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