Backpack xxxxxxxHike: Rialto Beach to Ozette Lake
GPS Data: Map, Track, Waypoints
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Trip Report 9/2-5/06 Sat-Tues (Labor day weeekend)
|09/03/2006 Sun||03:34AM LDT 0.3 L||10:19AM LDT 5.5 H||03:15PM LDT 3.9 L||09:09PM LDT 7.5 H|
Our next tidal obstacle is the rocky beach around Johnson point (which has no inland passage). It is a couple miles that can only be crossed at low tide. We have a high tide this morning at about 10:20 AM so either we start ungodly early in order to beat it or we start at a more civilized hour. We opt for the latter which makes for a leisurely morning. Pete fixes us another fine fire while we watch the fog roll in. The weather report predicted fog for the next 3 days...
While we're breaking camp a couple parties carrying day packs pass us traveling north. There's no sign of the 3 other parties that had camped along our beach or any backpackers from the beach south of us. I'm thinking they all got up early to beat the tide and we missed them. Later it occurs to me that most if not all of the campers south of us were not intending to hike north at all. They were going to stay at their camps for the weekend. In fact, for the rest of the trip we share the beach with only one other pair of backpackers! I'm thinking that anyone heading in our direction was doing the trip in 3 days vs our 4 days. They probably got ahead of us and we never saw them again.
We're packed and on the road at a very civilized 11 AM... just as the fog starts to roll in in earnest.
Fog rolling in. Johnson Point from the south.
In the first quarter mile we come to the actual Chilean memorial - a block on the edge of the beach inscribed with the names of 20 Chilean crew who died (including the captain, his wife and son) when their ship foundered nearby. The waves have eroded the beach to within feet of the memorial so I predict it won't last more than a couple more seasons.
We continue on toward Cape Johnson which marks the beginning of approximately 3 miles of very rocky beach. I think there are usually all kinds of spectacular sea stacks visible from here but with the thick fog we could see nothing. On the north side of the cape we all stop for a snack. Above us, somewhere in the impenetrable brush of the steep hillside, a dog is barking... constantly. It's pretty clear that he's lost. Yesterday Jeff visited some other campers and came back with the story of a lost dog with a radio collar. We wonder if maybe he got past Hole-in-the-wall and got trapped by the tide and couldn't get back to his master... Anyway, without help I think he'll probably die, so I whistle - really loud. The barking stops. I suppose now that he's got his bearings, he'll come down.
We continue making slow time through the rocks. Joan and I are bringing up the rear when the dog finally catches up to us. He doesn't look too bad but he's probably on his second day without food. We give him some thinking we're going to have a friend for life but he never seems to get very attached to us. He comes and goes. Some day hikers going our direction say they saw some people with radio equipment back at Rialto that might have been looking for the dog. So when we meet some folks heading back that way we tell them the story and they agree to herd him in that direction. Hope he got reunited with his family.
Hiker in the soup.
Damn sand fleas get into everything !
The rocks continue for another mile and a half or so. I'm apparently watching my feet too carefully and miss seeing several bald eagles. Along the way we find a single vertebra the size of a fist. Then another and another. More bones... mostly really clean... and then... a skull ! "My! What big teeth you have!" Way cool. Along the way I think we find most of the skeletons of 3 seals! About the time the rocks finally end there's supposed to be a bluff with an old World War II lookout cabin still intact but we never see it.
Predator IV ?
Everyone is grateful when the rocks finally give way to beautiful, firmly packed sandy beach. The walking is a joy. We reach the point - I think it's called "never round" - and pass over it's shoulder without problem. Here the beach stretches into the foggy distance. A little farther and we all stop for lunch - at the spot marked OZ_W10 on the map above. There's water here and a nice inland camping spot perched above the beach and decorated with floats. The creek inlet here is filled with huge driftwood and behind the driftwood we find the biggest "floats" I've ever seen - the size of Volkswagens - plastic filled with styrofoam. Wonder what those were used for?
Predator V ?
Jeff and I are trailing everyone by quite a ways when he calls out "look up!" and I see the one and only bald eagle that I get to see during the entire trip! A bit farther on we reach the Starbucks mine location. I don't think I would have even noticed except that I had made a waypoint in my GPS. There's nothing to mark the spot except that a creek has eroded a break in the bluffs. It turns out that the rest of our group ahead of us missed it. Jeff and I drop our gear to explore, immediately finding some old rusty machinery just up from the beach. There's a good, large inland camp here with some weird "herring bone" metal plates that we imagine must have something(?) to do with mining. A trail continues inland which we follow for some distance but find nothing of any interest. After the trip I did some web searches but was never able to find out what was actually mined here...?
