Backpacking the Olympic Coast Day 2: Olympic National Park’s Titanic Garbage Problem

78 miles of remote coastline untouched by human development. That’s what I drove to the continental United States’ westernmost peninsula to see. 4 days hiking alongside water bottles, gas cans, bleach jugs, PVC pipes, ship bouies, Styrofoam beads and discarded fishing nets is what I got instead.

I love traveling, and some nights I’m just too excited to sleep. I can play harmonica until my lips are exhausted and this usually puts me to sleep – but not on these nights. So my new trick is to take a benadryl on nights when I just have to sleep. Benadryl puts me to sleep within an hour and keeps me asleep through strong winds or high surf.

My alarm went off in the morning twilight. I pressed snooze a couple of times before lazily packing and hitting the beach around 7:30. All of the driftwood had grown a fur of 1/2″ tall white snow crystals in the night, and sheets of ice cracked underfoot where water ran across the sand from seeps in the cliff. I made good time on open stretches of hard packed sand before being stopped by high water at Yellow Banks. I took lots of photos and I found 3 cold water immersion suits along the way, almost as if 3 shipwreck survivors had washed up there. The suits are really nice neoprene, so I may try to take one home on the way back. Its only 15 miles with an extra 10 lbs or so.

There is an amazing campsite at the north end of the Yellow Banks that overlooks the bay. Using a combination of rock climbing skills and mechanical engineering I added a tree swing from rope and a heavy plastic panel which I found washed up on the shore below. I swung and relaxed on the sunny driftwood deck while listening to oldies, and I did a little nude yoga when it was warm enough. Highs are in the 40’s this week. I also stashed my bear canister under the decking with two days of food and my dead headlamp inside. At least those canisters are good for something.

Shortly after leaving yellow banks I slipped again, this time whacking my knee and soaking my clothes in a tide pool as I struggled like a bug stuck on its back. I stripped down to my cheetah pajamas, dumped out my purple Playtex dish gloves and put them back on, dawned my tattered sky blue raincoat and put in my headphones. And as the sun set in a cold, cloudless sky I danced along light and free raving to trance and looking crazy as a jaybird. Not a lot of people would be in to this, I thought to myself, but I sure am. After all, its cold and this is pretty strenuous. Twilight had passed and I was setting up camp again by the time I realized I had forgotten to pull out my tent stakes and pack them this morning. I had also left the cord I use to support the roof tied to a tree I had used the night before. I staked the tent with pine twigs and guyed out the roof with discarded fishing rope. It was calm and clear, and with the rest of my dry gear on inside my 15 degree down sleeping bag I was mostly warm enough. I watched Venus slowly sink toward it’s seafaring reflection as satellites and a couple of meteors streamed by through the tall pines.

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