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Oil City (Hoh River) to Third Beach 09/02/10

GPS Data: Map, Track, Waypoints
(No GPS track from this trip. These data are from a 9/2/05 trip)

Click here for GPX GPS eXchange format file from 9/2/05 trip.
Click here for TPO TOPO.EXE v4.13 format file from 9/2/05 trip

Click map for larger version (1.5MB)

GPS Stats and other info:

  • Mileage: about 18 miles from car to car
  • Time: 4 days ( < 5 miles per day )
  • Elevation: You have to hike over an approx 300 foot cape on the first and last days

PROLOG - A leisurely trip. Joan and I have done this stretch of beach before - actually it was the first real backpacking trip Joan ever did. It was a great trip in 2005 and both of us were willing to do it again. Planning 3 nights with 4 days hiking means we average less than 5 miles a day but I already know there plenty to explore and keep us busy.

When we did this trip before (also south to north) I noticed on the map that as you cross Hoh Head there's a trail down to the beach. It gets you back on the beach avoiding a good mile and a half of inland hiking. Why hike inland when there's a perfectly good beach?! Well, last time I looked everywhere for that trail and couldn't find it. It turns out that it had been washed out a year or so earlier. It's gone and it doesn't sound like the Park Service is interested in rebuilding it. The beach it leads to requires particularly low tides (like 1 foot) to transit from that beach to the next beach north and as we learn later there are several sub-points on this beach with tide problems too. On my previous trip I slipped onto the north end of this beach for a short hour of exploration before the tide forced me back. It is really cool. I call it the "Secret Beach" and I'm determined to get back there via the Hoh Head trail. This is probably going to involve some exploring, some bushwacking, maybe a little rock scrambling, we'll probably get our feet wet, worst case maybe some uphill-coast-range-gully-grovelling. I'm pretty sure we can do this... pretty sure.

And so, I pick my team - explaining to anyone who expresses interest in joining us that there might be some "adventure" involved in this one - being careful not to scare them off but also keep them interested ;)

In the end we are six... with lots of experience backpacking, scrambling, climbing, off trail, beach hiking, etc.. I'm pretty sure we can handle this... pretty sure.

Everyone was really patient and really supporting of me and my adventuring. They were all good sports getting us to the secret beach and off the secret beach and exploring the Goodman Creek area as well. It was fun having people willing to do that exploring.

one tragedy: I ended up carrying liquor out.

9/2/10 Thurs

This is our travel day - we meet up at the Edmonds ferry. It is a wonderfully beautiful day.  We hang out checking out the usual Ferry attraction - beautiful view of the Oympics, downtown Seattle, Mt Baker, the sound, and today the Goodyear blimp is flying around. We drive to the Ranger station in Port Angeles where we pay for our permit and they outfit us with bear cans. He also makes sure we have a copy of the Custom Correct map that includes info re what points are passable (or not) and at what minimum tide. We do.


The ferry ride to the Peninsula

Oh yah. The ranger tells us our trip "is impossible". He says that right at the start we're going to have a tide problem that will make a point impassible. I tell him we're aware, we've been there before and we'll be ok. He takes us at our word.

Twice before when I've done beach hikes in the vicinity I've managed to buy fresh fish from the Indian fisherman in La Push. We're planning a big potluck for tonight's "send-off" dinner and I want try that trick again. Chris S and Joan and I drive to La Push where I wander the docks in search. Eventually I'm connected with the right fellow. He's a bit gruff. He's got fish. "How big?" I ask. "All the same" he replies. Ok... Chinook is running and we end up with a nice 12? pounder.


The docks at La Push Great White Hunter


Back in Forks we meet up with our comrades. Joan has indirectly connected with someone in town who says he'll do a shuttle for us. So we call him and work out the details for the shuttle tomorrow morning... early.

We drive to the Cottonwood campground which is only a few mails from our trailhead up the Oil City road. This is a DNR site which means absolute minimal facilities (pretty much just a "restroom" and no fees! yeah I like the sound of that. But there aren't very many official sites - maybe 8 and they are all full. People have gotten creative and are also camped in several other unofficial spots. Well there is one regular spot left... and we take it.

