlooking the bay. I enjoyed dinner at Dock of the Bay, which the KOA owner described as “not much to look at, but has great food”. He was 100% correct!

Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA

Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA

Tuesday | Working my way up the Washington Coast and the Olympic Peninsula, this was the first day that my route turned and began heading back east. The reality that I only have three weeks left on the Say Hello To America 2016 road trip began to set in and my direction now pointed back to Pennsylvania. Despite this realization, it couldn’t keep from enjoying Ruby Beach, a soak in the hot springs at Sol Duc Resort, a quick stop in Forks (that’s right, Twilight fans!), and some awesome scenery throughout Olympic National Park.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Forks, Washington

Forks, Washington

Wednesday | I slept in a bit before heading out of Port Angeles and made my way towards Port Townsend, where I was pulled over by yet another police officer. The polite officer warned me that I was going a bit too fast and then proceeded to list off the spots that I should visit in town. After a quick drive through town, it was off to Gig Harbor!

Last fall, I met a retired couple at a campground in Yellowstone National Park. We ended up talking for several hours, resulting in them offering me a place to stay if I ever found myself in the Seattle area. They probably didn’t imagine they’d see me so soon! I arrived to their home in late afternoon and the rest of the night was spent eating and talking!

Olympic National Forest

Olympic National Forest

Thursday | The plan to leave in the morning and head east towards Mount Rainier National Park, and, ultimately Yakima, was changed as conversing over breakfast turned into conversing all morning, which turned into conversing over lunch. But I was more than happy to spend the extra time in Gig Harbor, as I could not be more thankful for the friendship and graciousness of this random couple I met in a National Park. I love how life brings people together!

The rest of my day was spent navigating the rainy weather throughout Mount Rainier National Park. While it would have been nice to enjoy more pleasant weather, the photographer in me can’t complain about the moody photos I was able to capture. I was also able to replicate several photos my grandfather had taken throughout the park, including a spot where an old Visitor Center once stood.

Entrance to Mount Rainier Park

Entrance to Mount Rainier Park

Rainy Day in Mount Rainier National Park

Rainy Day in Mount Rainier National Park

Friday | Friday didn’t hold too much excitement for me. I left Yakima and made my first stop in Walla Walla, for a visit to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. In 1847, Dr. Marcus Whitman, his wife Narcissa Whitman, and 11 others were slain by Native Americans of the Cayuse. The site commemorates the Whitmans, the role they played in establishing the Oregon Trail, and the challenges encountered when two cultures meet. For fans of the history of the Oregon Trail, this site is a must-see!

Two hours later and I was in Lewiston, Idaho! Lewiston is located at the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River and really has quite the charming downtown area. After an evening stroll around town, I was ready to call it a day.

Whitman Mission in Walla Walla, Washington

Whitman Mission in Walla Walla, Washington

Saturday | The majority of my day was spent in Clearwater National Forest and I was struck by the sheer awesomeness of this area of Idaho. Often times we bypass National Forests because it usually means getting to a National Park, but Clearwater was different. Beautiful forests, a drive along a powerful river, wooden bridges, and many great hiking trails, all made this a must-see destination in Idaho.

Once I felt adequate time was spent in Clearwater, I made a beeline for the Montana border. I arrived in Missoula, met my Airbnb host, and headed into town for a late dinner. A great conclusion to another great week on the road!

Clearwater National Forest & Crossing into Montana

Clearwater National Forest & Crossing into Montana

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