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Outdoors Travel Blog Washington

Point of the Arches: Coastal Hiking At Its Finest

With our Bestieversarycation in full swing, we couldn’t wait for our next adventure: Point of the Arches. Our love affair with the Pacific Northwest was only beginning, and after our first backpacking trip and beach camping experience, we knew this wouldn’t be the only time us two travel companions would choose Washington State for our Ladycation destination. The beauty of the Pacific Coast cannot be understated.

IMG_3039
The view from the tent when I awoke in the morning

I woke up in the morning to the sun coming out from behind the diminishing clouds, the tide receding, and the fog lifting. The sound of the waves crashing ashore and the seagulls’ squawking mixed together like a maritime symphony, while the salty scent of the ocean and the smell of the forest filled my lungs. It was a feast for the senses.IMG_3050

I stepped out of the tent and, as though the ocean was calling to me, headed towards the shoreline. During low tide the beach spotted with rocks that are crawling with sea anemones, starfish, and mussels. The starfish were so freaking cool–I had no idea they could get so huge! Big, fat orange, red, and purple suckers were clinging to the rocks and each other. It’s an amateur nature photographer’s wet dream. I think I’d taken over 100 pictures before Lindsey even emerged from the tent.

Gather Round

Once she was up, we had some breakfast, and set out for Point of the Arches. It was a gorgeous two mile walk along the coast with plenty of creatures, shells, and sea glass to admire along the way. We probably took three times as long as necessary to get to The Point because I kept stopping to take more pictures, while Lindsey accomplished a goal she’d set: eating fresh picked seaweed. It didn’t seem like an overly thrilling experience, but mission accomplished, nonetheless.IMG_3061

 

The arches were everything they were cracked up to be. Tide pools everywhere with more starfish than we could ever have tried to count (We were seriously obsessed with the starfish, guys). We climbed on the rocks for a while, exploring all around the arches. Our climbing was cut short by the tide rolling in, making it difficult to get from rock to rock without going for a swim. It was about time to head back and pack up camp anyway, so it was sort of like Mother Nature was literally “mothering” us. Alright, girls, time to get going. Don’t make me count to three. Well played, Mom.

selfie on shi shi beach olympic national park

The clouds were all but gone, leaving only a few wisps scattered across the sky, and the sun blazing down on us. It was as perfect a beach day as I’d ever seen. We took our shoes off and hiked back to our campsite along the shore, the waves kissing our feet as we went.

Unfortunately for Lindsey, the ocean stroll had an unexpected, and rather grotesque consequence. As prepared as she was for this Ladycation, there was one important detail she’d put off till the last minute: hiking boots. Let the following story serve as a reminder of the importance of breaking in your footwear before you hike.

Point of the Arches

First aid supplies were not something we skimped on, thankfully (one of the benefits of hiking with people who work in the medical field). We had sterile gauze bandages, waterproof bandages, betadine swabs, alcohol wipes, mole skin, we even had a scalpel. Good thing, too, cause we needed all of it. ALERT! What follows may give you a case of the “icks.”

Sea Stacks

Lindsey’s brand new hiking boots had left blisters on the backs of both her ankles. She’d cleaned and bandaged them before bed, and again in the morning, however, despite the cool, ocean waves feeling amazing in the moment, they had also washed sand into the blisters. We’d never seen anything like it. Where once there had been typical, water filled blisters, were now horrifying looking pockets of sand beneath the skin. It was sick, you guys.IMG_3212

We figured she had two options, neither of which sounded appealing. One: she could wrap them up with a thick layer of mole skin and try to suck it up for the hike out, or, two: she could cut open the thin layer of skin holding the sand, clean it out, and bandage it up right there. Both options would hurt like hell (and be super, super gross).IMG_3203

Option two seemed like the safer bet since leaving the sand in there sounded like a great way to get an infection, so our campsite briefly became a surgical suite. I can’t tell you how awful it was to watch this operation take place. Not so much the actual process (I was a nursing assistant for years, I’m used to gross) but her face while she worked. It was agonizing. She had to remove the top layer of skin and wipe the sand away with alcohol pads. Alcohol pads! On open skin! I just can’t. . . It was horrible. Like an episode of Fear Factor that you don’t want to watch, but can’t look away from. I would’ve given anything for Joe Rogan to pop out of the forest at that moment, just to pry my eyes away from the scene before me. . . and maybe share some ganja. Despite looking like she was on the verge of passing out, Lindsey took it like a woman. I don’t know how she did it, and I don’t know that I could have. I guess this is an example of, “If you had to, could you?” For Lindsey, the answer is, “Hell yes. Pass the scalpel.”IMG_3053

