Well, it took four years before I finally got my act together, set a date, and made the journey north again. The last week of September, my hubby and I made a long-overdue repeat visit.
|Ruby Beach and the Pacific Ocean peeking through the trees|
Olympic National Park is a land of diversity. This park offers spectacular glacial mountains, mossy rain forests, swift wild rivers, and unspoiled ocean beaches. The last visit I'd sampled a bit of each ecosystem. This time, I wanted to spend more time exploring the coastline.
Roger and I packed his truck with food, camping supplies, and rain gear. Although the PNW was experiencing a hot, dry autumn, the Olympic coast is known for it's frequent and plentiful rainfall. Stopping at a ranger station just inside the park boundary, we checked the local weather forecast. Although only a 30% chance of rain was predicted for that day, the lady staffing the station laughed and said "Up here a 30% chance of rain means it will rain 30% of the time."
|Sea stacks at Ruby Beach|
Our destination for that day was Rialto Beach, located directly west of the town of Forks (featured in the "Twilight" books and movies). Enroute, we made a quick stop at Ruby Beach, one of my favorite places from our last visit. Ahhhh....it was great to walk this picturesque stretch of coastline and take in it's towering sea stacks, white-capped waves, and perfectly smooth rounded rocks covering the beach (no sand here!). Luckily, the weather cooperated long enough for me to snap a few pics.
|Waves at Rialto Beach|
Then it was a long drive, through alternating second-growth forests and clear cuts. Olympic National Park is fragmented - it's boundaries cover the interior mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, and fingers of parkland jut out from this center, following rivers. There's a gap between the mountainous center and the ocean beaches (which is where all the logging takes place). Then a narrow band of the National Park follows the Washington coastline from the Queets River, north to Shi Shi Beach. Except for a couple of Indian Reservations, all of the coastline within the National Park is wild, undeveloped, and unspoiled.
|No sand - only rocks on this beach|
After a quick lunch at a crummy hamburger joint in Forks (besides Subway, the only fast food place in town), Roger and I headed due west, towards Rialto Beach and Mora Campground. After a quick tour of the campground, it was time for more coast exploration. We followed the wide Quillayute River to its end, and here, where river met ocean, was Rialto Beach.
Climbing up from the parking lot, the first thing I noticed about Rialto Beach was the huge amount of driftwood lying everywhere. And it was another of those beaches with round rocks covering the shores, instead of sand.
|Roger finds some kelp|
Unfortunately, we arrived when the tide was coming in, so there wasn't much beach area to walk upon. Roger and I tried to explore the coastline, but frequently had to clamber over piles of driftwood.
|The waves were fun to watch|
But incoming tides meant lots of huge, cool waves to watch. The turbulent ocean was mesmerizing.
|Lone dead tree|
Checking the tide charts, low tide was at 7 pm that evening (but it would be dark by then) and 8 am the following morning. Roger and I decided we'd rise early tomorrow and hike Rialto Beach then.
|Big tree on the trail to Second Beach|
Luckily, the afternoon was still young, and there were other beaches nearby to check out. Following the Quillayute River upstream, we crossed and headed along it's south banks. A series of ocean beaches, First, Second, and Third Beach could be accessed south of the river.
|Twisted tree roots|
Roger and I chose to explore Second Beach, mainly because there were still places to park at it's trailhead. A lovely 3/4 mile walk through a dense, coastal forest took us directly to the ocean shores.
|Steps down to the beach|
We passed huge old-growth fir and cedar trees, large ferns, and trees with massive, twisted root systems. Then a set of well-constructed wood steps led visitors down to the sandy plain of Second Beach.
|Forested sea stack|
Second Beach was another lovely spot on the Olympic Coast. It has a lot in common with neighboring Rialto - huge piles of driftwood, and amazing sea stacks jutting up from the surf. But instead of rocks, this beach was covered with soft sand.
|Lots of driftwood here too|
I loved the huge sea stacks, rising up from the ocean floor. Some of them were large enough to have full-sized trees growing on top. Although Oregon has lots of sea stacks along it's coast, none of them sprout trees.
|Second Beach had beautiful sea stacks|
Roger and I walked along the ocean for about a mile, admiring views. But by the time we reached this beach, the sunny blue skies had given way to murky clouds. On our return trip, the clouds began to thicken and turn dark. I remarked to Roger, "I think it's time for our 30% of rain."
|There was actual sand here!|
We beat the rainstorm back to the car. Wanting to check out First Beach, the road took us into the Quileute Indian Reservation, and the tiny town of La Push. Here, the road ended at First Beach.
|Fishing boat dock at La Push|
It appeared the people of La Push made their living fishing. Dozens of colorful vessels were tied up at the main dock. There were signs all over town advertising places to buy smoked fish and salmon, all of them private homes.
Driving by the parking area for First Beach, I noticed a huge flock of seagulls, all sitting on the ground. An interesting photo op, I hopped out of the truck for a few shots. That's about the time all those heavy clouds decided to let loose.
Parking next to the boat docks, Roger noticed some pelicans swimming around with the gulls. I stuck my zoom lens out the truck window, and caught a couple shots of a pelican flying away. Really neat to see a few of these birds in action!
|A pelican takes flight|
By then, the rain was really coming down, and it was nearing dinnertime. We headed back towards Mora Campground, hoping for a break in the moisture to erect our tent, and prepare a quick supper. But - Mother Nature had other ideas.
To be continued......
Sharing with: Saturday's Critters and Weekly Top Shot.