Backpacking the Olympic Coast Day 3: Running the Gauntlet

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My feet are nasty white and waterlogged. The bottoms of my pants are wet and sandy, the uppers are flecked with dried mud. My fleece is damp with sweat inside my raincoat. Temperatures are well into the 30’s by 4:00 p.m. and soon I will be in bed, raincoat and all. The sunset is spectacular though. This is the first day I’ve had camp made before sunset. Dinner’s ready too. So I wrap myself in my sleeping bag and forget about my aching feet for a minute and just watch the waves calmly roll in on Shi Shi Beach from the door of my tent. White frost from this morning still sheaths the driftwood here despite the sunny day. I have reached my destination. It was a gauntlet getting here but the natural wonders grew more spectacular with every passing step and now that I’m 32 miles north of where I started I can safely say it was worth the effort.

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I set out before my alarm even went off this morning, well before sunrise and even before twilight. I was cold and moved quickly but carefully on the frozen beach and frosty driftwood and rocks. I was naked and fording the steaming Ozette River by 9:00 a.m. and relaxing on a most spectacular overlook south of Point of the Arches eating a bag of almond granola that I’m going to regret. I took pictures and sent friends a Snapchat video from a precarious rock 200′ above the encroaching sea. By the time I realized I had not completely rounded Point of the Arches it was too late; I hiked down and a mile further along the beach to discover it was impassable already. I’d have to wait until low tide around 9:00 p.m. and worse this whole beach would be submerged. I had no choice but to climb back up the ropes to the ridge I had just left.
Once I was on the ridge I really wanted to keep moving. After all, it was only 2 o’clock. On my GPS I could see something called ‘Foot Trail’ half a mile back in the woods. Little did I know it would take an hour and a half of bushwhacking to cover that half mile or that the for trail would be disused and overgrown, only slightly better than the bushwalking that had gotten me to it. But I did find it, and it lead me to Shi Shi Beach via Petroleum Creek just in time for sunset. And when I walked down to point of rocks I I thought I could see where I had been standing and had decided to turn back three hours prior. I met Nathan, and he took a fantastic picture of me ‘from the Dutch angle’, whatever that means.

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