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 44-45: Colorado to Wyoming to Idaho

Hello from beautiful Idaho Falls! So after spending some time enjoying the mountains of Colorado, I decided it was time to move on to somewhere new. It just so happens that right now my family in Idaho is in the process of building a custom home for themselves, so I figured now would be a great time to come visit and check something new out. Back in September when I hit the road, I knew I wanted to see many new wonders of nature; but I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to see so much of the wonder of humanity. My journey has taken me to not only beautiful places, but across some beautiful people as well. The people I meet along the road all walk different ways of lives. From an outdoors-man who is more comfortable in a thick forest than a thick corporate jungle, to an older recently divorced gentleman trying to find his way back through life; the people and stories I get to meet along the road define my adventures just as much as the nature around me. Being able to see all these different outlets of humanity is something I’ve enjoyed almost as much as the changing nature. There’s just so much out there in this world to see, whether it be natural or a product of humanity. So for the next week, I’ll be exploring a few different areas in Idaho as well as spending some quality time with my family here. Idaho is another one of the many underrated states as far as natural beauty goes, and I hope to capture some of what makes this state so special over the next week. Stay tuned for updates on the blog, as I explore new areas that very few people would make a trip to come see.

-Warren

Pictures from Days 44-45:

There's something about the Grand Tetons that keeps calling me back. Third time I've been fortunate enough to see these goliaths in person.

There’s something about the Grand Tetons that keeps calling me back. Third time I’ve been fortunate enough to see these goliaths in person.

Dare to explore the road less traveled. You'll never know what lies at the end until you reach the end.

Dare to explore the road less traveled. You’ll never know what lies at the end until you reach the end.

Looking back at the Colorado Rockies from the Wyoming/CO state line.

Looking back at the Colorado Rockies from the Wyoming/CO state line.

You don't need an over the top 4x4 brand new vehicle to see this country's beautiful places. You just need desire and a plan.

You don’t need an over the top 4×4 brand new vehicle to see this country’s beautiful places. You just need desire and a plan.

More of the Rockies of Colorado.

More of the Rockies of Colorado.

Brooks Lake WY.

Brooks Lake WY.

Incredible rock formations and mountains around the greater Yellowstone area.

Incredible rock formations and mountains around the greater Yellowstone area.

Grand Teton, WY.

Grand Teton, WY.

A closer view of Grand Teton. Such an impressive mountain range.

A closer view of Grand Teton. Such an impressive mountain range.

After seeing many new mountain ranges in the U.S., the Tetons still top my list.

After seeing many new mountain ranges in the U.S., the Tetons still top my list.

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.

Days 33-34: Pacific Cascades

Hello from Washington! Since my last post, I’ve been able to spend a few more days enjoying these Cascade Mountains, but have moved out of the North Cascades area and more in to the central part of Washington’s cascade range. Make no mistake though, there’s still plenty of lush forests and never ending mountains where I’m at now. The last few days have also seen an increase in weather activity. These incoming storms have made for some real interesting nights in the woods when the winds really picked up. The sounds of the wind were whipping through tree tops so quickly and in such a chaotic sounding manner that at points it was impossible to not feel surrounded by a tornado passing through the forests. I’m not sure there is anywhere else in the world where these noises could be replicated other than a different deep, mountainous forest. But that makes me very happy, as I’ll still be spending some more time in these mountains exploring those peculiar moments of noise.

Pictures from Days 33-34:

These mountains are known as the "Alps of America"

These mountains are known as the “Alps of America”

Diablo Lake. Another dam made lake in Washington state.

Diablo Lake. Another dam made lake in Washington state.

I enjoy playing with the mountains' reflections in the reservoirs.

I enjoy playing with the mountains’ reflections in the reservoirs.

View of Ross Dam, one of the dams in the cascade mountains.

View of Ross Dam, one of the dams in the cascade mountains.

Got to be one of the coolest looking dams I've seen before.

Got to be one of the coolest looking dams I’ve seen before.

Highway 20 climbing up to Washington Pass.

Highway 20 climbing up to Washington Pass.

View of a creek meeting a reservoir from very high up.

View of a creek meeting a reservoir from very high up.

The river banks in these forests are all beautiful and covered in a multitude of plants and trees. These riverbanks go on like this for miles.