The ocean, the tide pools, the arches, and sea stacks. . . This place will blow your mind. We didn’t want to leave (and not just because Lindsey’s feet were jacked)! I will definitely go back someday, and I want to spend a couple days this time. One night just wasn’t enough time in a place as spectacular as Shi Shi. Beach camping is everything I’d dreamed it would be and then some. But, we had an Enchanted Valley to hike to, so we climbed up to the trail and trekked back to the car, driving to our hotel for a night of sleeping in a bed before our next Olympic National Park adventure.

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camping Outdoors Travel Blog Washington

Camping on Shi Shi Beach: The Place I Found Zen

I don’t have the words to adequately describe the breathtaking beauty of Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park. Nor could I have imagined a more perfect first backpacking experience. I will forever look at this hike as the beginning of my love affair with both backcountry camping and the Pacific Northwest.

Locked and Loaded
Our bags were packed and we were ready to hike!

We arrived at the parking area (which is literally someone’s yard, so you get to hike and support small business. It’s a win-win) around dinnertime. It was drizzling and a fog was descending, blanketing the forest in a fine mist. It looked like a fairyland; some magical, enchanted world in another dimension. It was absolutely haunting.

The first mile or so of the trail is primarily a boardwalk and series of bridges that wind through a mystical Sitka spruce forest, working its way to the coast. When the boardwalk ends, the trail becomes almost entirely mud. There are bypasses around the exceptionally muddy areas, but they’re only slightly less muddy. Mud on mud on mud. We were pretty filthy by the time we reached the beach, so be prepared to get dirty, in the most literal sense, if you choose to do this hike—which you absolutely should.

 

 

It was so quiet on the trail. It felt like the fog was holding in all the sound, providing a barrier with the outside world, almost like being underwater. That eerie silence only added to the feeling of isolation as we trekked farther and farther from civilization; the fog growing thicker and thicker with each step. It was the ideal setting for a horror movie or supernatural thriller, so I half expected a bunch of kids to come running out of the forest, screaming about alternate dimensions and a girl with superpowers.  Stranger Things have happened. . . (If you don’t get that reference, you really need to up your Netflix game.)

As we approached the coast we started to hear the distant sound of waves crashing on the beach. The sound got louder until the trees opened up to reveal giant sea stacks jutting out of the ocean on the shoreline below. The fog seemed to extend infinitely, giving everything it touched a muted tone and soft edges. With no man made structures anywhere in sight, this place seemed timeless. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a pirate ship appear on the horizon.

Sea Stacks
The view when we arrived at the coast was spectacular.

It’s not until you reach the descent to the beach that you officially enter Olympic National Park, leaving the Makah reservation behind (special thanks going out to the Makah people for sharing their beautiful land with us). There are ropes rigged up between the trees to assist with the climb down, though it wasn’t nearly as difficult or harrowing an experience as I’d expected, which was both a relief and a disappointment at the same time.

 

 

Once at the bottom we emerged from the forest through a small, tunnel-like opening in the trees (total Chronicles of Narnia moment), onto the massive expanse of sun-bleached driftwood covered sand that is Shi Shi Beach. We made it! I love the ocean and, as a Midwesterner, seeing it is always exciting. But coming out of the woods with all my gear on my back and walking towards the Pacific was a moment I’ll not soon forget. I felt strong, confident, and in total awe of the scene before me.

Victory
The ocean seemed to be calling to us when we arrived.

Looking out to the horizon, we couldn’t tell where the ocean stopped and the sky began. We stood in wonder, admiring the rock formations framing the beach on either end, before we set out to find a place to make camp. With only about an hour of light left, we didn’t waste any time. There’s no assigned camp sites on Shi Shi; you just park your tent wherever suits you. We found a spot about 100 yards from where we entered the beach in a small, stone cove tucked in along the treeline. It provided excellent protection from the elements, and privacy from anyone who may camp nearby. It was perfect.

There was enough driftwood scattered around the beach to get us through the night, but it was a project gathering and carrying it all back to camp. Our legs got one hell of a workout trudging through the sand while dragging giant logs behind us.

