My husband and I like hiking. That being said, this year didn’t lend itself to much of that in Western Washington. Snow stayed until late in the mountains, and the rainforests must have been one soggy mess. But September proves to be an ideal month, once more. So, last week, we chose a hike from our bucket list and drove out to the coast. Our goal: the trailhead to the Ozette Triangle at the ranger station of Lake Ozette.
Knowing we were in for a 9.5-mile hike with no chance of any return once we were on the beach, we had made sure that the tides were in our favor. The best way is to start the hike two to three hours before the zenith of low tide in order to have abundant time before the tide moves in again. Just in case we’d get stranded, we both had our rucksacks packed with water, food, and emergency sheltering gear, as hikers apparently sometimes get trapped on Ozette Beach for one reason or another, and have to camp out at one of the few elevated campsites. So, heavily equipped and geared up with firm hiking boots and hiking sticks, we set out that Wednesday morning. As I had read up on the trail before, we chose the Cape Alava trail instead of the Sand Point trail, as this is what locals recommend to do. And one should ALWAYS listen to the advice locals give.
This trail starts out crossing the Ozette River into dense rainforest with lots of stairs up and down, little bridges – some of them getting replaced these days –, and boardwalks through what during the wet season must be swamp. The first leaves started to turn, and especially the bright red ones created a beautiful contrast to the lush green forest floor. Red berries at our feet, dark blue ones above our heads, and all kinds of flowers seamed our trail. At Ahlstrom’s Prairie we were enchanted by the incredible number of sky-blue flowers that filled the wetlands. And a little farther on, my husband suddenly stopped and made me listen – we were able to hear the barking of countless seals from the beach almost from a mile away!
Finally, the trail sloped down, and shortly above the beach, the trees opened to a view of Cape Alava. Access to the beach was far easier than I had anticipated, and the first few hundred yards were comfortable to walk, as the coarse sand had dried to almost pavement quality. The waves of the Pacific were far out, and algae of all shapes and colors covered the rather rocky beach that was laid bare by the tide. We had chosen our time window a tad too narrow, so we hiked steadily down the beach. But I had time enough to bend down, every once in a while, and pick up some sea glass. I even found a light blue piece!
After about half a mile, the challenges started. So, if you are not a seasoned hiker, turn around! Because from here it was miles of trees to climb over or crouch under, treacherous, slippery rocks and wet pebble beach, tide pools, and points that you can only pass during low tide. The Wedding Rocks, famous for the indigenous petroglyphs from 300 to 500 years ago, are NOT marked. So, in trying to beat the tide which by now started rushing in, none of the hiking groups around us nor we were aware that we were passing this archaeological site. Instead, we minded each and every step around this headland, as we could have easily slipped and twisted an ankle, if not worse.
The rest of the beach was more of the same – climbing, sliding, slipping, figuring out which route was best to take. Markers in the trees signified where to climb to higher places and basic campsites if caught by high tide. And in one place, there was even a rope that you could literally hang onto and climb up on, in case you were not able to pass the headland next to it anymore. Sandy Point was almost mocking us from afar as my knees and back started creaking really badly. But we finally made it there and rewarded ourselves with a picnic on the grassy shoulder of the beach, watching the tide roll in.
The trailhead to the North Sand Point trail was a bit hard to find – but we observed where people came out of the woods, and concluded that this must be the beginning of our hike’s last leg. Thankfully, this trail is a very gentle one with only very moderate inclines and declines. Its beauty with more boardwalks and bridges was not entirely lost on me, although I started calculating how much farther we had to hike in order to reach our starting point again. Suffice it say, as soon as we reached our abode for the night, I dropped on the bed and was out for two hours.
Was it a tough day-hike? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. The landscape out there is simply stunning. But I was glad we had planned it very thoroughly. So, if YOU intend to do the Ozette Triangle, prepare well. If you want to catch a gorgeous glimpse of an almost untouched area of the Washington coast without much packing, just hike in the Sand Point trail to the beach, have a picnic there, and return the same way; it will still be a 6.2-mile hike. But if you rather sit and watch others do it – there are also videos on YouTube to enjoy while sipping a glass of something and enjoying a snack.