The true impact of a profound journey is that it transforms you. You come back a different person. My wife and I just wrapped up an epic trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I can definitely say the dude who cruised into the Hawkeye State last Saturday wasn’t the same dude who left it 11 days earlier.
Our adventure included two flights, 1700 miles in our car, and 1200 miles in a rental. It was worth every mile driven, every dollar spent, and every step taken.
This trip was a long time in the making… 14 years to be exact. If you’ve ever talked to me about travel, it’s guaranteed I’ve mentioned the monumental 2004 road trip my buddy Z and I took. That journey not only gave me a lifelong love for national parks and natural landmarks, it also changed me for the better. Slowly but surely over almost a decade-and-a-half, that experience has taught me to seek happiness and stop making excuses.
In the year leading up to our recent trip, I just wasn’t myself. Even if you know me well, you probably didn’t notice; I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. But it was true. I haven’t been living my best life. I needed something legendary to jolt me out of autopilot, and this pilgrimage came through in a big way.
This trek changed me, not just because of monumental landmarks, but also because of monumental people. So before I get to the calendar-esque photos, I want to thank the people who made this trip so gratifying:
My wife knew I needed this trip and she helped make it a reality. She’s my indispensable travel buddy. You don’t know true joy until you see your giddy wife wade into the ocean for the first time ever.
My sister-in-law and her husband gave us a temporary home in Colorado and cheered us on in our adventures since, just like us, they collect memories, not material.
Our Airbnb hosts Sue and Greg gave us warm hospitality along with a great poolside chat our last night there.
Numerous random encounters gave our journey a sense of kinship with individuals who appreciated the Pacific Northwest as much as we did. There was photographer Jim, whose previous visit to Mount St. Helens was before its eruption in 1980. There was bartender Tyler, who answered our travel questions at the Ram’s Head Bar in Timberline Lodge. There was Randy, the ranger guide dude at Mount Tabor, who regaled us with a tale of driving from Oregon to Virginia and back by himself. And there were so many others whose names we didn’t get, but whose faces will most certainly make cameos in our anecdotes from here on out.
Last but certainly not least, I owe a big thanks to my relatives in Oregon. They weren’t part of our initial itinerary, but they ended up becoming the most meaningful leg of the journey. If my research is correct, our visit may have been the first time someone from my branch of the family visited Oregon relatives since my grandparents went there in the early 1940’s, long before any of my four second cousins out there were born. From sharing stories to sharing photos to sharing laughs, I’m grateful we had the opportunity to connect with them.
All in all, this trip wasn’t just what I wanted. It was what I needed. I needed this.
And now, the segment you’ve all been waiting for: a gratuitous load of photos. Here are some of my favorites from our expedition.