 

 

Once we got our fire going we set up our stove and made dinner. We each brought a can of soup; nothing fancy, but a hot meal nonetheless. It was our first time using the camp stove and we learned a very quick lesson about its stability. Namely, it didn’t have any. Lindsey’s can of soup toppled over, spilling half its contents onto the sand while we stood there helplessly, realizing we also didn’t have anything to grip the hot can with. Total backpacker fail. She managed to use her shirt sleeve as a hot mitt and salvage what was left of her soup. We’d been feeling like we were the most badass women in the world, so that was a good lesson in humility. After spending several hours in the rain and mist, even the half spilled, somewhat burned soup was a luxury, warming us from the inside out.

We sat around the fire for a while listening to the sound of the waves, huddled up in our rain jackets and long johns; not even talking, just absorbing our surroundings. I think it was the first time we felt truly relaxed on the trip. Kayaking and seeing Seattle had been a blast, but this was true tranquility. Listening to the sound of the ocean is hypnotizing. It has this incredible ability to quiet my mind, slow down my thoughts, and focus them. I hadn’t felt such pure contentedness and peace in a long time. We knew there were other people on the beach, but everyone was spread out enough that we barely noticed we weren’t the only people in the world.

Campfire
The view while sitting fireside at our campsite. Not too shabby.

Lindsey went to bed fairly quickly, but I wasn’t ready for the night to end. I love that time of night, when the world is asleep and everything is still. That’s my time. So I kept the fire going, burning all the wood we’d worked so hard to collect, and relived the day through the pictures I’d taken. I listened to the ocean as the tide rolled in, letting the sound of every wave wash over me. Each one washed away another anxiety, another worry; sweeping every negative thought out to sea with it as it receded. It left me feeling centered, like I now truly understood what it meant to be “zen.”

I never bothered getting out my sleeping mat that night, opting instead to sleep on the sand (inside the tent, of course). It took a minute to carve out the appropriate ditches (boobs, hips, feet—it’s like making a snow angel in your tent, then just not getting up), but once I did and was settled into my beach front, ocean view “room,” with my calm mind and exhausted body, the most wonderful sleep took me over. I drifted to sleep with the sound of the ocean putting me in an almost meditative state, restoring my body to prepare for the trek to Point of the Arches in the morning. It was hard to believe how much we’d already done considering how many adventures were still to come on our Washington Ladycation!

Be sure to check out my guide to camping on Shi Shi Beach for everything you need to know before you hike, and read the next installment: our hike to Point of the Arches!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

~Steph

Categories
Outdoors Sightseeing Travel Blog Washington

Rattlesnake Mountain Hike: Teenage Wasteland

Narrowing down our choice for a day hike near Seattle was tough. We only had one day set aside so we had to make it count, and there are so many options. Ultimately I decided on Rattlesnake Mountain so we could get used to hiking at higher elevations, because it had a lake, and because it wasn’t far from Snoqualmie Falls, another stop on our itinerary.

It was only a 40 minute drive, but by the time we’d gotten coffee and breakfast, and stopped at Pike Place Market to peruse the vendors, it was well past noon. The sun was beating down and the temperature had crept into the high 80’s. This was going to be a hot hike.

Rattlesnake Lake
A beautiful day at Rattlesnake Lake.

The lake was a brilliant shade of turquoise; crystal clear and shallow, with the mountain reaching skyward behind it. Standing on that beach in the blazing hot sun and looking out at that lake. . . we couldn’t resist. We ditched our shirts, swapped our hiking boots for water shoes, and waded into the cool, heavenly water. After we were sufficiently refreshed we laced our boots back up and hit the trail.

The trees were towering overhead, providing some much needed shade as we hiked. It wasn’t a secluded area, we passed countless hikers on our way up the trail. Many of them were teenagers which, I’m not gonna lie, I found annoying. I go into “Mom Mode” when kids are around, I feel responsible for them. I will most definitely be the old lady yelling at kids to “get off my lawn.” I’m not begrudging America’s children their right to be there. I actually think it’s awesome that they’re outside instead of sitting in front of the TV. I just prefer other people’s children in smaller, quieter doses and not when I’m getting my nature on. More remote trails are preferred, but it was a lovely hike nonetheless.

The Hike
Hiking up Rattlesnake Mountain.

