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Campbell River And Quadra Island, BC

Campbell River And Quadra Island, BC

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in British Columbia, Canada, Gallery, Hiking | 25 comments

We’re back in our hometown of Ashland for a three-week visit before heading south for the winter. In addition to seeing friends and enjoying the beautiful fall weather, for the first time in months we have reliable internet. Before life gets away from me, I can catch up on our backlog of posts from our adventures on Vancouver Island.

Although it’s contrary to my nature (just ask Eric!) I’m going to speed things up and post more frequently than usual. My preference is to linger over experiences, both as they’re occurring and when reflecting and writing about them. But I really don’t want to be blogging about this once we take to the road again in late November. So without further ado, here we go!

Arriving in Campbell River, just 95 miles from our last stop in Nanaimo, we both felt for the first time that we were glimpsing a hint of the wildness that we anticipated in our travels on Vancouver Island. The town of Campbell River, midway on the east coast of the island, is civilized—but it’s also the gateway to the wilderness of the remote north and western regions and the rugged Discovery Islands just offshore.

Because we were moving quickly to catch the prime whale season further north, we had only a couple of days to explore. It was barely enough time to get a taste of this interesting town and nearby Quadra Island, the closest and largest of the Discovery Islands.

Vancouver Island, the Discovery Islands are in dark orange (courtesy of BC real estate website)

For thousands of years, beginning with the First Nations villages, the rhythm of life here has followed the movement of the salmon. Campbell River is unique in that it is a migration route for all five major species of Pacific Salmon—Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink, and Chum. Legend has it that at one time, the salmon run was so thick it was possible to walk on the backs of the fish in the river.

The fishing is still legendary here, and Campbell River has held the title as the “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World” for at least 100 years. In our afternoon walk along the waterfront, I was tempted to rent fishing gear. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have tried to catch our dinner from the pier. Instead, we bought salmon on the dock. Not as exciting, but still delicious.

The Rotary Waterfront Walkway

Campbell River harbor and five kinds of salmon, drawings by a First Nations artist

Discovery Pier on the Campbell River

Fishing from Discovery Pier on a chilly but beautiful mid-September day

We stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park, just two miles from the town of Campbell River. A beautiful hiking trail from the campground winds along the river. Leaning over a bridge, we could see hundreds of salmon gathering on their way home to their spawning grounds.

On the Canyon View trail, heading the long way to Elk Falls from the campground

Fly fishing on the Campbell River

Crossing a bridge high above the Campbell River on the Canyon View Trail

Salmon heading home on the Campbell River

The hiking trail meets up with the trail to Elk Falls. The falls are rather modest, but the suspension bridge crossing the river is pretty spectacular. Built in 2015, it crosses Elk Canyon, with a dizzying view of boulders and rushing water 200 feet below. It was a great hike, we figured about seven miles in total, including hundreds of stairs (no exaggeration).

Elaborate stairways lead to viewing opportunities for Elk Falls

Crossing the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge

Elk Falls, most of the water is diverted for power

We finished up the day with a tapas style meal at Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House. It’s a fun locals scene, with very good craft beer and a menu that changes daily—the salmon potato cakes and salad with marinated lentils were delicious.

Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House

No IPA’s here, but the High Tide Pale Ale was very good

A Visit To Quadra Island
Only a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Quadra Island is the largest of the Discovery Islands. We started our day with a hike that turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for, given that we had a full day planned for exploring the island. Chinese Mountain is the highest point on Quadra, and starts off with a relentless steep uphill rocky trail and some interesting rock climbing obstacles. The view from the top is spectacular! It’s not a long hike, but it’s definitely a good workout. Three miles and three hours later, we returned to town.

Heading up Chinese Mountain, we chose to go counterclockwise; it’s steeper but easier going up than down this direction

The scrambling was a surprise, but fun

It’s a gorgeous trail all the way along

The views from the top are spectacular

Heading down the trail and ready for lunch!

While on Quadra, we intended to visit the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, home to a unique collection of repatriated First Nations cultural items that had been seized by the government during the years when the native peoples were displaced and not allowed to practice their traditional ways. The items were sold to collectors and museums, and only in recent years have been returned to their rightful owners.

As it turned out, the museum was unexpectedly closed for the day. But we were able to enjoy the garden outside with the wonderful welcoming totems. Welcome poles were traditionally placed on village beachfronts to hail visitors. Today, welcome poles are placed at important sites, such as museums, to welcome visitors onto First Nations land.

Welcoming figures at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

Wonderful totems at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

An offering

About the campground
We really enjoyed our stay at Elk Falls Provincial Park. It was peaceful, beautiful, and well-located for our explorations of Campbell River. The sites are spacious and private, and although forested, most have plenty of light. No hookups and the facilities are primitive, but water is conveniently located throughout the campground. We had cell coverage close to the entrance station, but no internet, of course. In September mid-week, all of the river sites were reserved but we found a lovely site without having reservations.

Elk Falls Provincial Park campground

Next Up: Telegraph Cove And So Many Whales!

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Summer In The San Juan Islands

Summer In The San Juan Islands

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Biking, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Kayaking, Music, San Juan Islands, Washington | 34 comments

We left Lopez Island two weeks ago, waving goodbye from the deck of the ferry as we sailed away. Although we were on the island for two months, our parting is always bittersweet. Are we excited about continuing on to new adventures? Yes! At the same time, it’s hard to leave a place where we feel so deeply connected.

The first year we arrived as volunteers at Spencer Spit State Park, we met a couple that had been hosting there for 15 years. “Fifteen years?” I thought. “I can’t imagine.” Well, we just finished up our seventh summer at the park, and we’re planning to return next summer. There’s something about Lopez…

We’re drawn back year after year by the natural beauty, our delight in teaching the interpretive programs, the diversity of interesting outdoor and cultural events, and the wonderful friends we’ve made on the island.

We feel extraordinarily fortunate to have discovered Lopez, and to have the opportunity to settle in for the summer in a place we love, with people we love, doing volunteer work that we love. We’re also fortunate to have friends and family visit us on the island each year. And with several other islands in the San Juan Island archipelago just a short ferry ride away, we never run out of things to do. For us, life doesn’t get any better than Lopez in the summertime.

I’ve written a lot about Lopez and the San Juan Islands over the past several years, so I’ll keep this simple by just posting photos of some of our island adventures. These photos come with a disclaimer: I could post hundreds of photos, and I still wouldn’t be able to adequately convey the beauty and magic of this special place.

The only real downside to life on Lopez is the almost complete lack of internet, which exacerbates the usual challenge I have of keeping up with our blog. Hence, you’re getting one GIANT postcard. (Sorry about that!)

oxoxo Laurel & Eric

Ferry sailing by Spencer Spit

Settling into our new site at the park; it was a bumper crop year for Dungeness crab

A visitor to our campsite; a Red-breasted Nuthatch comes to bathe

Our favorite farm stand, just a short bike ride away

Inter-Tribal Canoe Journey lands on Lopez en route to Campbell River, British Columbia

Dusk at Shark Reef is always in shades of purple and orange

Views of Mount Baker

Adventures On San Juan Island

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island

Adventures On Orcas Island

Raven sculpture, Orcas Island

A Day Trip To Sucia Island

Peaceful bay on Sucia Island

Next Up: A Bucket List Adventure: Vancouver Island, BC

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A Lighthouse Hike And Lavender Fields: Sequim, WA

A Lighthouse Hike And Lavender Fields: Sequim, WA

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Biking, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Washington | 28 comments

As we stood on the bluff overlooking Dungeness Spit, I said to Eric, “No way am I hiking out to the lighthouse. Why would anyone want to trudge five miles down a sandy spit, and then turn around and endure the same tedious five miles back?” Two days later, we made the trek. And we’re glad we did.

It helped a lot that we were able to lure our friends Pam and John into hiking with us. A 10-mile hike on a sandy spit with nothing but gulls and driftwood could be tiresome—or meditative, depending on your frame of mind. (Oh, and there’s an additional half-mile to actually get to the spit, making the hike 11 miles in total.) But factor in good company, and the miles fly by.