Later we notice that the post marking the site has a handicap logo? I'm not sure that I've ever heard of a handicapped camp site. Does that mean only handicapped people can camp there, or only people with a handicap car permit. Surely handicapped people camp with non-handicapped people. And isn't it a standard camping rule that if it's late in the day and no one has taken the handicapped spot then it's up for grabs?

I head to the river to clean my fish while everyone else is working on their own dinner fixin's. We season the fish, wrap it in tinfoil, and bury it under the coals of our fire. The liquor is out early. Tents going up... After about 30 minutes and some debate we unearth part of the fish and sample... mmmmmm it is delicious. We feast - big time.



Chef "Huevos Verdes con Jamon" Feast

9/3 Fri Day 1, 3 miles

We're up at 6:30 AM to break camp and get everyone shuttled to the trailhead after which the drivers head to the La Push Third Beach trailhead to meet Walter from Forks (our shuttle). That goes without a hitch and they are back in a little over two hours.

Walter has hiked this stretch before too, multiple times it sounds like and once in-a-day. He is a font of information and I tell him my plan for getting to the Secret Beach. He hasn't done it but he agrees that with some bushwacking it shouldn't be too bad. I'm also interested in exploring the mouth of Goodman Creek and he has some stories to tell about that too.

We give Walter some (probably inadequate) $ and some of the leftover salmon for his generosity his help in working with us to create the shuttle.

Everyone is anxious to FINALLY get going so we are off. (approx 10:30 AM)




The day is beautiful, hardly a cloud in the sky, a passel of fisherman stand in the midst of sun sparkles in the Hoh River... presumably the Chinook are running. This beach trail has an infamous bouldery stretch that doesn't seem so bad today but there's a spot at ?Diamond Rock? where the minimum passable tide is 1 or 2 foot and we aren't even close. An airy rock scramble leads to the other side - Joan and I used this several years ago and we all use it again. This time it has a line fixed to it which is helpful.


Near mouth of
the Hoh River
The trail emerges onto the beach. Yeah! ChrisS, Jim Hoh River ChrisS


Chris n Joan   The bouldery section ... ...




Solving... tidal... problems    


My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo. I'd like to sink her with my pink torpedo


The character of Jefferson cove has changed immensely since Joan and I were here 5 years ago. It was a beach consisting entirely of cobblestones heaped a good 10 feet above high tide. Now it's all sand low enough to be washed here and there by the high tide! There are signs of erosion and slides here. We hike toward Hoh Head which leaps vertically out of the sea blocking our path. I KNOW the route climbs steep path and ladders straight up from the beach but eyeballing the cliffs ahead I can't tell where the route goes. It looks impassible and only when we're very close to the end of the beach do we finally see the first ladders.

Everyone is up without incident. The view from above back over Jefferson cove is glorious (and there are a couple places to camp here).



Yanna Jefferson Cove

Many people complain about the inland hikes but this is beautiful path through BIG, older growth hemlocks. We stop at the top for a snack. Once we start crossing creeks I start looking for a way down to the Secret beach, either the old trail (if I can find it) or a bushwhack will do also. I'm looking for the "main" creek into which the trail drops down quite a bit. I think I've found the right creek and the group is very patient while I head toward the beach, exploring and ultimately come back covered with sweat and dust and pollen and dirt. Twice I explore about half way down to where the jungle finally becomes impenetrable.



Back at the top I'm thinking of giving up. We hike onward coming to yet another creek with a good 100 foot drop into its ravine. This IS the main creek near which the original lost trail resides and where I thought I saw a potential route on our previous trip. The group is very patient and lets me explore one more time. This time I only need to explore about 100 feet before I find a fairly new slide that has cleared the hillside all the way to the beach. I return triumphant though not everyone is sure they believe my stories of cities of gold... The way down is steep and a bit gravelly but passable - it would be treacherous if wet.

Russ, ChrisS and I are the first ones down. We have made it to the secret beach ! but there's not much time to enjoy it. We're in a little cove that clearly looks to have been filled by the previous high tide. no place to camp here. Russ explores north and ChrisS explores south while I climb back up to help the rest down.