The view once we made it to the top was beautiful. The lake looked so far away; the brilliance of the blue water on full display from such a distance. It was hard to believe we’d come so far!

Just like the trail, there were quite a few people milling around the observation area when we reached the top; the would-be peace interrupted by the chatter of half a dozen conversations and various teenage shenanigans. We found an empty boulder as removed as we could get from the crowds and sat down to enjoy the view. Despite the throngs of teens, it was nice to sit on top of a mountain, eating a snack, and soaking up the sunshine.

A little squirrel was scurrying around looking for handouts while we were chilling there. He was a ballsy little fella, came right up to people with no trepidation, sniffing thoroughly before moving on when he didn’t find what he was looking for. I got the feeling he knew how to use his cuteness to manipulate people, cause he didn’t look like he’d missed a meal in quite some time.

 

After another brief dip in the lake once we’d finished our hike, our next stop was Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge, which were used during the filming of Twin Peaks, a show Lindsey and I were both fans of. We meandered around the viewing area for a while, admiring the falls and making Twin Peaks jokes. We wished we’d had more time to hike around the area, but the sun was setting and we were starving.

We went up to the Lodge for dinner and immediately felt out of place. It was a pretty classy joint, and we were in our dirty, sweaty hiking clothes after trudging up a mountain and frolicking in a lake all day. Awkward, but not so awkward that we chose to go elsewhere.

 

We got a table at The Attic, their more casual restaurant, and Lindsey ordered a “Dale Cooper.” Named in honor of a character from the show, she said it was the best drink she’d ever had. We were still gushing about how good the homemade chips and dip were when our entrees arrived. I have to say, their pizza may be the best pizza I’ve had in my whole life. Lindsey finished off dinner with a “Damn Fine Coffee,” another reference to Twin Peaks, and we headed back to Seattle, deciding that had been one of the best meals we’d ever eaten.

We immediately slid into the hot tub when we arrived back at Winston House. We were relaxing after smoking a joint when the kid who was renting the room next door came outside. He was young, kind of nerdy, and just stood there looking out at the dark backyard, smoking his bong and pretending he didn’t see us.

He was one of those guys who undoubtedly hadn’t spent much time around girls. It was like even though he wanted to, he didn’t know how to start a conversation, so he just inserted himself into the vicinity, smoked his bong so we knew he was “down,” and waited for us to talk to him.

Clearly this was going to be a strained interaction that neither Lindsey or myself had any interest in participating in, but we felt obligated to acknowledge him. We said hello and he came over and stood next to the hot tub, staring down at us. He was only giving minimal responses between creepy stares and bong hits (which he never even offered to share—rude) so we were forced with deciding between peppering him with questions like he was a toddler, just to keep the conversation going, or sitting in awkward silence while Young Buffalo Bill leered at us like he was trying to figure out how many lampshades he could make out of our skin. We opted for door number one and ended up having the world’s most painfully boring conversation, during which we learned he was a “gamer,” and was in town for a gamer convention. Hello, Cliché.

The whole thing was starting to feel like the opening scene of a Law and Order SVU episode.

SVU Seattle: Two best friends go on vacation together, looking for fun and adventure. The young, disturbed man with the troubled past and extensive juvey record happens upon them in the hot tub at their [insert AirBnb knock off name here]. Camera shows the women exchange a concerned look when they start to sense danger. Switch to close up of Creepy Perv’s face right before he pulls out a knife. Screen goes black. Women scream. End scene. Next thing you know Mariska Hargitay and Ice T are pulling our chopped up bodies out of Puget Sound and piecing together our last known whereabouts through our social media posts and the GPS in our rental car.

Things were getting weirder by the minute and Lindsey was the first to call it a night. I wasn’t ready to get out of the hot tub, but about 4 seconds alone with the villain from an after school special and I was heading in as well. I’m sure he was a perfectly nice, harmless kid, but there’s a limit to how long I can tolerate being looked at as though being mentally undressed. . . And possibly dismembered. Besides, we had a big day ahead of us: backpacking to Shi Shi Beach, so a good night’s sleep was required.

I’d later decide that between the crowds at Rattlesnake Mountain and The Creeper on the deck, it was my least favorite day of the trip. Then I’d marvel at how fortunate I am to have “being around a few teenagers,” and “being looked at by a weird dude” be the worst things to happen on our entire vacation. Win!