I’ve wanted to go to the Pacific Northwest for a long time. More specifically, Seattle.
It started with a magazine article I read back in college. The article focused on one of Japan’s epic fish markets, possibly Tsukiji, but I can’t precisely recall. At one point, it mentioned how the fishermen or those who worked the markets super early in the morning would eat sushi and drink beer after their shift. Super fresh fish that they themselves could’ve brought in or been a part of offloading.
I love sushi, beer (of course), and incredible experiences.
I wondered where in the US I could possibly experience something like this. Although I did not know much about it, Seattle and its Pike Place Market came to mind. And thus, the seed was planted.
Over the next year or two in college, I picked up my first camera and got into hiking. Also while working part-time at Dicks Sporting Goods, I saw a ton of The North Face ads featuring epic trails and green scenery from the great Pacific Northwest. This not only helped influence my photography style but also helped water that Seattle seed and turn it into a mini obsession.
One day, someday I would tackle my own Pacific Northwest adventure.
Eat really good sushi, drink beer, check out the trails, soak in everything the area offers, and take a ton of pictures.
My First Visit Out To The Great PNW!
Said mini-obsession stayed a mini-obsession for a while and kept falling to the back burner. Every year for the past 10-12 years.
But in 2022, I decided to take another mini obsession off the back burner.
Leave the comforts of a traditional 9-5 job, and try my hand at remote work, being self-employed, or some combo of the two so I can squeeze in more travel while working. This also arose from my photography and hiking interests. College was very formative for me, in more ways than one.
And because I was leaping there, I figured I might as well jump off a diving board to get things going the right way.
I decided to spend a month focusing solely on writing content for a new website, like an author hiding away in a cabin to write a book.
Then after that month, I’d explore and start knocking items off my PNW checklist.
It All Started In Portland OR
I know my obsession began with Seattle…but have you seen the AirBnB rates there?!?
Plus I had a few people telling me I might like Portland more anyway. It was also close enough that I could drive to Seattle after my month-long writing retreat.
So yes, I chose to stay in Portland, OR for the first leg of my journey, the Arbor Lodge neighborhood specifically. There I focused solely on that new website and accomplished everything I set out to do. I even got to go hiking and trail running on the beautiful Wildwood Trail.
As my month was wrapping up, I decided to rent the Fujifilm GFX 50S II and a FUJIFILM GF 50mm f/3.5 lens to help capture the next leg of my journey.
All of the pictures shown in this post were taken with the camera (unless otherwise specified). I did have to greatly reduce the size and quality of the images to put on my website. So pixel peeping won’t be doing you any good.
Arbor Lodge Neighborhood
The camera arrived a day or two early from Lensrentals.com (Affiliate Link, use code “DAP15” for 15% off your order), so I got to mess around with it in my neighborhood and the St. Johns Bridge area before I started my travels.
Arbor Lodge sits above an industrial park area, but you still get some beautiful views of the mountains. The neighborhood is a nice quiet spot with plenty of coffee shops, places to eat, quick bike commutes, and even the Adidas US HQ!
St. Johns Bridge is a beautiful bridge. And the little neighborhood area just before the bridge is pretty cool. But, unfortunately, the main road was under construction, like a complete teardown, build-back-up kind of thing, so I didn’t get any pictures of that area.
The Oregon Coast (Day 1)
After picking up my rental car and checking out of my AirBnB, I set off for the coast. I even stopped at a record store in the St. Johns Bridge area to grab a few CDs for the drive.
I crossed St. Johns Bridge and took the very scenic Germantown Rd out of Portland.
Next up was the Tillamook Rainforest. I wanted to stop every 15 mins for pictures but if I did that I wouldn’t have made it out of the Rainforest at all that day.
This was also where I started to get that mountain air feeling. You know the one I’m talking about. I had the sunroof open and the windows down. Soaking it all in.
I got to squeeze in a visit to the Tillamook Creamery. Grabbing some cheese samples and a burger for dinner before hopping back on Route 101. Unfortunately, their ice cream line was too long, so I passed on that. I figured I could buy it from a grocery store once I settled in.
After leaving Tillamook, I also started to get that incredible beach air feeling. Combine that beach feeling with the still lingering mountain feeling. I was just about in happy tears during the whole experience.
