Dedicated to bringing you captivating stories, bucket list destinations, and off the beaten track experiences from
near and far. 

Dedicated to bringing you captivating stories, bucket list destinations, and off the beaten track experiences from
near and far. 

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Instagram Posts of 2017


Long-awaited! The stories behind your favorite Instagram posts is finally here.

10. Kawasan, Cebu – Philippines



Floating down Kawasan Canyon on Cebu Island in the Philippines. Photo by Quin Schrock
Floating down Kawasan Canyon on Cebu Island in the Philippines. Photo by Quin Schrock

Kawasan Canyoneering is super touristy, very crowded, and a ton of fun! We all want to get off the beaten path. Especially when we travel half way around the world to a place that we think is likely still somewhat undiscovered by mainstream travelers. But some activities are popular for a reason, and this is one of them. For 2-3 hours we were able to float, climb, and jump our way   down deep canyon walls flowing with Gatorade blue water – as long as we kept our life jackets on! And as if that wasn’t good enough, the tours all end at Kawasan waterfall. Yup, that one waterfall that everyone goes to with the bamboo rafts, and the hundreds of people just out of frame.

Related Post: The Philippines: 10 Day Island Hopping Adventure

9. El Nido, Palawan – Philippines



Island hopping around El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines. Photo: Quin Schrock
Island hopping around El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines. Photo: Quin Schrock

In the town of El Nido you will be bombarded by tour companies all offering the same handful of tours to different beaches and islands. To be precise, there are generally four options – imaginatively named Option A, B, C, and D. Because Quin and I knew where we wanted to go, and that we would need our boat to be flexible to insure that we got the photos we wanted, we skipped the organized tour circus, and went directly to the source. Down at the harbor we were able to find a captain who was willing to take us where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go, for approximately the same amount that we would have paid for a group tour.

Once out on the water, we were able to simply point out islands that interested us. This was one of those islands.  I’m pretty sure the crew thought I was crazy when I tried to explain that we wanted them to angle the boat so that it was pointing directly at the island off in the distance. But in the end, sign language prevailed, and this shot was the result!

Related Post: The Philippines: 10 Day Island Hopping Adventure

8. Summit Lake, Washington – USA



Earlier morning views at Summit Lake near Mount Rainier in Washington. Photo: Christian A. Schaffer
Earlier morning views at Summit Lake near Mount Rainier in Washington. Photo: Christian A. Schaffer

If you’re short on time, don’t want to deal with all the formalities of the National Park, but still want a cool Mount Rainier experience, this one’s for you! I hike to Summit Lake every year, but this was the first year that I camped up there. It was a girl’s trip, and for the first time in a long time the objective wasn’t photography – it was about making new friends, and catching up with old ones. It was a clear crisp night, and we stayed up under the stars until the wind forced us all into one two person tent to laugh for a couple more hours about the bee stings, lost trails, and dog poop mines we battled to get there.

Washington is one of the most beautiful states out there. And there’s no better way to experience it than by foot. Here are 10 Must Do Hikes In Washington, and Six Stunning Spring Hikes In Washington for you to check out! And if you want even more, there’s also my favorite Fire Lookout Hikes, and Beach Camping at Shi Shi and Second Beaches.

7. Joffre Lakes, BC – Canada



Cooling down in the water at Joffree Lakes, BC, Canada.
Cooling down in the water at Joffree Lakes, BC, Canada.

This summer the Pacific Northwest had some of the worst wildfires I can remember. There were nights that I would fall asleep in my Seattle apartment with the window open and wake up covered in a thin dusting of ash. While some of the fires were natural, others were started by people interacting with the environment in irresponsible ways – and that was heartbreaking.

During this period of time I was up in BC with Quin. We had a few days, and an ambitious list of locations that we planned to shoot while we were there. Our first stop was Joffree Lakes. Ironically the heavy smoke added a haunting beauty to the bright blue glow of the water, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my favorite days from this summer. We went swimming, used the rope swing, and I fell off a log fully dressed into the lake in front of about 40 tourists. In other words, never a dull moment! Still, in the end, the smoke forced us to end the trip prematurely and head back down to the States.

The wildfires this summer were a somber reminder of the important role that we play as stewards of the places that free our minds and fill our hearts with wonder. Wilderness is a necessity for the human spirit, and when it’s destroyed we all lose something intangible, yet irreplaceable.

