Northwest Hiking Trails

Sand Point to Cape Alava, ONP

Trip report by Shelley Sims-Fye

Photo DAY   4: We sleep in until 8:00 AM this morning. Today we will hike from Sandpoint to Cape Alava which is only three miles. There is no reason to hurry since the high tide is at 9:30AM and we need at least an hour after high tide for rounding the first point. We very slowly pack up the camp and I realize I have used everything I have brought. For once I have packed just enough to make a safe trip, but still have a light weight pack.

Photo:   [top] Shelly arriving at Cape Alava; [bottom] the whale petroglyph at wedding rocks.

Photo We clean up the mess left from the raccoon attack during the night. With breakfast started, we discover the water bag is empty. The raccoons have chewed holes in the bag. With Dan blowing up the liner like a balloon, we find many holes that I patch with duct tape (the fourteenth or similar essential). I look up to see a bald eagle on the nearest tree-top calling to his mate and soon there are two. I take this to be a sign all is well. About 11:00 we are finally feed, packed up, and ready to leave for Cape Alava. Today will be easy so we take it slow. The sun is brightly shining. Temperature is 58F and the wind is blowing briskly from the North. I am glad I brought my purple fleece hat.

I love the solitude of our beaches in the spring. We have hardly seen any one on this trip. We leave the point and in a half hour are at the first rock passage, the tide is well out and we easily round this short point. The beach is a small gravel strip with rock tide-pools between the gravel and the water. By 12:40 we are near the haystack rock with a hole passing through and take a break (At low tide one can climb into the hole and have themselves photographed). From here, it is a short distance to Wedding Rock, taking about twenty-five minutes to walk. We arrive at Wedding Rock at 1:20. This is the site of the very well known petroglyphs (I am surprised by the many hikers who blow by without even stopping for a casual look).

The tide is far out now and I decide its time for lunch and then a little exploring. Dan opts for lunch and a long nap. Dan sleeps on the grass by the trail sign, while I explore to find petroglyphs I have not seen before. I easily find the guide books' favorites. I discover one new to me and try to get a good photograph. I find the rock with one of my favorites, a picture of a man and a woman. I fine its been broken in half and it saddens me. The bottom half has broken cleanly away.

I have lost all sense of time when some men walk by. I say hello and ask them if they have seen the petroglyphs. They ask 'what is it,' I gladly tell and show them some I have found. They have an accent. They tell me they are from Norway and are impressed with the park especially the bald eagles. They could not believe how many there were. In Norway they have eagles but not Bald Eagles. While standing there more flocks of birds fly by, my new found friends pull out their binoculars. They are really into birds and this part of April is a good time to see them. Our conversation ended, they head on towards Sand Point. I find it amazing to meet people from far away places on this beach. I realize so many people who live in Washington State have never been here. I realized I had been exploring for two hours.

I went back to get my pack finding Dan had woken and was leaving for camp at Cape Alava. 3:20 PM, Dan headed out toward Cape Alava by himself. I take my time. I am in no hurry. This part of the trip from Stand Point to Cape Alava is quite easy. We walk alone always knowing where the other is. (From Rialto Beach to Yellow Banks Dan and I stayed in sight of each other, in case of a problem.)

The wind is brisk again and coming from the North. Even though the sun is high and bright, the cold is starting to penetrate. I decide to put on my trusty purple fleece hat, but I cannot find it. My large pack has too many places for things to hide. Oh well, I have come prepared. I pull out my very pink fluorescent thrift store hat. I would never wear this anyplace else but it sure would come in handy should I needed to flag down a helicopter.

I can tell our trip is nearing an end. I am starting to think of everything but where I am. I have been to this part of the beach so many times I think I can do it in my sleep, although I realize it truly is different every time. 4:15 PM The tide is now at its lowest and Cape Alava seems to be one big tide pool. The beach is notably clean today. Previously we had to walk through piles of foot deep dried seagrass. Not today though.. The sun is shinning, the wind is blowing harder, and I am eager to find a camp site.

Dan and I meet and while walking up the trail from the beach, we see a group of seven deer in the meadow. As we draw close they don't seem to mind, they just keep eating the grass We move to the trees, finding a good campsite sheltered from the wind. Dan makes camp, while I go to get water. I take the filter, bottles and water bag to the stream. As I pump water and listen to the ocean, time passes, I realize I have been here quite some time. My problem was the water filter handle keep sticking making it very hard to pump and water was dripping out nearly as fast as I could pump. I had forgotten the raccoon holes. I finally had enough and headed back to camp hoping if I hurried I could store water in the pots while fixing the bag some more.

On the way back there was Dan talking to our next door camper. He was a very nice guy named Tom, from Chicago. Dan having been deprived of talking to anyone but me for 4 days was bragging about our favorite beach hike. Tom had never been here before. Dan eventually came back and we ate dinner. I gave up on trying to save the water bag and headed out to look at the incoming tide. It was cold because of the wind so I again looked for that purple hat. I took everything out of my pack and checked every pocket. Unfortunately it wasn't there. This meant only one thing. I had lost my special hat. I always wondered about some of the things we have found on this beach hike, like the time my daughter found a wonderful Swiss army knife on the board walk. I hope someone who needs a hat finds mine. I pulled out my very pink fluorescent hat along with my fleece jacket and headed for the beach.

Dan wanted me to take a picture of the anchor that's out in the tide pools by Cannon Ball (Takawaya) Island. I was unable because the incoming tide prevented me from getting close. I noticed a blue heron on a rock looking for its dinner and I take its picture instead.

Clouds are on the horizon and it looks as if it will rain tomorrow but we do not mind we will be hiking out and heading home. We go sit and talk to Tom some more as the sun sets. As I go to sleep tonight I ponder how life can be so peaceful. The simple food, good conversation, sound of the ocean, and fresh air give me a sense of accomplishment for having made the whole trip. Does life get any better?

Trip plan
Day 1:   Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial
Day 2:   Chilean Memorial to Norwegian Creek
Day 3: Norwegian Creek to Sandpoint Camp

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.

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