Continuing up Route 101, I stopped every once in a while but not nearly as much as I wanted to. One of those stops was in the small city of Garibaldi. It had a long pier that shot straight out to the bay; with fog-covered mountains in the background and a bunch of fishermen hoping for a catch. Again, a place I would’ve loved to stay longer at.
But I had a goal for the day. And that goal was…..
Sunset At Cannon Beach, Oregon
The hopeful epic finale of the day was catching a sunset at Cannon Beach. And boy, did it pay off.
I found parking close to the beach just as golden hour kicked off. As expected, there were other spectators, but there weren’t so many people to ruin the rocks solo shots if you were patient enough.
I took a mix of people pictures along with just images of Haystack Rock, allowing its beauty to shine through. I did wish there were a few clouds for the sunset, but after speaking with a friend who had just visited the same beach, all they got was fog, and they couldn’t even see the rocks. So I did end up feeling very grateful for how everything lined up.
I got even more of a show once the sun disappeared and the water receded near the rocks. I got some different perspectives, and there were fewer people.
Plus, with the water rolling back, there were a bunch of mini-pools filled with corral, crabs, and other marine life to scope out. Didn’t get many pictures of them though, just enjoyed the experience.
I did end up hanging around a bit more after that and got this lovely shot of a couple walking on the beach. I love those Fujifilm colors here.
My Astoria Visit (Day 2)
Day two started with a quick visit to Ecola State Park for sunrise. It was a beautiful view, but the sunrise was a bit lackluster, so I didn’t linger long. After returning to my hotel and showering, I ventured further up Route 101 to Astoria, OR.
I spent half the day exploring the city. There was so much to see. I started on the outskirts by the water and the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Capturing small detail shots with my camera before jumping to the downtown area.
The downtown area is what sold me on the city. It had such a unique feel to it. Including that mountain and beach blend vibe, I loved so much the day before.
After getting all my pictures in, it was Goonie time. I did all the classic touristy stuff. Saw the Goonie house, the Oregon Film Museum, and more. Even got a bit of my foodie fix in, enjoying some oyster shooters and clam chowder.
Upon leaving Astoria I came across a cool little village on the river kinda thing. Went exploring down there a little bit. The view was fantastic. Wonder what it would be like to live that way.
The rest of Day 2 was a little slow, with a lot of driving and then an early bedtime. But this set me up for an adventurous Day 3!
Two Epic Mountains In One Day (Day 3)
Up to this point, I had only loosely planned my trip. I had a few key points I knew I wanted to hit, but everything I did in between and even where I stayed the night wasn’t determined until it was really necessary.
With all that said, I knew after the coast and Astoria; I wanted to go back inland and visit a mountain and do a crazy hike or two.
Enter Mt St Helens.
Mt St Helens
I did some quick online research about Mt St Helens and decided I wanted to do two different hikes at the mountain.
The first hike would get me some sweet views, about 4 miles out and back. Then I would drive about 2 hours to another side of the mountain for sunset pictures.
However, once I got to the mountain, a guide helped me and stated that I should just combine hiking trails by doing something like 8 miles out, then 8 miles back. I agreed and I loaded up on water, bought some sunscreen, and grabbed a few more snacks from my car for the hike.
As I got underway I quickly realized there was no shade and no green coverage like I had experienced in other sections of the Pacific Northwest. Plus I got a great view of the mountain already at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, only 2 mins away from the parking lot.
I was starting to question my plan for hiking the whole day here while waiting for the sunset.
Alas, I continued the hike and I reached the first payoff view a few miles in. It was a cool view and all, but there was another view off to the left that helped me make up my mind about what I was going to do next.
Off to the left past the lake and some other mountains, I could see Mt Rainier.
That’s where I want to go for sunset.
My mind was made up.
I was back at my car around 2 pm, grabbed a quick hot dog from the food stand in the parking lot, and hit the road.
It ended up being about a 4-hour drive…..
But I made it just in time.
A Lovely Mt Rainier Sunset
I parked at Paradise with the intention of hiking the Skyline Trail but ended up getting all the shots I wanted before I got far on the trail.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here. It was a whole other world.
Mt Rainier At Night
After capturing the sunset, I knew I wanted a little bit more of the mountain.
