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We're planning yet another Olympic Peninsula beach backpacking trip - this time early season - and the weather is iffy. As zero hour approaches the weather report gets worse and worse... well, better than last year when the report was for rain every single day of the trip. That time we bailed. This time we are determined. By trip time we are only four. They say that Friday and Saturday will rain but then it should be good.
6/29/12 Thursday - Drive Seattle to Ozette
After much planning and changing of plans and further planning Joan and I leave Seattle on the Kingston Ferry about 2PM. Russ and Mardi are leaving from Coupville and we meet at the ranger station in Port Angeles to get our permits.
One change of plans - we had originally planned to hike from Shi Shi beach south to Ozette but the weather report says there's a 50-60% chance of rain for the next two days so we decided to hike the other direction and save our good weather for Shi Shi Beach. J
We park our car in a grocery store parking lot in Port Angeles and join Russ and Mardi in their van. I call All Points Tours to let them know we want to cancel our Ozette to Shi Shi shuttle and see if they could shuttle us the other direction 4 days later instead. No one answers so I leave a message. We're about to leave cell phone coverage so I make my request: That despite no direct communication that they pick us up at Shi Shi on Monday at 4PM and that we'd understand if they decided not to show. Despite the weather, we are psyched and even prepared to do the hike without a shuttle figuring that worst case we can hire a driver on the Shi Shi end to drive one of us back to Ozette for our van. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
|Crescent Lake Lodge|
As luck would have it, as we're leaving Port Angeles the phone rings and All Points Tours agrees to our changes. yahoo. So we drive to the Crescent
Lake Lodge for a nice dinner and then on to Ozette arriving about 9:30PM.[The campground here has 18? sites and doesn't have reservations.] The weather had been looking ok but now it's starting to "mist" heavily... Oh well. We hang out in the van for a couple hours telling stories and drinking. Finally Joan and I set up the tent in the rain.
6/29/12 (Firday) approx 6 miles: Ozette Trailhead to Cape Alava to
It probably rained all night. It was certainly raining (lightly) in the morning. We're up around 8:30AM, having breakfast, getting everything packed into backpacks. We start our hike at about 11. The first three miles are mostly boardwalk - easy hiking, flat through thick, lush, beautiful, pacific northwest rain forest.
|Mardi, Joan, Chris||Ozette R||Rain forest|
|Green||Joan||Russ n Mardi|
When we reach Cape Alava we decide to take a break and have lunch. Russ puts up the tarp (just in case J) and so of course, it rains... occasionally pretty hard but we are cozy. At this point a couple rangers show up and want to check our permits. They even bang on the bottom of our packs to check that we have bear cans ! They remark about our Shi Shi destination: "Have you done that hike before?" "Yes." "Then you know what you're getting into." K
|Osett Memorial at Alava||Not sure what these are?|
When the rain slacks off we start north. There are at least 3 other parties
already camped here enjoying a wet weekend at the beach! We also notice that
the inland campsites here are pretty nice. Some have such dense tree cover
that the ground underneath is still dry.
Now, while planning this trip I mentioned to my boss that we were going to Shi Shi beach and I described some of the engineering marvels built from beach jetsam that we'd seen on our last trip. So he tells me his Shi Shi story where he and his buddies carried in copper tubing, plastic pipe, tarp and a marine pump and built a functional hot tub! Really! I thought that was a pretty good idea but couldn't get any of my crew interested L As it turns out, you'll never guess what we found on the beach. really!
|Hot tub. On the beach. Swear to god. Really!|
|Hoodoo at Ozette River|
Our plan is to camp on the south side of the Ozette and cross the river tomorrow morning on the early (really early) low tide. But it doesn't look bad right now and so we're thinking maybe it would better to cross now and have a leisurely morning tomorrow. But as Russ reconnoiters up to his thighs it appears to be deeper than we thought. So we camp here tonight. We have the place to ourselves.
6/30/12 Saturday - Ozette R to Seafield - approx 3 miles
I'm awake around 5AM and go out to check the river level. The tide is approx -1.5 and it is way, way, way out there... so far out that it's lost in the morning fog. The river itself however, doesn't seem any lower and in fact seems to be running a lot faster - it had rained pretty much all night long. The river only broadens a little as it crosses the tidal area so it's probably going to be about the same deepness everywhere... In which case I figure it won't make much difference if we crossed now or later and so I go back to bed.
