Sunday, February 17, 2008

Second Beach

Earlier this week, Rick, Jason and I made a quick trip to the Olympics for an overnight/ snowshoe trip from Hurricane Ridge to Mt Angeles- more or less a 3 mile course from trailhead to Class 3 summit scramble. It took forever to get out of town thanks to side events including a quick call to the cops on crackheads near the building, Rick taking a grumper and failing to convince woah-easy-does-it ferry toll collectors that you really should get on the ferry that's leaving in 2 minutes. But then we were on the peninsula, working our way across the Hood Canal Bridge to Port Angeles.

Arriving at close to 21:30, we inched up to the Ranger toll station and were immediately confronted with a giant "ROAD CLOSED" sign. 100 feet past the station was a well constructed barricade that we would never be able to get around. This winter has been one giant snowstorm after another out in the Pacific Northwest, including several days of back-to-back accumulation- frequently a foot or more of fresh powder. Fantastic for snowboarding, not so fantastic for trying to drive up to Hurricane Ridge.

After spending about 5 minutes bitching and complaining, we made a group decision to head to the coast. Why not? We were almost there ("almost" on the Olympic Coast being a relative term.. sort of like when we are in DC we are almost near New York since they are both on the east coast) and had a car loaded to the gills with camping gear.

So off we went. I think we finally hit La Push at close to 11:15, and made it down on to the beach at 11:45 with our gear. Using Night Vision Goggles to search out the high ground for a bivouac site, we scared up a tiny spit of sand that seemed like it might work when high tide hit around 3:30 (it didn't).

Jason kicked off a fire with duraflame logs and wood that had been saturated by rain since October while Rick and I set up the tent, moved the tent to higher ground when sneaker waves came in, moved it back, and then moved it again. All the while, we cooked hobo meals (a combination of meat, potatoes, onions and other miscellaneous veggies wrapped in aluminum foil and which you essentially throw in the fire to cook). While pitch black out, the crash of waves and lapping of water just feet from the tent made for an amazing setting. Peering out at the sea stacks through NVGs gave the setting an almost ghostly feel as we realized that we were the only people for miles.

For the next four hours we joked around, drank scotch, fought to keep the fire going and ate dinner. After we were confident that we had safely passed through high tide on our little spit of sand, we let the fire go out and hopped into the tent. Our final site was a small and safe area pitched in between massive driftwood logs that litter the beach. If any wave came in at that point it would have to be significantly larger than these goliaths that acted as a wave break and allowed us to sleep comfortably. We slept away the rest of the night, waking to the gentle sound of waves crashing and rain pelting the side of the tent. In the morning, I unzipped the fly and took a look. Pretty cool view from the front door, no?

We were drenched in rain, but spent an hour exploring the coast of Second Beach at low tide, in some cases walking several hundred yards out to one of the monsterous sea stacks and checking out tide pools that are created in rocky areas where the unbridled force of the Pacific Ocean meets land. In these little pools exist creatures that take a brief rest from the turbulence and persistent crashing of waves that nail the area twice a day at high tide.

Finally, it was time to depart. We packed up our site, hiked out through the pelting rain while scrambling over giant logs and then through the forest. Two hours later we were in Port Angeles and then two hours after that we were back in Seattle. It's always amazing to me that this sort of environment is so close, yet so rarely visited. Truly unique.

No comments: