Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Olympic National Park Day 1

Olympic National Park Day 1
SEA-TAC - Hurricane Ridge - the Town of Forks

I'm not entirely sure when I started to become obsessed with visiting the Pacific Northwest, or more importantly seeing Ruby Beach in person, but just a few short weeks ago I made sure that I checked that travel obsession, along with a few others, off of my bucket list. So with a cruise booked to Alaska, I figured this would be the perfect time to see almost everything I wanted to before hopping on a ship to see the 49th state.

After an incredibly early start to my day, starting off from a friend's apartment in Queens I made my way to JFK and flew over to Seattle, Washington via a pleasurable experience on JetBlue. However, it was after a quick jaunt through the airport to get to the rental car facility that I naturally experienced my first hiccup of the trip. I had originally reserved a compact car through Budget Rental a couple of months in advance, however unbeknownst to me, I had reserved it for the wrong dates. That's right I had reserved my first rental car ever for the day after I arrived in Seattle, instead of the day of. Whoops. To make matters worse, Budget said that they were sold out of cars, but I somehow could pay $700 to rent one of their non existant sold out car from them (it would've originally cost roughly $160 to rent a compact car for less than 24 hours for them). So I said sayonara to the Budget creep and walked the line of other rental car companies and stopped at National who not only took care of me at a decent price, but also made my first ever rental car experience more pleasurable with a free upgrade to a midsized car.

After filling out all the paperwork, I excitedly picked out my car, a 2014 Chevy Cruz with only 1,000 miles (I normally drive a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, affectionately named Grandma, because it's a car usually driven by the 60 year old and over crowd, with over 145,000 miles on it) got in and drove.

My 2014 Chevy Cruz on the Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park

The drive to my first destination within Olympic National Park took roughly a little over three hours. It didn't take me too long to find my way to the scenic route 101, before I started seeing gorgeous views and scenes of kitschy Americana along the way.

About three hours into my drive I passed by what I found out to be Fat Smitty's, and promptly turned my car around to investigate.  The wood carvings of who I'd assume to be the man himself, Fat Smitty, a giant bacon cheeseburger and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola were just the tip of a uniquely interesting place. Once I went inside the first thing I noticed were all the dollar bills lining the walls and ceilings, then I smelled the food and realized just how hungry I was. So for about $10, I order a glass of lemonade, a hot chicken sandwhich to go and a bottle of water that I would take along with me to eat when I got to Hurricane Ridge. The food by the way was delicious and came with a bag of chips and a pickle and my lunch view was, well absolutely spectacular, but more on that in just a minute.

The drive from Fat Smitty' to the Hurricane Ridge visitors center in Port Angeles wasn't too long and since I was tired, hungry and just wanting to see the ridge for myself I bypassed the visitors center and headed right up the Hurricane Ridge Road. About a quarter of the way up the road, I stopped at the ranger station to pay $15 for my national park pass, which was good for up to 7 days.

The drive up the mountain afforded spectacular views and had plenty of pull out spots with information for this snap happy person. Once you got a little closer to the top however the scenery became awesome (awesome in the traditional definition of the word, not the awesome cowabunga modern sense of the word) and a little precarious as the guard rails disappeared and the sheer drop off was immense.

Those three and a half hours of driving fresh off of a 5 hour flight became worth it once I pulled into the Hurriane Ridge visitors center and saw the view before me. At 5,242 feet above sea level, the mountain range you see before you is named so due to the hurricane force winds that blow through.

The visitors center offers a film (which I opted not to see sadly due to my time constraints), other educational materials about the area and of course, a gift shop.

A black tail deer near the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.

I still had quite a lengthy drive ahead of me before I reached my hotel in Forks, but I still wanted to take in the scenery around me and decided to walk a short trail. Now I use the term "trail" lightly because while the walk was nice, it's completely paved so if you have any mobility issues, you too, can see all the natural splendor the ridge has to offer. 

After my stroll around the trails of the visitor center, it was time to leave and find my way to the Dew Drop Inn, the hotel in Forks that I had originally booked.

On my way heading south on route 101 I passed by the 624 foot deep Crescent Lake, while the sun was setting and decided to take a break from driving and enjoy the breeze coming off the water while snapping a few photos (you can see more on the Flickr link below) in the beautiful ephemeral light.

Much like my earlier incident at the rental car kiosk I realized I didn't fully read my confirmation print out, because although I had originally booked the Dew Drop Inn, in Forks on the National Park Reservations page (and no, I'm not a Twilight fan, the town of Forks was perfectly located for my journey through the park). However my confirmation letter had my hotel listed not as the Dew Drop Inn, but as the Forks Motel just down the street instead. I wasn't miffed this time, the two properties are owned by the same person and the hotel staff were nice, the room was spacious and clean and cheap so I couldn't really complain. 

So I retired for the evening, repacked my suitcase and prepared my day pack for my second day in Olympic National Park, the day I was definitely looking forward to the most.


Quick Tip: If you're like me and have never rented a car before, do you research and save money:
                          1. Make sure you're reserving the car for the right dates.
                          2. Call your credit card company and your own car insurance company and see what types
                              of incidentals that they cover, that way you don't rack up insurance charges via the
                              rental car company.
                          3. Also if you have a smart phone, chances are you have navigational GPS, so you don't
                              have to spend even more money on renting a GPS unit from the car rental company.
                          4. Also, avoid the Budget Rental Car company (I might be a little biased on that one).

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hudson Project - Shot for the Times Herald-Record

What has somewhat affectionately become known as the Mudson Project, started out as the Hudson Project, an inaugural music and arts festival on the site of the Woodstock 94 (also dubbed Mudstock for a similiar reason) at Winston Farms in Saugerties.

Thousands came from all over to see acts like Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Kendrick Lamar and various other artists. The festival was plagued with a few problems from the get go, usually falling a bit behind schedule, as well as a few other huiccups which were understandable being the Hudson Project's (THP from here on out) first run. Despite these few frustrations the crowd, predominately young millennials seemed to be enjoying the laid back vibe while the sun shined as the music was played. Then came the rain. Next the tornado warnings. Ended by rivers of flowing mud. Some had fun, recreating some original Woodstock 94 mud pit magic, while others were less than pleased, especially if your car was waiting to be pulled out of the said mud pit.

I once again had the opportunity to shoot this for the Times Herald-Record and was incredibly excited to go (I'm a huge fan of Modest Mouse and The Flaming Lips). Once I received my parking pass, press pass and photo pass I established a game plan and shot away throughout the day. So I hope you enjoy browsing through the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.