About 7AM we're all up, packing quick to make the crossing. The rain has stopped (for the moment) and we figure we'll put up the tarp on the other side and have a leisurely breakfast. Russ (the probe unit) goes first. He crosses about 80-100 feet west of the tree hoodoo on the bank. The water is fast and it's up to his thighs but only briefly and then the rest is more shallow. We follow.
|Ozette River crossing||Russ (Probe unit I)|
We breakfast under the tarp while it rains occasionally, hanging out, sometimes exploring and/or napping. I wander north along the beach. The news lately has been all about stuff from the big Japanese earthquake (3/11/11) starting to wash up on west coast beaches so I'm thinking that there might be some interesting beach combing this trip. About a week or two ago the story was about a 60+ ton dock from Japan that washed up on an Oregon beach. We haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary... well, except for the hot tub J or anything notably Japanese. There are lots of the usual fishing floats and miscellaneous... uh... well garbage... But looking at some small plastic bottles I find lots with Japanese writing on them. So, I suppose they could be earthquake debris but on the other hand there are always a certain number of bottles and on other trips and I never looked at them close enough to notice if they had Japanese writing on them. As it turns out, we find bottles with all kinds of writing: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai or Vietnamese... So I guess the jury is still out on whether this is earthquake debris or not.
|Ozette River||E side of the Ozette River||The Master Cylinder?|
|Point of Arches in the distance||Beach north of Ozette River||Mardi enjoying herself|
|Mouth of the Ozette River||green|
|Point of Arches to the north|
We are in no hurry - our next camp is at Seafield and it's only 3 miles away... so back at the tarp we make lunch while the rain pours. Eventually it lets up and we start our hike. The weather is finally starting to get better - there are occasional patches of blue in the sky! Also in the sky are eagles. We see at least a dozen - flying, perching, pooping, doing that eagle thang. I think this is a good sign.
At Seafield the sun finally breaks out in earnest - jackets are off, sun screen
is out. We have a yard sale of wet gear laid out to dry. There are tourists
here - that is to say non-serious hikers - there are cabins nearby grandfathered into the Olympic National Forest.
|Sunshine... warm... ahhhh.||Seafield Creek|
There's camping on a bluff here as well as on the beach. The problem we encounter is that the bluff is totally muddy and the beach looks like all but one
small dry spot got wet from last nights high tide and tonight's high tide is higher still. We opt for camping on the top of a steep gravel bar to the north and start prep'ing by removing the big rocks and rolling the rest flat with a big log. A bit unwisely we choose to pitch the tents on the very seaward edge of the
bar (Hey! it's where the gravel is smallest!) It's not optimal but it might work.
This afternoon we run into the only other backpackers we ever see doing this hike. They're going south. We talk to them about the camping and tide issues. They decide to camp on the "one small dry spot".
It is so nice to be warm and dry for a change J Yes! Lots of time to make dinner and relax. As it happens we're all awake late by the camp fire - every time we hear a big wave crash against the gravel bar it make a horrendous noise. We nervously look to see how high it goes. After high tide passes at about 11 PM we finally go to bad - the closest wave having reached within a single foot of our tents!
|Camping on the gravel bar||Seafield beach||Mardi's getting married. Showing off her "rock"|
7/1/12 Sunday - Seafield to Shi Shi Beach - approx 5 miles
The morning is beautiful. Finally! The first thing we do is check to see if yesterday's hikers survived the high tide last night but they are already gone and from our distance away we can't tell if their site got wet...
|Sleepyhead||Russ n Mardi||Joan|
It's about 8 AM but we're not in any real
hurry. The next 5 miles to Shi Shi are tough, involving lots of rock hopping
and 3 sets of steep, roped trail to avoid impassible headlands. It's also
(I think) the most interesting part of the hike - lots to see and explore.
It will take us at least 5 hours. With low tide at 6 AM we're going to get
stopped by the tide somewhere along the way so it doesn't much matter when
The beach at Seafield starts out as mostly "sidewalk" sand. The tide leaves it flat and hard and it's a joy to walk on. Then it becomes cobbles and the
rocks get bigger and bigger until finally you find yourself scrambling amongst Winnebago sized boulders. The tide is mostly in but even when it's not the other option here is to walk through the tidal rocks which are smaller but wet and slippery. It's a tough section.
This leads around a point to a cool little cove. Russ has gone ahead and
reports that the next point is currently blocked by the tide. There's also a
trail (with rope) over the headland that might skip the blockage. I go that way to explore
and drop immediately into yet another cove. Here it is also currently blocked
by the tide and there's no next "inland passage". I estimate that we only need
the water to drop about a foot in order to get around the next point but for
now we're stopped.
We explore, hang out, lunch, nap.