Yanna. The slide Looking south toward Hoh Head Hoh head

Once everyone reaches the beach, ChrisS returns. The point immediately south is impassable due to the tide. It's not clear but it might always be impassible. She scrambles up to a notch to see if there was an overland route but reports that though it may be passable it doesn't look like a good way to take the group. [she was unable to see all the way to the bottom on the other side]

Russ has found a way across the rocks to the north to the next beach but the tide is fast closing off the route. We hussle everyone to the other side where we all manage to get our boots wet in the final leap from rock to beach. [Note - the Custom Correct map does not show any tidal issues for this area but clearly there are some].


Solving tidal problems ...   We each celebrate in our own way

The high tide clearly washes this beach too. hmmmm. Russ and Jim head north to see if they can find a place to camp while the rest of us hang out in the sunshine. Worst case I'm thinking we can go back the way we came and climb back up to the main trail but they return with reports of a higher stretch of beach where we finally make camp, dine on leftover salmon and break out the liquor... not necessarily in that order.

Camp Day 1     Joan, Chris




Funny thing. After dark Jim says he thinks he sees campfires way in the distance to the north. After much victuals, merriment, liquoring up I decide to wander off into the dark to check out the stars and see if I can see any of these alleged campfires. I see none... but then I do see a red light. a very steady very bright red light. Definitely not a campfire. Then blinking. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure it's not a lighthouse. I'm wondering about this when suddenly the light leaps across the sky and disappears!? it does this several times. Uh... maybe fireworks? or emergency flares, or alien space craft ? I report back but the consensus is that I'm drunk. Well I can't argue with that.

Further merriment and liquoring ensues. Some time later I decide to check the red light again. It's gone at first but then reappears... blinking steadily for a while... and then suddenly flying across the sky and disappearing. I go get Jim who comes out and he sees the blinking red light but now it's steady. I swear to god it flew across the sky I tell him. We watch for a while when suddenly it flies. "Look! Look! Did you see it?". He did see it so I'm not crazy. (Does that really follow?). Anyway we watch for a while and the light leaps across the sky... for a while to the right and then the left...

Now Jim and I are both science geeks so we're prepared to explain this away via some combination of reflection off the ocean, refractive layers of air, light bouncing off waves or breakers, lighthouse lights, rescue lights, aurora borealis, laser beams bouncing off the moon... but nothing quite convinces us.

At one point, I sit and carefully, steadily I hold my finger so that it blots out the light. I have a hunch that this is somehow an optical illusion. I ask Jim to tell me when the light moves. It doesn't move for a while but finally he says he sees the light leap... several times. I saw nothing. Curiouser and curiouser.

[ Note - The secret beach was way different than I remembered. In 2005, it was full of a wide ribbon of drift wood and very clean beach and was (I think) lush jungle foliage above the beach. Now it has very little drift wood and what there is seems to "litter" the beach. The bluffs above beach have the scars of many small, recent slides that look like they've just started re-growing ]

9/4 Sat 2.5 miles

The next day we aren't in a hurry to get up. the low tide is around 1PM and we'll need it to get around the next point (just south of Mosquito creek) where we'll leave the secret beach and rejoin the regular trail. After coffee, breakfast, yoga, exploring, naps, etc. we break camp. We hike about a half mile north before we're stopped by the tide. Here there are a series of really cool rocky coves that I explored in 2005. I'm hoping to find a way for us to wade and scramble our way across here but mostly we end up hanging out for a couple hours waiting for the tide to go out enough for us to cross.


Breaking camp ... ... ... ...


... The crew     Still life

  ChrisS   North end of the secret beach Joan



While we're waiting, Russ sees people on the bluffs above looking down on us so the regular trail must be close to the edge. ChrisS climbs up to see if that's a potential route for us. In the mean time I finally manage to wade and scramble my way way through to the final cove. I return just as ChrisS returns. We decide to follow the beach... it's still a process getting everyone through the water, over multiple rocky points. The tide is as out as it's going to get (approx 2 feet) and it's only marginally passable AND coming back in. The last obstacle is a steep grovel to a notch and then a slippery steep trail down the other side. We accomplish the crossing as quick as we can which is too bad. The coves here are really cool and worth taking time to explore. The tide washes all the way up to cliff faces and leaves behind "sidewalk sand" perfectly smooth and flat. I call one of them the "Cove of Caves". There are tide pools, critters, lots of rocks to play on and explore...

