Sometimes I don’t realize how lucky I am to call Washington home. I live in a town that sits as a gateway to several different mountains, whatever direction you head on the highway or freeway. There’s always mountains, trees, hikes, forest roads, an abundance of adventures. And to be honest, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about how different my life would be if I didn’t live where I do. Would I be as adventurous as I am? Would I appreciate nature and the little things less? Would I be going to college and not taking photos? I just feel blessed to call such a beautiful state home because it’s really made me, me. I always think back to high school when I felt so lost and alone, like I was never going to find something that made me feel like me. You know, that thing that was mine and I was passionate about. And then I went for my first real hike near home with my brother. We opted for the most basic one there is here but back then I was amazed at how beautiful the world felt. Driving on that highway I had never even heard of and being blown away at how close it was to my house. It was a gateway into my whole new life.

Mountain Loop Highway to be exact: The first place I’ll always vividly remember falling in love with in the outdoors. I won’t ever forget that feeling of driving in through the small town of Granite Falls and making that left hand turn onto Mountain Loop. The signs to all the different hikes, the river right along the highway, the mountain views I once had only seen from far away were now up close and personal. It was the only day I’ve ever been positive on something in my life, and that was that I would love the mountains forever and one day I would explore every road that highway offered. Because the best part? It’s only 45 minutes from my house. Fast forward to this year and well... I could tell you what every single road, trail and river crossing leads you to. Nothing will still ever beat that feeling of turning left onto the highway, knowing how many adventures have been left here and how many new ones are waiting.

Mountain Loop isn’t the only place I find myself running off to every time I need a break from reality. The town of Darrington - again only 45 minutes from my house. It’s another one of the gateways into the famous Mountain Loop Highway and also connects to Highway 20 - home of the North Cascades. Darrington has a really small town feel to it and is surrounded by some of my favorite mountains, no matter where you are in the town: driving or hiking the mountains are always in sight. This is usually where I run away to, whether it be up the unlimited forest roads, for a small walk on the trail that goes through the whole drive or to just park and sit in my car. I honestly can’t believe I get to live so close to the mountains. It’s another place I feel I know like the back of my hand. There’s an abundance of forest roads all mostly unmarked but it’s funny how somehow I still know all of them as if they were named. Just spending countless days exploring most of them; driving as far as I can - some better than others. I’ll never forget the birthday I went up one I hadn’t explored yet and there was a huge waterfall up there. The only way I heard / found it was from simply having my windows down and not playing music; I just heard the water falling. I thought how much Mother Nature must love me to give that as a birthday present. You know, some forest roads are always just better than others. Some lead you to waterfalls that are unnamed and with no real trail to them. Some lead you to a dead end. It’s always the luck of a draw.

I just find myself always running away to these two areas.. Sometimes I just flip a coin and see which one I’ll go to for the day, to just sit and write or take photos. It feels like an instant refresh on my soul.. it feels like home more than any house ever has. I just everyday feel so blessed to have grown up in such a beautiful state that brings me comfort. It’s truly made me the wild spirit I am and has made me ultimately fall in love with life.

Fun fact: Darrington connects to Mountain Loop just on a gravel road - it’s the only part of highway that isn’t paved. So I’ll sometimes just hit both of these spots on the 3 hour loop drive because why not right?

I don’t feel that I even experienced summer at home this year and to say that: well it breaks my heart. Mostly because every year you can find me always doing my 3 favorite hikes plus dozens more, swimming in the lakes nearby, just in the mountains day in and day out. This year was different obviously because I took April and May off from work to travel out of country. Would I do it all over again? Hell yeah. Mostly because it was something new. And I love change, I love the fear of the unknown - the opportunities that could await. No matter how much it scares me. So it was all worth it but once I got home I just never really got that break to be at home and by that I mean in the mountains.. up the unmarked forest roads, sitting in my car overlooking the town below. That home. I just never really got that real time. I never even did those 3 favorite hikes. I’ve loved exploring new places - all the way from Thailand to Ireland with everything in between then heading out on my solo roadtrip. I loved it, but something always was missing. The mountains I know and the places that I run away to, to comfort me. I’ve just missed home. So in a way I’m almost excited for Fall and Winter, just because it means I’ll really be home. I’ll get to work on all those creative ideas I’ve been storing up, have more time to write, I’ll work more at my coffee stand to save up money for my next travels and get to really make up for the time lost in the mountains.

So for the first real day of Fall, Cierra and I drove up to our favorite forest road in Darrington knowing how long and windy it is; climbing up to a lookout tower that is literally never open. But the views the whole drive up are so beautiful and nothing will compare to that feeling of driving up further and further knowing how far away the town is, how soon enough we’ll just be on top of it and overlooking the road travelled in on. It’s just a place I know that I can always go to and never be disappointed. Believe it or not, Cierra and I haven’t seen each other more than two times since we got back from traveling so we knew this would be the best way to catch up. Not seeing each other means a lot of creative ideas being built up and waiting to be put to life until we’re together. So we spent all day exploring up our favorite road just being creative and having fun taking photos. Trying out a bunch of new ideas, making sure we got pictures that included Tux, portraits that we didn’t stop taking until we felt we had the one. Something I feel I haven’t done in a long time, just having fun with photos. It was a humble reminder of how blessed I am to call WA my home.

It’s always inspiring to come back out here and be reminded of why I fell in love with taking photos, writing and hiking in the first place.

So here's the beginning of Fall in WA.. Being creative and having way too much fun. enjoy

The earth has music for those who listen
— George Santayana