An aerial view of Dungeness Spit; 5 miles one-way to the lighthouse (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The hike must be timed to coincide with low tide, lest you find yourself stumbling over rocks and driftwood on the return trip. We met up early for our adventure on a beautiful late June morning. Maintaining a brisk pace and with no lack of conversational topics (don’t ever play Beatles trivia with John—you will lose), we arrived at the lighthouse in about two hours.

Our most exotic bird sightings were gulls (and lots of them)

We had a beautiful day for our hike

The lighthouse comes into view, but there’s still a long way to go

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Dungeness Spit is the longest naturally occurring sand spit in the United States and one of the longest in the world. Another tidbit: The lighthouse was originally one-sixth of a mile from the tip of the spit. But the spit continues to grow, and the lighthouse now sits approximately one-half mile from the end of the spit. We had no desire to hike to the tip of the spit. Getting to the lighthouse was good enough for us.

We were given a choice; Serenity or Reality

New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse and the light keeper’s house

New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse

Looks like the wind always blows from the west

It’s a lovely lighthouse, in pristine condition. Built in 1857, it was the first in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. It still acts as a beacon for sailors today, although sadly (at least to my way of thinking), a utilitarian acrylic lens replaced the original beautiful glass prism Fresnel lens in 1976.

Pam and John head in for the tour

Inside the New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse

The original Fresnel lens from Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island, near Neah Bay

From the top of the lighthouse (wish the lighthouse still had the original Fresnel lens)

A view of the light keeper’s house from the lighthouse

If you’re not in the mood for an 11-mile round trip hike, you can get a ride if you pay $375 a week to stay in the light keeper’s house as a volunteer (along with 4-6 other paying volunteers). Responsibilities include staffing the lighthouse, giving tours, raising and lowering the flag, mowing the lawn, and polishing the brass. The volunteer program keeps the lighthouse staffed year round, and prevents the vandalism that typically befalls lighthouses that no longer have a full-time keeper.

Heading back from our lighthouse adventure

Gulls picturesquely posed against the mountains

Our campground at Dungeness Recreation Area was just a few miles from Sequim, and we were looking forward to visiting the lavender fields. Sequim is famous for its many lavender farms—it has the perfect Mediterranean climate for growing the fragrant herb. We’ve twice been in mid-July for the annual Sequim Lavender Festival. In late June, the lavender was a faint hint of the beauty to come, but we still enjoyed wandering the fields at Purple Haze Lavender Farm. The last time we were here, we indulged in lavender infused gin and tonics while we strolled the fields. This time, there were no gin and tonics offered. We made do with lavender ice cream.

Lavender fields at Purple Haze Lavender Farm

Beautiful poppies and delphinium in Purple Haze gardens


Our other adventures in our three days in Sequim included biking another portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail, this time from the campground to the Dungeness River Audubon Center. We also indulged in a strawberry picking extravaganza at Graymarsh Berry Farm. It never looks like a lot of berries until you get them home. Lastly, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Nourish Sequim, a delightful farm-to-table restaurant with beautiful gardens.

Railroad bridge at Dungeness River Audubon Center

A brilliant Western Tanager along the trail

Picking strawberries at Graymarsh Berry Farm

The beautiful gardens at Nourish Sequim, a farm-to-table restaurant

Grilled local salmon sandwiches and salads from the garden

About the campground:

Dungeness Recreation Area is a wonderful county campground less than 10 miles from Sequim. There are no hookups, but the location makes up for the lack of amenities (it’s not completely roughing it; there are bathrooms, showers, potable water, a dump station, and even good Verizon coverage). Our site was perched at the edge of the bluff, with peek-a-boo views of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. You can choose full sun sites or shady sites (the website offers helpful descriptions), and most of the sites are spacious and private.

Walking trails skirt the bluff, the sunsets are wonderful, and Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is walking distance from the campground. So is the lighthouse, if you’re in the mood for an adventure.

