For United Kingdom based photographer Jason Fenton, the Pacific Northwest was always high on his bucket-list. An outdoor photographer by profession, Fenton’s travels have taken him to some far-flung destinations. However, something about the jagged coastline, snowcapped peaks, and otherworldly waterfalls drew him into wanting to travel Highway 101, USA.
One caveat? His trip length was tight for the itinerary he had in mind. 10 days to explore every nook and cranny, and every secret locale in Washington and Oregon. In order to see it all, he knew staying in a traditional hotel wouldn’t make sense. He would have to book multiple places, and rent a car to get from point A to B, to Z. Expensive… and time consuming.
After extensive research, Fenton opted to stay in an Outdoorsy RV to cover every inch of the Pacific Northwest. Fenton chose Lulu the Van from PacWesty rentals located in Bainbridge Island, Washington. “For me Lulu was the perfect way to explore the Pacific Northwest in the most efficient way possible. Staying in a van allowed me to travel, see remote parts of the Pacific Northwest, and spend a lot of time taking photographs.”
Besides his daily must-have cup of McDonald’s coffee (we’ll forgive him for thinking it’s the best), Fenton shared some of his favorite food stops, camping spots, secret hikes, and Instagram worthy shots with Outdoorsy Social Media and Content Manager Alyssa Werner along the way.
What was your general itinerary?
After picking Lulu up from PacWesty in Bainbridge Island, Washington, I took the ferry to Deception Pass (a straight connecting Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island). From there, I headed back to the Washington mainland to Stevens Pass and south into Oregon. There are no shortage of places to go in Oregon and I was hellbent to visit them all! I was able to visit Wenatchee National Forest, Olympic National Park, Willamette National Forest, and Umpqua National Forest. Sadly all great things must come to an end, and I had to make the trek back to Seattle for my flight home.
Favorite part of the trip?
Visiting Willamette National Forest was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was the quintessential Pacific Northwest experience I was seeking. One place I cannot get out of my head is Mckenzie River due to the sheer amount of waterfalls within the area. I am pretty sure TLC had this place in mind when they came up with “Chasing Waterfalls”… because I certainly did.
Speaking of waterfalls, which were the most mind-blowing?
- Multnomah Falls: Located right off Highway 84, Multnomah Falls may be one of the most popular (if not thee most popular) waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. Since it’s a pretty well-known tourist destination, I recommend getting there early so you can see and photograph the iconic bridge without a ton of people impeding your view. Photographer pro tip: the best season to shoot is late winter or early spring. And trust me, although cold — cloudy, rainy weather will produce some of the best final edits.
- Salt Creek Falls: It was almost a tale of “the one that got away” due to snow impacting the area, but Salt Creek Falls is incredible! Coming in as Oregon’s second highest waterfall (286 ft), Salt Creek Falls is also an easy hike just off Highway 58. After snapping some great pictures, if you’re in the mood for a little more of a hike, head back to the parking lot and follow signs for Diamond Creek Falls. Diamond Creek Falls is a 3 mile hike with beautiful views and great access to the mouth of the waterfall.
After long days of exploring, where were some favorite places to rest your head?
For me, I enjoyed staying in parks away from the hustle and bustle of bigger city life — I get enough of that living in the UK. I was seeking non-traditIonal camping experiences during my road-trip; the ones you hear by word of mouth or through cool outdoor Instagram accounts. However, let’s be honest — a nice rest at a KOA for a hot shower and general store snacks didn’t hurt from time to time. Some of the coolest camping spots I found were:
- Fay Bainbridge Park in Bainbridge Island, Washington: This spot was my first glimpse of all the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I stayed here one of the first nights of the trip — the sound of the lapping waves and scent of the salt air welcomed me to the West. If you get the opportunity to visit this area in the summer, Fay Bainbridge Park boasts “Concerts at Battle Point“, a live music series on Wednesday evenings running every July and August.
- Hoh Campground in Olympic National Park, Washington: Think of Hoh Campground as a lush tropical rainforest, albeit quite a few degrees cooler. On average, Hoh Campground receives over 170 inches of rain a year, allowing ferns to grow the size of something you’d find in Jurassic Park, and a river so fast and furious you’d think Vin Diesel would be behind the wheel. I was lucky enough to come in the off-season, so I had an incredible river-front view all to myself.
- Fairholme Campground in Olympic National Park, Washington: Fairholme is located right on Lake Crescent, one of the best places to build a campfire and watch an epic Pacific Northwest sunset. Although it was too cold when I visited, there are plenty of lakeside docks to host your own cannonball contest. One place I recommend warming up? Sol Duc Hot Springs is only a 30 minute drive away, and feels wonderful after a long day exploring.
- Cape Kiwanda Beach in Pacific City, Oregon: A pretty well known sight on Instagram (featured below), Cape Kiwanda is everything people say and photograph, and more. Located in Pacific City, this is one of the few camping spots where you can drive right on the beach for the night (make sure to check the tides!). Since it’s pretty popular with adventure enthusiasts, you can usually find a few new friends to build a beach bonfire, swap stories, and wash down the day’s adventures with a few brews.
You traveled solo with Lulu for most of your trip. How was that different than a road-trip with friends or family?
For me, traveling solo certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it’s perfect because I couple keep a fairly strict budget and could decide when and where I wanted to eat without having to make, “the rest of the gang” happy. Also, I truly found when you opt to travel solo, you find yourself. For 24 hours a day, you are alone — there is nothing else to do except enjoy the company of yourself. You learn a lot about what makes you happy, sad, excited, and uniquely you. I loved it.
The only disadvantage for traveling solo with Lulu was not being able to share these amazing experiences with someone. With that said, social media is such a powerful tool. I was able to meet Pacific Northwest travelers and road-trippers through meet-ups. Some of these travelers were fellow photographers so we teamed up at some of the more photographic spots. It sure beat talking to myself in the van!
Last but not least let’s talk eats, especially because we hear you’re a huge fan of Man VS. Food (as are we)!
Okay, yes I do love McDonalds (especially their coffee), so I have to admit I ate there everyday for breakfast. However, I promise I won’t include in my favorites below.
- Jacks BBQ in Seattle, Washington: I am a huge fan of simple BBQ washed down with a delicious local Pale Ale. The Pacific Northwest has some incredible breweries, so many local restaurants include an extensive draught list on their menu. Jack’s BBQ was a top choice. You can’t go wrong with any option on this menu, and the ambience was pretty lively too.
- Coyote BBQ Pub in Port Angeles, Washington: This was hands down, my favorite place to eat on the entire trip. I know i’ll probably get a lot of flack, but this is probably the best BBQ i’ve had outside of The South. Do not go without ordering the brisket, and as always — a cold Pale Ale as a side.
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