Olympic National Park: Ocean Backpacking Trip

Olympic National Park

I kicked off my 2018 backpacking season pretty much the same way I ended last year’s- with three lonesome days on the Olympic National Park, Peninsula, far away from the I-90 and I-5 corridors. Knocking off another of Harvey Manning and Ira Spring’s 100 Classic Hikes of Washington, which was No. 65 for me. I may yet stumble my way through three-quarters of them.

First off, I want to thank Raine for going with me on the Olympic National Park trip. Not every woman would be willing to do a three-day backpack into empty spaces with a guy she had never met, but she did. Raine exhibited a variety of backcountry skills over the course of our adventure, including large-campfire construction, tree clearing to improve our campsite view, single-attempt rope-hanging, hiking with a cup of coffee, and, most of all, listening to my stories and laughing at my jokes. Thanks, Raine!

Olympic National Park
Photo credit: Tainanian on Visual hunt / CC BY

Olympic National Park: Toleak Point

Hiking to Toleak Point of Olympic National Park requires taking into account low and high tides, and entails some rope and ladder scrambling, as well. We had intended to base camp at Scotty Creek, and day hike to Toleak on the second day. Unfortunately, when we got to Scotty Creek, all the campsites were taken. We started to head down the beach when we saw someone approaching us. I decided to ask him if he knew how far we’d have to go to find an empty site, and the man turned out to be the inimitable Iron Tazz Scaggs. 

Iron was hiking with friends on a one-way trip from Third Beach to Oil City. He told us we’d be certain to find campsites at Toleak Point, but that was not a comforting thought. Due to the locations on the beach where you need to be at low tide. I didn’t want to get too far from Scotty Creek, otherwise, we’d be getting up and hiking out in the dark on our third day. The Cherry Point campsite, located about halfway to Toleak, was our best hope.

After taking leave of Iron, Raine and I headed further down the beach, in what for me was a somewhat anxious silence. I couldn’t help but think, “What if Cherry Point is full?” We’d have to go to Toleak, and I considered all that would entail coming back. We started discussing the possibility we’d be setting up camp in the dark. These are the things one worries about when plans go awry.

In short order, however, I was overcome by the serenity of the moment. We were walking on the beach alone, the sun setting, the waves thundering, and all that beautiful scenery under a giant sky. The silence of human words said everything that needed to be said. In this sublime setting, I let go of all the anxiety and fretting. We’d make it, I told myself, one way or another. Time to live in the moment, and take in all the beauty.

Olympic National Park
Photo credit: Bernd Thaller on VisualHunt / CC BY

And then it hit me. I turned to Raine and said, “I know how this is going to end.” I knew, because it has happened so many times before. “This is how it’s going to happen,” I said. “We’re going to have our plans disrupted. The people at Scotty Creek are going to force us to go further out than we want. And we’re going to have to hike further than expected. But in the end, we’re going to wind up at an even better campsite!” Raine said she admired the attitude, and I will always love her for saying something so human, because I really didn’t know what I was talking about, and I suspect she knew this deep down.

As we approached Cherry Point, I did my best to tame my anxiousness. I tried to ascertain a campsite in the slowly-fading light. Raine mentioned, “Maybe over there in the trees?” I made my way through some driftwood in the direction she suggested. As I got to the trees, a beautiful thing appeared before me. A perfect, solitary, campsite, empty, with a makeshift table, places to sit, a fire pit, and a giant pile of firewood. And room for two tents. It could not have been better. “Yes!” I yelled. “Honey, we’re home!”

That night we watched the sunset in as glorious a setting as possible. The rocks of Third Beach and Taylor Point to our right, the rocks of Toleak Point to our left, and Cherry Point Rock directly in front of us. The best campsite indeed, and we had the entire place to ourselves.

Olympic National Park

The next day, we would hike to Toleak Point, on a brilliant, sunny day. We saw, and heard, more eagles than you could count. We found raccoon and deer prints, and the prints of coyotes in search of them all. Even the footprint of Iron Tazz Skaggs did not elude us.

Shortly before sunset, while exploring Cherry Point Rock, we saw a seal, who eyed us with intense curiosity. The entire day, my face bore the expression of astonishment. I know, because I once bore the expression on a trip through the Enchantments. It is an expression born of humbleness before the power of nature.

As I lay in my tent the second night, listening to waves crashing, and slowly drifting asleep, I remembered that while some people in this world have real problems (health, war, famine, violence, etc.), most of us here have it pretty easy. And while life brings you unexpected events, twists and turns — and, yes, even sadness and loss on occasion — for the most part, it is perfect.

If you let it be.

This article was written by Lee Jacobson

Read more about adventure travel at https://blog.gogaffl.com/category/adventure-travel/

Featured Photo Credit: Anupam_ts on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA


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