The north end of the secret beach        


The beach at Mosquito Creek looking north There's a trail here somewhere?  



People were worried about the Mosquito creek crossing but it barely got our feet wet... some of us even less than that...

Crossing Mosquito Creek


We follow the beach south about a mile and half past cool sea stacks and pick a place to camp where the sand seems to have missed the previous high tide. Dinner. Merriment. Liquor.


    Russ Joan Joan

ChrisS Russ   Russ Yanna


Camp day 2, north of Mosquito Creek A Frenchman joined us Camp    


Tonight the red light appears again but this time we note that it's associated with a group we saw camped in the distance. They signal us in multiple colors and we signal back.

9/5 sun 8 miles

I'm up early so I go explore the low(ish) tide. We have a ways to go today so soon, everyone else is up as well. We eat and break camp. We visit the campers-of-the-mysterious-red-light on our way north. They are locals, friendly folk who come in once a year to camp several days and fish - this year for shark! We tell them the story of the red light and they are amused.




Joan Russ   Jim Yanna, ChrisS



Russ, Jim   Barely visible tunnel to Goodman Creek beach


A half mile farther the trail turns inland at a point. In 2005 we almost missed the natural tunnel that leads to the other side of the point. We all decide to drop our packs and explore the other side where a short beach leads to the mouth of Goodman Creek. The beach is a pleasant quarter mile that ends in an apparently impassible point... where there's a thin trail leading up an old slide scar and into the woods above!


I'm excited because I'm convinced there's a secret old trail near here and I'm hoping to find it or its remnants. We follow the thin trail a short ways to an overlook with cool views of the creek mouth. The guide books and even the Park Service website tell you to "not cross Goodman Creek at high tide" - implying that it *can* be crossed at low tide. People even describe the place as "tidal where the inland trail crosses Goodman creek" but it's NOT. I've been there, twice now and the creek is simply NOT tidal where the inland trail crosses. Even my GPS tells me the elevation is 80 feet... NOT tidal. So maybe there's an old trail that crosses at the mouth or maybe the inland trail has been moved and used to cross the creek at a different place. Either explanation implies that there is an old trail here... somewhere.

The viewpoint is a good 40 feet up in the air over the mouth of the creek - vertical and overhanging cliffs with no apparent way down. Out from the mouth are lots of large rocks and small islands that repel the surf. The water here is placid and opaque and it looks deep. It doesn't look passable but with a low enough tide you never know... Even then there's no apparent easy way up cliffs on the other side.

There's a trail here somewhere? Views overlooking the mouth of Goodman Creek ...


... ... ...



However... there is a trail that heads upstream. ChrisS and Yanna and I follow the trail but Yanna decides to head back. We follow the trail a good half mile as it gradually fades to nothing... the whole while we're still on a bluff overlooking the winding river which here at least, is indeed tidal... and we never do find any easy way down to the water let alone a crossing. Eventually we give up and in classic newbie fashion decide to take a shortcut back ;) right. The forest is very open at first but then turns into nearly impenetrable jungle. Thinking we're almost back we decide not to retrace our steps and instead grovel onward. Eventually we do emerge at the top of the bluff at the point, follow the little trail back to the beach where everyone has gone back to their packs except Jim who is asking if we've seen Yanna.

He's worried. We head back to the tunnel to see if she's there but she's not. It turns out, that when she left ChrisS and I she went back to the bluff above the beach and no one was there. she wasn't certain if everyone had gone ahead on the trail along the river or gone back along the beach so she decided to stay where she was. It takes a while but we eventually get everyone safely reunited.

