Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
We are home again. Finally. As you might imagine, much has transpired in this thrilling interlude: not only did Dad and I enjoy a fantastic trip to the Point of Arches, but the very next day Ian and I left early in the morning (relatively speaking! It is summer, after all) to go to Seaside, Oregon for a week of vacation with his parents. However, first things first:
Point of Arches Backpacking Trip. We left on Thursday, July 5 (it feels so long ago, now!) and drove to Port Angeles that night. We waited for quite a while in the ferry line, finally catching the ferry just as the sun set, which looked quite beautiful over the Sound. Traffic kept us from arriving in Port Angeles until late (for us), at which point we found a random hotel that has possibly The Tackiest Web Site Ever, booked a room, and slept well. The next morning we arose early, drove to the Wilderness Information Center to obtain our overnight National Park passes and our Bear Bucket, required to keep animals from stealing our food. Then we drove, slowly, to Neah Bay, stopping at Washburn’s General Store to pay the $7 fee to use Makah Reservation land – the majority of this easy hike took place on Makah land. Then, even more slowly, we found our way to a front yard where we could park for $5/day. We paid $20, $5 over due to lack of small-denomination bills.
We hiked to the trailhead, then along the pleasantly meadering, slightly up-sloping trail. Boardwalks covered about half of it, and occasionally a sign named that section of trail (Brians Loop was our favorite; we decided it belonged to multiple Brians); lacking boardwalks, mud comprised the remainder of the trail. The ranger at the WIC suggested walking through the middle, since the trial had been a logging road and so the middle would be the highest point in the muddiest places. We found this advice helpful, except for the time when the mud overflowed into our boots. We entered the Olympic National Park just as the trail took a very steep downward plunge, a descent down the face of a headlands that lead directly on to Shi Shi (pronounced “shy shy”) Beach. On the descent, one of my waterbottles tipped out of its holder and went bouncing off down the trail. It rolled and bounced with increasing rapidity until it suddenly flew off the edge of the trail. We were concerned at its loss, and I hurried down to retrieve it at the bottom — only to discover that a few switchbacks down the trail, it had lodged in the roots of the only tree in that whole area. So I miraculously retrieved my assumed-lost waterbottle.
Shi Shi Beach, at about 2.5 – 3 miles long, leads south toward the Point of Arches and north up to Cape Flattery, the farthest west point in the continental United States. We hiked south, keeping a weather eye out for camp sites among the driftwood above the high-tide line. Eventually we found a highly-decorated site, carefully delineated with driftwood and stones, and adorned with beach debris (primarily brightly-colored rope and bird feathers). We pitched our tent there, ate a lunch of energy bars, oranges, and fruit leather, and took off to look at the Point of Arches. Twenty minutes later we were admiring the sea-caves of Torpedo Rock and generally poking about.
At that point, Dad realized he had left our map in the car, so we had no idea as to whether an overland trail bypassed the headlands by the Point of Arches or if we had to wait until low tide to pass. Turns out the three headlands nearest the Point of Arches lack overland trails, so you have to time your passage very carefully – and expect to get trapped for 12 hours if you mess up. So we turned around and walked all the way up, past the trail we descended and on to the headlands on the other side of the beach. Over that short little headlands we found a tide-pool heaven that included sea stars, sea anemones (both large and small), large and small sea snails, two different types of barnacles, mussels, oystercatchers, fish, hermit crabs, lots of kelp and seaweed, with some moss thrown in for fun, and certainly other things I cannot recall right now. We spent quite a while looking into tide pools, then eventually crossed that shorter beach and found the hulk of a washed-up ship. Or something that had big square hollow compartments and no hull. The sun came out around 5:00, dispelling the lingering mist and clouds that shrouded the coast. The sun-lit views up and down from the vantage of small headlands was stunningly beautiful.
We walked back to the site, ate dinner, and played Gin and read our (bad) novels. For the sunset we walked back up the Point of Arches and took lots of pictures of the sun setting behind them. It was a lovely, if cold, evening. While I hunkered down in my sleeping bag, Dad took pictures of the seagull convention down by our fresh-water stream. The next morning we woke up quite warm, condensation on the tent sides. For breakfast we ate instant oatmeal, then hiked up to filter fresh water. We found the river rather brown with tannin but otherwise fine (later we learned that it also harbored giardia, but we have shown no adverse effects yet. I will keep you posted). Then we hiked around the Point of Arches, then over rocky beaches and beaches covered in large pebbles and beaches covered a foot deep in rotting kelp. Then we climbed four ropes to achieve the top of a headlands, looked out, and then our concerns about the tide and no maps overcame us and we returned back the way we came.
The next day we woke up, packed up, and hiked out in a drizzle. Then we drove up to Cape Flattery, emerged from the drizzle to look off the far point of Washington. To our dismay, we saw no puffins but did see the lighthouse a ways off as well as some birds of mysterious origin. The long drop down into foaming waves and well-worn rocks always stirs some unnamed emotion in my heart. I love the Olympic Penninusla, its water and trees. Then we drove home, stopping in Port Angeles to eat. Then we drove to Sequim, realized we still had the Bear Bucket, drove back to Port Angeles to return that annoying and heavy item, then drove down and around through Olympia and up I-5 through Tacoma to 405 to Kirkland. We had wavered between that and taking the Kingston ferry, but the ferry had a 3-hour wait so we drove around. It took quite about six hours all told, give or take (many people from New England and Europe find these types of distances staggering. Not many places exist where you can drive for more than eight hours and remain in the same state, let alone the same country).
And that was the backpacking trip, in a very large nutshell. Maybe more walnut-sized, rather than sunflower-seed sized. I will hold off on the Seaside details until tomorrow; for now, let us just say we enjoyed ourselves immensely.