After surviving two dismally wet days in Olympic National Park, the weather forecast finally promised sunny skies.
|Beginning of the loop|
Roger and I left Lake Crescent at sunrise, heading west to the final stop in our 2014 Olympic National Park tour - Ozette Lake.
Ozette Lake is a large natural freshwater body near the Northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula (big enough that it shows up on the Washington State map). Part of the National Park, it boasts a campground, ranger station, and one of the most beautiful dayhikes on the Washington coast - the Ozette Triangle.
|Crossing a mossy bridge|
This hike came highly recommended in my guidebook, garnering 5 stars out of 5. Of course I had to check it out. But Ozette Lake was located in a very remote part of the Olympic Peninsula, requiring a long drive down winding mountain roads. It was mid-morning before Roger and I pulled into the campground.
After claiming a lovely lakeside site, and erecting our still-wet tent to dry, it was time for some exploration.
|Boardwalk through the coastal forest|
The Ozette Ranger Station is located a mere three miles from the Pacific coast. From here, two separate trails fan out through thick coastal forests to reach the ocean. One heads north to Cape Alava, and the other leads south to Sand Point. Each trail is about three miles in length. The trails are connected by walking the beach another three miles, which creates a triangle-shaped loop (and thus it's name).
To begin our adventure, my hubby and I started at the ranger station, and crossed over a mossy bridge spanning the Ozette River. Just beyond the river, we reached a junction for the two trails. Decision time. Did we go south to Sand Point, or head north and visit Cape Alava first? I let Roger choose and he picked the south route. So off we went through the thick coastal forest.
|Our first ocean view at Sand Point|
One of the unique features of both the Sand Point and Capa Alava Trails is that large portions of their paths consist of an old, wooden boardwalk. Constructed to keep hikers from slogging through marshy terrain, it follows ancient trails made by Native Americans and early settlers. Although this plank road makes traversing the forest a piece of cake, it's wooden surface gets extremely slippery during rainy periods (which, around here, is most of the time).
|Kelp trail along the rocky shore|
The boardwalk was really cool. It meandered through the forest, sometimes climbing or descending via wooden steps. Most of the weathered wood looked like it had been in place for a long time, it's cracks sprouting moss. But here and there we spotted portions of the plank road recently reconstructed with newer lumber.
The coastal forest here was amazingly beautiful. Roger and I marveled at the huge cedar and spruce trees lining our path. Huge ferns, salal, and numerous other thick undergrowth blotted out the sun. Indeed, it was a magical place.
|Sea stack reflection|
The miles passed quickly, and before I knew it we were hearing the surf's faint roar, and smelling salty sea air. Glimpsing blue sky between the trees, we emerged from the deep, dark forest onto a bright, dazzling ocean beach..
|Making our way through the shoreline sea stacks|
To reach the water, Roger and I first had to wade through thick piles of stinky kelp. The kelp piles had been there for awhile, as they were decomposing and buzzing with flies - yuck! We managed to detour around some of it, and moved as quickly as we could where crossing was the only option.
|Overland trail marker on headland|
Then we reached the ocean's edge. The tide was coming in, and waves lapped at the shoreline. As with Rialto Beach, the beach at trail's end was comprised of small, rounded rocks. Sea stacks of all shapes and sizes, rose from the surrounding ultra-blue waters.
|The scenery was stunning!|
If our forest walk was the main course, hiking along the beach was dessert with a cherry on top. The scenery along this wild coastline was nothing short of spectacular. The sun's rays reflected off the ocean, turning the water a deep shade of blue. The seastacks towered above the crashing waves, forming all kinds of interesting shapes. Taking frequent photo breaks, I trailed behind my hubby.
|Roger finds a treasure|
Because the tide was coming in fast, Roger and I didn't want to linger too long in any one place. On our 3-mile beach trek we had to pass by two rocky headlands. If we arrived too late, the beach around them would become impassable. Cut off by rising waters, hikers must climb the headland via an overland scramble trail.
|Roger investigates the hole in this rock|
We made it around the first headland, with waves lapping at our feet. Halfway around, Roger and I ran into a troop of Boy Scouts with four potbellied leaders groaning under huge backpacks. The group was backpacking along the coast (a very popular activity here). One of the older dads commented this was the last camping trip for him - his knees couldn't take it anymore. As we chatted, one of the adults told us to look for a large seastack called the "Wedding Rocks" where there were supposed to be some ancient petroglyphs.
The Makah people established many villages on the Olympic Peninsula's northwestern tip, the largest being just north of Cape Alava. These petroglyphs, created by Makah members, depict a variety of scenes, including a wedding.
|Photo through the hole|
Roger and I continued along the coast, looking carefully at each seastack to see if it was the Wedding Rocks. However, we didn't discover any petroglyphs, so weren't able to confirm which one it was. Roger did, however, walk out to one interesting seastack that had a large hole in it, and captured this cool photo of the ocean framed in the opening.
|We had to hike around many downed trees|
Due to the incoming tide, much of the flat, unobstructed beach was already underwater, forcing Roger and I to walk closer to the forested fringe. That meant occasionally scaling obstacles in our path, such as driftwood piles, or huge downed trees. Most of the trees we could just scramble over, but a couple were so large, we ended up crawling under on our bellies.
|Wreckage from Japanese tsunami|
Because this beach was only accessible by foot, I didn't expect to see much evidence of human interference. But we found lots of washed-up debris buried in the beach sand. One of the more interesting finds was a couple of plastic crates with Japanese writing on them. Looked like wreckage from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
|Seagulls take flight|
Reaching the second headland, the water level had risen high enough that continuing on the beach wasn't possible. Locating the round, black and red sign that indicated an overland route, Roger and I scrambled up it's primitive trail. The path over this headland was extremely rough. The slopes up and down were steep, requiring use of any available hand hold (tree roots, bushes, rocks, tree trunks). We bushwhacked through thick brush and hopped over a downed tree or two. But in no time at all, we emerged onto the opposite end's beach.
Safely on the headland's other side, we continued our journey north to Cape Alava. The now-rising tide meant more scrambles over downed trees, and we had a couple more quick bushwhacks through the nearby forested hillsides.
During later research I learned to my surprise that Cape Alava is the westernmost point in the continental United States, beating out Cape Flattery to the north by a mere 350 feet. Who knew?
|Trekking towards Cape Alava|
Tracking our progress via my gps, I noticed Cape Alava, and our return trail was getting close. As we neared our junction, the beach again became covered with a thick layer of rotting, smelly kelp. Ugh! With nowhere to go, Roger and I had to wade through this nasty mess. Flies were thick, and they swarmed our faces. In some places, the goo came up midway to our knees. I was so glad to be wearing long pants and hiking boots. Definitely not the highlight of this hike!
|Mossy stair steps|
To our relief, the round, black and red trail sign finally came into view. Happy to be free of the yucky kelp walk, Roger and I climbed the steep scramble trail up the bluff (where some nice person had left a rope to aid our ascent). Heading back into the woods, we were happy to be walking again on more wonderful boardwalks. After scaling headlands, worming around downed trees, balancing on slippery rocks, and wading through kelp, this plank path felt like a superhighway.
|Impressive coastal forest|
The three mile return trip went quickly. We passed through more beautiful forest with lots of huge trees. Were Roger and I not tired, hungry, and ready for a beer, we probably would've lingered a bit. Finally, the trail junction came back into view, and from there it was merely a hop over the bridge back to the campsite and our now-dry tent.
Of all the places visited on our Olympic tour, the Ozette Triangle was by far the best. It's coastline was extremely beautiful, and the plank trail through the forest unique. Hiking along this gorgeous wild beach was a true adventure. I felt fortunate to have dry sunny weather for this hike, but it would be spectacular in any season.
I'm not quite through with my Olympic National Park recap. There's one final post coming, so stay with me!
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