I have been ruminating over my state of mind for the past few days. It is one of relaxation, rejuvenation, jubilation, and unbridled ebullience. Perhaps it has to do with an 8 day long trip to Olympic National Park. I have said this on these very pages before, that America’s greatest gift doesn’t come from anything that is man-made, rather from its chaste and vast wilderness that they protect so furiously and with fervor. Rightly so, because there are so few places in the world that haven’t been debased due to the expansion of civilizations’ needs. To stand by an ocean and watch a sunset with nary a soul, to walk for miles through plush and luxuriously overgrown sitka spruce forests by the side of rivers that gleam turquoise as they rush from their glacier fed mouths to the ocean beyond, carrying in their belly the bounty of salmon and trout, and to watch the simple motion of a wave relentlessly battering a sea stack down to size with just sheer persistence and a loud, crashing moan – is a gift that I can never repay. I cannot even find words in my vocabulary to describe the peace that settles into my being when I am surrounded by these sights and sounds with a camera in my hand. To say I love my profession and what it allows me to do and where it allows me to go, would be an understatement. This profession of being a photographer is the greatest form of meditation that fills every need gap, every want and desire that I have had. To stand behind a lens and gaze at stars, landscapes, likens alike and to see the world in a manner that is in-depth from the middle of everything without leaving any imprint but an actual foot print on these gingerly balanced eco-systems is the best part of this profession. And yet, what I capture is but a very tiny fraction of the beauty that surrounds us.
C.Joybell once famously said, “Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!”. Sunsets are the west coasts greatest reward especially in the summer when they stretch into the night and Washington’s shoreline along the national park is littered and strewn with cliffs and sea stacks that seem to rise abruptly off the ocean floor just enough to allow the sun to play peek-a-boo as it sets. The Pacific ocean is at her most raw and roughest form here pounding along these cliff faces and rocks and dragging along driftwood onto the shore, stacking them up like dykes against man and his exploits. Every beach from First Beach on the Quillette reservation to Kalaloch is craggy and stacked with driftwood, and sometimes just getting to them is adventure enough. From a mile long to 8 mile over night hikes to Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, there is something for everyone. The farther you get the better the sights, and the less explored. But keep your wits and tide charts close because I cannot even begin to explain the number of times I have been side swiped and soaked by a wave during this trip, but that does not even begin to explain the dangers of a high tide coming in on a shore where several rivers and streams meet the ocean and cut off access during high tide. These aren’t beaches that are made for soaking up the sun, but these are beaches where you sit in veneration of nature and allow that feeling of being rendered small and tiny in the scheme of things to perpetuate every thought and every cell of your being. It is a humbling experience that lends perspective in a way that no city on earth can and these aren’t available exclusively at the beaches of the park. Further inland are the microclimates created by the Olympic Mountains and her interactions with the Pacific Ocean, in the form of temperate rainforests and alpine areas.
The rain forests are a constant reminder of why Washington is known as the ‘EverGreen State’, extensive and abundant, covered in a blanket of green in every hue, dripping with droplets of rain that shine like gems in the sunlight. Strewn with a shore of moss that grows over everything and clouds that wrap themselves over the forest like a constant shroud, the Hoh river charts its course through the forest from the Hoh Glacier on Mt.Olympus down to the Pacific at Hoh Indian Reservation. Turquoise green and crystal clear and carrying chinook salmon and steel head trout, anglers and fishing enthusiasts dot the river as it meanders through the valley. These are but descriptions of what is, but what happens when the eyes perceive the myriad greens around and to be surrounded by life itself as it grows and fights to occupy every inch of the earth around you isn’t a sense of bucolic calm but one of thriving in abundance that is unprocessed and untouched. Stand under this canopy and look up, even the sun is fighting hard to get through. But in the forests of Olympic National Park, sounds are just as beautiful as sight. Walking the trail to Sol Duc Falls, the anticipation increases with every step, as the crashing sounds of water get closer and closer, tiny streams flow along the path to distract and remind that something even bigger is coming soon. As the grand finale Sol Duc greets every visitor with a welcome spray of mist as she thunders below their feet in a 37 foot drop into a narrow canyon as three – four separate channels. The sounds are akin to the arrival of a Queen – the drum beats get louder as she gets closer and as she passes by, you gaze at her with reverence and devotion, mixed ever so slightly with fear and knowing only too well that you know her but she has no idea or need to know you.
I can fill pages on every little detail that is Olympic National Park, but none of them suffice. I am sure the experience is going to be just as spiritual if I were to visit any of the other national parks in this country. For the sake of repetition and even more so for the sake of imbibing this in the mind of every outsider visiting this country, I shall say it one more time – Please spend far less times in the cities, go into their vast wilderness and explore, it is the greatest thing this country has going for it. The people you meet on these journeys, the conversations with strangers about sharing an experience and to live away from the drudgery of routine will open your mind and allow you to understand things about this country that you otherwise have NO chance to. I’ve spent 6 glorious days there and have barely scratched the surface before my induction back into civilization began slowly at Seattle. Again this is a city I have praised and said before that I would move to in a heartbeat, and every time I go back there the intent only grows stronger. If the park wasn’t enough to subdue me and inject me with humility, I got to go collect an autographed copy of my idol’s latest book – Art Wolfe’s – The New Art of Photographing Nature. To stand in his gallery, to hold a book with his images signed by him, surrounded by large size prints of his amazing body of work and to see the photograph that inspired me to become a photographer staring at me from a large wall – I now know the true meaning of the word – “pilgrimage”!
This is the kind of shameless affluence that I would like to partake of every day , if only I could have my way.
All Images are (C) Photopportunist / Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT print, download or reuse in ANY form without our explicit written permission. For prints and digital downloads, kindly contact me on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com. Sharing is encouraged.