Trip report by Shelley Sims-Fye
DAY 3: We crawl out of our tent about a half hour before the morning high tide at 8:14 AM; the rains have ended and the clouds appear thin. After the usual morning eat and pack routine, we leave Norwegian Creek camp at 9:30. The clouds are breaking up and the sun is coming out, the wind is light and shifting to come from the north (A good sign.), the temperature is 50 degrees.
A short walk brings us to the big tree stump we had photographed in July, 1997. The contrast was striking. Winter storms had piled huge logs onto the stump. A few minutes walk brings us to the beach by the Norwegian Memorial, as usual, finding the trail entrance takes time. We find the right trail and are quickly at the Memorial, with the spire pointing towards the heavens. (The memorial commemorates lives lost in a 1903 shipwreck, and was erected by the two survivors.)
Photo: Me, at the Norwegian Memorial.
As we sit and contemplate we notice there are two Bald Eagles flying overhead, calling one another with harsh screams. We have seen many other eagles, one flying from a tidal reef with a fish firmly grasped in it's talons, and one perched on a branch about thirty feet overhead. Other birds we can identify are American Black Oystercatcher and Great Blue Heron. Many ducks, gulls and shore birds are companions, along with seals sunning themselves on exposed rocks. We were fascinated watching flights of birds migrating north to Alaska or Siberia. Some flights must have been geese judging from the V formation, and may have included up to two hundred birds. Other flights were smaller birds flying in disorganized flocks skimming low over the ocean surface. We wonder and speculate on where they spend the night, never reaching a conclusion. We marvel at the energy expended for a singular goal (reproduction of the species) and feel empathy for the stragglers, knowing some will fail.
Leaving Kasolta Beach 10:55, we enter the rotten rock beach between us and the next headland, the next two miles are difficult travel. At 12:00 we arrive at what I have named Deception Cove (It appears that a short rounding of the point will bring us to an easier beach, when really the distance is about 3/4 mile.). As we come near, a trio of deer climb the extremely steep bank. They appear to be propelled by gas springs for legs.
After passing the boot dip pond, we round the corner and walk a shelf that is very eroded and under water at high tide. A lone hiker coming from the opposite direction passes, we exchange the usual how it's going? and wish you a good journey! We pass near vertical cliffs on the east nearing the point before easier beaches. It's here I slip on a round rock, taking a nasty fall. After a few tears, and help from Dan, I recover sitting on a rock. (Fortunately the only injury is a badly bruised left leg below the knee and a hole in new Capilene tights.)
By 1:15 we are entering the real cove just before (south of) the long Rock Reef. This cove with the tide almost all the way out appears to be all rocks and no water. I walk across the cove while Dan chooses to walk on the ball-bearing rock beach. I am fascinated by all the tide pool activity. Lots of small crabs, snails, small minnow like fish and sea anemones all living together in these little tide pools. Maybe next trip I'll bring a book along that will help me identify what all I'm looking at.
It's now 1:50, Dan and I meet up at the end of the cove across from a sea haystack and start along the Rock Reef beach which I call Treasure Beach. It is just over a mile long with a narrow strip of ball bearing gravel of all sizes. This beach, with the Rock Reef on the left, make choosing a route difficult. The gravel is one step back for two forward, and walking on the rock reef will increase the probability of a fall.
This beach has in the past been good for finding treasures, but not this trip. This year with few storms to wash it up most of the beach treasures (junk if you prefer) seems to have stayed out to sea. (In the past we have found Japanese glass fishing floats, a boat inflatable bumper, and a tidal flow study float, all were hauled home.) A long lunch break is taken shortly before low tide at 3:07. A few minutes after starting out after lunch we leave the end of the rocky beach and reach the welcome sands of the long Yellow Banks cove. (One time we were at Yellow Banks and watched an Orca ride in on an incoming wave to within about thirty feet of the shore. It was nearly out of water as the wave receded, only to turn and swim away on the next incoming wave.)
The Yellow Banks rock obstacle is passed at 4:00. With the tide still so far out, a simple step onto the rocks gains enough elevation to be high above the waves. (Not the usual waiting for a wave to subside and running fast to reach the rocks ahead of the next incoming wave.) While crossing the rock pile we meet a family of four planning to camp at Yellow Banks. The leader (father?) had been here twenty years prior, but had forgotten the cove's details, we pointed out a suitable camp site.
The weather has been sunny since early morning, but the wind is brisk and cold from the north. Wearing a wind-breaker keeps out the cold. We pass the final moonscape rocks about 5:00 and arrive at Sandpoint Camp nearly an hour latter. Camp is set up in one of our favored sites sheltered from the wind, the camp chores are soon finished. We walk to the point where the north wind is blowing very hard. No one else is in camp. The day has been long and exhausting, we bed down soon after sunset.
The Sandpoint Camp area has been greatly improved since our last visit two years earlier, all campsites are defined by log boundaries, fire rings have been removed and covered with sand. (Fires are now prohibited from Yellow Banks to Wedding Rock.) Many areas and footpaths are closed for re-vegetation. The inevitable raccoons are still a problem. They hit during the night, twice, once trying for the hanging food bag, and once unzipping pack pockets and eating toothpaste and wax fire starter. We move everything into the tent with us, and are not bothered again. (I hope the critters get a belly-ache.)
Day 1: Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial
Day 2: Chilean Memorial to Norwegian Creek
Sand Point to Cape Alava
Day 5: Cape Alava to Ozette Lake
Getting there: This trip begins at Rialto Beach, near Forks, WA.
Note : This is backcountry wilderness travel. Any trail can become very dangerous in winter conditions. You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards and taking the necessary precautions.