To go or not to go, Glacier awaits a couple states away. But Iím really close to the Olympic Rain Forest, and who can resist a trip to Whidbey Island and the ferry ride across to Port Townsend. So off I went only to find I couldnít get a ticket for the ferry so change of plans. Off to Anacortes in hopes of catching a whale boat. I have some great Humpbacks but no killer whales. In fact, aside from SeaWorld I hadnít even seen an Orca. It was mid-week and they had openings the next day so off I went to find a camp spot, a laundry and a shower. Itís worth noting that living like a turtle in my Van demands that I afford time for laundry and find facilities for showers as it is sometimes several days between stops at inns or motels. Both Oregon and Washington have wonderful State Parks and many of them are extremely user-friendly with most having showers and many having laundries. I always include a couple rolls of quarters next to my American Express Card when packing. I never leave home without Ďem. With all the rain though, I probably couldíve just walked around the block a few times in different clothes and proceeded directly to the dryers. Living in the Desert I imagine I really like the rain because I do enjoy it when it comes. The Pacific Northwest always seems to challenge that in me because after a couple days I begin to get stir crazy, realize just how miserable Ďwetí can be, and find myself muttering alright already, enough of this. But at least it wasnít too cold. Yet! That comes later in the trip. After all my complaining, when I get set in for the night, I do really enjoy the rain when Iím going to sleep. I like the noises it makes on the Van top and it feels peaceful and safe. Unless of course youíre in the Monsoons in Southern Arizona with 80 mph winds and lightning traversing the skies sideways just a few feet above you. But thatís another story.
The following day was still yucky but with a little less rain. Out on the bow of the boat I protected my cameras from the occasional sea splatter and intermittent rain with plastic bags. I also carry a black garbage bag folded in my pocket in case it gets a little too bad. My experiences have taught me that sea water and cameras just donít mix. I had to shoot a camera with my 357 once that had drowned. But today looked like a good day. We were off to hunt for Orcas. By dayís end we had seen a couple of distant but lazy humpbacks and I believe a blue whale and lottsa wet. But no Orcas. I left the harbor a little disappointed and called to see if I could get the last ferry to Port Townsend, but no luck again. Where are all these people going? Donít they know thereís a recession? I decided to turn around and see if there were openings to chase whales again the next day. I was in luck so the next day we were off again, out through the San Juanís on a course that would take us to somewhere near Victoria. This was a different day. We did see Orcas, kind of. All very distant but they were out there, until we tried to get close. When day was done and we were heading back, along comes a single Orca on a collision course with the boat. I couldnít believe it. After all this effort and no result, here comes this Orca swimming toward the boat, lifts his eyes just above the surface, looks me square in the face, and just as quickly dives under the craft. How exhilarating this was! But did I get the picture? I know I was snapping images but what did I get? Would they be in focus? This is one of the few times I was afraid to look. I normally donít fret about the ones that get away, because so many donít. But this was special, and I needed to prepare for the disappointment if I didnít catch a good image of this Orca. I knew I had a few distant images, but nothing I would be proud to show to anyone. As I bedded down for the night, I downloaded the dayís images into my laptop. To my surprise I had the perfect image as this whale was looking right into my eyes. It was at this time that I understood just what that moment was. The situation was me leaning over the edge of the boat, camera in my face, with a Killer Whale motoring right toward me. He could have had me for lunch, but instead dove safely under the boat. I wanted to see a Killer Whale up close and personal, but what was I thinking? In retrospect I imagine it was all pretty safe, but the reality of first seeing the sequence of images really got my attention. First I survived the bear, now this whale; I only hope to stay as lucky with grizzlies and moose.
I spent the next couple days dodging rain drops. I really wanted some updates in the Rain Forest. But it didnít seem to want to stop raining. So I came to the rain forest, and all it did was rain. Go figure. And after all I did to get here. You see, I am not a patient person. I am continually asked how long I had to wait to get a specific image. But thatís not what I do. Iím impatient and Iím an explorer. I am the consummate opportunist. I canít stay in one place for long, so if the image isnít there, onward I go. After a third ferry attempt failed, I was still on Whidbey Island and it was already dark. I proceeded to drive over to the mainland, south along I-5 past Seattle, down and around through Tacoma and then over to the Olympic Peninsula and headed back to north. A circuitous route, but eventually I came rolling into the campground at the Port Angeles Park entrance with an eye on sunrise at Hurricane Ridge. It was raining when I awoke around five, a good condition for something special. Years back I drove up out of the clouds for my first ever look at Rainier from Tipsoo Lake. I was treated to a splendid view of a magnificent mountain reaching thru the clouds to the sky above. Two years later, I had a similar experience at Hurricane Ridge. I felt on top of the world as I discovered the Olympic Mountains penetrating upward from a layer of clouds. You think to yourself of your first plane ride as a child thinking ďSo this is what they look like from the other sideĒ. No such luck this year. The cover was gloomy and uninteresting and first sun was harsh and blinding. Perhaps it was my lack of sleep, or maybe my first taste of bitter cold, but it seemed nothing was there. I advanced down the mountain slowly, looking for wildlife, but nothing was close, just a few grazing deer on distant slopes. Back in the rain, I returned to the campground in need of additional sleep.
The next two days were those referenced dodging raindrops. Around the peninsula and in and out of the park, up and down the river roads, and a couple ventures to waterís edge and the Pacific Ocean. I finally headed south and then east in hopes of finding sunshine at Rainier the next day. Some things are just not meant to be, so east I headed with Colfax as my next destination. A covered bridge of particular interest waits, and perhaps I can get out of this weather. Eastern Washington, off the slopes of the Cascades offers up another menu of visual delights for most photographers. Old barns are abundant. And after all, think of all the photographers youíve known as youíve developed your technical skills. It seems all of them have that obligatory ďOld Barn shotĒ that falls somewhere in their portfolio after the dead tree. Weíre supposed to have one of those too, right? I make jokes about it, but I do love the old barns, and the covered bridges, and Iíve even photographed a dead tree or two. But living in the desert itís more apt to be a saguaro skeleton. Washington has some wonderful barns, both old and new, as does Idaho and Montana so this would be a good place to ďbrake for barnsĒ.