07 June 2011

Shi Shi Beach to Lake Ozette

This post will help any of you interested in doing this 3 day coastal hike.  Thanks to Langley and Ruth, we have some amazing pictures from our most recent trip.  Willis and I accidentally left our camera at home.

While planning for our Memorial Day weekend trip, Langley suggested going to Shi Shi Beach, in the Olympic Peninsula.  After some searching, I found Kevin Yang's posts about this trip.  Due to certain restrictions around permit reservations we decided to do the hike backwards, starting at Shi Shi Beach and ending at Lake Ozette.  It was an amazing and kind of challenging hike.  Lots of steep trails with rope assists to climb, seaweed covered rocks to scramble, and one river to ford (plus some other wading depending on the tides).

Prior to doing this hike, we needed to get*:
- a Makah Recreation Pass (since some of the hike is on the Makah Indian Reservation) - purchased at the General Store in Neah Bay
- a Wilderness Camping Permit as well as make a reservation  - you can call ahead and pick permits up from the Olympic Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles
- a hard-sided bear canister (if you don't already own one) - you can rent them from the WIC.
- a tide table - also available at WIC.  This is important because you can only pass the headlands when the tide is low.  You don't want to get caught at high tide.
- a map - you can get one from REI.  Almost always essential for backpacking new areas, a map is a good way to find water sources.

*On our first day of hiking, a park ranger stopped us to make sure we had our permits and bear canisters.

What we should have also made sure to have:
- water shoes - I had my Chacos.  Everyone else waded in their hiking shoes.  Although I had no problems with my sandals, it would have been nice to have close-toed water shoes, like Keens, while wading along the rocky coast or fording the river.

Day 1:  3.5 miles

Our plan was to start and end in different places.  So, we met up in Forks, WA (which you may know from the Twilight series) and caravaned to Lake Ozette, where we parked one of the cars.  We loaded up the other car and drove to our starting point near the Shi Shi Beach trailhead.  We paid to park in a lot in front of someone's house, as the beach lot was for day use only.  We picked up our Makah Recreation Pass along the way.

The trailhead is after a short walk along the road but after a long 5-6 hours in the car, we excitedly jumped the gun and hopped onto the beach as quick as we could.  At the time, we didn't think anything odd about it, because we knew this hike was mostly on the beach.  When the beach ended at a rocky bluff, we saw a trail head with a rope assist and climbed on up.  The trail soon disappeared and we started to second guess ourselves.  Until, we found the descending rope on the other side.  We treked along the beach again to another overhead trail and back down again.

Then...the trail heads disappeared.  We didn't want to turn back because of all the ups and downs and we knew at least, where we were heading: South, along the coast.  We bushwhacked our way up again until we finally found the trail!!  We then realized that we must have hopped on the beach too soon, missing the probably very well marked trail head signs.

The real trail to Shi Shi was extremely muddy but also very flat.  There were many people already setting up camp when we got to the beach, most were located close to the pit toilets located at each end of the beach.  We decided to camp a little more than halfway along the beach, so we'd be closer to our next day starting point.  Many campsites had preexisting structures made out of drift wood and fishing nets (teepees, hammocks, table and chairs, etc.).  

The weather was absolutely perfect.  After setting up camp, we took naps in the sun, started a fire, and watched bald eagles soaring overhead.  At sun down, three otters came out to play.  Before heading to bed, we checked the tide table and decided to start the next day at 5am or 11am.  We chose 11am.
After a great nights rest with the ocean lulling us to sleep, we had a nice lazy morning before hitting the hike along the beach again.

Day 2: 8.1 miles

When we reached the Point of Arches, the tide was still high so we dropped our packs, ate a snack, made some coffee, and waited patiently.  We wanted to see if anyone else would make their way through the cold water but most everyone was just on a day hike, turning around to head back to camp.  After about an hour, we saw a group coming towards us from the other side.  Since I had my sandals, I waded out to see what we were getting ourselves into.  They were all calf deep in the water, but it looked doable.  We strapped back into our packs and made our way around the first headland.

With cold, wet feet, we hiked the second beach strip and came to our first ascent of the day.  It was steep.  But the view from the top was worth it.  The next part of the hike was on an overland trail until we came to the next descent.  We continued along another stretch of beach, around a headland, scrambling over seaweed covered rocks and admiring the awesomeness of the tide pools.  The hike pretty much continued in this pattern until we reached the Ozette River.  We hung our socks up to dry , checked the tide table for the next day and set up camp for the night.

Day 3: 5.5 miles

We broke camp at 7am and prepared ourselves for crossing the river.  We didn't really know the best way across the river.  It was really wide.  Langley went one way and Willis, Ruth, and I went another.  Langley's way was probably correct.  The river was pretty deep, to my thighs and rushing on the far end, making it difficult to find footing.  But we made it.

We ate breakfast on the far side of the river and attempted to dry off a little before our last day of hiking.

 As we were getting ready to leave a little deer casually crossed the river, walked right up to us, and then continued on near the trail.  Or what we thought was the trail.  Turns out it was just to the pit toilet.  We had to turn back and continue on along the rocky coast.  This part of the hike was a lot easier than the day before, with less overland trails.  When we reached the Lake Ozette trailhead, we were greeted by two more deer.

 The last stretch of the hike was mostly along a well established boardwalk.  It was a nice break from all the sand and rocks on the coastline.  We b-lined it back to the parking lot, longing to dry out our feet and drink warm lattes.

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