Icy surf hits my sweaty, sizzling shins. Maybe I shouldn’t send my heart into defib by marching into the frigid Pacific. Dayum. This is cold. And supremely satisfying after slogging down the beach with a 60-lb pack. Tomorrow will be a minus tide, perfect for tidepooling. Now that camp has been set up, my only job is to enjoy expansive views while sipping Champagne, observing waves crash, then a spectacular sunset on sea stacks.
A long time ago, when I first tried backpacking, friends urged me to pack along the Washington coast. “It’s flat. And, you can bring all sorts of goodies since it’s a short hike in.” A bevy of silly reasons kept me from going until today. What was I thinking? I’ve been on far more serious trails than just beach sand. Easy.
It’s slated for 95 degrees in Seattle–time to leave the roasting city for the chilly coast. Not quite. I hadn’t noticed an abnormally hot forecast for Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park. From one oven to another. Wait. Why am I hiking while it’s this hot?
If you’ve been to Washington’s coast, you know how cold our end of the Pacific is. Normally, August is very cool and foggy. Today, it’s scorching. I’m wading in–an extreme rarity. You might recall in my adventure “Snorkeling with whale sharks (and not drowning)” my fear of open water. This polar dip is similarly unprecedented. And needed. Cold salt water acts like epsom salts and soothes raw, blistered feet. Ahhh.
A mile hike on soft beach sand, wearing a giant pack, in reflective 90-degree heat, is not easy. Completely rethinking all I have lugged as my muscles cramp and sweat stings, I trudge on, hoping to see the sign for the wilderness camping boundary: a tiny creek. Only need a permit, ground tarp and bag. Mosquito netting. That’s about it. Sigh. I’ve brought a ton of (unnecessary) shit.
Just about that time, I see the creek. Jackpot. Next, suss out a choice site: scouting up and down the beach, I find The One. Setting up camp is quick.
Time to enjoy what I hauled: a cooler full of beverages, including vintage grower Champagne. Out comes the requisite packable wine glass. Ah, yes. That’s better. A little bubbly. Comfy seat. Surf at my feet. Perfect.
Later, an afternoon picnic of salami, cheese, olives, crackers and fruit satisfies. Low tide allows exploration toward Hole in the Wall, then another hike to the car and back to jettison gear. Then more strolling in swirling biting seas without sandals, contemplating my navel. Listening to sand and gravel roll out with each wave. Time slows.
Hours pass. The sun sinks lower. It appears haze and clouds will form a gorgeous sunset. I have a front row seat. Many hikers pass by; most have that look: I want your site. They continue. Many excellent sites are past Hole in the wall. I’m grateful for early arrival, and a shorter hike. Time to settle in for sunset.
After an incredibly long, multicolored afterglow, stars begin to twinkle. Then the Milky Way. Phosphorous in the surf. Amazing. It’s still quite warm and difficult to sleep. Better get some before the lowest tide–around 6A.M.
It’s 8:30A.M. And cool and foggy. Oops. Missed that low tide. Already coming back in. No matter. The plan was to hike out today, regardless. Lazing around camp, I spy rays cutting through misty spruce forests like LOTR. In a few minutes, it’s hot, humid, and buggy. Time to go.
Thankfully, the walk back is easier knowing a comfy seat and beer await. Fog lingers over sea stacks near trailhead. I click the shutter again. Sigh. I have to leave? Wait. More opportunity for next time.