Backpacking on the Beach

June 02, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Last weekend, Lisa and I drove out to one of the most isolated parts of the Washington state coastline, on the Olympic Peninsula near Lake Ozette, for a weekend backpacking trip. After waking up early enough to catch the ass o' clock ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge, we drove along the north side of the Olympic Peninsula, through increasingly small and isolated towns, until finally we turned onto the final empty twenty-mile stretch of road that took us out to Lake Ozette.

You can find Ozette on a map, however, there's no actual town there, only a ranger station and a general store that services the campground on the edge of the lake. From there, it's a three mile hike out to the beach, along a fairly even path that turns into a boardwalk in places where it crosses marshy ground-- not that there was much marsh to be seen while we were there, after this year's relatively dry winter. The day was warm and overcast, and after an hour's hike, we found ourselves at the campsite-- Sand Point, right on the edge of a rocky headland with all sorts of fun tidal pools.

That afternoon, we explored the tidal pools, which were full of snails and crabs and anemones. There was a pair of bald eagles in the area, as well as a deer living in the campsite, who became something of a constant neighbor throughout the weekend, grazing in nearby campsites and frequently sited along the trails and even on the beach.

Later in the afternoon, after having set up camp and wandered around the area a bit, we walked two miles north to Wedding Rocks, where some ancient petroglyphs had been carved into the rock by the Makah tribe that used to live in the area. Luckily, we had stopped to talk to a woman who was actually carrying a map of where the petroglyphs were, which I took a photo of; still, even with the map, the petroglyphs were hard to find, and trying to find the man-made markings among the natural wear of the rocks sometimes felt like looking for shapes among the clouds. But nevertheless, we were able to find quite a few petroglyphs, including the one for which Wedding Rocks was named.

There's quite a lot of litter and detritus along the Ozette beach, including tires, shipping container panels, boxes, and various odds and ends. Quite a few of the larger pieces of debris had Japanese writing on them. We also passed by the decaying carcass of a large sea lion, probably about nine feet long, although thankfully there wasn't much of a smell. We saw the bones of a few fish laying around as well, and the skeleton of what may have been a raccoon not far from our campsite.

On a more cheerful note, we also saw some gray whales off the coast, as we were taking a break near the Wedding Rocks. Whales can be hard to spot on this stretch of coast, even though they're fairly plentiful, simply because of the huge number of offshore rocks that create dark shapes far out in the water, constantly registering in your brain as false positives. But the distinctive puff of water from their blowholes was unmistakable, and we watched them for several minutes before losing track of them.

Despite the litter and the occasional creepy set of bones, Ozette was a beautiful place, with very much a wild feeling to it. That night, we were one of only three small groups of people spread out across the large campground, which probably contributed to the feeling of isolation. 

The next day, we did one more exploration of the beach, then packed up and headed out, retracing our steps back to civilization. Since we'd caught the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry on the way over, we took the Kingston-Edmonds ferry across the Sound on the way back, where we saw quite a few cruise ships steaming out of Seattle on their way to Alaska and parts north.

It was definitely a fun trip this weekend-- Ozette is a place both Lisa and I want to go back and explore more of in the future.


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