Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wasington's Stunning Olympic Coast

While Twilight has succeeded in causing the tourist industry of the Olympic Peninsula to boom, the fact remains that all of those tourist sites are artificial and temporary.  For many locals and backpackers it's the stunning show by nature that takes center stage.  A glorious panorama that was there long before Stephanie Meyer dreamed up "Twilight," and that will remain long after it fades into oblivion.
   Growing up in Washington I visited the coast for camping trips yearly, that is, the central Washington coast, where rolling sand dunes and mile wide beaches open up to form a national highway.  The beaches of the Olympic Peninsula in contrast are very different, and I dare say more beautiful.  There, thick rainforests skirt the pebble strewn shorelines and rocky tree covered mini-islands scatter along the coastline. 

    It's also a haven for wildlife.  In my few days along the coast I saw three Bald Eagles as well as countless deer, puffins, and tidepool life that astounds.  I even witnessed acouple sea lions, although, unfortunately they were no longer living.... oh well, as the Lion King would say "it's the circle of life," and the seagulls sure seemed to be enjoying themselves....

  The first beach I visited was near the Ozette Indian Reservation.  After a three mile (and rather monotonous) hike on a boardwalk though the forest we came to Sandy Beach.  The feeling of solitude was immense.  The only other sign of humankind were a few backpackers tents hidden back in the trees.  The inhabitants of which must have been off exploring.
    The beach itself was covered in seaweed, which were in turn home to literally millions of sand flies.  So, needless to say it's probably not a swimming beach, but if you wanted to just take a good book or a journal and get absorbed by nature, it perfect.
    At the end of the crescent moon shaped beach is a large rocky mound resembling several of the islands hundreds of yards off shore.  Years of backpackers and visitors have worn a path up the side so you can easily scramble to the top and once you arrive you attain a view for miles in all directions.  I could have sat up there all day, honestly.

(From on top of the rocky mound)

     Farther down the coast is the area of LaPush, where the islands get closer and the hikes get shorter.  Nearly all visitors to the area will take a stroll on first beach.  It requires no hike yet still retains the beauty of the area.

    My favorite beach is Second Beach.  The hike is less than a mile (although downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back), and once you reach the sand, it feels like a different world. 
    On the day I visited clouds hung low around the islands creating and eerie overcast feeling oddly appropriate for the area.  This beauty also draws in many artists.  Painters sat with canvases, ensconced by mounds of driftwood, while photographers (not tourists, there's a difference) strolled the beach with their cameras and tripods.

    For sunset the view from Rialto Beach can't be beat, and it seems that everyone knew that, the parking lot was packed.  Bright citrus colors sparkled off the water as if I were in Hawaii, and then finally as the sun sank below the horizon line, a fine mist rolled in off the water, grasping onto the eerie skeleton-like sun bleached trees that line the shoreline.

    Beyond these beaches, accessed only by backpackers and the daring are fabulous other beaches and sites, like Hole in the Wall, that I hope one day to experience.  I'll just need a hiking buddy.  Any takers?

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