While camping this weekend in the Cle Elum river valley, we were treated to a spectacular northern lights show. Here is a frame from one of the timelapses I shot.
It’s dark outside. Jason’s 15 minutes early to pick me up, and I’m still in bed. We arrive at the ferry terminal, everyone assumed I checked the ferry schedule, but truthfully our meeting time is completely arbitrary. The next boat isn’t for an hour. As road trips are, the drive is mostly uneventful. The Westi is burning coolant, so we stop every half hour to add more water. We stop at a reservation and pick up some snacks, as well as some cigars for new years eve. A quick, and mildly disappointing lunch in Port Angeles. Another stop on at the beach on the Straights of Juan De Fuca to add more coolant, and throw a few rocks into the ocean. That’s when things started to get interesting.
Monda can’t find her key. With the tide biting at our ankles, we frantically search for a small metal object on a wet gravel beach, while Monda makes phone calls looking to see if it’s possible to get another key made. She orders a tow truck, and we all sit in the Westi and play scrabble for a while. After a couple hours of waiting, the tide is receding, and we decide to comb the beach one last time. 1/2″ of the tip of the key was found sticking out of the sand. The sun is low in the sky, and we still have a couple hours of driving ahead.
We drop the Westi off at Lake Ozette, and head to Rialto Beach. When we arrive, it’s well past dark, and a mostly full moon glistens off the water. Pants go on, packs go up, straps get tightened, and off we go, heading up the beach.
There are campers at hole in the wall, and the tide is low so we keep marching up towards Chilean Memorial. We find campers at what we think is the memorial, and decide to poach a bit of sand a few hundred yards before them. Tents, dinner, celebratory beers for finding the car key, and we’re rapidly on our way to bed after our fire never makes it bigger than my fist.
The alarm rings, and when I look outside, I see little but the moon shining over a long flat gravely beach at low tide, with large and cragly rocks thrusting through the water, pock marking the coast line like pimples.
Breakfast, coffee, packing, and we’re on our way just before sunrise, pushing to stay ahead of the tides.
It’s raining. It waits until we’re hiking to start, but once it does, it doesn’t let up.
We’ve got about 9 miles to hike today, through difficult terrain.
Along the way, there are many points that cannot be crossed below a certain tide level, if at all, and they have overland routes carved into the hills by determined hikers willing to scramble up and down steep, muddy, cliff sides. Ropes have been installed to help, and they are quite necessary.
After several hours of hiking, I was feeling like the tide was coming in, and thought it might be better to wait it out before making our last push to Norwegian Memorial. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The tide was still coming in, not almost full. We ended up making a day camp on top of a bluff to wait for the tide, and sat around getting cold for a couple hours while we watched what was left of the beach disappear under the waves.
As the light started to fade, we decided to push on, and ended up on the beach, waiting for a wave to recede, then running around whatever obstacle is in our way.
Next time, I won’t wait.
We cross our final overland, and begin hiking on the beach when we notice a large campfire at Norwegian Memorial. A black flag is flying, and Monda recalls stories of hikers hiking with pirate flags in the area. She guesses she knows the group up ahead. Most of the way there, we cross someone in the bushes growling at us as we pass. We quickly dismiss it as a hiker taking a dump and we walk on.
We reach the campfire, and in chatting with the two hikers there, find that Mondas father has hiked out and surprised her for New Years. He was the man growling in the woods.
After dinner, we join their wonderfully large campfire, and begin the drying process of every piece of clothing we own. Around 8:45 we call it midnight, celebrate a wonderful new years, and go to bed.
That night the sky cleared, and at 4am we wake up to a glaring moon painting a soft glow across the ocean.
Monda has to work, her and Wes take the hike out with her father, as Jason and I continue on towards our original destination. Hiking by headlamps, backlit by the moon we proceed to climb through the rock, navigating point to point across open bays, emptied by the low tide.
Jason and I are making great time, assisted by clear skys and a vibrant, warm sun pushing us from the south. We reach Yellow Banks earlier than expected, and consider calling it for the day. The campsite has one of the most amazing views around, perched 25 feet up on a small ledge. I scout around the rocks, and we decide to push on. With the tide rapidly rising, we can’t round the point out of Yellow Banks, so we climb across the algae slime covered rocks, and through the tunnel, a barely big enough hole in the rocks for you and your pack. All the while, the waves are crashing on the rocks below our feet.
It’s mid day, and the sun is skimming across the water, lapping at the beach as we hike the last mile towards sand point.
It’s nice out, so I finally am able to take some photos, and see what I’m looking at.
When we arrive at Sand Point, the sky is burning, and it feels like the vibrant colors of sunrise just never left.
At our campsite, tucked behind a thin layer of trees, as close to the point as we can get, we make some food while it’s still light out, and go watch the sunset up on the point.
A lazy morning takes us into our last day on the beach. We do the 3 mile hike from Sand Point to Cape Alava. Plenty of wildlife, including a beached whale. Sounds more interesting than it smells.
At the wedding rocks we spent tons of time failing to find the petroglyphs, only to run across them as we started hiking on.
At Cape Alava, we take on last look at the beach and Ozette Island, before hiking 3 miles inland back to the car.