Starbucks mine area
Starbucks mine area
mystery mining aparatus
Inland, near the Starbucks mine
Cedar creek is the next interesting spot, supposed to have a lot of old
abandoned logging machinery but somehow we space and miss it. There's one more
tidal problem ahead of us (a mile south of the Norwegian Memorial). We reach
this spot about 6 PM. The map says this point is passable at a tide of 5.5 feet
or less. As it turns out, with a little scrambling, we barely pass. Joan is
tired of the rocks and opts for the inland passage and beats everyone to the
other side. By the way, there's good water just south of this point.
Here the beach stretches over a mile to the Norwegian Memorial. At half way is the only water source serving this area. There are several big, flat, inland campsites here that are set up by the forest service. Each one is a rectangular patch of dirt framed by big logs. Very... uh... orderly. Not my style. Pit toilets here too.
We continue another half mile to the actual memorial - a small obelisk with the names of the 18 crew members of the Prince Arthur who died and were buried here in 1903. Here there are several more inland camp sites. These have the look of being created by the public - happy, customized, free form, decorated with floats and tire swings! The one we choose has 4 benches complete with back-rests built out of big piles of driftwood. I'd like to tell you that the benches surround a nice fire ring that eventually contains a roaring, toasty, warm fire... but then I'd have to kill you... fires are against the rules... It's still very foggy and the trees occasionally drip on us but we're glad to call this spot home.
It's Bridget's birthday which we celebrate with song and smoked salmon on crackers. mmmmm. Dinner is good. The hot chocolate with Black Velvet that follows is better. Jeff breaks out the Jack Daniels.
|09/04/2006 Mon||04:34AM LDT -0.4 L||11:11AM LDT 6.0 H||04:26PM LDT 3.2 L||10:15PM LDT 7.9 H|
Once again the tides give us the option of a late start. This also allows for some exploring in the morning. It's foggy again... I wander out to explore the rocks but everything is so covered with seaweed that the tide pools have very little else in them. It turns out we've shared our beach with two other backpackers. They breeze in and share our fire for a bit and then they're gone just as quick - I think they were trying to get out to Ozette by tonight.
Looking back at our camp site in the woods at Norwegian Memorial
Near the Norwegian Memorial
Once again we're allowed a leisurely breakfast. We're on the road at a little after 11. Someone has told us that there's three more miles of rocks just north of here. No one is very happy to hear that. The going is slow and the entire area is covered with brown seaweed which just isn't all that interesting. One high point was seeing seals resting on the rocks. One spot had more than a dozen, so I hoofed it out over a couple hundred yards of slippery rocks to take a picture.
Seals south of Yellow Banks
After the seals, it takes me forever to catch up with everybody. By the time I get to Yellow banks everyone else is at the other side. It's pretty cool - the tide is way way out and I have the half mile stretch of beach all to myself. Next time I think I would camp here if possible. The beach is huge and broad and there's lots of fresh water. It looks like the tide comes all the way up to the bluffs so there's probably no beach camping here. I do see at least one inland camp site tucked up in the woods above the beach at the north end. It looks like a nice spot. An odd thing happens here. In the middle of the beach... in the middle of nowhere really... I find... a lime.
At the north end of the beach is a potential tidal problem where you have to scramble from the beach up to a high shelf. The shelf itself has tide pools so the water must get this high fairly often. There's a funky, short "tunnel" here that looks like maybe it was blasted through the rock. It might help avoid some high water problems...
Yet another stretch of rocks brings us to the south end of the Sand Point beach. Jeff and I are bringing up the rear. We see the rest of our group a half mile ahead of us and from the bare foot prints in the sand, the natives must be restless. It looks like there's lots of potential beach camping here but not much inland - the shore is very steep - I think I only saw one inland camp site here at the south end. Also, the nearest water would be back at Yellow Banks.