The river banks in these forests are all beautiful and covered in a multitude of plants and trees. These riverbanks go on like this for miles.

Eventually these trees will be carried away down the mighty river behind them. It's only a matter of time.

Eventually these trees will be carried away down the mighty river behind them. It’s only a matter of time.

Sometimes the forest breaks it's dense underbelly and exposes a moment like this.

Sometimes the forest breaks it’s dense underbelly and exposes a moment like this.

Changing seasons in the Cascades.

Changing seasons in the Cascades.

Days 25-30: Washington

Well it’s been over a month now since I left Texas and thinking back to the places I’ve been these last 30 days is starting to become quite unbelievable for me. I’ve made it from the deep south central part of the country all the way to the far Northwest reaches so far. I’ve seen 7 beautiful states and have stayed in more incredible places than I could have ever imagined in such a short amount of time. My trip so far has taken me a very far way and through many different environments. It’s now during these last few days of my trip, that I’ve made it to an absolutely stunning environment where I find myself spending my days running through the Pacific Cascades Mountains. What a beautiful place this is. John Muir, the famed naturalist, once said “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” I couldn’t agree more after staying in these forest wilderness’ here in the evergreen state. These woods and mountains are just so endless and limitless in their natural wonder. Here in this special environment; creeks begin flowing from mountain top glaciers, crash and fall down steep rocky waterfalls, and continue downward into an organized maze of wide rivers spread throughout the valleys, only to be interrupted by the occasional green lush meadow or patch of lost forest trees. The mountain peaks and covering forests themselves are an endless sea of jagged points and ridges as far as the eye can see. Within that entire ocean of peaks and woods, lay hundreds of glaciers, each starting this natural journey of water from mountain top to ocean below. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to be staying. The sheer power of mother nature and time are evident everywhere around me. I’ll be spending the next few days exploring more into this unforgettable part of the country, hoping to see more of not just nature but the power of time itself. And finally to answer the age old question of, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around, does it make a noise?” Yes, the tree makes quite a loud noise. Then that loud noise causes a wide variety of noises all around to arise as the living forest and living animals of the forest react to such a monumental symphony of noises. I’d say that the natural Universe couldn’t be any more clear in a place like this.

Pictures from Days 25-30:

 

This is a part of the country that is beautiful beyond what words can describe.

This is a part of the country that is beautiful beyond what words can describe.

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Nature at work.

Sunset over Lake Roosevelt.

Sunset over Lake Roosevelt.

There are two forces at play in these woods, water and time.

There are two forces at play in these woods, water and time.

Washington Pass

Washington Pass

Glaciers to creeks.

Glaciers to creeks.

4AM in the morning, the sun light is barely beginning to make it's appearance.

4AM in the morning, the sun light is barely beginning to make it’s appearance.

More stars in the woods.

More stars in the woods.

This photo was taken at night, the sky is being illuminated by the moon.

This photo was taken at night, the sky is being illuminated by the moon.

Reflections of forested mountains.

Reflections of forested mountains.

At the base of the valleys, you'll find this.

At the base of the valleys, you’ll find this.

Sunset over Lake Roosevelt.

Sunset over Lake Roosevelt.

In forests like this, very green plants grow on just normal green plants.

In forests like this, very green plants grow on just normal green plants.

View of the valley floor river from high above.

View of the valley floor river from high above.

Days 21-24: Montana to Washington

Well I’ve finally made it to the Pacific Northwest. I drove from the Bitterroot Valley of Montana into Northeast Washington state yesterday and am really finding the evergreen state to be extremely interesting. The Bitterroot Valley was an incredible place where the word “big” met the word “beauty” and a valley in Montana was created. The last day I spent in the valley began with the clouds finally breaking enough for me to see the valley floor covered in homes, towns, and farms. Unfortunately, the mountain tops continued to remain just out of sight hiding in the low clouds. But the message the valley gave off was the same, peaks or not, beauty. I definitely see myself making a return trip to this special part of the country in the future. The mountains and valleys of the Montana/Idaho border were just begging for more exploration. But due to the ruggedness and remoteness of some of these parts of the mountains, I determined spring and summer were the best time of the year to truly get lost in this wilderness. I can’t wait for the day that I get to come back and spend weeks if not months exploring the hundreds of valleys and creeks in this area. Washington state has been incredibly interesting in that the Bitterroot Valley I fell in love with in Montana was directly responsible for the land I’m staying in now. The Northeast of Washington has always been dominated by the mighty Columbia River and during the last ice age 12,000 years ago, the lake that originally carved out the Bitterroot Valley broke free and flooded down the mountains through the Idaho panhandle and into the Columbia River in NE Washington. Where I’m staying at now is in that ancient flood path. The river has been dammed since then, and now there is Lake Roosevelt in the once deep carved out Columbia River valley. This story of ancient flood waters shaping the modern day landscape of the Northwest has been incredibly interesting to follow along and see firsthand. The Earth is an interesting place with an even more fascinating history. How easy it is to forget that we see mountains, valleys, and rivers today because of events that took places over hundreds of years, thousands of years ago.

