The beauty of any seacoast goes way beyond the visual images and includes the sound of pounding surf and the smell of saltwater. The beaches of Washington certainly combine all the senses in a very natural and striking manner. Human impact is largely absent, and the rocks and logs and evergreen trees provide a unique distinction to Washington beaches compared with others I have visited.
The backpackers arrived on Wednesday evening, and after some discussion we all agreed to dedicate Thursday to visiting the Pacific beaches in Olympic National Park. We decided to begin with Rialto Beach, as it was directly west of Forks and only a fourteen mile trip and included a 1.5 mile hike to Hole in the Wall if the tides permitted.
We ate a relatively late breakfast and then gathered our essentials for the day and set off toward Rialto Beach. Once we arrived we found a place to park and made a short hike to the beach. Similar to Kalaloch Beach, numerous drift logs bordered the fringe of the sand. It was around 1PM when we arrived, and there was a fair amount of space between the waves and the eastern edge of the beach, but it appeared the tide was incoming and not outgoing.
Just as moths are attracted to light, Dan, Joe and Amy were immediately drawn to the large quantity of round flat stones on the beach, and they began to skip rocks at a rapid-fire pace. I challenged Dan to skip three incoming waves on one toss, and he gave it a strong effort, but succeeded in skipping two but never three. The difficulty in this test of skill was the long time between incoming waves. After a half hour of thrilling rock skipping we decided to attempt the three mile round trip hike to Hole in the Wall. It was clear that the tide was coming in, and I was uncertain we could make the full loop before facing the prospect of wet feet. I was wearing my sneakers, and the others were equipped with sandals and Chacos, so clearly I was in the minority on this matter.
We threw caution to the wind and departed with Hole in the Wall as our destination. It was a fun hike with numerous pauses to snap photos and enjoy the natural scenery. As we walked north, numerous large haystack-shaped rocks came into view, and nearly all of them featured stunted evergreens growing from the pointy peaks. In many cases fog or mist shrouded these prominent features on the horizon, and I marveled at their rugged beauty. There were also rocky outcroppings on the beach, and these contained tidal pools with an abundance of sea life. We observed numerous clams, anemones, and starfish.
Hole in the Wall was another haystack rock, but the forces of nature carved a large arch, or hole in the wall, through the rock. As this was our destination, we paused to snap numerous photos and passed through the arch, and then inspected the numerous tidal pools that populated this rocky area. In order to reach Hole in the Wall, we hiked over a narrow strand of rock, and waves were already creating a wet surface, so I was the first of our group to make a U-turn and head back to the beach. The return hike was a bit dicey, and I had to sprint across several narrow strands of sand between incoming waves to preserve my dry socks and shoes. In spite of my lack of preparedness with footwear, we enjoyed a fun hike at Rialto Beach and managed to return just as the tide approached its high water mark. Dan finally used his phone to find a tide chart and concluded that high tide was 4PM, and we ended our hike by 3PM, so we did in fact cut it close.
The next step in our plan for the day was to return to the Forks Outfitters (supermarket) and buy lunch and firewood and then continue on to Ruby Beach. Ruby Beach is located on the coast north of Kalaloch Lodge, so it was the next closest beach south of La Push and Rialto Beach. Joe meanwhile was a bit under the weather, so we took some time to get him situated, and he elected to stay behind and recover from the stress of four days of backpacking.
After stopping at the supermarket to buy lunch and a bundle of firewood, we continued on highway 101 to the parking lot at Ruby Beach. We climbed out of the Ford Focus rental car and carried the firewood to the beach. Ruby Beach contained many more drift logs than Rialto Beach, and previous visitors built small huts using these readily available construction materials. In addition there were many small stone towers constructed with the flat round stones that were very prevalent on the Pacific beach.
Once we exited from the trees and drift logs, we walked south on the beach a good ways until we escaped the other visitors who remained near the end of the path from the parking lot. We were looking for a nice spot away from the crowds that contained a fire pit and drift logs to provide shelter from the wind, and eventually we found our place. Once we staked out our location for a beach campfire, we realized we were missing a key ingredient – beer. Fortunately Jane and I had been to the Kalaloch Lodge on Wednesday, and we knew there was a mercantile there, so Dan and I returned to the car and made the seven mile drive. We purchased a six pack of Alaska amber along with a $7 pocketknife that contained a bottle opener and quickly returned to our temporary campsite at Ruby Beach.
We now had the essentials so we started a fire and popped beers and enjoyed our gorgeous surroundings. Starting the fire was actually a bit of a challenge. We were surrounded by massive quantities of wood, but we quickly discovered that driftwood and drift logs are perpetually damp as a result of repeated soaking as the tides move in and out. In addition the coast experienced quite a bit of rain on Wednesday, and Jane and I could attest to that. We finally managed to find some very thin branches that worked as kindling, and after almost losing the unstable flame several times, we managed to create a solid base of glowing embers.
We were now together as a family for the first time since Christmas, and it was a great way to end our beach day. The fire glowed, the surf crashed, and the tide moved out as we tended the fire and sipped our beers and soaked up the beauty that surrounded us. It was the highlight of the trip for Jane and me.