6.  Grand Teton NP, Wyoming – USA



Sunrise over the Grand Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming.
Sunrise over the Grand Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming.

I actually had no idea what this place was called while I was actually in Wyoming, but a little internet sleuthing indicates that it’s likely Schwabacher Landing. This is an iconic spot for photographers visiting the area, and if you go at sunrise (which is definitely when you should go), you won’t be alone. But it doesn’t matter – just don’t go swimming until all the tripods have left for the day! You don’t want to be that person messing up everyones reflection.

5. Park Butte Lookout, Wa – USA



Watching the sunset from my sleeping bag at the Park Butte Fire Lookout in Washington.
Watching the sunset from my sleeping bag at the Park Butte Fire Lookout in Washington.

Sometimes the best adventures aren’t planned. And that was the case with Park Butte Lookout. Washington State is full of old fire lookouts. Most of them are inactive at this point. But a few like Park Butte have been restored, and are maintained by local hiking clubs for the public. These Fire Lookout Hikes, are some of my favorite in Washington! We had actually been planning on camping up at a different lookout located in the North Cascades, but it was October, and an early season snow storm made that mission a little dicey – so at the last minute we decided to give Park Butte a try.

Like many of the other lookouts in the area, Park Butte is first come first serve. To this day, I’m not sure exactly what that means. I’ve shown up to a lookout to find one other person already there, and been turned away. I’ve also been the first person to a lookout, and then had 12 people and 2 dogs decide to make their beds next to, on top of, and around mine. And pretty much everything in between. So when it comes to fire lookouts, my suggestion, as with most outdoor adventures, is to hope for the best and plan for the worst!

I’d heard that this lookout gets particularly busy, so I wasn’t so much hoping for the best, as I was expecting a ton of people. But when we arrived the lookout was empty, and it stayed that way through one of the best sunsets I can remember. Just as the sun made it’s final dip behind Mount Baker, a lone hiker showed up and asked if he could crash in the lookout with us. We said yes — of course. It had already been too good to be true!

4. Mount Storm King, Wa – USA



Enjoying the views from the top of the Mount Storm King hike on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
Enjoying the views from the top of the Mount Storm King hike on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

We can’t always control everything life throws at us, but we can learn to control our response. It’s no secret that managing emotions is easier said than done, and I rely on nature a lot to help me gain perspective when things aren’t going according to plan. Maybe it was the shorter days up here in the PNW, but as fall transitioned to winter this year I was feeling pretty melancholy. So at the first sign of clear skies, I packed up my backpack and headed for the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Storm King.

This was a classic Washington State hike that had been on my list for years, but I’d always put off for one reason or another. The hike is a short 4.7 miles round trip, but with a 2,000 foot elevation gain and a few scrambles toward the top, it’s no walk in the park. The physical challenge was a great way to sweat out the pent up negative energy I was carrying around. But more importantly, the view from the top was a reminder that I am part of something bigger than myself. Never underestimate the healing power of the outdoors!

Sure, I might be a little bias, but I think Washington is one of the most beautiful states out there. And there’s no better way to experience it than by foot. Here are 10 Must Do Hikes In Washington, and Six Stunning Spring Hikes In Washington for you to check out!

3. Banff NP, Alberta – Canada



Canoeing on one of Banff’s beautiful alpine lakes.
Canoeing on one of Banff’s beautiful alpine lakes.

Before my trip to Banff this past September, I had been once before. For one day. That day was over two year ago now, and it still doesn’t feel real. I’d often wondered if the dream like quality of my memories from that first trip to Banff were due to the long days on the road leading up to our arrival, or if the mountains really were a little bigger, the lakes a little bluer, and the sky a little brighter. Now I know. Banff really is the type of place dreams are made out of – that is if you like to dream about mountain, alpine lakes, and epic roads.

Hector Lake is stunningly beautiful, quiet, and relatively easy to access. Yet, in a world with  giants like Moraine, Louise, and Bow Lakes, most tourists simply drive right past it on the Icefield Parkway without barely more than a glance. Not Quin though. I was zoning along in the passenger seat when the car suddenly came to a jolting stop at a pullout on the highway overlooking a sliver of glimmering blue water in the distance. He turned to me, “lets camp down there.” Dubious, I nodded my head, “sure.” We headed off to inquire about overnight permits. And the rest is history.

2. Tabacon Thermal Resort – Costa Rica



Soaking in the hot springs at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa.
Soaking in the hot springs at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa.

Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano is active, and laced with lava flows. As a result hot springs dot the surrounding area. One such hot spring is located at the Tabacon – my big splurge for the trip. While researching locations to shoot in the Arenal area, I found a photo of Tabacon that prompted the same question that many people had when I posted this photo – “is it real!?”

In this case, I’d argue that the question is somewhat subjective. If by real, people mean “natural,” then the answer would be yes…..and no. The thermal water is natural, but when the area was incorporated into a luxury thermal resort, the waterfalls, cascading pools, and hidden bathing spots were designed to resemble what the area might have looked like before it was converted to agricultural land decades ago.

“Real” or not, Tabacon is a truly special experience. But, if one of Arenal’s thermal resorts is not in your budget, no worries! There are also free options, including a portion of the Tabacon River that runs just outside the Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. While this undeveloped area of the river may not be quite as picturesque, it’s still beautiful, and a lot of fun. After all, it’s not every day that you get to chill in a hot river!

Looking for more amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica? Check Chasing Waterfalls In Costa Rica out!

1. Twin Lagoon, Coron – Philippines



Walking on the staircase that separates the two bodies of water at Twin Lagoon in Coron, Philippines.
Walking on the staircase that separates the two bodies of water at Twin Lagoon in Coron, Philippines.

What can I say, these twins definitely weren’t identical, but they were both blessed with good genes! Coron is a major tourist destination in the Philippines, and for good reason. The water surrounding the small islands near Coron is crystal clear and full of life. But don’t expect to be alone! When I posted this photo, a lot of people wondered where the crowds of tourists were hiding. And it was a fair question.

This shot of me climbing the stairs between the two twin lagoons was taken after waiting for about half an hour for a brief break in between tours. The truth is, whether it’s waiting for the right lighting, or for people to clear out of the scene, there can be a lot of waiting in landscape photography. But as long as the locations are this beautiful, I’m certainly not going to complain!

Want more?: For more amazing destinations you need to visit in the Philippines see The Philippines: 10 Day Island Hopping Adventure !

And that’s a wrap!! See you again next year. Thanks for letting me tell you about the stories behind your favorite Instagram stories! Until then, may all your travels be excellent and merry.


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  1. Conscious Creations says:

    Thanks for sharing your travel stories and tips. Your photographs are inspiring and the beauty you share captivating.

    Conscious Creations

  2. Erwin Ravago says:

    Thank you for sharing time and your magnicent images from your 2017. I’m particularly impressed by the way you & Quinn captured Palawan & Coron. I grew up a 2hr boat ride from Coron & Twin Lagoon have always been in my bucket list, thank you and best wishes 2018

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thank you so much Erwin! I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by. Quin and I had a wonderful time photographing Palawan and Coron. It’s such a beautiful area of the world. Hope you had a great New Year!

  3. Wow! The photos and locations you share are incredible. I never get tired of seeing them. Thanks for sharing

  4. Walter says:

    Thanks for another awesome blog! The fires up here in Washington certainly made for an interesting backpacking year. We had to divert to backup trails more than once because where we planned to go was burning! Hoping for a less smokey 2018.

  5. Tim Waters says:

    Welp – guess I have a laundry list of places to add to my bucket list. The photography and descriptions were inspiring!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thanks so much Tim! I feel like I’m constantly adding new places to my list as well. So many beautiful places to explore out there. Happy New Year!

  6. Your photos always blow my mind. They are so technically perfect and aesthetically gorgeous! You’ve been on amazing adventures this year and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings you. Happy New Year!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thank you so much Cynthia! I really appreciate the support. I’m excited to see what this next year brings as well. Happy New Year to you too!!

  7. Jessie says:

    Hey Jess! I’m a new mom and we are getting ready to get our little one out and about now that she’s 3months with our first camping trip next weekend to our AZ mountains. We have a few trips planned to Zion, Sequoia, and a big Fall trip to N Cal OR WA ID and MT over two weeks. Maybe you’ve done this already but I would love to see a post on supplies. Hiking boots, sleeping bags, jackets, Ect. Side note: following you and Quin have kept my sanity this last year with a difficult bed bound pregnancy followed by new mom life. You two make more of an impact than you know.

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Jessie! It’s so cool to hear that my travels were able to keep your wanderlust alive while you were waiting to become a mom. Congrats!!
      I actually have not done a post on hear or supplies yet. That is a great idea! I will try and get something up soon. I’m always looking for post inspiration – so thank you so much!

  8. Mikaela says:

    Your pictures are incredible! They’re honestly so inspiring and motivate me to travel even more than I already want to. I live in Washington, so I was stoked to see the 3 Washington locations you went to and explored! I just added them to my 2018 bucket list! What camera do you shoot with? I’m looking to eventually upgrade mine. Keep it up, love your work!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Mikaela!

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoy them. Washington is so beautiful, and I’m hoping to spend a lot more time exploring the area once all the snow melts. I like to think that some of the best adventures are located right in your back yard! I currently shoot with a Sony a7rII.

  9. Jessica Shaw says:

    Where do you get your bathing suits from? I adore all of them and would specifically love to purchase some one pieces before my next road trip this summer. I just stumbled across your instagram today and have been infatuated with all of your media!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Jessica! I’m so sorry for the delayed response. I tend to get my bathing suits all over the place. But I really like L*Space for the variety of different styles, and Londre Bodywear makes one of my favorite one piece suits. Gemini Mountain Swimwear is another brand I love. If there is a specific suit you are curious about please don’t hesitate to send me a DM on instagram with the photo and I’d be happy to tell you where it’s from!

  10. Tyson Kowalsky says:

    Hello Jess wondering this is a very cool story! I work and work and. Work and have never travelled much out of my comfort zone! From reading your story it makes me really think about just dropping everything and going to explore places I’ve always wanted to discover! Thanks again for your posts happy follower and friend of the unknown! Always safe travels for you where ever you go!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Tyson! Thank you very much for the kind comment. I really appreciate it! I’m so happy that you find my site inspiring. But please don’t feel like you have to drop everything to have similar experiences! I started doing this while I had a full time job. I just packed as much possible into the weekends, and made travel a priority for any free time I had. Don’t forget that social media can be very deceiving. We aren’t all traveling ALL the time. It just appears that way! Best of luck, and happy travels. 🙂

  11. Aw wait I love this post!! I love that you gave us backstory on all of these amazing photos – definitely an idea for a future post on my blog! And yes, I definitely agree, the best adventures aren’t planned – they’re spontaneous and unpredictable and just overall amazing :).

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thank you! I wanted to do a post for the New Year, but wasn’t sure what to write about. Then I realized that I should just write about the places that everyone seemed the most interested in! Glad you liked it! Happy blogging. 🙂

  12. Love the boating tip for El Nido, we’ll be there in November as we’re making our way round from Sri Lanka and now in India.

    I also love the story behind your shots. Great post and absolutely lovely photos!!


  13. Noah says:

    This Top 10 list was a great idea. My favorite was 8, Summit Lake, with the out-of-focus vegetation in the foreground.

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thanks so much Noah! I’m glad that you enjoyed it. My friend Christian took that photo of me at Summit Lake. She’s a wonderful photographer! 🙂

  14. Christian Schaffer says:

    The bees and dog poop mines so worth it tho

    • Jess Dales says:

      Oh my god that was so bad! I think it’s pretty clear at this point that you should just never follow me on any trail. LOL

  15. Nakor says:

    Awesome blog, really, amazing pics, very inspiring!!

    Best regards from Spain!

  16. PAUL S says:

    I wanted to chime in and say I really liked this post as well. Lifting the magical veil of the finished photo and giving us the backstory was very interesting. I also truly appreciate your insights and very humble attitude.
    Looking forward to more of your adventures 🙂

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thanks so much Paul! It’s funning in the outdoor photography wold we are always trying to stay as authentic to the experience as possible. But that doesn’t mean a lot of waiting, and planing, and "do overs" doesn’t go on behind the scenes. Glad you liked it!

  17. Candave says:

    Love all the WA posts that I can add to my summer outings!

    • Candace says:

      Ugh, spelt my own name wrong -candace

      • Jess Dales says:

        Haha no worries Candace! I’ve been posting stories on Instagram with silly typos all week and it’s the worst because you can’t go back and edit it. We definitely live in a beautiful state! So many lovely corners to explore. Here’s to summer!

  18. you and quin are the ultimate goals. keep safe in your travels always

  19. Anna says:

    I really like the way you write Jess. It’s so honest and from the heart. Also love reading about the ridiculous stories behind photos, it makes me appreciate them for the real experiences being had and the real people in the photo too!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thanks Anna! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the writing on my blog. That seriously means a lot to me! A photo rarely is what it seems. 😉

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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