Monday, June 24, 2013

The Western-most Shores of WA

If you read one of my earlier posts about the Makah tribe, then you already know there were inhabitants on the Olympic Peninsula 4,000 years ago. But did you know there were mastodons up to 12,000 years ago? I didn't. I went looking for information for my last trip to the westernmost shores of Washington and found this link to the Olympic Peninsula from the National Park Service pages.

A young girl inspects something in the sand at the First
Beach, near an enormous dead tree, beached by the sun.
The enormous dead trees that litter the Rialto Beach (and other western coastal beaches) are reminiscent of those huge creatures, with roots like tusks jutting out and up to the sky, perfect for little boys and girls to climb on and swing from. I looked and looked for more of an explanation in the National Park Service pages about these massive dead trees but was stumped - pardon the pun.

The Mother of Invention...
Because the natural weather trends for the Olympic Peninsula includes lots (and I'm not kidding - up to 204 days of rain in Forks!) of rain, it was nothing short of amazing to wake up and know we were going to have a full day of clear skies and plenty of sunshine. But guess who forgot to pack any sunscreen? Oooooops. However, it seems that the improvised nose shade did provide protection.

We visited three beaches in all. Rialto, First Beach and Second Beach. Yes, dear readers, there is a Third Beach and probably other numbered beaches, but after my story of getting to Second Beach you will see why Third was passed by.

I did not take the one in the center.
If you can point to the one I did take,
I will give you a Special Award.
Someone's creative work.
This is the most completely ADA (American Disabilities Act) access point for being able to view the beach and picnic with family. However, no wheelchair, even with four-wheel drive, is going to get on the beach by itself as it is made up of millions of yet-to-be-converted-into-sand stones. Thousands of them. Lots of different sizes, shapes, colors and textures. The urge to collect is overwhelming. I settled on one, but I walked a mile in both directions before deciding (LOL!).

Walking on this less-than-stable platform is wonderful exercise for the calf muscles and I can attest that they remarked on it for a couple of days afterward. I did see families with babes in strollers, but they were likely carried down to the water's edge where the beach sand is being refined and thus is softer on the feet than farther away from the daily grind. (You can see lots of photos here on PhotoBucket.)

Dead trees stand in silent testimony to the potential forces
of the Pacific when it is not as lovely as on this day.
The waves seem to be larger here, and I am only guessing, but think there might be an issue with undertow, especially as the tide is retreating. I would not even think of swimming here, and I didn't actually see anyone doing it. I believe we just missed a surfboard competition, so perhaps strong swimmers don't feel the same concern I do now I'm older and swimming in oceans less.
This beach goer is only standing in the retreating water, not coming out.

Plenty of soft sand here; great for kids to safely run wide open!
I think there are two access points, but we went to the obvious public parking lot in La Push (the name of the Quilute village) and walked down a short, rocky/stony, sandy incline to the softest and loveliest beach sand I've put a toe into in quite awhile.
From the public parking lot in La Push, this is the view
looking back toward Rialto Beach, and the land mass on
the left are sacred islands for the Quilute tribe.
The wonderful weather did not draw huge crowds and with minimal breeze (thus no sand blowing over the food) it was a delightful hour spent relaxing and pushing the sand around with our feet, watching others run and jump in the very moderate surf which was probably pretty cool as well.
La Push Marina, tucked in behind First Beach.

Headed down the path to Second
Beach. Looks at first like you are
taking a stroll through someone's
lovely private garden.
As you are headed down Highway 110 (west) toward La Push, you will pass two miniscule parking lots and cars overflowing them for Third Beach on the left and then Second Beach, also on the left side. As we were leaving La Push, it was about 4 miles down the road and the entrance to the parking lot is a little daunting because there is no signage and it's only after you've entered you realize it is the wrong way in. Nevertheless, we found a space and locked up.

I had worn sneakers earlier in the day and in my wisdom brought sandals which were perfect for First Beach. But I didn't think it would be much of a walk down the path to Second Beach (no indicators, no directions for that either!) so I didn't change my footwear. And seeing other people wearing hiking boots did not give me a clue because I wasn't really registering on that important information.

You know where this is going.... downhill. And later, uphill, with sandals that did not have any heel-holder-inners. Hard to go ahead easily with a 40 percent incline. Oh, and by the way, if you have been 'walking' on the treadmill, a 5% incline does not cut it for training, folks. Yes, I whined all the way to the summit, muttered all the way down to the beach, groused on the way back up and puffed my way back to the car.... but I was smiling all the time, if that counts for anything. I'm not that great an estimator of distances, but my muscles are telling me it was about a mile and half in and even though it was more uphill on the way back, it was the same distance.

The Offering Tree had shells, stones, strings, and a variety
of other small treasures left by previous beach-goers.
About half-way down, or half-way up depending on which way you are going, there is a large, mossy-covered, 'offering tree' where little treasures may be left as offerings to the spirits. I chose a small mussel shell while I was on the beach, but this is what I saw as I was headed down the path.

This is a trip that I think my granddaughter would just love to do because not only is there a lot to see on the path, but the beach itself has tide pools, soft sand, places to build forts, lots of huge dead, splinter-free trees to climb on as well as dancing in the surf. I intend to be in much better shape for my next trip here.

Seagulls shop for supper or snacks.
 The seagulls seem to like this beach best of the three we were at as they left indications of their crabmeat dinners near the tide pools. An hour at this beac was not enough time, but the tide was coming in and since it was SuperMoon weekend with higher-than-usual tides, we decided it was in our best interest to not wait to see how high that might be.

So, reminder: check the tide tables for beach visits because not all paths near all beaches are accessible once the tide is in/up.

Tide pools have lots of things living in them and this is just one photo of many taken in the short time I was there. (You can see more photos by clicking on this link.)
Even I was surprised when I got home and downloaded this tide pool shot!!
A later bit of information revealed that Third Beach is considered a hiker's dream... meaning, according to the informant, that you started out for a hike and ended up at a beach and have a wonderful hike to look forward to heading homeward. Hmmmmm. Glad we didn't attempt it. I leave you with this shot here of Second Beach.
Second Beach tide pools glisten in the late afternoon summer sun.
It was a glorious day with some healthy fun and plenty of sun... it was sad to see it go.


  1. Great photos! Funny about selling photos of Washington in Colombia, and selling pictures of Colombia in Washington?

  2. An interesting idea.... I'll have to think about how that might happen. Thanks for stopping and reading and commenting - I love hearing from my readers.

  3. Beautiful! I live near Cape May, NJ at the beach & although it is beautiful it is nothing like your pictures.

  4. Pleasant story..why aren't you selling this to the tourist board of Washington?
    Annoying Mouse

  5. You know, I live on the West Coast and sometimes I forget just how beautiful it is. Thanks for the beautiful pictures as a reminder.

  6. Enjoy "traveling" with you! Great pictures.

  7. Lileng - it lovely to hear from you, again! And Birdie, Iso appreciate your encouraging comments!

    To Terrij, I think Cape May has it's own kind of beauty; have sailed in that area several times and enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Annoying Mouse -- you have a great point... I will see if someone there is interested. Thanks!