Two weekends ago I went on a 3 day road and backpacking trip with my friend David. I’ve known him longer than anyone who isn’t a family member and we’ve been great friends for almost all of that time. He had some time off and we decided to do a trip together on the Olympic Peninsula. We try to do something like this every few years.
The weather was looking super iffy on the morning of June2nd and we spent most of it looking at weather reports and wondering if we shouldhead east (away from rain) instead of going west (into it). Finally we gave in and decided toignore the weather reports and head west. Like many great trips wekicked it off with a large meal and hit an Ethopian Resturant on the way out of town. During lunch the rain slowed down and things started to look better.
We had good ferry Karma and arrived at the Edmonds/Kingston ferry with no wait time for a ferry plus getting loaded onto one of thefirst lanes to be unloaded. The drive to Port Angeles was uneventful except forme making a wrongturn where we drove a 40 minute loop around the Port Gamble Indian Reservation (and yes, there is a casino in Port Gamble) beforepopping out exactly where we started and getting back on track.
In Port Angeles we arrived at the ranger station 2 minutes too late to get a bear canister, but the ranger told us we wouldn’t need one for our first night, andwe figured we wouldn’t have any food left by the second night.As the day turned into evening we realized that we had no flashlight and found aopen hardwarestore to buy one, then headed up into the park to go to Olympic Hot Springs.
Passing Lake Mills on the way to the Hot Springs
The trail into the Hot Springs was an old road so the hiking was super easy. We saw a few other groups coming out of the hot springs and an abandoned biking bottom of the side of the trail, but not much else on the hike in. We went to the campground first and setup our stuff, then went down and found the pools themselves.
The hotsprings were okay, but not great. They have higher algae growth than most springs that I’ve been too, and someone seems to think that using old car floor matts is an appropriate way to seal up the pools. I found it kind of disgusting, but I’ve also been spoiled by the wonderful hotsprings along highway 12 in the Idaho panhandle. David loves the springs and spent more time in them. We had some great conversations about how to best design a house that he is building and what the world will be like after peak oil.
While the hotsprings were lackluster the campground was great. It was mostly empty (only one other group was there), had bear wires for storing food, and the campsites were set pretty far apart and were flat. The only other people camping there were a little strange and very drunk and disappeared (while leaving their fire going) shortly after we got there. We shared a couple of beers and a little food and went to bed.
The next morning we headed out an on the road to Neah Bay to find Shi Shi beach.
Getting to Shi Shi beach is an adventure. It is a roughly 4 hour drive plus ferry ride from Seattle. In the last two hours of the drive (from Port Angeles) you’ll only pass through two communities before Neah Bay and both are very small with limited services. The scenery is nice though,and that is what really matters.
Once at Neah Bay you need to jump through a few hoops to get to Shi Shi beach. You need to pick up a Recreation Pass ($10) at one of a number of businesses in town. This pays for the trail to the beach. If you are with David you also need to find some fish for dinner. We asked around before finally being pointed to the fish processing dock and David walked down and was able to buy a full salmon,right off of the boat, for $5. $5, for a ~5lb fish. $1/lb for stuff that costs $20/lb back in Seattle. The day was looking up.
We arrived at the trailhead to discover a couple of rangers and a police officer looking at two trashed cars. They told us to park at the private parking lots (someone’s front lawn) a 1/2 mile back up the road. This cost another $10, but that is part of the Shi Shi adventure. You need to pay three people to get there — an Olympic National Park backcountry pass, the Makah Indian Reservation for trail work, and a private individual for parking so that your car isn’t broken into. Did we really want to go here that badly?
A cool tree along the Shi Shi beach trail
We loaded up our stuff and headed in. Since we didn’t have a bear canister we only brought food for that night and thought we’d find a nice breakfast in the morning elsewhere. The trail in started pretty nicely, it was mostly boardwalk and turnpike along some second and third growth forest. After about a mile it turned into a trek through the mud in second growth forest. The only people that we saw on the trail were a couple of rangers who passed us (going into the beach) and a odd woman walking very fast away from the beach who asked us if the wild raspberries were poisionous.
At the end of the trail we found a steep bluff down to the beach and the rangers were talking to a large group about their camping situation. We passed through and broke out of the woods onto the beach.
Shi Shi Beach, looking North
What a beach. There are large sea stacks at the points on either end of the beach. The beach is about 2 miles long and has streams coming across it in about 4 places. The stacks at the south of the of beach are called the Point of Arches and there are 3 arches that you can see through as you approach them.
We walked about half a mile down the beach, setup camp, and had some dinner. The fish was awesome:
Grilling salmon in the fire
I’ve only recently started eating fish (after 15 years of being a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian) and this was the best that I’ve had so far. I expect that the setting, being hungry,and the freshness had a lot to do with that.
After eating about 2lbs of salmon and an ear of corn each we walked down to the end of the beach and back. The area around the Point of Arches was the most interesting and we waited there for sunset:
Sunset over the Point of Arches
Any thoughts of skipping this trip due to rain were clearly unfounded. The weather was wonderful and this might have been one of my more memorable sunsets (especially in Washington State). On the walk back up the sunset just got better and better.
We got back to our camp at dusk, restarted our fire, moved it a little bit closer to our sitting rock, and sat back and relaxed. What a wonderful weekend. I hope to make it back another time.
Relaxing by the fire
The rest of the photos.