Spontaneity in Travel

Rialto Beach photograph by Ethan Chin
Rialto Beach, WA

Brief introduction:

Last year I took on the greatest adventure of my life – cycling the 300km between Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. I did it for three main reasons: a) To build my landscape photography portfolio; b) I was 17 years old, and nobody would rent me a car; c) I had no driver’s license anyway.

It was a great success, in my eyes. I took a dream of mine and turned it into a reality. There’s no better feeling than that.

That is why, on March 21st, 2018, I set out once again to chase my dreams. No lack of an automobile was going to stop me!

This blog is going to be a recollection of the awesome, the not-so-awesome, and the downright disturbing things that took place on this trip. In it, I am going to tell the stories as they come. No curation, no pruning, and no filtering. Only the cold hard truth. And cellphone photos, because the best memories are often spontaneous.

I hope you enjoy reading this just as much I enjoyed the experience of a lifetime.

Spontaneity in Travel
Beautiful bike paths

THE FAIRHOLME INCIDENT

Rain. Rain every day. That is life on the Pacific Coast, especially in the Springtime, so I’m told.

It wouldn’t be so bad cycling in the rain if the terrain wasn’t so hilly. Before setting off on this trip, I made the grave mistake of making assumptions – I assumed the coast would be relatively flat.

I could not have been more wrong.

Especially around the Olympic Peninsula, it is just climb after climb. Steep ones, too, made that much worse by all the pot-holes.

My consolation? I was going to photograph Lake Crescent, in Olympic National Park, then go to sleep. Creature comforts, you know?

Except that didn’t happen.

What happens when you don’t look? You arrive at your campground after 6 hours of cycling in the pouring rain, over challenging terrain, tumbling over every single pot-hole on the road shoulder, only find out it’s closed.

I committed a crime

Apparently. Hitchhiking is illegal in all of Washington state. I know that because I accidentally tried to hitch a ride from a police officer.

He was nice enough to not book me or anything. I guess he sympathized with my cause. But yeah, hitchhiking is very illegal.

Which is why I waited for him to drive around a bend before proceeding to stick my thumb out into the cold pouring rain, once again.

It was getting dark, and the campground was empty. The worst part? The bathrooms were locked.

I guess I could have simply pitched a tent and snuck out in the morning, no harm no foul. Except I am gravely afraid of bears, and there was a bear warning sign.

Nope.

2 TRUCKS AND A MUSCLE CAR

4 cars stopped for me that night.

One guy in a pick-up truck went on the curse the government after I explained my situation. I still don’t know why.

The next guy, also in a pick-up truck, said no.

Then we have the police officer. Honest mistake. I thought you could always ask a police officer for help. Guess not when you’re committing a crime…

The guy who finally stopped for me, and offered me a ride, was a man and his wife driving a small muscle car.

There’s some irony somewhere.

traveling through Olympic National Park on a bicycle
Olympic National Park

They were awesome about it, though. We all worked hard at it until we got my bike safely tied down with bungee cords in the trunk. My trailer, after disassembling the wheels, somewhat fit into the backseat.

I got a lift into the town of Forks, WA, that night. I never got to photograph Lake Crescent, but I’m not too hung up about that. It happens.

Sleeping in a Bathroom

Robert drove me all the way to an independently run campsite, called Cycle-Camp, run by two best friends and reserved only for people arriving by foot, or any “vehicle with two wheels”. No cars allowed, and apparently very popular in the summer.

It was a great location and a relief. Almost every other campsite in the area was somehow closed, and yet this one was open, and super close to Rialto Beach, the next location I was planning to photograph.

It was dark when we arrived, and freezing cold too. Bob, the host of the campsite, gave me a 5-minute tour of everything, including a little hut on the grounds with a kitchen and bathroom for campers’ use.

I was the only camper that night since the camping season hadn’t really started yet. Bob made an me offer I couldn’t refuse.

“If you want, you can put down your camping mat and sleep inside the hut instead of pitching your tent in the rain,” Bob said to me. “We have a heater, so it’s warmer than outside.”

That is how I ended up sleeping in a bathroom.

A very clean one, mind you.

Marijuana

Being new to the area, Bob decided to give me a grand tour of the town of Forks. That meant taking me to Forks’ own three-in-one department store, the gas station, and the timber museum.

It really was a small town.

We enjoyed some old black and white western films in the afternoon, and then I got to meet Billy, the owner of the place, who offered me Marijuana.

Both Bob and Billy hailed from Southern California. When I asked why they moved this far north, Bob had this to say:

“Well Billy wanted to buy some land, but land was too expensive in Southern California. He heard the further north you went, the cheaper land was. This is how far he had to go before he could buy anything!”

Leaping Before Looking

I had no idea that the Fairholme Campground in the Olympic National Park was closed. I could have easily looked it up online, but I didn’t.

I had no idea the roads would be so hilly. Again, I could have looked it up online, but I didn’t.

I had no idea Cycle-Camp existed, or that it was so close to Rialto Beach. You know what I’m going to say.

The point is, just looking things up on the internet could have made a lot of things a lot easier, but I didn’t. Yet, my experiences were so much richer going into this adventure unprepared. If I had been more prepared, I would never have experienced hitchhiking, or getting pulled over by a cop, or get to hang out with two awesome people with amazing stories. And weed.

Sometimes the greatest experiences stem from a little bit of dumb luck and a lot of adaptability. I think that’s pretty cool.

– Ethan

P.S. I did not smoke weed.

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Mike

Hey Ethan! Came over from PetaPixel after reading your article… Wanted to find out if you had written some more blog articles about your adventures. Everything you do is just so cool and out of the ordinary! The amount of passion you have for your photography is just astounding. Mad respect!!! 😀

D
David

Seriously though… Your adventures are just so freaking epic!

Ethan Chin Photography