2021 is My Year for Bear!

One of our goals for this trip was to hike the Ozette Triangle. We read different accounts of this hike and it looked doable. It’s a loop (more of an equilateral triangle really) so we could always just turn around at any point less than half-way.

Fueled by a campfire chilaquiles breakfast and plenty of coffee, we finally got started about noon (high tide was 11:30 ish, so this was a reasonable time to start).

Sarah shouldered her new, fancy, REI daypack with it’s water reservoir (apparently the marketing folks decided “bladder” wasn’t helping their sales). I buckled on my old, trusty waist pack with water bottles on each side. We headed over the arched cement bridge onto the trail.

We decided to take the north path toward Cape Alava. It was great. There were so many beautiful mushrooms and so many beautiful plants, we had to remind ourselves that we had miles to go and didn’t pack flashlights.

A lot of the trail is a series of wide (two or three-step) boardwalk stairs. There are stretches of gravel path and stretches of flat boardwalk too. It leads through forest and marshy meadow.

Gentian was blooming in great abundance in many places and we met two women gathering Labrador tea, so I can ID it now. (They were indigenous women harvesting on their traditional lands–please don’t pick plants in the Olympia National Park unless you specifically have that right.)

At some point on this trail you start to hear the surf. It’s such a powerful, beautiful sound and it lets you know that you are nearing the end of the first leg.

Emerging from the forest and getting our first glimpse of the ocean was lovely. The path is on a small bluff at this point and you wind down a narrow footpath to the rocky beach below.

I wasn’t prepared for this beach. The seastacks and islands and rocky reefs and beautiful. The beach itself is made up of rounded rock that varied in size from softball to basketball. Everything was covered with a four to six inch layer of sea wrack. It was beautiful and quite difficult to traverse.

There were a couple other small groups on the beach. Most were commenting on the smell. To me it just smelled of life. Maybe growing up in Bandon gave me an atypical reaction to rotting sea wrack.

We were happy to take a seat on some handy driftwood and break out our mid-afternoon lunch…pork tenderloin, brie, and grapes are the perfect mid-hike meal.

We watched the brown pelicans, mergansers, cormorants and other assorted sea birds, filled up on electrolyte water, and started down the beach.

It was tough. Sarah had a treking pole and, despite her unstable knee and ankle fared better than I did. I’m not graceful, but am generally quite stable. That sea wrack was slippery, especially when layered over various size round rock. I slipped twice–skinning my knee a tiny bit (I hike in a skirt, so my knee was bare.) Oh well. Onward.

A couple headed toward us let us know that they decided on an out-and-back because there was a bear around the next little point. They described it as far enough away to be safe so we headed around the point to see.

The bear was fully engaged in eating something big enough that it needed to be pulled apart in chunks. It was a good distance away. Near enough to see pretty well, far enough to feel reasonably safe. Sarah edged forward, I didn’t.

It’s funny. I would have said that I didn’t feel anxious, but all of my photos are of a bearless rock. It’s not even in the same zone of beach as the bear. Clearly I was more anxious than I let myself realize.

I was concerned that Sarah was closer than me and looking to edge closer. (She was still a good distance from the bear and, though the bear clearly knew we were there, it was focused on it’s meal.) I asked her (quietly) to finish up with her picture taking so we could retreat. (Sarah’s pictures actually have the bear in them.)

We backtracked and walked back to our original trail with the couple who warned us of the bear (and later sent us nice bear pics–thanks Mark!) . We talked for awhile before heading back. They live in Anacortes where Shannon works as a computer programmer for a company in Maryland and coaches the local robotics team. We talked about data sources for the resident Orcas (we suggested the Whale Museum and Orca Network), robotics, toxic waste cleanup sites (Sarah’s day job), and other mutually interesting things. They invited us to share their campfire that evening. Nice interlude.

Sarah sketched some exercises for me

One-foot Wanda

I slept soundly and woke up refreshed. Sarah struggled through my snoring and got up a little more haggard. Oh well.

Our bacon, egg and polenta breakfast perked Sarah up and we had a leisurely morning drinking coffee, straightening camp a bit, and getting the kayaks off Freya. Freya is TALL but we prevailed.

Polenta, bacon and eggs are a great camp breakfast

On our walk to the lake to scout launch points and conditions we went past a group of white front geese. There were about a dozen, all but one juveniles. They looked quite at home on the grassy part of the campsite across the road and around the bend from us.

The adult speckle belly moved by hopping on one leg. As we got closer we could see her other leg held up and at an odd angle. It looked like it ended at the ankle. We named her–Wanda the one-foot speckle belly seemed to be doing just fine.

Mid-day Kayaking

Ozette campground has one picnic-only spot right on the lake. It’s a nice kayak launch point. We shouldered a kayak each from site 7 down to the lake and launched without even getting wet.

We stayed on the east side heading south, discovered that there’s cell coverage once you’re out in the lake a bit, and paddled steadily on. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring binoculars.

It was cloudy but calm and what wind there was came from the south. Ozette campground is at the north end of the lake and the Ozette river flows from that end. Perfect conditions for kayaking.

Sarah spotted a lump on the east shore and headed toward it. I headed toward a point on the west shore. Out in the middle I realized I’d forgotten to put in the large sponges we use to bail, I was pretty much in the middle of a deep cold lake, and was putting more and more distance between Sarah and I.

Mary heading to Eagle Point

Sarah was heading toward me by this time, so I turned and headed back toward her. We met and headed to the point together.

The small swells were perfectly perpendicular to our line of travel. It was fun to cut through them. The one other boat we saw was fishing toward us. They dropped to their trolling motor when they saw us. Super nice.

We were nearing Eagle Point when my phone rang. Such a strange thing in a huge area with no cell coverage. Bill and I talked for a bit as I drifted then I hung up and joined Sarah on Eagle Point.

We took pictures, enjoyed some huckleberries, chose a few pebbles to take home, peed, ate our snacks (Sarah’s honey zingers were excellent!), and wandered the point. I especially liked watching the wind and current make a swell pattern that curled around the point from South to North.

The sky was darkening a little so we kept the west-shore relatively close on the return trip. I love the way the lake surface appears to curve from the middle down to the edges. I don’t think we saw a single bird and I only saw one fish splash. The boat fishers seemed content slowly making their way north. They were usually just within our sight.

Ozette Campground to Eagle Point and back was the perfect paddle for us. We were tired enough to bring the kayaks back to camp in two trips sharing the weight using the front and back loops instead of each of us shouldering our own kayak.

While Sarah warmed up with dry clothes, I made us cocoa. We brought lots of cocoa…instant and Ibara…also a container of those little dryish marshmallows which you can get at US Foods Chef’s Store (formerly Cash & Carry).

Our dinner of pork tenderloin, warm quinoa with onion and dried cherries, and an avocado and tomato salad was excellent.

Sarah is a fantastic fiddler but on this trip she left her fiddle at home and brought her tenor guitar. She’s learning it so my muddled whistle playing was right at home. We had a good time playing by the fire.