Olympic Coast, Washington. Part 1

If you have a difficult time with our decision to fly on an airplane 5 months into “the shutdown” in the Covid-19 pandemic, then let me please assure you that we were extremely careful. It turned out to be an excellent time to travel, as there were very few others. Airports were sparse, lines were short, and staff were relaxed. We flew from Atlanta to Seattle on August 24,2020 when almost everyone else was staying home. We followed all airline masking and distance guidelines and kept ourselves and other safe. Our goal for this trip was to hike from Ozette to Rialto beach, over a 4 day, 3 night backpacking trek.

We read and researched all available information, and especially reviewed the national parks information for preparations. We were required to use a bear box, which Shannon owns, but which is easily attainable with many local options for renting. We took much of our hiking food with us on the airplane, in the bear box, as we didn’t want to have to take the time to figure it all out when we got to Washington. Much easier to spread it all out at home and pack it well. I organized our dehydrated meals into baggies with labels like “day 1 breakfast”. I’ll include our list of meals on our resources page.

After flying from Atlanta to Seattle, we rented a car and drove about 2 and 1/2 hours to Port Angeles, Washington, which although not a direct course as the eagle flies, is the only way to get out to the Northwest coast from Seattle if you don’t want to take the ferry. After a quick stop at REI in Seattle for a small propane tank and a few other odds and ends, we drove in uncharacteristically clear weather. We stayed the night in Port Angeles, which was a good idea. After driving to the airport, flying, getting the car rental, and getting out of Seattle, it was a full day. Also, It was only about an hour and a half from Port Angeles to our shuttle pick up in Rialto beach, which we were confident we’d be able to accomplish the following day.

The Olympic coast is unlike any other. Truly breathtaking!

As it was 5 months into a pandemic, and a global shutdown, we were concerned about being able to find a shuttle. Shannon made a lot of phone calls, but we eventually found that the Olympic Hiking Company were running a limited/revised schedule and were able to book with them. ($60 apiece for the ride) Aug 25th we woke up and headed to our end point location, Rialto beach. NPS requires hiker vehicle registration in the parking lots at trailheads. There’s a ranger station not far from the trailhead and the cards for this purpose are located outside the station in a weather proof box for access at all hours. We also left something on the dashboard of the car with our approximate dates and locations, that was taken from our camping permits. Parking here was free and the lot was spacious but pretty full on both the day hike side and the long term side. We were glad to have gotten there early. The shuttle picked us up around noon, and drove us to our starting point, at Ozette.

It was cloudy and overcast at Rialto beach while we were waiting for the shuttle, but we were glad we had time to explore for a while.
We both enjoy scavenging for rocks and sea glass. These beaches have a lot of both. We found agate, poppy jasper, and some beautiful sea glass
We used our hiking breaks to sort through the rocks on the beach.
Agates. If you’re interested https://www.pnwbeachcombing.com/rocks.html

As we rode north in the shuttle, the clouds started to burn off and disappear, and by the time we arrived in Rialto around 2pm it was mostly sunny and clear. The trailhead in Ozette starts with a 3 mile hike on a boardwalk through an enchanted rainforest. Towering cedar and Hemlock line the trail and provide a cool blanket all around. It’s known as the Ozettte Loop and we took the northwest route over to the beach, to what is known as camp Alava. Although we were anxious to get to the beach, it was an incredibly beautiful start to the hike. There are lots of day hikers in this area, and we could see why. It’s fairly flat, well kept, and makes for comfortable conditions.

About half way down the boardwalk, we saw our first glimpse of the beach

Once we hit the beach, we hadn’t planned to go very far as it was nearly 3:00pm local time. We wanted to start setting up camp a few hours before dark to have time to relax and enjoy our surroundings. Also important to note is that it is extremely important to know and watch the tide charts on this hike. There are certain spots that are completely impassable at high tide, and can be dangerous if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are several sites like this one available . I kept a typed plan, with tide times written in, which I’ll include on our resources page, and Shannon kept a map. We plotted an approximate course and noted the areas where we needed to watch for tides. It is absolutely the most important part of this hike, as not having done this could have resulted in extreme discomfort at the very least, and tragedy at the very worst. That said, it was well worth all of the planning to be able to experience it.

This is the sunset we watched on our first night. It was absolutely incredible.
This was the view from our campsite the first night. It was as breathtaking before, during, and after the sunset and the night sky was equally clear and brilliant.

The distance we hiked from Alava to our first night camp site was only about 2.5 miles, making our total for the day about 5.5 miles. This included hiking past wedding rocks, which hosts some very cool petroglyphs that date back 500-800 years. .

This one was most visible from the trail, but climbing around the rocks is fun and there are many more. There are supposed to be about 40 total Petroglyphs at wedding rocks

If you’ve never experienced a west coast sunset, put it on your bucket list. The one we were able to experience that first night was absolutely unforgettable and impossible to capture in any way to do it justice.

Part 2 next!

3 thoughts on “Olympic Coast, Washington. Part 1

  1. Pingback: Mount Rainier National Park | Heads East, Tails West

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