Published: August 25th 2010August 20th 2010
Entry 25: Olympic Peninsula, Washington: Quileute Indian Reservation, Pacific Ocean
Friday, August 20, 2010
Leaving Raymond Carver’s Grave, we grabbed some coffee (I’m quickly adopting this northwestern ritual) and drove west on Hwy 101. We’d left Carver at around 5 p.m., and we had at least a few hours’ drive to reach the coast, our goal being to camp on the Pacific Ocean, legally if possible. The Olympic National Parks map showed most all the coast of the Peninsula to be “dark green,” and thus, officially National Park. We scouted the clear-cut, forested road, 110, just north of Forks, recently made famous by the Twilight book/movie series, for any possible campsites, should the coast prove inhospitable to this trio of campers.
We hit Rialto Beach at just the right time, 30 minutes before the sun dropped behind the endless waves of the horizon (also noting that the only Olympic National Forest campground, Mora, with its 94 sites, was full). I was stunned at the huge, old trees that had washed up onto the rocks, thus creating a natural dune. It was also very odd to witness the ocean with trees butting up against its shores. The beach had
a sand, 6-foot+ waves, large stones further up, then the downed trees, then forest.
The signs concerning dogs were confusing (and, now, since it was almost dark, we were starting to think of sleep—very common once the sun goes down). Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach here, and north to Ellen Creek, 1 mile away (where the legal camping begins). Dogs are not allowed north of Ellen Creek, where the camping is located. So…there’s no legal camping with a dog at Rialto Beach. I surveyed the wooden log shelters that previous folks had built, sure that we could all 3 sleep there with no problem, but Scott didn’t think he could keep his Ranger paranoia in check for a good night’s sleep. The Solution, from a Dog Owner…
Then: A simple twist of fate (that I find often happens with no set travel itinerary). As darkness was really beginning to fall hard, a woman was coming back over the rocks and into the parking lot that we were now standing. Since Sophie (and 1 of her dogs) was off-leash, upon seeing another dog, they immediately ran towards each other. A red golden, the dog and Sophie
Beach 4 Fisherman
Beach 4 Fisherman
were busy sniffing and playing when the woman approached. She opened with, “My husband’s a Ranger, and in 10 years of marriage, he never told me that this portion of Rialto Beach is actually Quileute Indian Reservation.”
She was from Seattle, and, being married to a Ranger during the summer and a teacher during the school year (at least 3 Rangers that I ran into in the trip fit this bill), she liked to follow the rules. We told her our plight, and directed us to free, dog-friendly beach camping within the Quileute Indian Reservation in La Push, located about 4 miles south.
Pulling into Beach 1, we were amazed, as we could see tents set up, framed by the moonlight and light sky behind, accompanied with the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. An 80-spot campground, filled with potential rag-tag campers, had paid their $5 for a parking permit from the Tribal Council to park and camp. However, our space was free, and I resolved to at least buy a small something the following morning before leaving.
Scott, Sophie, and I climbed over huge logs to gain access on the beach, finding the perfect spot
framed by large trees and forming a triangle to shelter the wind (although, there was no wind this night, an odd occurrence for any beach).
After a warm Rainier Beer, we headed the 20 yards down to the water’s edge. The beach was excellent, calming and offering great nighttime sky views and dramatic wave action. In heading back to the tent, we ran into members of the Quileute Indian Reservation Fire Department, who were monitoring fire size of the numerous campsites on the beach (one camp did have a huge bonfire going). The Quileute Native American Firepersons…
For the next 20 minutes, we chatted with the trio—1 older female (probably around 27) and 2 younger males, aged 25 and 17. We learned that there’s sometimes “storm parties” to watch the huge, huge trees get blown to shore during the rainy winter season, the crazy things that they’ve seen on the beach (with its noticeably “relaxed” atmosphere), their reaction to Sherman Alexie's Native American indie film Smoke Signals, which I had recently learned that 93% of all Native Americans had seen—the 17-year-old swore that he’d been watching it the previous night, and their reaction to the Twilight
Olympic National Park Beach 4 View
We'd heard of some amazing tidal pools here.
(big impact, many tourists to area, both Forks and La Push, which had also been featured in the book and movie).
They, understandably, brushed off my request for a photograph but told us to enjoy ourselves on the beach and in La Push. I offered the address of the travel blog, but with no internet or cell phone service, they had no need for it. Really nice kids, and one of the benefits of travel—meeting and chatting with others. Sound Pacific Sleep…
The small rocks that framed the campground molded against my body through my 2 sleeping pads, and a sound sleep took me into mornings light, with a (very) low 50s temperature greeting us to an overcast and windy morning. We had long pants, coats and shirts on, but I shed them in lieu of my swimming shorts for a quick dip into the Pacific Ocean (when would, if ever, I be here again?).
No cooking this morning—we had to leave the area if we wanted to make it to our chosen overnight hike destination—the Colonel Bob Wilderness Area, located 60 miles south. I bought 2 overpriced postcards from the Native American store, and Scott,
Scott with his idol
Forks: 25 mentions of Twilight
Sophie, and I drove the 15 miles back to 101, turning south for 1 mile before entering another bizarre scene: The Effects of Teenaged Vampire Fans, Forks, Washington.
What a lucky fluke for this area, which already relies on tourism to keep these Olympic Peninsula’s towns afloat. There were folks posing at the “Welcome to Forks!” sign at the edge of town, a plethora of Twilight
-based souvenir stores, and a Welcome Center with cutouts, film props, and autographs by the casts of the films and the serie’s author, Stephenie Meyer. With forks being hard to get through (one must travel all the way south or north of the Olympic National Park), the entire region was surely benefitting by the vampiristic needs of pre-pubescent teens prancing around (and, not to mention, their mothers, who have no doubt been “sucked” into the fray as well).
We ate a hearty breakfast at the Forks Café before a visit to the NPS/USFS Information Station stop, to gather any relevant information for this day’s hike up to the peak of Col. Bob. We stood in line a good 20 minutes, silently rolling our eyes while 3 crisp (no doubt) Seattleites asked a series
of inane questions about Beach 2, whose trail was only .7 miles long. Scott wanted to by a topographic map of the area in which we were to travel, lest we get lost.
Back in the truck, we hit the road south down to Beach 4, where I’d heard that each day during low tide, huge “tidal pools” were formed. These were deep pits formed by plate tectonic movement 10 miles off the coast that fill twice each day with outgoing tidal waters, thus leaving a variety of little-seen sea creatures, including octopus and fish, etc. However, the tide was, in fact, in at noon, so we viewed the beauty of the beach from above, opting not to take the trail down to the water.
A chance stop at the Quinault Ranger Station was a happy accident, as we learned that the original trailhead that we wanted to take was closed, due to a huge “washout” a few years ago (a huge landslide carries all trees, rocks, etc. downhill, thus swiping out the path and leaving a huge, inaccessible debris field).
A necessary 40-mile dido was necessary, as we had to drive 20 miles further
La Push Campsite View 3
Very comfortable sleeping
south on Hwy 101, and then travel 20 miles back north on the Forest Service Road and to the edge of the Colonel Bob Wilderness.
A growing tradition…getting a late start on the day. Scott had had his backpack packed, but I had yet to make the final selection. The afternoon soon loomed as we stared at the tall peaks surrounding us, knowing that it was our goal to climb up the highest one: Colonel Bob Peak… Thanks for viewing the blog! Chicago Dave, Scott, and Sophie the dog
There are more photos below