MIKE MacFERRIN'S OLYMPIC SOLO TREK....July 22, 2004


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First thing today, we have a choice to make. Immediately across Mosquito Creek is a 3-mile overland trail that traverses around the top of the Hoh Head, one of the larger and more precipitous headlands along the entire Olympic Coast. However, our map indicates a route, since abandoned by the Park Service, which allows us to continue along the beach for a while, cutting off half of the boring reroute. We have to cross a headland that can only safely be traversed at a half-foot tide. Lucky for us, this morning we have a negative 1-foot tide, plenty of cushion to allow for safe crossing. So we opt for the beach route, knowing that when the tide rises, we would not be able to retreat back until the next low tide (the next morning).

It was worth it! Not only is the rarely used rocky route full of sea stars and anemones, but there are several cliff- side caves exposed in the deeply eroded sandstone. We take a moment to explore, but are deterred by the moist cave walls, which are crawling with inch-long roachlike bugs that creep up the walls and fall from the ceiling. We're content to take pictures and continue onward.

Eventually, we reach the extremely steep and brushy trail abandoned by the Park Service.
After a quick quarter mile scramble up through intense bushes, we reach the main overland trail, where we cross around the Hoh Head and continue our final miles of beach to the mighty Hoh River's convergence with the sea. The channel of the Hoh River is deceivingly narrow (one could throw a rock to the other bank), but is running so unbelievably deep and swift that even with a powerboat we would be unlikely to cross without being swept to sea. This is the official end of our beach hike, and we take the obligatory pictures, happy and content with our week of sand, surf & sunshine.

Of course, we're here a day early, and our ride isn't scheduled until tomorrow. After waiting around the parking lot to hitch a possible ride out, we give up and start walking the road in search of a phone. OlyHiker's parents live nearby, and if all goes well we will call for a ride back to town. So, we head down the road, unsure of just how far a phone might be (it's 20 miles to the highway). If all else fails, we have plenty of food for another night, so we continue onward.

A mile after leaving the National Park Boundary behind us, we chance upon a large homestead and a series of small shops, all quiet as the breeze in the blistering sun. After inquiring a bit, we knock on the door of a small art shop, where a white-haired woman sweeps her studio. She graciously allows us to use her phone (we have a phone card), and then, quite unexpectedly, invites us to sit back and relax. We begin talking, feeling a bit awkward about our three-day trail funk, but our fears quickly evaporate as we talk to this amazing old woman. Over the next two hours, we get the most impressive history lesson I have ever witnessed. This woman lives on the original homestead that her grandparents built when the first white settlers were populating the peninsula. Her grandmother was the first white child born on the entire Olympic Peninsula. She speaks bits of local Native American tongue, and has a rare English-Chilkoot dictionary (a language long-since dead) on her bookshelf. Hearing her stories and seeing the impressive collection of native artifacts she holds close to her memories, I am in awe of the rich and lively history held within this seemingly unimposing woman. I could have sat and listened to her talk for days, but eventually Jeremy's parents show up, so we bid our farewells and part ways. Someday soon I should like to come back and visit her studio once again.

A short time later I'm back in Forks, enjoying another paid shower at the Towne Motel and sleeping once again on a rooftop porch, this time being a bit more precautious of the resident cat.