Dungeness Recreation Area

This was probably the most spacious campsite we’ve ever had

Next Up: Port Townsend And Beyond

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Wildflowers And Wildlife: Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Wildflowers And Wildlife: Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Friends, Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, Washington | 36 comments

When we hiked on Hurricane Ridge a couple of years ago in October, we were enthralled by the display of autumn colors blanketing the hills. A fellow hiker on the trail remarked, “You really should come in the spring to see the wildflowers.” Hurricane Ridge went right back onto our list. (This is precisely why our list never gets any shorter.)

In late June this year, we hit the trail on a perfect day for another hiking adventure with our friends Pam and John. The sun was shining, the colors almost blinding, and we had a crystal clear view of the Olympics. As promised, the wildflowers were beautiful. But even better was the wildlife, which we didn’t expect.

Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessed mountain area in Olympic National Park. A gently winding 17-mile road from Port Angeles climbs 5,242 feet to the visitor center. From there, we hiked the Hurricane Hill Trail (1.6 miles one way) to the top of Hurricane Ridge. It’s a beautiful trail, with grand views all along the way. If you’re lucky enough to have a clear day, from the crest of the ridge you’ll be treated to a panorama of snow-capped mountain ranges, islands, and the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

Pam and John at the Hurricane Hill Trailhead

A stunningly gorgeous day on the trail

The views are grand all along the trail

We were hoping to see Olympic marmots, a species that lives only on the Olympic Peninsula. We saw them last time we were here, and sure enough, they made a repeat appearance. Apparently, Hurricane Hill is one of the best places to see these engaging creatures. They whistle to one another across the meadows, sun themselves on rocky outcroppings, and occasionally scamper across the trail. “Back in Pennsylvania, we call those groundhogs,” said John. (He’s right—they are groundhogs. But they are exotic groundhogs.)

A rare Olympic marmot crosses the trail (“Looks like a groundhog to me,” says John)

Trying to capture a photo mid-step as the marmot speeds by

Safely across the trail and striking a pose in the sun

As we hiked, we enjoyed displays of the colorful alpine wildflowers that thrive in the rocky, wind-buffeted landscape. Hurricane Ridge gets its name from the hurricane-force winds that assail the mountain, but we lucked out with nothing more than a gentle breeze. It couldn’t have been a more ideal day—once at the top, we had views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Canada’s Vancouver Island, and the San Juan Islands. We could even see Lopez, our island destination for the summer.

Alpine wildflowers on Hurricane Hill Trail

Lovely pasque flower (Pulsatilla spp.) on the mountainside

At the top of Hurricane Ridge

Views from Hurricane Ridge on a perfect day, including Lopez Island, our summer destination

We love seeing wildlife in the wild, in their natural environment. We even enjoy seeing black-tailed deer, which are a nuisance in our hometown in southern Oregon. There’s a thriving population of “city deer” in Ashland, and they annihilate everything. We tried planting deer proof plants, only to discover that the deer do not read the Sunset Garden Book. The deer are not cute when they’re mowing down your vegetable garden, emptying your bird feeders, killing your Japanese maples by rubbing their antlers on them, and spreading disease via ticks. An eight-foot tall cedar fence solved our problems.

Out here on the trail, where there isn’t an overpopulation of deer, we enjoy seeing them. A few joined us at our lunch spot at the top of Hurricane Ridge. And one popped out from behind a tree when Eric left the trail for a quick rest stop. (Yes, he takes his camera everywhere. You never know when a photo opportunity might come along, right?)

Lunch spot on Hurricane Ridge with deer (and Pam and John’s famous boots)

Not sure who was more surprised, Eric or the deer

Hills covered with sweetly-scented spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) on a side trail

Sharing a fun moment with good friends

Pam, Queen of the Mountain

There was still snow on parts of the trail in late June

Hiking back down the trail, we spotted a small gathering of people. We knew there was something interesting going on, and quickened our pace. The “something interesting” was a tiny black dot on the hillside. Up close (through our binoculars and camera lens) it was a big black bear.