-Warren

Pictures from Days 21-24:

Saying goodbye to this special valley for now. Imagine this going on for a hundred miles to get an idea of how massive this place is

Saying goodbye to this special valley for now. Imagine this going on for a hundred miles to get an idea of how massive this place is

Watching ducks swim and fly around Lake Roosevelt

Watching ducks swim and fly around Lake Roosevelt

Where I've been sleeping, with peacocks and apple trees in the middle of a forest of pines. Oh there's a lake too

Where I’ve been sleeping, with peacocks and apple trees in the middle of a forest of pines. Oh there’s a lake too

Cloud watching here could be a full time job

Cloud watching here could be a full time job

Where the forest meets the beach

Where the forest meets the beach

A truly special place

A truly special place

Good morning world

Good morning world

Ducks flying across the lake

Ducks flying across the lake

Flowers growing out of the water

Flowers growing out of the water

Cool underwater patterns in the sand

Cool underwater patterns in the sand

A true thinking chair

A true thinking chair

Days 19-20: Montana Cont.

WOW! I believe I’ve said that word out loud at least a thousand times in the past two days all while smiling ear to ear the entire time. I spent a day crossing mountain ranges within Montana, and am now in the Bitterroot Valley for the next few days. This whole valley has really blown me away with the beauty of it’s dense forests and jagged mountains. I just can’t get enough of this place right now. I’ve felt solitude before, but the kind of peace and solitude you feel in a place like this makes everywhere else you’ve been before seem busy and distracting. In the deep forests of this valley, thoughts are your only companion and the beauty of the surrounding nature puts an intoxicating spell on you that makes you just want to sit back and listen. Just like my past campsite, the one I’m staying in now is right up against the border of a National Wilderness and going exploring in there has been an absolute treat. As soon as I cross the border from National Forest to Wilderness, the scenery immediately changes. The trails begin to narrow to the point where sometimes it’s best to traverse them sideways. The landscape of the forests get even more dense with plants, rocks, and everything else natural you could imagine. The forest grounds begin to be completely covered with moss and small plants that I have never seen before anywhere else. There is definitely something special about a place like this and it’s impossible to spend more than 5 minutes here and not realize this. Unfortunately for me and my photos, the weather has been throwing some cloudy days my way. The jagged peaks are always going in and out of hiding in the clouds as the day goes by. But with a place this beautiful and majestic, I don’t mind waiting for some better weather to truly see what’s right in front of me. I can only see bits and parts, here and there as the weather allows; but I know that this place can be so much more with just a little less clouds. So I’ll be spending the next few days staying put right here; all while taking in the fearsome peaks, dense forests, and incredible feelings that a place like this will give you.

-Warren

Pictures from Days 19-20:

I'll be living in the base of this valley for the next few days. What a home

I’ll be living in the base of this valley for the next few days. What a home

Deep in Montana

Deep in Montana

A step back in time in Montana

A step back in time in Montana

These landscapes never get old

These landscapes never get old

Low clouds IN the mountains

Low clouds IN the mountains

Watching beavers swim around this lake was a great way to spend the afternoon

Watching beavers swim around this lake was a great way to spend the afternoon

Now this is a campsite

Now this is a campsite

Shadows of the forest covering the trail

Shadows of the forest covering the trail

Visibility in these woods is probably less than 100 feet

Visibility in these woods is probably less than 100 feet

I see why it's called Boulder creek

I see why it’s called Boulder creek

Little waterfalls in the middle of the wilderness

Little waterfalls in the middle of the wilderness