Finding the Pacific Ocean

My last sunset in California, the night before I met Oregon

My last sunset in California, the night before I met Oregon

So after a wonderful week with family celebrating Thanksgiving, I decided I could no longer ignore the call of new places. I left Las Vegas with a destination in mind, the entire Pacific coast. As soon as I crossed into California I realized this journey would be anything but expected. The normal route out of the Las Vegas area consists of crossing the wide dry Mojave desert, but this particular crossing was definitely not dry. Instead of being greeted by a blistering sun and the sight of no ground water, I received quite a different greeting.

For a hundred miles I drove through some of the nastiest rain storms I have ever been in. While my focus was obviously on trying not to slide off a road that sees less than 5 inches of rain a year, I still couldn’t help but notice every thing else going on around me. For maybe the only time in my life, I went to this fiercely dry desert and encountered nothing but rain and flooding. The desert I had driven through before a few times was all together a different place. The noises, the smells, the visuals; everything was different in a beautifully unique kind of way. There was something special about watching huge thunderstorms slowly move along the endless desert leaving behind nothing but water and flash floods. The middle of the day dark spots on the land, uncommon for a desert as sunny as the Mojave, also looked to be performing an elegant almost choreographed dance on the desert floor as the storms moved by casting down shadows the size of mountains.

Before I was able to escape the rain storms of the desert, night set in. Now instead of seeing a surrounding desert, I saw nothing but darkness. And not a darkness we city livers are used to, but rather a true darkness. Out in the Mojave there was no glows of far off lights or street lamps, just a 360 degree view of darkness. It wasn’t until the smell around me began to change that I first knew I was close to my destination.

Replacing the smell of fresh rain, was the smell of salt in the air. Within a few miles of this new smell, I arrived on the Pacific coast. My next few days were to be spent traveling up the coastline seeing what California had to offer. For me personally, this part of the coast was like stepping back into my home of South Texas. Every little city I passed through flashed the same common heritage I came to know of my home in San Antonio. Spanish missions and catholic churches occupied some part of almost every area I saw. To be able to see a common heritage occupy two completely different today’s in two completely different states was fascinating to me. The power of a couple hundred years of time showed me how one idea today can lead to an endless number of differing results in the future. It was during this period of historical cultural sightseeing that I stumbled into San Francisco.

I had never been to quite an international city such as San Francisco before. I’m not talking about a multi-cultural large city that you can find anywhere in America, but rather a city that was founded by 5-6 different cultures at the same time. No where else in my travels had I been to such a place. Today San Francisco is still a hugely international city full of a rooted diverse people happy to share with travelers what makes them so diverse. For two days I walked all over the peninsula, every street being a new place to explore. From Japantown to Chinatown and Russian hill to Little Italy, the whole city consistently caused me to see a city as something else than what I knew. I’m glad I entered the bay area with history on the mind because San Francisco isn’t truly seen until you see it for exactly what it is, an international city founded together. I think I could have stayed and wandered for many more days, but the coastline continued North and so I continued on.

While the entire coastline south of San Francisco was unique and special in it’s own way, it lacked the wild element that I seem to gravitate to. Northern California to me was a place I had been waiting for. The idea of huge redwoods and rocky coasts excited me for the chance to see an untouched wild California coastline. I got exactly what I was looking for after hiking a few miles through redwood forest to get to some untouched beach. I immediately knew I was on the right path when the smell of salt became evident and the far off noise of water crashing began to engulf my senses. And then all of a sudden there it was below me, a wild California beach. Once I got down out of the hills and onto the beach I looked both north and south. I was so happy that I saw untouched land for miles in either direction. Huge boulders dotted the grayish beach and there was little much else except for the occasional long sharp antlers of a Roosevelt Elk sticking out of some tall grass. This was what I came to the Pacific coast for, to see what happens at the boundary of the North American plate and Pacific Plate.

Looking back at the hills and forests I hiked through to get to this Northern California beach

Looking back at the hills and forests I hiked through to get to this Northern California beach

Looking north on the first truly wild stretch of beach I encountered in California

Looking north on the first truly wild stretch of beach I encountered in California

Looking south on the first truly wild stretch of beach I encountered in California

Looking south on the first truly wild stretch of beach I encountered in California

Getting closer to the border of California/Oregon, the coastline slowly began to change

Getting closer to the border of California/Oregon, the coastline slowly began to change

With high spirits I continued north along the coast. Now before I crossed the California/Oregon border, my history with Oregon consisted of only a quick drive through the state at night only to see a whole lot of darkness and highway. So I saw Oregon under sunlight for the first time after leaving California one early morning. Immediately past the usual border town you find everywhere, the scenery began to change drastically. Beach after beach came at me, each with unique personalities. Also the road began to climb and drop at higher grades as the hills of California became the mountains of Oregon. Everything around me was changing. The rivers became wider and slowed down. The forests became wetter. The fog became thicker. All around me, I witnessed a new place I hadn’t seen before. This all occurred to me within the first 50 miles. After a quick hike and climb on a beach of Oregon, I decided to continue on to see how the rest of the state could ever compare. I decided to follow a road going upstream of the first major river I encountered. This turned out to be an excellent idea because what started as a very windy paved road soon became a dirt road, but not the dirt road you might think. This wasn’t like the dirt roads of Colorado or Montana where traveling on them in a Ford Focus would be a horrible idea. This was basically a network of manageable dirt roads spanning the Coast mountains. My focus had no problems and I found that only my level of ambition and common sense would be my limit in this state.

