Finishing the Circle

As always, I slept soundly. My kids say that I could take home the gold if there were a napping Olympics and that skill extends to overnight sleeping. I took a lovely mid-night walk under clear, clear skies to the bathroom. (At Ozette Campground the bathrooms are pretty posh; they flush and there’s soap available at the sinks. They are a little bit of a hike though…outside the small campground and a short way down the road toward the trailhead.) The stars were out in all their glory and it wasn’t cold, just crisp and clear and beautiful.

Back in my nest, I curled back to sleep. I heard Sarah open the door at what I thought was still the middle of the night and the next thing I knew there was a knock at my door. I couldn’t figure out how Sarah managed to lock herself out. The doors lock from the outside unless you shoot the deadbolt, which I hadn’t done.

There was Sarah holding out a steaming cup of coffee!

Coffee in bed makes me smile

Sarah has Raynauds. Pretty severe Raynauds. She was pretty pleased to have been able to make that coffee. I was pretty pleased to be on the receiving end.

Sarah had also started a beautiful campfire. We ate a last breakfast of bacon, eggs, and polenta; lazed around gathering bits and bobs slowly; and generally enjoyed the morning.

We managed to hoist the kayaks onto Freya and get them snugged down. Sarah learned to work Brave Horatio’s cunning locks. Brave Horatio’s marvelous theft prevention technology consists of a removeable hitch (attached to about 30 inches of tongue). We just take out the locking pin and toss the hitch in Freya. Our locking pins (hitch latch and removeable tongue) share a common key. I think they’re amazing. You put the key in and turn it like a screwdriver until the pin separates into two pieces. Neat!

Headed Home

We chose to head home via the top of the peninsula–highway 112 through Seiku, Port Angeles, and Sequim. Port Angeles offered gas and some pretty nice lattes. Sarah napped, I drove, and we got home safe and sound.

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.

Beaches should have real names

All summer I’d wanted to camp with Sarah at Lake Ozette. Summer flew by hot and dry for Olympia. October was coming up fast and we finally decided to go.

Brave Horatio has never been anywhere without Bill. Bill does most of the driving and, until now, all of the backing up. There’s a first time for everything.

I got a short lesson in coaxing Brave Horatio backward. Turn the bottom of the steering wheel the way you want BH to go. Move the vehicles very slowly, but the steering wheel quite a bit. Don’t do too much at once.

I successfully backed Brave Horatio into site 7 at Ozette Campground without using my unhitch and push backup plan

It was odd to plan and pack without Bill. He helped with grocery shopping and getting the kayaks on their racks, because he’s nice like that, but planning and cooking was my gig this time.

Usually I wake up to the sound of Bill making camp coffee and starting breakfast. Sarah has pretty severe Raynaud’s, so I knew that early mornings and anything cool or cold would be my responsibility.

I chose to put off some packing until the morning of. I thought I’d pick Sarah up about eight and we’d have breakfast. By the time we got to Hash, it was almost eleven, so the second part of the plan worked out great. We didn’t really have a deadline and everything was fine.

So many great choices. Sarah and I both had corned beef hash.

We finally got going about noon, full of corned beef hash and coffee.

We decided to approach Lake Ozette via the bottom of the peninsula.

Heading west

Big Trees

We took a short detour near Quinault Lake lured by a signpost to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce and bladder pressure.

We followed the first available restroom signs into a nice little pullout with a short trail through the forest to some big trees. It was a pretty trail. Pretty creek, pretty ferns and other plants, pretty big trees….but the worlds largest Sitka Spruce was down the road a bit.

World’s largest Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

A mile or so down the road, past Lake Quinault Lodge and Rainforest Resort Village we parked across the street from the trail to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. A short walk later the trail opened up and the Spruce stood ancient and beautiful across the creek.

According to the American Forests Association there are six world-record trees in the Quinault Valley–Valley of the Rainforest Giants. The world’s largest Sitka Spruce, Western Redcedar, Douglas fir, Alaska (yellow) cedar, Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock.

Might be the basis for a future “big tree” trip.

Louis the swimming wooly bear

Heading back to Freya and Brave Horatio, we lingered on the bridge over the creek enjoying the sun and the slowly running water. We noticed a wooly bear in the middle of the creek. At first we were a bit sad, poor little caterpillar in the middle of all that water. But as we watched we noticed that the wooly bear was swimming!

It didn’t lead with its head or its tail or any part really. It slowly undulated, mostly, but not totally sideways. It wasn’t just drifting with the steam and when it had the chance to climb a stem into the dry it swam on.

The wooly bear finally made it under the bridge and I turned to go. Sarah explained that it was a bit like Pooh Sticks and we needed to wait to see the caterpillar emerge from the other side. I thought that might take hours.

We made a funny site kneeling on the bridge deck with our heads stuck out and under the bridge urging the wooly bear on. Several people stopped and stayed to see if we were nuts or not.

The wooly bear made it! It didn’t even take that long–maybe five minutes, which must be some kind of swim-speed record for a caterpillar. One lady named him Louis. Louis joined my list of heroes. He didn’t care, he just swam on toward Lake Quinault.

I’m thinking about starting a nature documentary series.

Upset on behalf of numbered beaches

Back on the road, I considered the gas gauge. We definitely had plenty to get to our campsite and back to Lake Quinault, but I wanted to make sure. I asked Sarah to help keep an eye out for a gas station just as we sailed past one. Farther on a road sign alerted us to a gas station in 1/4 mile. Sailed past that one too. Decided to gas up in Forks.

Just past Queets, Highway 101 moves over to the coast. I don’t know who was in charge of naming the beaches along this stretch, but they had no imagination and should be ashamed of themselves. Beach 1, Beach 2, Beach 3….really!

As we drove by these disgruntled (I would be) beaches I may have gotten a little vocal.

Little diatribe about naming beaches

Really people. Name your beaches with descriptive or funny names. Name them after nearby geographic features or your old graunt (that’s great-aunt for those not in the know). Name them after other beaches if you must. Do not just give them a number. Poor beaches.

They looked lovely. Long stretches of sand. They deserve better names.

More big trees

Sarah saw a sign and we turned off in search of more big trees.

Freya thought we were offroading.

Mary, practicing for a gold medal in napping

So many mushrooms!

The Olympic Rainforest is mushroom mecca. So many colors, sizes, and shapes!

All terrain is working hard to get to the beach

Highway 101, like all Pacific Northwest coastal roads, is trying to go to the beach. The abundant rainfall makes for super saturated soil and wet soil slips. This leads to unusual traffic controls, like this stop light from nowhere.

Setting up camp

Our first glimpse of Ozette Campground was a very welcome sight. What with our late start and lazy journey, it was getting on to evening. We’d stopped at a firewood honesty stand a couple miles from the campground and bought some bundles of smallish branches (small was what they had). After setting up camp, we backtracked a 1/4 mile or so and bought some bigger stuff from Lost Resort (the store was closed, but they had an honesty box).

Ozette Campground has an odd site layout. It’s nice, but different. There are 15 spots. Some, like site 7, have some privacy. Others would be excellent for people camping with friends. Some site’s are accessed by driving up and behind others, or angle off side access roads.

Next time I’m going to try for campsite 2. It’s access angles off between site 1 and 3 and ends up behind site 1, screened by brush. It’s right on the lake. I also liked site 3. Both were occupied this trip and site 7 is great. Off the lake is probably a good choice in October as the wind gets knocked back a bit.

Yes, it’s an easy spot to back into AND I did it!

We grilled steak and roasted dutch oven potatoes over a terrific campfire (thanks Sarah!) and finally went to bed about 11 pm.