We pass back through the tunnel and follow the trail inland where it gains elevation and finally crosses Goodman creek after about a half mile. A short distance further it crosses Falls Creek with a view of - you guessed it - the falls. Another half mile and we begin the down climb to the beach at Toleak Point. The ladders here are steep and rickety and the most difficult of the trip but we manage. Toleak south side is a cool beach and a very popular camping spot with beautiful views of lots of sea stacks. This side is the most popular - it has a beautiful beach but it tends to get the southerly wind. The north side has nice forest camping and views of the Giants Graveyard sea stacks but the water on that side is so stagnant that it is totally overgrown with sea weed and the smell is strong... It stays that way (stagnant and strong smelling) most of the way to Scotts Bluff where we plan to camp.

ChrisS. Inland trail to Toleak Point Joan Joan   View north to Toleak point

    Descending the ropes and ladders ... ...

I haven't ever camped at Scotts Bluff but from the previous trip I probably misremember it as having lots of nice inland camping, beach camping, toilets. It ended up being my least favorite camp spot and I wouldn't stay there again. The forest bluff has been eroded so that the forest camp spots have had to be rebuilt - simply be usage - so they're small and littered with toilet tissue. The beach itself has some kind of clay intrusions in it which make it sandy in some places and lumpy and gooey in others. The clay seeps water in gooey runnels out into the sand. I'm also guessing that this is a popular place for people to hike in from third beach and just park for a few days over Labor Day and then hike back out... which is to say that it seems crowded too.

It's not very esthetic but our choice is to go back toward the seaweed sea or somewhere ahead. Everyone's tired so we opt for here, clean up a couple forest camp sites as best we can and make do.


Toleak Point     Looking north to Giants Graveyard  


9/6 Monday Labor day 4 miles

The morning is threatening rain but we're lucky that if it has to rain, that it's on our last day. We skip breakfast and break camp quickly wanting to avoid a wet mess. We're also up early in hopes of being able to cross Scotts Bluff at low tide without having to use the inland trail. I'm bringing up the rear and never do see how the crossing looks but my group checks it out - it looks like wet, slippery, rocky scrambling and so they choose the inland passage. On a humorous note a group of "younger adults" is chomping at the bit to go but waiting for one of their members apparently at the latrine. They are yelling at their comrade to hurry and commenting on last night's mexican food!? We conjecture that they are worried that they are going to get stuck behind a bunch of us old farts... too late!


Scotts Bluff area   ChrisS. Scotts Bluff camp morning 4 Scotts Bluff inland trail descends over muddy, slippery, wet


The trail winds a half mile, not so much around the bluff as over. on the north side it descends down steps that have been kicked/hacked/cut out of the steep clay. I think there used to be a ladder here but now there are just thin ropes. In the drizzle it's slippery but nobody falls or dies. The youngin's don't even catch up. Must have been a mean burrito.

In the early morning fog this beach seems pretty cool - lots of huge boulders. This could be a better place to camp than Scott's Bluff... next time. As we near Taylor Point the beach gets very rocky. There's a tidal minimum here too but we're ok. From here pleasant "stairs" carry the trail up onto the point.

At the top we stop and set up the big tarp - the drizzle has turned to rain - cook coffee and finally have breakfast. The youngin's finally pass us and that's the last we ever see of them. This inland passage like Hoh Head is beautiful older growth forest now glistening in the rain. It's beautiful and green and wet. Several years ago Joan and I did a day hike into Third Beach and explored the ladders up onto this point and we were so impressed by the beauty of the beach and the forest and the adventure of the ladders that we vowed to come back and backpack and here we are again (a third time) and it is just as beautiful. We stop to view the top of the falls and then negotiate the ladders down to Third Beach. Now it's raining seriously. There are several tents here. Most show no signs of life - hardy souls these. We slog onwards knowing we're on the last bit of our trip.


Breakfast on the trail in the rain A wet crew Trail over Taylor Point First Beach Trail out from First Beach

At the car we change into welcome dry clothes. I meant for us to get showers at the general store in La Push but went the wrong direction so we ended up getting them at the Three Rivers Resort. I do not recommend this. They have only two showers and ran out of hot water.

Burgers and fries to celebrate at Sulley's in Forks. I might mention that Forks is the filming location for the popular TV series "Twilight" about vampire heart throbs, werewolves and what not - I admit to never having seen a single episode. Sulley's includes a set of plastic vampire teeth at every table.

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