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Some Sand of Your Own

Outside magazine, July 1995

Some Sand of Your Own

Wild, people-free beaches where all you get is sun, water, and dunes with a view

By Parke Puterbaugh

No matter how high the mercury gets, sometimes acres of terry cloth and over-oiled humanity just won't do. On the other hand, you don't want to rappel down a cliff, hike 20 miles, and swim a shark-infested channel to spend a quiet day at the shore. True wilderness beaches in the Lower 48 states are becoming as scarce as spotted-owl droppings, but there are pockets of accessible coastline where you can stake out a sandy retreat. We can't guarantee you'll be all alone, but it's a safe bet that once you're there, you won't even care.

Ozette, Washington

The Beach: A wide, three-mile stretch of cobble-strewn sand, edged by steep headlands on the Olympic Peninsula's wild western shore, with views of sea stacks marching into the blue.

The Action: The beach at Ozette (actually two adjacent beaches, Cape Alava and Sand Point) is one leg of the 9.3-mile loop known as the Ozette Triangle. Starting from the campground at Lake Ozette, take either the north fork to Cape Alava or the south fork to Sand Point; both are boardwalked for nearly their entire three-mile lengths and pass through marshes, meadows, and pockets of old-growth forest teeming with waterfowl. Once at the beach, set up camp anywhere and wait for whales, sea lions, seals, and sea otters to cruise by. Intrepid hikers have been known to lug in collapsible kayaks to play in the typically roiling surf.

Know That: The Ozette loop trail goes around two headlands marked with the warning "caution" on topo maps. While they're generally passable at low tide during summer, you should consult tide charts and keep an eye on the weather.

Getting There: From Seattle, about five hours away, take the Edmonds/Kingston Ferry and hook up with U.S. 101 via Washington 104. Continue northwest for 43 miles to Washington 112 and then go 46 miles to the turnoff to Ozette, a mile west of the town of Sekiu. From there, it's about 21 miles to the Ozette ranger station. You can pick up park maps and tide charts at a nearby kiosk. For information, call Olympic National Park headquarters at 360-963-2725. Camping permits are required, but reservations can't be made more than a month in advance. Call 360-452-0300.

Parke Puterbaugh is currently at work on a guidebook to California's beaches, to be published next spring by Foghorn Press.