This would be a cool place to camp I think. It's got fresh water and a high
enough beach though you would have to work to make a flat spot. It's a
beautiful place. We find some interesting stuff here too: 3 big (intact) light bulbs
(one with Japanese writing on it), a beautiful, hand crafted, brand new
gaffing hook, Otters playing in the surf...
|Napper with gaffing hook||Otter|
After about an hour we're under way again. We scramble up the roped trail,
down into the next cove, around the next point to a third cove. Here the
trail goes inland for 0.7 miles to avoid an impassible headland. More
it rises steeply for 300 feet (with ropes). Once on top the trail is pleasant.
It's interesting here: Lots of odd trees with strange multiple trunks. There's
lots of evidence that this area has slid many times in the past - looking to
the west the forest descends in big, rolling shelves. Then we notice the cliff to
the east from which the path itself probably slid.
|First Cove||Inland Passage|
Several times the path reaches the edge of precipitous cliffs 200+ feet down to the ocean. The views are magnificent of the islands that make up the Point
of Arches. Far below we see sea lions basking.
|Weird tree||Looking south|
|Sea Lions||Mardi descending|
The trail eventually drops to a little pocket cove and immediately climbs back up for another 0.4 miles. The next viewpoint overlooks a set of coves that look impossible to access from above just as a pair of sea kayakers appear. When the trail drops back down to sea you pass more rocky coves and points. There's lots of interesting rock formations and tide pools to explore though most are overgrown with algae. The way to Point of Arches appropriately actually passes through an arch to the last and largest cove. At the north end we had an adventure here on our last trip. The tide was in and we ended up wading up to our waists over uneven ground and around blind corners for maybe 70 yards! This time the tide is out and the rock hopping is easy. We watch an eagle dive into the tidal area and fly away with a fish in his talons! A good sign.
|Chris, Joan, Russ, Mardi||resting|
|Joan and Mardi|
|Mardi at the Entrance Arch||Point of Arches|
We round the last corner to Shi Shi. We pull up a piece of beach and unload,
relax, collapse, brew tea, snack, nap... after a while when we have our energy back
we explore a bit, looking for a good camp site but come to the conclusion that
we are probably best right where we're at. There aren't very many people here,
maybe 10. It's quiet. Dinner happens. Campfire. Liquor. Stars. Sleep on
|Shi Shi camp. Chris and Russ||Russ|
7/2/12 Monday - Shi Shi Beach to Shi Shi TH - approx 3.5 miles
In the morning it is raining. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaak. Again !
The plan was to get up about 6 or 7 AM and explore the Point of Arches during the -2 ft tide but it is pissing down rain. My rain fly alcove has a feature I've always found kind of dumb - a plastic translucent (at best) porthole. Presumably so that you can see outside without opening the rain fly. Last night the glue holding it on released. Our alcove now how a 9 inch diameter hole in it with more rain coming in. more Gaaaaak.
I fix the hole by draping my poncho over the rain fly. We all sleep in. It's still drizzling when we all arise around 8. Nearby in the woods is an inland campsite
we considered using. It's kind of dirty but it does come with a tarp already set up ! So this morning we use it for breakfast.
When the rain finally stops we all go exploring around the point. Lots of cool rock formations, arches, tide pools, critters, an "engine" minus whatever it floated in with. It is a beautiful place... including the 2 mile long crescent sandy beach that stretches off into the hazy north.
|Shi Shi/Point of Arches|
|Joan n Chris|
Our shuttle is supposed to meet us at the Shi Shi trailhead at 4 PM so we pack
start out around noon. Lots of time to explore along the way. The beach is
clean. We encounter only 3 other parties camping along the way. At the
trailhead at the north end we stop for lunch and more exploring. There's lots of
inland camp sites here where the foliage is so dense you'd never know they were
|Point of Arches looking south|
|Soon-to-be-weds||Cove at north end of Shi Shi|
The way out is interesting too. The Shi Shi trail is known for its mud. I've been here 3 times. It doesn't seem to matter what time of year it is: there is mud, mud, and more mud. Everyone is in over their boot tops at least once. The last mile or so is a nice boardwalk. We reach the end almost exactly at 4 just as our ride arrives.
Willy, owner of All Points Tours and our driver is a fun character. Lots of conversation about the local hiking, tour and shuttle biz, history, trails, pretty much anything. We stop in Neah Bay to buy smoked salmon and about an hour later we're back at Ozette and starting the drive home. Everyone is tired and happy.
OUT OF CONTEXTISMS:
Miscellaneous stuff... Japanese earthquake debris?
|Takuyo 100V 500W|
Photo Credits: Chris M, Joan H, Russ S, Mardi H
Links and Resources:
Other beach hikes:
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Tides and weather:
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