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Travelogue 07: Canon Beach, San Juan Islands, Vancouver, Okanagan, Banff, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake

August, 2018

Banff almost ruined RMNP for us.

We knew it’d be epic, but didn’t expect it to be this epic. Dramatic jagged peaks, brilliant turquoise lakes, towering glaciers… with so much wild beauty in such close proximity, it almost makes Rocky Mountain look tame.

As usual, our trip to Banff had many stops along the way. First up:

Bend, OR and Tumalo Falls

Our first stop was Bend – it was calling to me, and I’m not sure why. Something about seeing a smaller town in a state I love? It was charming, and we had delicious vegan burgers and a shake first off.

We decided to check out Tumalo Falls, really just wanting to see any waterfall, and it was really nice just taking a relaxing hike up to it. We took a smaller path leading down to it and behind it, and glad we did. The view above the falls offered a neat vantage point overlooking the river.

At midday we decided to beat the heat by walking around in some underground lava tubes. Nothing arduous or too epic (they’re just like stone tunnels that are very walkable), but the way they were formed and the fact that they travel a good deal underground is pretty cool.

Portland

After the tubes, we made a brief stop in Portland to catch a sunset and eat some dinner on a lake shore. Jet skis, beautiful light, families picnicking, toes in the sand… loved it.

Canon Beach

Exploring the tide pools at Canon Beach was simply some of the most fun we’ve ever had on a road trip, and a top experience ever.

We just split up and kinda wandered around, checking out starfish and crabs, and watching birds, and checking out mussels and little fish. We were kids again, for two or three hours. And we saw Puffins!

The town itself was sleepy (early morning), and the coffee shop we stopped into cozy.

A foggy, nearly-rainy morning on this beach is not something to be missed.

Astoria and Westport, WA

We have no photos from the day we spent between Canon Beach and the San Juan Islands, between the small towns of Astoria and Westport and that’s just fine by me. Sometimes you just gotta live it.

A rainy day, starting with coffee, a few games of cards, and a quick bite in the gorgeous sea-side town of Astoria.

Now, we normally sleep in our RAV4 on road trips (saves money, great for catching sunrises at cool spots), but when we get a little weary (or just really want to be in a fucking hot tub), we’ll snag an Airbnb along the way.

That’s what we did in Westport, a place that is nowhere near as fancy as it may sound.

We stayed in an adorable tiny house (“cottage”) right on a working port. We could literally see crews readying fishing boats from our window. And harbor seals playing in the water.

The place came with two robes which we naturally wore the whole time, and I cooked Jess a pasta dinner paired with wine and a whirlpool overlooking the docks. Our idea of romantic!

San Juan Islands

Just a beautiful archipelago.

Jess had planned for us to go sailing, and we splurged a bit by chartering a diesel-electric hybrid sailboat for a tour. Our captain was super cool, obviously knew it his stuff inside and out, and was great to chat with. Super knowledgeable about the surrounding areas as well.

In between conversations, Jess and I would hang out up front in the net canopies, watching the water pass by quickly beneath us as the ocean air kept us plenty cool.

First time on a sailboat, and it was a blast for sure.

Vancouver

What an awesome city!

It’s huge, with tons of parks, character, diverse cultures, and visitors from all over. Folks are friendly.

We wanted to meet up with one of Jess’ old friends, part of the reason we made a stop in the area.

Coffee, wandering downtown areas, exploring neighborhoods and parks and finding great vegan food… you think this stuff would get old, but it hasn’t yet.

Would love to return and see more.

Okanagan

The other reason we were in this area was to photograph a friend’s joint birthday party, a special 30th (for her) and a 60th (for her dad), at their home in the Okanagan Valley.

If you’re unfamiliar with it: it’s an enormous, winding lake valley flanked by hundreds of vineyards. It’s basically the Napa Valley of Canada, and it’s absolutely incredible.

We couldn’t help but sample a few wines at one the vineyards before photographing the birthday party that evening. So, so fun.

Banff National Park

The main event – what an experience! Driving up to the park, we knew we were in for something special. Not wanting to get too overwhelmed, our gameplan was for one intense hike, and one chill one the next day.

Our first hike was our favorite hike, ever – Plain of the Six Glaciers at Lake Louise. This hike takes you from the iconic brilliant blue lake right up to a glacier, and features a tea house rest stop that serves lunch and beverages. It was even more incredible than it sounds.

More than anything, we learned from this hike that we could trust our abilities to do awesome shit like this. We were mostly prepared (except for the mole skin that another hiker graciously offered to Jess), the weather was perfect, and visiting the tea house for a much-needed refuel was absolutely unforgettable.

Perfection.

The next day, after a sound sleep, we took a hike around Moraine Lake – which was way more relaxed (Jess wore her sandals), but no less beautiful. It’s a short, mostly wooded and flat walk around the rim of the lake with plenty of rocky overlooks to grab a view.

The views here are iconic, and if you arrive early enough, well worth a visit.

For a brief first visit to Banff, it feels like we nailed it.

Glacier National Park

More of a quick pass-through than an actual stop, our trip brought us along a winding road through the park.

Here the smoke from the wildfires was thick, obscuring most views but making for some interesting conditions.

We’re set to photograph an elopement in Glacier later this year (2019), and I can’t wait to really explore here.

Flathead Lake, MT

We then stopped off at an Airbnb at Flathead Lake in Montana, sharing the space with another couple, a bit older. We shared travel stories and life advice and boxed wine from a hot tub, before heading down to the lake together to chat more and catch sunset.

Jess hopped in one of the kayaks, the more stable of the two, and her silhouette against the hazy pastels of fading light was truly beautiful. The wildfires, if good for nothing else, made for some dramatic lighting conditions that night.

Home via Wyoming

It seems many of our trips to the PNW take us on a clockwise loop, with the last leg heading straight home through Wyoming.

At this point on our trips, conversation’s sparse, and that’s just fine. Jess might have her nose in a book, or we’ll have an audiobook or podcast on.

Our thoughts are on getting back home, back to the work we love, back to the dog we love, back to our bed, and on how grateful we are to be able to do what we do.

- Austin