Friday, April 10, 2009

Rialto Beach to Shi-Shi

The original plan over spring break was to climb a few peaks near Diablo, peaks that I see every day walking to breakfast. Mother Nature wasn't interested in playing along though, the avalanche danger was pretty high, there was a mix of snow/rain coming down and we chose a warmer, drier option. We headed to the Olympic Coast. The plan was a four day, three night hike from Rialto Beach to Shi-Shi. The only hitch was transportation, we didn't want to take two cars and we didn't want to pay a man named Willie Nelson (the only shuttle we could find!) $200 to help us out. So we came up with a simple, although multi-layered, public transportation system to get us from Shi-Shi back to Rialto.
Day 1: Bellingham to Cedar Creek.
We caught an early ferry from Keystone to Port Townsend, made a mandatory stop at Pane d' Amore for coffee and pastries and we were off. Our first stop was the Port Angeles Ranger Station where we obtained a tide table (which proved to be indispensable), a bear can (which proved to be too small), and a Pocket Naturalist guide to seashore life (which was fabulous).
We heard the sea before we saw it. I had somehow forgotten how constant and rhythmic the sound of the surf is. The first day we hiked from Rialto Beach to Cedar Creek. We realized quickly that a hike on the beach is more than just sandy beaches, driftwood and sea shells; huge downed trees, slimy rocks, smooth/ankle twisting fist sized rocks, tides and sloping beaches were also part of hiking on the Olympic Coast.
Giant Green Anenome
A fightin' mad Purple shore crab

Sunset from Cedar Creek Camp, looking north.
Looking south.

Day 2: Cedar Creek to Cape Alava
We started the day off with an AMAZING breakfast. Maybe we're just used to eating oatmeal out of a freezer bag for breakfast when we are climbing, but......scrambled eggs, garlic and herb biscuits with mascarpone! Delicious.

After a late morning start, due to the tides, we crossed our first headland trail. It hadn't had much attention lately. The lower rungs were in pretty bad shape, but the view from the top was great, so who cares?

Looking down at Kayostla Beach from the headland trail.

We saw ~15 eagles along Kayostla Beach, this is a
juvenile and there are a few more in the tree behind it.

Bull kelp heap

At Yellow Banks a thick fog bank rolled in. We almost wished we were camping there, there was a beautiful site on a bluff overlooking the beach, next time.

Looking south at Yellow Banks.

Sunset at Cape Alava.

Day 3: Cape Alava to Shi Shi
We started day 3 at 4am. We wanted to cross the Ozette River as close to low tide as possible, low tide was at 5:38am, and we had a few miles to cover before reaching the river. But sunrise wasn't until 6:30! When we got to the Ozette it was still dark and it looked and sounded so scary! I thought we were going to have to walk all the way back to Rialto. As prepared to cross, taking off our pants, jackets, headlamps and made our packs as waterproof as possible, the day began to break. The river looked a little less scary so we ventured it. It was crotch deep in places and COLD! We made it across, trying several routes before doing so, and promptly had a little celebration on the other side (which mainly included jumping up and down to warm up our legs!)

Looking south across the Ozette River, where we had crossed. We didn't
get any good pictures because of the dim light, but I had to put one in.

Our early morning start got us across the river but it also got us to the next headland crossing a few hours too early, the tides were too high to cross. So we found a nice camp north of the Ozette River and promplty took a nap. The view of our napping camp.
From our mid-morning nap camp we once again headed north. Taking time to explore some of the amazing tidepools we found along the way. We saw our first Chitons, lots of Anenomes, pink algae, Limpets, Hermit crabs, Sculpin, Porcelian crabs, Harlequin ducks, Blue heron, more eagles, and a lone Sandpiper.

All of the exploring made us hungry and we tried our newest backpacking creation. Coconut mango brown rice! Amazing. It is going on every trip. Freeze dried mango, 5 minute brown rice, dried coconut milk and dried maple syrup. So good. And somehow I convinced Ian to cook on the beach mid-day! He was pretty hungry.

One of many headland trails we had to cross on Day 3. Most of them had rope ladders, or at least ropes, as the trails were slippery, muddy and steep.Looking north toward Point of the Arches and Shi-Shi Beach.

Our camp at Shi-Shi was fabulous. The creek was close, easy to get to, the view was phenomenal and we had a fire.
The water along the coast is all pretty stained by tanins from all of the cedar trees. This means
the water is always brown. At least it tastes good.

Sunset at Shi-Shi was, well, look at the pictures:

Day 4: Shi-Shi to Rialto Beach (via the Makah Reservation, Neah Bay, and Forks)

Half of the fun of this trip was figuring out how to get back to the car and then hoping it would work out. And it did, flawlessly. Well, there was some concern that we would miss the last ferry out of Port Townsend, but that all worked out. We started the return trip with a long road walk to the Makah Tribal Center where we caught a public bus. That bus took us to Neah Bay where we caught the Clallam County Bus to Forks. In Forks we caught yet another bus that headed toward La Push. We jumped off before La Push and walked ~5 miles back to the car at Rialto. What is amazing is that we paid $3.50 between us for three bus trips!

Hiking from Rialto Beach to Shi-Shi was a perfect spring break trip. We got some much needed sunshine, I finally got to explore the Olympic Coast and because it was the off season we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Oh, and did I tell you that the weather was fabulous?

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