Every beach of Oregon held a unique personality unlike anywhere I'd been before

Every beach of Oregon held a unique personality unlike anywhere I’d been before

The rivers of the Coast mountains. An outdoorsman's paradise

The rivers of the Coast mountains. An outdoorsman’s paradise

By two in the afternoon I had come to a conclusion. I had pretty much 7 more days until I planned to tell myself to turn around and head southeast, but I realized I had nothing more to gain. I knew that 7 days would simply be spent becoming more and more frustrated that I would soon have to leave. All while becoming more and more interested by this new state. Oregon’s Pacific coast could not be summed up in a 7 day adventure. So I did what anyone would do in that situation, I immediately knew I’d be coming back. With this information in hand, my new daily goal was to go back to San Antonio and make that happen. As soon as I entered Oregon, I not only began to see new places but discovered new places within myself that I wanted. So I turned my path south and east by two in the afternoon, and began the journey home. (Passing through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas)

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Days 35-40: Washington to Texas to Colorado

Hello my loyal readers! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve published any posts, but my last 3 weeks have been anything but normal for me. I had to leave the traveling life for just a few weeks, and take a little detour down to San Antonio to attend to a close family member’s health issues. I basically got a call saying it was a good time to come home, and left right away for a 33 hour drive back to Texas. After two weeks of being around family and living back in San Antonio, I was chomping at the bit to get back out on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy I went home to see my family when I did. But after seeing so many incredible things along the road, things I would NEVER see in San Antonio; I decided it was time enough to head back out. So first stop of course for me had to be some insane snow covered mountains, the Colorado Rockies. I was fortunate to pass through Colorado on the very beginning of my trip, and got a chance at that point to see these incredible mountains. Now that it is November, snow and ice are definitely becoming a part of daily life in Colorado. Yesterday I got to travel over a mountain pass during an active snowstorm. For 17 miles I grinded my teeth, death gripped my steering wheel, and sat at the very edge of my seat as my little Focus slowly made it up and down over the mountainous pass. My little car made it though and brought a new meaning to the saying, slow and steady wins the race. My stops so far in Colorado have been a few national forests, a few state parks, and a few national parks. Yesterday was cool in that I got to see Pueblo cliff dwellings in the Mesa Verde National Park. I’ve always known about this cliff dwellings and even have had a chance to see something similar in Texas, but seeing these fortresses high in the mesas truly astounded me. In just the national park’s boundaries there were between 600-700 cliff dwelling structures. The whole mesa and canyons area was like an ancient community of hundreds of small (and sometimes very large) cliff dwelling villages making up a population of Pueblo Indians that would’ve numbered 20,000 plus. The other extremely interesting part is that these cliff dwellings were all built around 1100-1200 AD, well before any North American exploration. These are the native people to this North American landmass and seeing how they used to not only live, but thrive here almost a thousand years ago; was truly something remarkable. So without further ado, please enjoy some of my latest pictures. The first few were from Washington state right before I left, and the rest are from my time here in Colorado so far.

-Warren

P.S.: I got a new website! Check it out at http://www.warrenhylton.com to see my current gallery and this blog. Also sometime very soon, I will be opening my first online store for some of my prints on the same website!

Pictures from Days 35-40:

Where the Pacific meets Washington state.

Where the Pacific meets Washington state.

Unlike any other beaches I've ever seen before.

Unlike any other beaches I’ve ever seen before.

Another view of the Pacific coast beaches of Washington.

Another view of the Pacific coast beaches of Washington.

Sunset over Utah on the drive back to Texas.

Sunset over Utah on the drive back to Texas.

Mountain Creek in Colorado. Definitely plenty of snow and ice at night in this area.

Mountain Creek in Colorado. Definitely plenty of snow and ice at night in this area.

Rushing water in the Colorado Rockies.

Rushing water in the Colorado Rockies.

The creek bed was covered in an orange color showing some sort of mineral in the water.

The creek bed was covered in an orange color showing some sort of mineral in the water.

This creek winds throughout the mountains and around different trees.

This creek winds throughout the mountains and around different trees.

Beautiful forests in Colorado.

Beautiful forests in Colorado.

There's something special about these mountains out here in Colorado.

There’s something special about these mountains out here in Colorado.

Navajo Lake state park in CO. This lake goes from CO down south into New Mexico.

Navajo Lake state park in CO. This lake goes from CO down south into New Mexico.

3 different mountain ranges in southwest Colorado.

3 different mountain ranges in southwest Colorado.

A side view of a series of mesas and canyons. The cliff dwellings were found in these canyons.

A side view of a series of mesas and canyons. The cliff dwellings were found in these canyons.

One of the largest cliff dwellings. I believe this compound had 30+ rooms.

One of the largest cliff dwellings. I believe this compound had 30+ rooms.

The inhabitants of these cliff dwellings would live high in these canyons making for impenetrable fortresses.

The inhabitants of these cliff dwellings would live high in these canyons making for impenetrable fortresses.

Built in 1200AD. Truly remarkable use of land and resources to build a community.

Built in 1200AD. Truly remarkable use of land and resources to build a community.