Exploring the Pacific Northwest

This past semester, I was lucky to be able to take the travel photography class taught by Brooks Institute instructor, Ralph Clevenger. As a culmination of our semester of learning, we had to travel to a destination of our choosing and were urged to get outside of the Southern California region.

When I was first thinking about where I wanted to go, I was inundated with grandiose ideas like the Big Island of Hawaii, Cuba, or countless other travel destinations that I have not yet had the privilege of visiting. However, the more I thought about it, the more I started to think that it would be fun to take a road trip and explore the coastline in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

I was born and raised on the beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia, but I had never really explored much of Oregon, and had only been North of San Francisco in California once. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore more of the Pacific Northwest, which holds a special place in my heart. So as July was winding to a close, I packed my camera and camping gear inside my old Honda Accord, and headed North on the 101 with Kate, my roommate and good friend.

We made a beeline for Crescent City, the northernmost town on the California Coast. After 13 long, beautiful hours of driving, we arrived and settled into a campsite in the redwood forests just north of Crescent City. Going to sleep under the towering redwood trees was really special for me. For the first time in a long time, I really felt at home, despite being in a place I had never been before. The sounds, smells, and sights of the forests of the Pacific Northwest are like nothing else in this world. I slept better than I had in months despite being in a tiny tent on a lousy piece of foam.

Over the next few days, this sense of relaxation and peace continued to grow as we explored the region further, and discovered some incredible beauty. Within a 45-minute radius of our campsite, we were able to explore two different ecosystems and environments. On the California side we were treated to the redwood groves of Jedediah Smith State Park. It was in this park that we were able to find the “Grove of the Titans,” a grove of the biggest redwoods in the world whose location is kept secret by the state park management to avoid excessive visitation to limit root damage.

To the Oregon side of the border we were equally amazed by the raw beauty of the natural coastline, especially in Samuel H. Boardman State Park. Big sea stacks and remarkable natural bridges dotted the rugged coastline, almost perfectly hiding coves of white sand beaches. It takes a lot of exploration and steep climbing to get down to some of the more secluded beaches, but it was well worth the effort as we were able to find some amazing spots to spend the afternoons and nights.

By the time we got back to Santa Barbara, we were thoroughly exhausted physically, having climbed, hiked, and explored for five straight days, but I was as mentally refreshed as I have ever been. A couple weeks later, I still find myself day dreaming of the smell of the fog rolling through the redwood forests and the sounds of the raw pacific waves smashing into the rocky shoreline. This trip gave me a fresh look toward my corner of the world, and has me inspired to discover even more of the beautiful corner of North America. I have traveled to numerous tropical destinations on four different continents, but I am finally starting to realize that the most beautiful place I have ever been is home on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Check out www.johnkelseyphotography.com to see more of my work.