Two days were spent exploring the rainforests of Olympic National Park, but the evenings belonged on the beach. And that was where we headed (one of us more frequently than the other).
As mentioned in our previous blog, we were camping along the coast, albeit in a very forested site. It was a short jaunt down to the water’s edge and we found it to be a very pleasant way to end each day. Beaches aren’t a big part of a Midwesterner’s life, but we soon discovered that they did have their attributes. Oh yes, the Olympic coastline had an abundance of those.
There were several access points leading down to stretches of scenic beaches prior to Kalaloch, but the prize-winner of them all, the one that was known far and wide by all the local beach lovers, was Ruby Beach. It was a short drive away and like a Siren’s Call, Melinda was drawn to it.
Ruby Beach is one of he most spectacular beaches along the Washington Coast. Now, does that get your attention or what? After traveling down much of the Oregon coastline a year ago, I can say I know something about spectacular beaches and specifically, the sea stacks highlighting them. Ruby Beach proved to me it could hold its own, whatever weather conditions existed.
Red cedar logs litter the shoreline. Cedar Creek flows into the ocean and the beach is backed up by high cliffs that have a windswept forest clinging to their heights. Those monolithic rock formations rise dramatically out of the water, and Abbey Island dominates over them all.
But if you’re lucky enough to be there at sunset, you will see the best of Ruby. The rocks with all their juts and angles stand out more prominently when the sky puts on a show. Time it right and you’ll see Abbey Island haloed by the setting sun.
When it was time to move on, we didn’t go far. With more outstanding beaches up the road, we continued along Highway 101 a mere 40 miles or so. Another spur road took us down to the ocean, to the small community of La Push on the Quileute Reservation. Nearby was a forest service campground. Mora had towering trees, lush undergrowth and another fabulous beach just a couple miles away. It was time to dry out our rug and camping chairs after setting up camp. Chris got busy and started a fire . . . a sure way to dry out our stuff.
We were one of the larger RVs here; the campground obviously having been laid out back before big rigs were so common. Mostly designed with tenters in mind, we were glad to find a place amply large. And nicely isolated at the same time. Another great place to hang our hat . . . or lower our stabilizers. Can you say “deep primordial forest?”
Another evening coming on . . . another beach to explore. Oh me, oh my, there were two good choices here. Which way to go . . . such dilemmas we had. We chose to cross the Quileute River and head towards La Push. With actually three beaches near their town, Second Beach (so creatively named) was known to hold the most promising potential. It entailed an invigorating ¾-mile hike to reach it—uphill in both directions!
Located within the national park, Second Beach was a stunner! At first glance I knew it held potential—in both directions. Another dilemma was faced. Wild beaches lay before me; high tide was fast approaching. Surf pounded against the rocks and many sea stacks. I tried heading one way and got good shots . . .
. . . and then turned around and realized I had found my pot of gold!
A striking, tree-topped rocky headland lay to the north. It had a natural arch opening extending from it. And miracles of miracles, I saw the sinking sun was in perfect alignment. Could it be??? Would it be??? Or would the oncoming tide make the positioning impossible to get? It was close . . . I had trepidations . . . but in the end, careful maneuvering to highest ground and knee-high boots made the incredible happen. Bulls eye! The sun hit its target!
That was not to be the end of our beach experiences. Perhaps the best was yet to see. The books had said Rialto would not disappoint and could, in fact, stand up in comparison to Ruby on any given day. The photos I had seen appeared to match those words I’d read. I was anxious to find out for myself.
But the proof lay a full 2 miles away, we were to discover. Two miles of rocky, pebbly beach to navigate. Nothing to do but gear up and head out . . . and enjoy the sights along the way.
A long line of dead Sitka spruce trees stretch the full length of Rialto Beach, fading into the horizon. Consequently, the high tide line is littered with a multitude of massive logs. Chris tries his best to budge one—giving a good perspective of its size. And this was just one of many strewn along the beach.
Our final destination of this hike was aptly called Hole-in-the-Wall, a sea-carved arch that seemed to be a favorite of photographers. I guess its uniqueness made it so.
Unfortunately, I soon learned that not just Hole-in-the-Wall lay at the end of this 2-mile stretch. All the other prominent sea stacks that made Rialto notable also lay in this same vicinity. If I was to get my sunset photo, I must make this hike again.
Chris said, “Why not?” indicating he would be game. We headed back to camp for sustenance and waited a couple more hours.
The Rialto sunset this night had less of a Wow Factor than I had hoped for. You really never know. But here we were, so take some shots to illustrate what potential Rialto Beach has.
There was one impressive image we both managed to capture. Perched high above on top of the tallest stack one regal eagle lorded over all. His nesting place? we wondered. Certainly he had the catbird seat—a great panoramic view on high.
For all our efforts in taking that evening hike, we both got somewhat trapped by high tides coming inshore on the return trip. First Melinda got wedged between rocks and dead trees, helpless as the surf overwashed her.
Next came Chris who lost his footing while attempting to outrun the waves. Not seeing a low-hanging branch of another dead tree, he smacked his head and went down. Waves made short work on him too.
Not too much for the wear, we managed to get back without further incidence. Whereupon we learned from a ranger that tomorrow’s early morning low tide would be one of only two events this year where the waterline would be so low. A great time to check out tide pools around Hole-in-the-Rock and a ranger would be out there on duty.
Should we or shouldn’t we? Are we good sports or just call us woozies. We decided to make that early morning hike—be there (6:30am) or be square. After all, isn’t third time the charm?
The sun broke through at dawn—at least at the campground. But the beach was a different scenario. Morning fog was thick as pea soup. Irregardless, we headed out.
Nearly 2 miles later those impressive rocks came into view. Even in the gray light of morning mist it was an awesome sight. The photos can’t really convey what it’s like to stand before those behemoths.
We did see the tide pools and their sea life once reaching Hole-in-the-Wall again. They really weren’t as plentiful or varied as those we had seen on the Oregon Coast. We checked out lots of nooks and crannies, learned some interesting facts from the ranger, then hit that beach one last time.
Along the return walk we were given one last treat. As the early morning sun broke through the branches of those tall spruce trees, like a spotlight those rays shot out. Times like this make all the effort worthwhile.
After breakfast it was time to pack up and leave. We had given the Pacific Coast its just dues. Now we were bound for the northern parts of this great Olympic Peninsula. More sights to see . . . but definitely different from what we were leaving. This great and green forest soon faded behind us. We looked ahead to new sights and adventures.
From the wild and spectacular Pacific Coast,
Chris and Melinda