So I drove down to Reflection Lake to try my hand at a night shot of Mt Rainier. Hopefully, getting its reflection in the lake, but just getting the mountain and the stars in one shot was the goal.
It proved to be a little tricky.
I had my headlamp and a defined path to the lake but still wasn’t sure exactly where I was going. It was pitch black and even with the headlamp, I couldn’t really see said lake. But knew it was there.
I came across what I believed to be the first opening, a break in the trees where I could clearly see Mt Rainier in the night sky. I assumed the lake was in front of me below the mountain, but I still couldn’t even see the lake.
It was tempting to go off trail, find the lake and get what I believed to be a better picture angle, but after processing that bit of information, I decided not to risk the possibility of falling in the lake… at night…with no one else around.
I set up my Peak Design tripod (affiliate link) and fancy camera, then blindly pointed it towards the mountain for a long exposure shot.
The first one turned out well and helped me locate the lake. However, it also helped me realize it was not the best spot to capture the mountain’s reflection, so I cut out the lake and only focused on the mountain and the stars above.
I nailed it on my next shot.
After hitting all my daily goals, I wanted to set myself up for an easy ride into Seattle the next morning. So I drove up to Tacoma, grabbed a hotel, and called it a night.
I Finally Got To Visit Seattle, WA (Days 4 & 5)
Seattle was almost a whole trip by itself. But I wanted to experience it as much as possible, so I dove right into the Pike Place Market once I got there early morning.
I also had two nights booked at The Green Tortoise Hostel, which was a fun and unique experience, literally across the street from the market. I was right where I needed to be.
Pike Place Market
Not gonna lie, I spent a huge part of my time in Seattle at Pike Place. Walking vendor to vendor, eating fresh seafood, mini donuts, and fantastic Chinese pork buns. I even got pictures of the classic fish tossing at Pike Place Fish Market.
And, of course, besides eating, I also grabbed my goal shots here: Pike Place Market at night.
The very specific goal was to get the lights reflecting off the streets, sidewalks, and inside.
Then, let Fujifilm colors work their magic.
I got exactly what I wanted.
Seattle Mariners Game And An Attempted Sunrise Pic
Besides visiting the market, I did have a few other touristy items on my list. That included checking out the Space Needle, Gum Wall, going to a Seattle Mariners game, Fremont Troll, Museum of Pop Culture, and getting an iconic Seattle sunrise picture.
Sadly enough, I missed the last two items on my list. The museum kept falling behind on the priority list until I ran out of time.
For the iconic sunrise picture, I first tried to get it at Pier 66, so I could include the water, piers, the city, and the Seattle Great Wheel. But construction at the pier and early morning fog messed up my views.
I then decided to try and see if the view from Kerry Park would be any better, but the fog was worse there. I chalked the photography morning up as a loss and went back to Pike Place for food.
As the day progressed though, the fog lifted and the sun came out, with a few clouds hanging around. Perfect for a sunset image.
A Seattle Cityscape Sunset
After some Instagram research, I located a key vantage point of the Seattle cityscape in a park south of the city. I showed up about two hours before sunset to scout the area and ensure I knew exactly where I was going.
The area might not have been the best area to be with expensive camera gear, so I went back to my car to kill time for sunset. However, after about 45 mins and seeing a few people park and get out for walks, I started to worry someone else would grab my coveted photography spot.
So I ventured out and staked my claim.
And sure enough, another photographer did eventually stop by. But he was cool. We talked for a few minutes, exchanged IG handles, then he went off to a backup spot to get his pics.
Once it got dark enough and the sunset colors were still lingering, I took my shot.
Safe to say. This was the perfect image to cap off my adventure and give me an epic collection of Pacific Northwest photography.
Although I didn’t eat sushi early AF while drinking a beer in the morning after unloading my boat’s catch. I did consume plenty of sushi and beer throughout my trip.
Star Fusion and Bar in Seattle even had Otoro Nigiri (fatty tuna). Which I’ve never had and don’t think I’ve ever even seen on a menu here in Richmond, VA.
It was soooo tasty. I also snagged a type of salmon as well as scallop nigiri.
All in all, I accomplished everything I set out to do with my Pacific Northwest adventure. As for the whole self-employed/remote work thing I’ve still got a few kinks to work out.
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