A bear draws a small crowd of hikers

That tiny black dot is a bear

A better view through the magic of a zoom lens

We returned to the visitor center, thinking we were finished hiking—until we heard that mountain goats were hanging out near the Sunrise Point Trail. Mountain goats have been high on our list of critters that we’ve wanted to see, and our group unanimously agreed to try to find them. As it turns out, it would have been nearly impossible to miss them.

Heading back down the Hurricane Hill Trail

Hiking back up another trail; the view from Sunrise Point Trail

We hustled up the steep, partially snow-covered trail. Just before we reached the crest, we spotted a small herd grazing on the mountainside. When the goats decided to move in our direction, they used the trail, and we gave them right-of-way. Later, we learned that the goats are not native to the park, and have become problematic.

Mountain goats grazing near Sunrise Point Trail

The goats start making their way toward us

We backed up as far as we could on the narrow ridge

A mama goat and baby trotting by

I’m separated from our herd, and waiting for the goats to pass by

Local sportsmen introduced goats for hunting near Lake Crescent in the 1920s. In 1938, Olympic National Park was established, and the goats were off-limits to hunters. Since then, the goat population has increased by leaps and bounds. They damage native plant communities, seek out hikers for salt (from perspiration and urine), and although it’s unusual, they can be aggressive toward people.

When we returned to the visitor center after our hike, the ranger told us about a tragic incident a few years ago where a goat in the park killed a hiker. He advised that when we encounter goats on the trail, that we should stand our ground and not allow the goats to dominate. (“Right,” I thought. “You first!”)

Next Up: A Lighthouse Hike, Lavender Fields, And More: Sequim, WA

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A Rainy Day Hike To Sol Duc Falls

A Rainy Day Hike To Sol Duc Falls

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Friends, Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, Washington | 44 comments

Set deep within the temperate rain forest of Olympic National Park, Sol Duc Falls is considered to be one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Washington State. In years when water is abundant, the fall divides into four separate channels just before plunging 40 feet into a narrow, rocky ravine. We were looking forward to seeing this beauty for ourselves.

Our friends Pam and John also had Sol Duc Falls on their to-do list. On an overcast, misty morning with rain in the forecast, we set out to meet them at the trailhead. Ordinarily, none of us would deliberately choose to hike in the rain. But it turned out to be the perfect day for our adventure.

We discovered that hiking in a rainforest is best done in the rain. Not a drenching downpour—that would be miserable. But in a gentle rain, the mosses and ferns come alive, and the forest glows in every imaginable shade of green. The thick canopy of old growth firs and cedars protected us from all but a fine mist of moisture for most of our hike.

You can get to Sol Duc Falls via a short, easy trail of less than a mile. That’s what most people opt for. But a much more interesting route is the Lover’s Lane Trail, a loop of six miles that wanders through the lush, deep forest, over several rustic bridges, and one slightly sketchy boulder and log crossing.

At the Lover’s Lane Trailhead

The trees each have their own little forest of ferns and mosses

John and Eric in a jungle of bracken fern

An abundance of shelf fungi

Not sure if this bridge is up to code

Heading deeper into the forest

Beautiful bunchberry lines the trails

Eric tests the log crossing (he drew the short straw)

The expedition tackles the crossing

And yet another bridge; they’re sturdy, even if they don’t look like it 

The crown jewel of the trail—the falls—comes at the halfway mark. But the entire trail is gorgeous. I’d say it’s one of the prettiest we’ve ever hiked, and certainly the prettiest of our rainforest hikes in Olympic National Park.

Pretty little falls on the way to the “big one”

Beautiful Sol Duc Falls, with all four channels flowing abundantly

The Sol Duc River, a salmon highway

Bridge spanning the Sol Duc River

Two wildflowers in a sea of green :-))

A very fun day with Pam and John

The Sol Duc Valley is located in the northwest region of the park, about 35 miles southwest of our home-for-the-week at Salt Creek County Park. On the winding drive home, we passed by Lake Crescent, a beautiful glacially carved lake within Olympic National Park. Conveniently, it was happy hour. Muddy boots and all, we trudged into the lovely historic lodge for cocktails and an appetizer of Dungeness crab. Sitting in the glassed in sunroom, overlooking the sparkling lake, we toasted our four-year anniversary of our fulltime travels.

