|July 20, 2004.
At Ellen Creek, amidst intermittant showers, a bald eagle can be heard screeching from its nest in a nearby tree. Throughout much of the morning, we watch a show unparalleled to anything I've ever seen. Three hawks are a battling the eagle in mid-air, presumably a territorial dispute. The eagle, in a ferocious display of mid-air acrobatics, is fending the hawks away with slashes from its razor-sharp talons. The hawks persistently heckle the eagle and make for its nest, but the eagle successfully defends her young with her deadly defenses and impressive aerodynamic gymnastics. It's like watching a military dog-fight among fighter jets, right in front of our face. If I've learned anything from the experience, it's not to piss-off a bald eagle with her young.
After packing up in the wet morning rain, we head the last mile towards the Mora Road, passing many tourists on our way (there is a car-camping resort a mile away). As people ask about our trip, they frequently seem surprised that we walked all the way from Shi Shi beach. So far, we've met no one else hiking the entire Olympic Coastline, and many seem almost astonished (
) that we're doing such a thing.
After cleaning up a bit at the Public Restrooms (ahh... running water!), we wait out the rain until our shuttle arrives. The Quillayute River is far too wide to cross on one's own,
and it's a 10-mile detour via roads to the other side. Before we know it, our shuttle is here, and we're parked at the Three Rivers Resort, getting a shower and eating double-helpings of burgers, fries, onion rings, fried mushrooms and milkshakes. Shortly after, clean and fat, we're headed across the river and back to the trailhead for Chapter 2 of our beach hike.
Soon after reaching Third Beach, we meet our first rope-ladder, crossing over the precipitous Taylor Point. Although the trail isn't exceedingly difficult, we pay dearly for our misguided lunchtime ambitions,
as bricks shuffle awkwardly in our stomachs while we clamber up the steep slopes. We're soon rewarded, however, with an outstanding viewpoint atop the cusp of a 100-foot-plus waterfall, cascading directly into the sea from the top of Taylor Point.
After what seemed like hours, we finish the 1.2 mile overland trail from Taylor point, and enjoy a dart-and-dodge game of avoiding waves at high tide on a shallow beach. Like children, we perch ourselves atop a driftwood log or rock, wait for the retreat of a promising wave, and dash madly to the next safe haven. Overall, we're successful, rarely getting splashed by an unexpected rogue wave. While clambering over a typical seaside rockfield, we can feel the waves pounding on the other side of our boulders... it's a humbling and thrilling experience.
We make an early camp at the pleasant Scott Creek, complete with open, sheltered campsites and a plethora of driftwood for campfires. We wither away the evening talking with our nextdoor neighbors, a fantastic middle-aged couple that share marshmallows and fine company on a pleasant summer evening. We spot a wild osprey dancing in the thermals above, and spy on a large group of harbor seals, resting on the nearby rocks offshore. On the southern half of the Olympic Coast, our route is shorter, so we can avoid the long exhausting days we experienced along the Northern section.
While settling into our sleeping bag under the stars, a rogue spark from our small fire jumps onto WrongBridge's ground pad, melting yet another hole in his already over-ventilated gear. He is quickly growing a reputation for being a magnet for runaway sparks, but it bothers him little as we fall asleep under an unveiling blanket of stars.
July 21, 2004.
We are greeted early with generous low tides, and I can't resist the urge to explore. At Strawberry Point, the minus tides have uncovered a quarter-mile-wide field of usually-submerged rocks and tidepools. As Jeremy continues down the beach, I shed my pack, grab my camera, and explore.
The rocks close to the beach have the unfortunate trait of usually being dry. They hold little marine life, and to the impatient onlooker, it would appear that this entire rockfield is little more than a boring pile of car-sized stones.
But futher out, almost to the edge of the retreated surf, the rocks are almost always underwater. If you're lucky enough to witness it at the right time and curious enough to explore, you're likely to see a rainbow of life that few ever experience. Nearly every inch of the pools is covered with fantastic arrays of oranges, purples, pinks, blues, and greens.
Starfish, anemones, blue mussels, limpets, black chitons, cup coral, and the ever-impressive two-foot wide and fast-moving Sunflower Star are just a few of the variety of life found on these prosperous rocks. Walking becomes difficult among the thick beds of split kelp and surf-grass, and hopping from one rock to another over the pools, a new discovery is made on every bound. I feel like a kid again.
Eventually I rock-hop back to shore and walk the wide, sandy beach to Toleak (TOE-lee-ack) Point, where Jeremy has taken a perch on one of the headlands to do some writing in the mid-morning sun.
Several sea-lions are playing in the off-shore surf, and we pass many sets of campers parked at this popular easy-access beach. While traversing a 1½ mile overland trail,
we explore the quaint and aptly-named Falls Creek Falls, and a short time later we break for lunch before fording Goodman Creek. While drying our feet on the other side,
a majestic bald (eagle) flies down the creek at eye-level, navigating its way along this natural highway through the forest, looking for fish in the river. After seeing so many bald eagles (this is at least 12 now in the past few days), I am still stricken by their quiet power and grace.
To end the day, we hike along a 2½ mile stretch of wide, sandy, sun-bleached coast without seeing another soul.
It's a sunbather's paradise, and we enjoy the easy walking of the South coast, as opposed to the frustrating pea-gravel so common along the northern stretches. We stop for the night at Mosquito Creek, and despite the ominous name, find a wonderfully pleasant campsite (complete with a firewood pile and surprisingly few mosquitoes) in the forest back away from the beach. It's obvious to us now that we will probably finish the coast-hike tomorrow, a day ahead of schedule.