Joan and Chris, somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula
As we walk north, there's more and more signs of civilization on the beach... stuff collected by people... and left behind. The dry sand looks to have been trampled by a zillion feet but today there is no one here but us. It's a little bit spooky. At the north end of the beach, near the point, is the only water supply there is and to say that it is unappetizing is being generous. We pick a forest-service-style camp site a good distance from the mosquito breeding ponds and get settled in. We do quite a bit of searching for alternative water and find nothing and no one. We are alone.
It's amazing what modern back packing water filters can do! Nobody died from drinking the (filtered) water.
Southern most end of the Sand Point beach. When people talk about the hiking on the rocks, this is what it looks like...
Sand Point (on the left) a mile and a half to the north
We settle into our spacious camp site, setting up tents and making dinner. Peter might have made a roaring fire out on the beach. I say "might" because fires are actually prohibited here. Probably never happened. Sitting around the fire he didn't make we ponder our last evening of the trip. Turns out that today is our day for treasure - Pete found an unopened can of beer: Busch Light! Ok... so I suppose some people might not call that "treasure"... or even "beer" for that matter. I ask Chris S if she has any tequila left and hand her the lime. "Where did you get that?". "I found it on the beach." (What else could I say). The last of the liquor flows freely.
|09/05/2006 Tue||05:26AM LDT -0.9 L||11:53AM LDT 6.6 H||05:25PM LDT 2.4 L||11:14PM LDT 8.4 H|
This morning the plan is to be up by 6:00 AM and out of here as fast as we can go. Not to beat the tides but simply because we have a lot to do: seven miles to hike, then a 2-3 hour car shuttle, get dinner and survive the drive home. Last night we discussed an alternative plan. Bridget's feet are pretty sore and she's interested in the short trail to Ozette lake. The original plan was to hike to Cape Alava and then from there to Ozette (6.7 miles) but it's also possible to hike directly from here (just 3 miles). She and Peter will hike back the short route and do the shuttle while the rest of us hike the longer way. This works to everyone's satisfaction.
Peter and Bridget are gone quick but the rest of us are pretty slow since the need for speed isn't so necessary any more. We're hiking at about 9:15. The foggy soup is with us again this morning. The girls are way in the lead, in fact once we start out I never see them again. Jeff and I are in no hurry... It feels funny - after encountering no one for the last couple days, we start running into day hikers doing the loop hike from Ozette - an older couple tells us how the last time they were here was in the 60s when they were in their 20s. They camped at Sand Point and the water was just as bad then as it is now... except that they didn't have filters back then!
We reach Wedding rocks about 10:30. Again we almost missed it and we find out later that the girls did miss it. The petroglyphs aren't that obvious and unless you're looking at the right place at the right time you might miss them all together. Jeff is the one who notices and we end up spending an hour here while I scour ever inch looking for pictures. I end up finding four different groups, all a bit above the high tide line. Later, on the web I find out that there's one single petroglyph below the high water line but I never saw it. Tourists have added some fake ones as well. There are lots of trails above the rocks and I explored some of them but found nothing of interest..
Petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks
By the time Jeff and I reach Cape Alave I'm pretty sure the girls have gotten tired of waiting for us and started the hike to Ozette. They are nowhere to be seen and when we ask a day hiker about them they say they saw them a half hour ago on the boardwalk. That's ok but the only problem is that Joan has her and my lunch food. I have only a few snacks. I ask Jeff if he has enough to share. Now I've been on a lot of hikes with Jeff and food is never something he skimps on and this time is no exception. It's that last hour of the last day of our hike and he pulls a kings feast out of his pack! We dine and have food left over...
Funny. We're sitting at a spot where the beach narrows down. I'm facing inland when I hear a galloping noise behind me. I turn, startled as two dear trot by so close we could almost touch them.
This sign marks beach trails.
We start the final leg of our hike to Ozette lake. It's boardwalk pretty much the whole way which is interesting. The fog gets left behind and is replaced by blue skies and high 70s temperature. The sound of the ocean and barking seals follows us for a good mile before the beach is finally, thoroughly left behind. We reach Ozette about 3PM where the beer we stashed 4 days ago is still ice cold and good!
The shuttle is already done and a short time later Jeff is driving back to Portland. We turn our bear cans into the ranger station right there at Ozette and soon the rest of us are headed back to Seattle. One final glitch. We miss the 8:30 PM ferry back to Edmonds and the next one isn't till 10 PM. Arg.
You have to be careful what you say on one of these trips. You never know what might show up on the internet. Can you match the quote with the person who said it?
