In 2015, I read a book titled “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a fascinating book about her 1100 mile hike on Pacific crest trail. From Mojave Desert in California to Bridge of Gods in Washington, her journey takes us through forests, seashores and rugged landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.
It’s a book not just about hiking but more so of her self-discovery. Seeking self-healing and a way out of her grief stricken past, Cheryl sets out on this journey with little experience in hiking. And after a roller-coaster ride of few months, she finds her inner peace. This journey resets her perspective on life, humanity and everything.
I always believed that travel changes you, broadens your mind. But after this read, I was more curious about Pacific Northwest. A destination that’s life-altering for someone who desperately needed it, must be remarkable!
My chance came in December 2015. No matter how impressed I was by Cheryl’s book, I couldn’t go hiking for months in the wilderness, but a road trip through this region was a must! Although, I barely scratched the surface during my trip it was incredible.
Highway 101 is a stuff of dreams. Voted as one of the best drives in mainland USA, it doesn’t disappoint. Although we drove only a portion of it, I was smitten. We started our drive in Portland and drove to Bandon, taking in sights all along the way.
First stop was Cape Perpetua- a region full of interesting rock formations and geological features along the coast. Most famous is “Thor’s Well” also known as “Hell’s Gate”. Notorious naming seems common around here, as another rocky area nearby is known as “Devil’s Churn”.
Thor’s Well is a 20 feet sinkhole that’s continuously pounded by the incoming ocean waves, making it a spectacular site. It is theorized that it’s actually a sea-cave with a fallen roof. Water spews to the top as the well fills, and empties into its’ bottom as the waves recede. This relentless cycle continuous wave after wave. Since you can’t see the bottom of the well, this continuous motion of water almost gives an impression of it being bottomless.
Craggy basalt shore and raw ocean waves are a feature of this area. Sometimes intimidating, this ever changing nature of crashing waves is also therapeutic. I can see why Cheryl Strayed found her calling in this beautiful rugged region. We were here for an hour, and I was standing next to the well clicking shot after shot. What I like most about photographing ocean scenes is their shifting nature. Since no two waves are similar there are endless possibilities for an image.
After experiencing the raw power of Pacific, our next leg took us to relatively calmer waters of Bandon. Located in southern Oregon, Bandon’s coast is embellished by sea stacks and sea caves. There is a sea stack that looks like a witch’s hat and another striking one like a human head. You can spend countless hours just observing these features. Sea caves can be explored during low tide and I found it to be a truly enjoyable experience.
This was a rather short trip, and like I said we barely got glimpses. And yet, I was so impressed. I am easily attracted towards parts of Pacific Northwest that are wild and untethered. This year we took another trip to the less frequented Olympic National Park. And that made me fall in love with this region all over again.
First time I visited, I always knew I’d come back and I did. There is still so much left to do and I’ll find excuses to land up here. As wishful thinking goes, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the capacity to do month long hikes, but if I do it will be in the Pacific Northwest…
“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail