Washington - The Evergreen State

23rd Jun 2017

Unplanned, exploratory, Solo, self-driving Adventure in an unknown land.

Washington State is known for deep temperate rainforests in the west, mountain ranges in the west, central, northeast and far southeast, and a semi-arid basin region in the east, central, and south, given over to intensive agriculture. On the north west side you can find the Puget Sound region of the Salish Sea, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean consisting of numerous islands, deep fjords, and bays carved out by glaciers.

So plan was to start with clicking images of Bald Eagles, then head towards mountains to click some landscapes, mammals and finally end with a boat ride to see ocean birds and Orca Whales.

Photo of Washington - The Evergreen State 1/1 by Hymakar
Day 1

Started from Riyadh at 00:00 AM and reached SEATAC by 11.45 AM.

Immigration as usual it took more than 90 mins. USA immigration very slow and not so super-efficient, their systems take a pretty long time to scan and read the passports.

As I got out of the Airport there was a shuttle to Rental car pick up area. I reached Alamo counter and it was like in next 10 mins I registered for additional insurance and the car was handed over. Everything looked very well organized.

Drove from Airport to Redmond area to my cousin’s place, took rest that day there.

Day 2

I left at around 5 AM from Redmond and reached Baymont Inn in Bremerton by around 6.45AM. After a quick breakfast, we drove to Seabeck Area. We stopped near bridge. As I did not have time to unpack the whole gear I had to settle for Canon 7D MII Body. I climbed down few rocks to get under the bridge and waited for the Canadian Geese to swim by. Later we moved to the beach side and waited for the low tide and water to recede. Till the time water has receded there was no activity, once the water receded we saw lot of Great Blue Herons and Gloucas Winged Gulls coming and fishing. Fishes get stuck to in soft sand and sharp rocks which makes it easy for these birds to fish. A few minutes later the action of Bald Eagles started and the show was on 2-3 hrs It was amazing to click these eagles flying in the back drop of snowcapped Olympic Mountains.

At 2 PM Nate drove me to a farm house on the country side with song bird feeding stations. We have clicked images of few song birds for some time, highlight of the afternoon was the show which a Pileated woodpecker gave us.

Bald Eagles Fishing

Photo of Bremerton, WA, United States by Hymakar

Canadian Geese

Photo of Bremerton, WA, United States by Hymakar

Pileated Woodpecker

Photo of Bremerton, WA, United States by Hymakar

Great Blue Heron with a fish

Photo of Bremerton, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 3

Morning Nate took me to Holly area where we have clicked images of Red-Naped Sapsucker and beautiful purple martins. After a bit of adventure in capturing images of purple martins in flight. We had reached Seabeck area just at the right time. We had a great action of Bald Eagles with fishes.

After Seabeck, I was on my own from now on. I turned on my GPS and headed towards Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Rainier’s peak is almost 14.5k Ft ASL. You can see Mount Rainier anywhere from Seattle and Tacoma areas. You just cannot miss it, for first few days it keeps distracting you while driving. Be very careful during sunrise and sunset times, the colours change by every second it is magical and you will be forced to stop and watch the scene.

It was a 2.5 hr drive after crossing Tacoma the highway was without dividers with amazing scenic beauty.

I had reached Paradise inn by around 4PM, which is a large hotel with small rooms at an altitude of around 10K Ft ASL. It was super-hot on the day I had arrived it felt like temperature must be around 30 Deg C. At around 5 PM I had visited the Visitor information centre to understand how to plan my next 2 days.

That evening I did not have energy to do any hiking. I was informed that there could be some marmot babies near Myrtle Falls. So I gathered some energy to see the babies, while many discouraged me that it was risky hike in the snow and in the end I might not find anything.

I took my chances, it was not very far but was risky due to snow and steep slope on one side of the trail. After I got to the falls, (It was barely a waterfall) I found a patch of dried grass in the snow. After clicking few landscapes near the fall, I saw something moving on the grass patch. There were two marmot babies and they were right in front of the Mount Rainier. With my wide angle got a bit closer to them and captured images of them with Mount Rainier in the backdrop.

That day ended with Eagles, long drive and hiking.

Red- Naped Sapsucker

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Juv Bal Eagles fight and loose the fish

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Mount Rainier on the way to Myrtle Falls

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 4

Previous day when I met a ranger I told him that I wanted to do a star-trail images and time-lapse with Mount Rainier as the subject. He suggested that I should go to Reflection lake at around 2 AM. I woke up at 2 AM and the sky was filled with clouds. I dropped the idea and went back to sleep. At around 5 AM I woke up, it was already bright outside. I started driving to Reflection lake, as I took the turn and drove 100 mtrs I found marmot babies on the road and adults on the rocks playing. I had a great time clicking their images for 15-20 mins and then headed to Reflection lake.

I saw a vehicle parked near a pull over area and followed a person taking pictures there, assuming he must be an expert in that area. I did not get a proper opening to click Mount Rainier reflection. I kept wondering is this best place, I walked down the footpath and found there was proper parking area and there was wide opening to click some lovely images.

I mounted my 16-35 on Canon 7D and left it for a timelapse. My remote for 1DX stopped cooperating hence had to depend on the 7D inbuilt timelapse function. Lake was filled with snow and there were few small patches of clear water and I got my shots of reflection.

Returned to Paradise Inn for breakfast, After breakfast got a bit of guidance from the ranger, first I took off to Narada falls. Ranger is a very nice and friendly person, he seems to have travelled a lot in India, he says Narada falls must have been named by an Indian, referring to Narad muni.

It was steep climb down to the viewing spot, I chose to go further down the slushy trail and luckily I landed at a spot where I could get my dream shots of water falls.

After Narada Falls I drove in the direction of Steven’s Canyon. First I stopped at upper sunbeam falls, it was cool to click the waterfalls all around, Stopped by the road to click Louise lake with backdrop of Mount Rainier. After a 10 mins drive saw a board for Snow lake and stopped there to hike.

Snow lake Trail started off very smoothly with cemented steps after climbing like 100 steps then the trail was completely in snow, I kept pushing myself and reached a plateau, I thought of giving up mid-way, it wasn’t easy carrying a heavy tripod and multiple bodies and lenses. I am glad I pursued when I got to the plateau what I saw was mind-blowing, there were around 8 Waterfalls one next to the other across the mountain, I clicked images to my heart’s content and hiked till bench lake. I met few hikers on the way and they had informed me it was impossible to get to snow lake as the trail was not clear and there was lot of snow. I had to return to the car and it was almost noon.

I had a choice to head back for lunch or move ahead on Steven’s Canyon road. I thought it would not make sense to drive all the way back and forth so I moved forward.

I was super tired. I had stopped at the bridge over Steven’s creek to click waterfalls and the stream after which I had driven towards Box Canyon.

On the way to Box canyon I stopped over at the parking of Maple Creek and Maple Falls. As I saw falls I got excited and started on the Wonderland trail. It was very very steep and I got to a point I had to decide whether to hike towards Box Canyon on towards Maple falls. I chose to hike towards Maple falls, I was all alone did not see a soul around kept following the trail and I reached Maple Creek. Clicked some images at Maple Creek and headed towards Maple falls. I walked almost 3.5 miles and there was no sight of any falls. I was very tired and dehydrated. I walked back to parking.

After the 7 miles hiking with steep ascent and dissent I did not have any energy left for further hikes, I retuned back to Paradise Inn by evening , had dinner and slept like a log.

Marmots Fighting

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Mount Rainier

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Narada Falls

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Snow Lake

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Stevens Creek

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Maples Creek

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 5

Morning I wanted to go to Reflection Lake again. As I was heading to the reflection lake I stopped at the Inspiration point, the sun was just coming up and lightning up the mountain across the road. I stopped there and clicked some landscapes also did a timelapse. After one hour, I headed towards reflection lake, to my surprise reflection lake was filling with ice and there was barely any reflection.

After breakfast, I started driving towards Redmond to my cousins place, I had few stops at the huge bridge over Nisqually River and Nahunta Falls.

I had reached Redmond by around 2 PM. Had lunch, took some rest and drove to Snoqualmie Falls along with my Cousin’s family. Clicked some long exposure shots there and returned to Redmond. At around 10 AM I left Redmond and drove to Sequim.

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar

Mount Rainier

Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar
Photo of Mount Rainier, Pierce County, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 6

I had arrived at Sequim by around 00.45 and checked into Quality Inn hotel. From here on Ken Archer was going to lead the trip from next two days. I met Ken in the morning at around 5.30 AM, we were supposed to have left the hotel by 4.30 AM, but I was too tired with lot of driving previous day. Had a quick breakfast and we were off to Olympic National Park looking for Bears.

We reached Hurricane Ridge Visitor Centre and drove on an off road track for few miles. We started hiking up the mountain looking for bears, Ken explained about the Olympic National Park, his encounters with Bears and his experiences clicking images in this park for last 20 years. He also won the Nature’s Beast award for one the landscape images clicked in this park. After a long hike, we found some marmots playing and some deers. We had a great time clicking images of the Marmots. By around noon we hiked back and reached hotel for lunch and some rest.

In the afternoon, we again went to the Hurricane Ridge visitor Centre, as we got there we started seeing lot of cloud movement, I thought it would be a great idea to make time lapse there. After time lapse session we started hiking towards hurricane hill looking for bears it was a moderately steep hike but a long one. After a half km hike we were told there was a bear on the other hill, we got there and got some shots with extenders on, so that was my only sighting of a bear. We hiked all the way up to the peak of the hill waited till sunset and clicked some wonderful images of Black tailed deers in golden light. We clicked some sunset images and hiked back by around 10.30 to Visitor center.

Black Tailed Deers

Photo of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles, WA, United States by Hymakar

Olympic National Park

Photo of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles, WA, United States by Hymakar
Photo of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles, WA, United States by Hymakar

Olympic National Park

Photo of Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 7

Like previous day we met at around 5.30 AM and drove to Sol Duc river. We looked around wherever there was a chance to see Bears, there was no luck so we went on a trail to click some landscape images and waterfall images. By lunch time we were back and had lunch at Black Bear Diner a must visit place. After lunch Ken had left for Tacoma and he suggested I should go to Ruby beach it was a 2 hrs drive would be amazing to click sunset images. I overslept and woke up at around 7 PM. I drove as fast as I could and got there by around 9.30 PM. Sunset was just calling off the day and sinking into the sea, I had quickly set up my tripod and started timelapse and on the other camera clicked some sunset images.

Left Ruby beach at around 10.30 and reached hotel by 1 AM.

Sol Duc

Photo of Ruby Beach, Forks, WA, United States by Hymakar

Sol Duc

Photo of Ruby Beach, Forks, WA, United States by Hymakar


Photo of Ruby Beach, Forks, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 8

One of the eventful days of my trip.

Nate has arranged a boat trip near John Wayne Marina, Charles who is the captain of the boat was an expert in birding in that area. Plan was to see Rhinoceros Auklets, Tufted Puffins and various other birds.

John Wayne Marina is very close to Sequim, this area was owned by John Wayne and he donated this land to be converted into a Marina.

I had reached Marina by 6.45 AM and we were off for our birding by 7.15 AM. Weather was not so great fog was dense and visibility was low. Charles was confident that fog is going to clear and we can pursue. We had sailed around the protection island, we could not get closer than 200 yards as it is a Protected Sanctuary. We saw Auklets and Guillemots on the way to the island. After getting there we saw few hundred gulls and few Bald Eagles. As the fog was not clearing as expected I could not shoot many images. At about 9 AM fog started clearing and we saw Stellar Sea Lion, Bald Eagles feasting on harbor seal calf, around 50-60 harbor seals, Elephant Seal Pair, few birds Charles himself has seen for the first time, Oyster Catchers and few close encounters with Tufted Puffins. By around 10.45 AM we were back at the dock.

By noon I had checked out and was supposed to go for a Boating trip to see Whales. I typed Pujet Sound on GPS and started driving and I realized after 1 hour drive I was driving back to Seattle. I got stuck on Hood Canal bridge, this bridge is opened when Navy Vessels move into the Pujet Sound Area. Once the bridge is opened then the bridge gets closed after some time ranging from 30 mins to 3 hours. I was sure I am going to miss my afternoon boat trip. I called the boating company office to see if they can accommodate if I was late by few minutes and asked me to call when I reach Port Townsend. I checked my GPS I was driving away from Port Townsend. Then I checked the mails, so the boating company name is Pujet Sound Express which has office in Port Townsend and Pujet Sound is a place near Seattle. I was booked at a hotel called Old Alcohol Plant Inn. I turned back and reached hotel by around 4 PM.

That evening I drove to Port Townsend and clicked images of the old historic town. There is an old antique boat docked which was used in those days to intercept Pirates boats / ships.

Photo of Port Townsend, WA, United States by Hymakar

Rhinoceros Auklet

Photo of Port Townsend, WA, United States by Hymakar
Photo of Port Townsend, WA, United States by Hymakar
Photo of Port Townsend, WA, United States by Hymakar


Photo of Port Townsend, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 9

I was booked on two boat rides to see whales one on 30th afternoon and other a full day one on 1st July. I reached the correct office this time, at around 9.15 AM they had announced that weather was bad and have to cancel the trip. Later they gave an option of going for a half day trip towards south to see humpback whales. I chose the option as I did not have much of a choice. Boat ride was not very bumpy but there was lot of fog and air was very chill. After 2 hrs of sailing we saw a humpback whale, though not so great images but for record I saw my first humpback whale. As two plans were merged the boat was full and I was sitting next to the captain.

In the mean while I explained whole story to Nate and Nate spoke with Boating Company office and arranged an afternoon trip as well. So, I stayed back on the boat, they had arranged an amazing vegetable sandwich for lunch. Afternoon as the weather was relatively better we headed towards Friday Harbor to see Orca Whales. Our Captain took the boat at a jet speed to get to Friday harbor in time, it took 2 hours for us to get there, on the way we saw a Minke whale.

We got to Orca Islands and saw 4 Orca Whales there, captured few good images and we had to turn back as the weather was turning bad. On the way back we encountered 12 ft+ waves rocking the boat. It was quite and adventure. Staff of Pujet Sound Express are experts and they knew what they were doing. They got us safely to the dock in time.

I packed all my stuff and drove back to Mariott SEATAC Hotel.

Train, Town and

Photo of Friday Harbor, WA, United States by Hymakar

Orca Whale mother and calves

Photo of Friday Harbor, WA, United States by Hymakar

Orca Whale

Photo of Friday Harbor, WA, United States by Hymakar
Day 10

Checked out from Mariott. Returned the Car, and headed back to Riyadh.

Few Suggestions :

If you happen to Visit Sequim and you are a bird lover and like to watch seals dont miss out on chartering Capt. Charles Martin's boat... he is an expert and i was pretty happy with the images i got....info@thewaterlimousine.com is his email address

If you happen to go that far, then dont miss out on the Pujet Sound Express Boat trip looking for whales.Take it from me you will not be disappointed.

My recommendation is don't do just a day trip to Mount Rainier if you happen to visit Seattle, stay in Paradise Inn, hike few wonderful trails, See the water falls and creeks, Drive on Stevens Canyon Road etc.... there is so much to see i wish i had spent more days there.

All hotels i stayed were amazing, staff were pretty cool and helpful

- Baymont Inn & Suites, Bremerton

- Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier

- Quality Inn & Suites, Sequim

-Old Alcohol Plant Inn, Port Hadlock

-Mariott Seattle Airport.

I had rented car from Alamo through Rental Cars.com... Alamo Service was top class.....i chose Nissan Pathfinder an amazing car to drive.

Gear used : Canon 1DX, Canon 7D MII, Canon 500mm F/4.0 ISII, Canon16-35mm F/2.8, Canon 24-105mm,Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 ISII, Canon 100mm F/2.8 Macro, Jobi desgin gimball head, Gitzo tripod, Manfrotto Ball head,  Joby Gorilla pod (very handy), Hoya ND Filters, Gopro action camera

Airline : Lufthansa -  Great service.