MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 17, 2004


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This morning, after a quick breakfast at the Coffee Shop and visit to the laundromat, we catch Terri, our gracious driver. Before long we're headed to the North Olympic Coast. While Terri & OlyHiker converse in the car, I spend most the time with my sleeping bag. After a wash & dry in the laundromat, the fabric is dry, but alas, the down feathers aren't! I squeeze out countless tiny bundles of wet feathers, one by one, as we drive towards the coast. At least the bag smells better now!

Soon enough we're at the Shi Shi beach Trailhead. Judging from all the cars, we're not the only ones with this idea. We meet two rangers in the parking lot, who grill us rudely for our permits and warn us ominously of our proposed trip down the coast. "It'll be rough," they say. "You'd better prepared for a rough time out there. It's a lot tougher than most people think."

After 2 muddy miles through the used-to-be-old-growth forests of the Makah Reservation, we're at Shi Shi beach, ready to go. The beach is crowded with dayhikers and weekend campers scattered about everywhere, but after a quick walk down the two miles of beach and around the Point of the Arches (our first headland), most people have disappeared. After the second headland, all of them have.
Progress is slow under the bright cloudless sky, and we round the headlands, one after another, frequently using ropes to haul ourselves over the steep cliffs that point into the sea. The going is steep, but the rocks are beautiful! Around each rock is a new view of the terrain. It's much like climbing over a high mountain pass to see the valleys and peaks beyond, only it happens more often and without the elevation gain!

High tide arrives just after lunch, and despite our better judgment, we proceed around several more headlands marked "Caution" on the map. Over one in particular, we scale a precipitous vertical outcrop of sharp stone and leap over the pounding surf, several yards below. (In retrospect, it would have been prudent to wait for low tide and walk around.) Eventually we hit a headland we cannot cross, and we wait, stranded by the high tide for several hours. We watch harbor seals play in the surf and a bald eagle perch itself majestically on the sea stacks (rocks sticking out of the water just offshore). A deceased sea lion is rotting on the beach nearby; it's skin hanging loosely over a rack of gaunt yellow bones, several hundred pounds of maggots squirming visibly below. OlyHiker doesn't care for it, although I find it somewhat fascinating. But the putrid smell leaves something to be desired.

A couple hours wait and the tide finally clears. We proceed southward, finally arriving at the 3-mile stretch of open beach leading to Cape Alava. We originally planned to walk all the way down to the Cape tonight, but it's late already, and we're tired, so we elect to stay at the nearby Seafield Creek. My sleeping bag is nearly dry now, having been draped over my pack in the sun all day.

This beach walking takes a lot out of you! Progress through pea-gravel is slower than on a groomed trail, and negotiating endless boulder fields and headlands under a glaring sun quickly drains your reserves. However, the wildlife is sensationally unique, with endless varieties of sea stars, hermit crabs, snails, clams, otters, seals, sea lions, eagles, gulls and falcons among just a few of the huge variety of coastal life found here. We'll see what tomorrow brings!