1. "Chex mix? Bastids!"
2. "I never thought I'd be backpacking, pregnant, or sober on my 22nd birthday. Crazy."
3. "All I want is your stick."
4. "Why would it need a bone there?!"
5. "A real man distills his own pee to alcohol and drinks it."
6. "These tide pools suck."
7. "Buy the ones with " Aņejo" on the label and you'll never get a hangover."
8. "There's no way my pack could weigh more than 50 pounds."
9. "I like hiking on the coast because it doesn't have any of that pesky uphill."
10. "Bear cans required? I thought they said BEER CANS! required."
11. "I've had enough of these damn rocks!"
A. Chris M.
G. Chris S.
Next Time/After thoughts:
This stretch of the coast is supposed to be the most popular for backpacking but I really found the Oil City/Third beach hike to be more interesting, more diverse for hiking, more beautiful and easier too. The popularity of the Rialto/Ozette hike is probably mostly due to its very easy road access at both ends - Car access at Rialto makes it a busy beach. Both ends generate lots of day hikers especially the Ozette beach loop. Likewise, lots of folks hike in from one end or the other and camp in one place for several days. The rialto/Ozette stretch is actually more physically difficult due to all the rocky parts. It does have the advantage that you can hike it and never leave the beach. The Oil Cite/Third beach hike requires the you hike inland for several miles over some impassable head lands. I thought this added diversity to the hike but some folks dislike this.
Next time I'd try to camp one beach south of the Chilean Memorial and at Yellow Banks. I'd avoid Sand Point because of the potential crowds. I'd try to stay at one of the various "custom inland" camp sites like at the Starbucks mine or another site a bit south of there.
We really needed to coordinate a little better as a group so as to not miss things like the Wedding Rocks petroglyphs.
We had only one camera with us on this trip. Not good.
Planning and Logistics:
You need to get a wilderness permit from a ranger station (5$ for your group and $2 per person per night). They will also want to know where you plan to camp.
Bear canisters are required everywhere along the coast. These are available for free at (most?) ranger stations where they ask a donation of $3 per can. This doesn't seem so much to represent a concern for bears but rather for raccoons in the Sand Point area. You don't have to return the bear cans to the same ranger station where you received them.
There is a reservation system in effect. If you want to camp from yellow banks to Sand point you have to reserve sites through a ranger station.
Relevant ranger stations are at Port Angeles, Forks, Mora (near La Push) and Lake Ozette.
The forest service will give you a map that marks points where the high tide may make passage impossible. This map is also available on line (see links below). At the ranger station, they will also have a map posted that shows maximum passable tides (in feet) for these points and also whether or not there is an inland trail. They'll sell you this map or you can get it from anyone who carries Custom Correct brand maps (REI, Metsker maps, etc.).
Camp fires are usually not permitted anywhere from wedding rocks to yellow banks... else they must be made on the beach below the high tide mark. During our trip the fire ban was only at Sand Point. So check for the latest info with the rangers.
Be careful using Mapquest and other travel planning services for driving directions to Lake Ozette. These sometimes will route you through local roads that are closed. The only route to Ozette that you can count on is Hwy 112 to Hoko-Ozette road (just west of the town of Sekiu). The route takes about 70 minutes to drive from Sappho on Hwy 101 to Ozette Lake. Reports from multiple sources said that any other roads were closed due to fire hazard when we we there. The rangers weren't interested in discussing road access so talk to the locals about this.
Showers are available:
at the Ozette end at the Lost Resort - about a 1/4 mile from the parking lot. There was only 1 shower, $6 per person, the hot water smelled of sulfur, no towels, and the management was less than friendly.
at La Push, just east of town at a small grocery, around back, coin operated
at Forks at Town Motel. No showers.
supposedly, between La Push and Forks is a restaurant that
also offers showers.
Good burgers and such are available at Sully's (north side of Forks, west side of Hwy 101).
Remember grasshopper, "the path IS the goal".
Harpers Ferry Center
National Park service info re hiking the beach trail
Olympic National Park home page (NPS)
Harpers Ferry Center
Windsox commercial shuttle
Way cool aerial photos of the whole Washington coast
NOAA yearly tide tables for Oregon and Washington
NOAA weather/tide info for La Push
Coastal weather and tide chards
Neah bay tides
Pacific Northwest Trail Association web page
Good info re food ideas
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