Lake Crescent Lodge, circa 1915

A sparkling afternoon at Lake Crescent

Cocktails and Dungeness crab after a great day of hiking; celebrating four years on the road

This has been a magnificent, beautiful, wondrous, and sometimes terrifying journey. Life has certainly taken us on a wild ride. We never expected some of the adventures we’ve encountered this past four years. But really, none of us ever know what’s around the corner. What we do know is that we’re very happy that we embarked on this journey four years ago.

Life is good. Really, really good. Our neighbor at Salt Creek County Park took this picture of our rig while photographing the Milky Way and was kind enough to share it with us. It seems like the perfect image to commemorate our four-year travel anniversary and our desire to keep on exploring. Here’s to following your dreams, whatever they may be!

Our rig under the Milky Way (courtesy of Ryan Hurd)

Next Up: Wildlife Adventures on Hurricane Ridge

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Return To The Edge Of The World: Neah Bay, WA

Return To The Edge Of The World: Neah Bay, WA

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, Washington | 24 comments

At the furthest northwesternmost point of the continental U.S., the wild, stormy coastline meets the deep, mysterious rainforest. This far-flung, untamed place is the land of the Makah, a Northwest Coastal people who have called the remote headland home for thousands of years.

We first visited Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation a couple of years ago, despite the advice we received from someone who told us, “There’s nothing there worth seeing.” Au contraire. This is exactly the kind of place that captures our interest, and we returned in mid-June for an adventure we missed the first time around.

Hiking to Cape Flattery

Just like last time, we hiked the trail to Cape Flattery, which is as far as you can go and still be in the continental U.S. This is sacred tribal land, and the Makah have declared Cape Flattery a nature sanctuary. A three-quarter mile rugged trail winds through the dense rainforest. At the end of the trail, cedar platforms resembling the prow of a canoe jut above the churning ocean, dramatic headlands, and hidden sea caves.

Trail through the rainforest to Cape Flattery

Viewing platforms built like the prow of a canoe

Cape Flattery looking north, with hidden sea caves tucked into the headlands

Hanging over the railing, we scanned the ocean for whales and puffins. No whales or puffins, but a family of sea otters appeared, rolling and playing in the waves, mama holding baby close.

Scanning the horizon at what feels like the edge of the world

A family of sea otters

Standing on the tip of Cape Flattery, we could see tiny Tatoosh Island in the distance. Once a fishing camp for the Makah, a lighthouse here has pointed mariners to the entrance of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca since 1857.

Tatoosh Island from Cape Flattery

Visiting the Museum of the Makah

We also paid a return visit to the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation, one of the most intriguing museums we’ve encountered anywhere in our travels. The artifacts within were discovered in 1970 at Ozette, a Makah village 15 miles south of Neah Bay.

The Makah Cultural Museum and Research Center totem archway

Entrance to the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation

During a storm in 1750, a catastrophic mudslide buried the village in 10 feet of clay, creating an oxygen-free environment that perfectly preserved five longhouses and objects of everyday life. For more than a decade, archaeologists and tribal members worked together to unearth more than 55,000 artifacts. It’s considered to be one of the most significant archaeological finds in North America.

Despite living in a challenging environment, buffeted by wild storms and drenched in 100 inches of rain each year, the Makah shaped a life of rich traditions, comfort, and beauty, creating what they needed from the abundance of the rainforest and ocean surrounding them. The museum is arranged according to the seasonal life of the Makah; thousands of artifacts in pristine condition are engagingly displayed. There’s a replica of a full-size longhouse and four beautiful cedar dugout canoes built by tribal members, and an excellent hour-long film on the Makah and the Ozette site.

Blankets woven of woodpecker feathers, dog hair, and cattail fluff; clothing woven of cedar bark (the inner bark was pounded until soft and pliable); baskets and boxes of red cedar; intricately carved and decorated tools and ceremonial items made of bone, shell, and wood; all survived centuries of burial in mud. It’s a remarkable and beautiful display of a unique culture. I wanted so much to take photos, but the tribe asks that we refrain, and we did.

