Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Olympic Beaches

Olympic National Park consists of two disconnected areas: (1) the large inland wilderness surrounding Mount Olympus; and (2) a long, skinny stretch of coast along the western edge of the Olympic Peninsula. The latter boasts some pretty spectacular beaches. Some are quite popular and crowded (like Rialto Beach and First Beach, on the Quileute Indian Reservation). But, if you're willing to get off the beaten path (and onto the hiking trail), you can have a gorgeous beach all to yourself. Here are some of our favorites:

Ruby Beach

It's only a 1/4-mile hike to Ruby Beach, so there may be a few other people around once you get to the beach. Still, the beach is beautiful (Tenny still thinks this beach is named after his darling cousin Ruby). Enormous sea stacks defy the encircling waves. Rocky cliffs topped with evergreens are ringed with bands of perfectly rounded stones, which then give way to the fine sand beach. Tenny especially liked the piles of contorted driftwood, which hid seashells, crabs, and other coastal treasures.

Spruce Burl Trail to Beach 1

Spruce Burl Trail is named for the "spruce burls" that disfigure the spruce trees in the area, making them look like they're pregnant. There must be something in the water. The sandy beach at the end of the 1/2-mile trail is also beautiful, with lots of possibilities for exploring and relaxing alone on the sand.

Beach 4

You only have to walk about 1/2 mile to get to Beach 4 (at Kalaloch), but once you get there you'll do a lot more walking to get closer to all of the beautiful features along the beach. Beautiful sea stacks litter the north end of the beach. Go at low tide to explore the tidal pools around the sea stacks. Tennyson went crazy running around pointing out "sea creatures" (as he called them) in the tidal pools, and he now begs us every day to take him back. For now, the pictures of some of our favorite sea creatures will have to suffice.

Four-legged starfish (thought to bring good luck -- we made that up)

Starfish Necklace


Movie Star(fish)

Beach 4 is also a great place to catch a sunset (though we recommend checking the tide tables to make sure the rising tide isn't going to trap you against the cliffs while you're gazing).

With a slower shutter speed, the waves seem like clouds around the sea stacks...

...and appear that they might pull you out to sea at any moment.

This shot was taken in the dark of night, with a 30 second shutter, and only the moon to light the frame. The red dot on the horizon is a flashing light from a distant ship.

Third Beach & Taylor Point

Third Beach was probably our favorite of all. It had the sandy beach, the cliffs, the sea stacks, and the sea creatures. In addition, there is a beautiful waterfall pouring over Taylor Point and falling into the ocean waves. It's spectacular. Just hike the 1.5 miles to the beach, then hang a left and walk another 1/2 mile and you'll get a close-up of the beautiful falls.

There are also backcountry campsites on this beach. We would love to return with our backpacking gear and spend a couple days exploring this area. Tennyson found a small shovel that a backpacker had left on the beach, and he spent about 2.7 hours testing it out. He did a lot of damage, but nothing a high tide can't fix.

Suzy got her peace on.

We arrived at Third Beach in the early afternoon, but it was so gorgeous we decided to stay until sunset. Mother nature intervened. In the late afternoon, the fog rolled in, and it felt like we were about to get pounded with rain. So, we turned back.

It didn't rain (unbelievable -- no rain on the whole trip to Washington?), but the fog did make for a dreamy hike through the rainforest back to the car.

We could probably keep blogging about this trip for a couple more months (trust me, we've got enough pictures), but we feel like it's about time to move on and try to like our real lives again. It really was the perfect trip from start to finish. And just to prove it, a final story: on the final leg of our return flight, we sat in the plane on the runway in Milwaukee and watched the beautiful sunset. Right after it set, we took off and we then got to watch the sun rise. At one point we could look out of the right side of the plane and see the sun setting again, and then look out of the left side of the plane and watch the huge moon rising. So cool. Perfect trip.


Katie said...

Joey is shy but he wants to say that he loves your pictures Jeremy. And he likes you a lot. And he wants to be your friend. OK, maybe not so much shy as lazy. He just wanted me to comment for him. You do cool stuff with your camera. I like the one of the trees in the fog at the end. Or maybe I just liked all of them.

Jay & Pat said...

A truly wonderful trip for y'all. Photography was simply amazing!

Grasshopper said...

i didn't thinksuc gorgeous, untouched places still existed here. how amazing to have been there in person, but thanks for sharing the photos. just beautiful.