Fabulous 20-foot tall carved cedar figures outside the Museum of the Makah Indian Nation

Hiking to Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches

“Generations of Makah people have used this area. If you are patient and respectful, its enduring beauty will enrich and teach you too.”

So reads a sign posted at the trail head to Shi Shi Beach (pronounced Shy-Shy). Located 8.5 miles south of Neah Bay, this remote beach bordering the Makah reservation became part of Olympic National Park in 1976. A two-mile hike through the rainforest (the first mile has partial boardwalk, built by the Makah) leads to the beach.

Trailhead for Shi Shi Beach

Cedar boardwalk through the forest; it starts off reasonably well

Beautiful fungi in the rainforest

Bridge on the Shi Shi Trail

We hiked this trail two years ago, but only to Shi Shi Beach. We returned this time to hike all the way to Point of Arches, for a total of 8 miles round-trip.

Never in all of our years of hiking have we encountered so much mud. The last time we hiked the trail to Shi Shi Beach it was muddy, but nothing like this. This was an epic mud bath, ankle deep in many places. We bushwhacked, made little bridges of logs, climbed trees, attempted great leaps. There was no way around the mud and the mud puddles. Why did we continue, you ask? Well, the worst of the mud didn’t start until about a mile in, and we kept thinking, “Surely this will improve!” It didn’t.

A muddy, miserable trail

Soggy, muddy, puddles—it has it all

Finally, after more than an hour of slogging, we reached the bluffs and caught our first glimpse of the beach below. A series of ropes help in navigating the 150-foot drop down to the beach. There, we stepped into the otherworldly landscape of rock spires, sea stacks, caves, and arches that decorate Shi Shi Beach.

Ropes help on the climb down the 150 foot bluff trail

Shi Shi Beach on a misty day

Otherworldly rock formations

We didn’t linger long, because our destination—Point of Arches—was another two miles down the beach. The hike was gorgeous, with exposed rock formations and tide pools all along the way, and views of Point of Arches coming closer as we walked.

Rock formations and tidepools on the hike to Point of Arches

Ochre sea stars and giant green anemones

Point of Arches in the distance

Crossing Petroleum Creek on the way to Point of Arches

A lone surfer on the beach (I can’t believe he hauled his surfboard down that muddy trail)

The ideal time to visit Point of Arches is at low tide, when the numerous tidepools are exposed. It’s a beautiful, peaceful hike, and the reward is a picturesque seascape of dozens of sea stacks, spires, arches, and caves, with tidepools surrounding it all. Ideally, we would have stayed overnight on the beach, which is what most people seem to do after making the effort to get here. The sunsets are reputed to be spectacular.

Point of Arches rock formations

Tidepools at Point of Arches

Seastack and arches at Point of Arches

Oystercatchers on the beach

Halfway back to Shi Shi Beach

Heading back up the bluff trail

(Note that before you hike on this or any trail or beach on the Makah Reservation, you must obtain a $10 annual recreation permit, available in Neah Bay or at Hobuck RV Park.)

About the campground:

Just like last time, we stayed at Hobuck Beach RV Park and Campground. Last time, we stayed in the RV Park, which offers 10 full-hook up RV sites ($40 per night) with a fabulous view of the Pacific and easy access to the beach. This time, we opted for the big open field. It’s a free-for-all. You pay your $20 and stake out your spot anywhere that looks good to you.

We arrived on a Thursday and found a choice location. By Saturday, we were surrounded by tents, VW campers, boats, and surfers. This is apparently a prime fishing and surfing locale. Everyone was well behaved, and we enjoyed our stay. We had speedy Verizon coverage, a place to fill our water tanks, and amazingly, there was a free, almost new shower house with unlimited hot water.

Hobuck Campground and RV Park

Choose your spot and set up camp

Sunset on Hobuck Beach

Next Up: A Delightful Week At Salt Creek 

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