Easter weekend was quickly approaching and I had yet to plan anything. Taking a look at the weather revealed that once again we would have two days of pure sunshine. Last weekend I did some camping on San Juan Island. So this time I wanted to kick things up a notch and do some backpacking along the coast at La Push in the Olympic National Park.
Getting out to La Push from Seattle takes a bit of time. You have to use the ferry system to cross the sound and then you need to make your way over the top of the Olympic National Park. In addition to this drive, I also had to check in at the ranger station in Hurricane Ridge and pick up my mandatory bear can. Once it’s all said and done, it took me roughly five hours to reach the trailhead.
I arrived at the Third Beach Trailhead a little past 10am. And not too surprisingly, it was already a little packed.
The hike from the trailhead down to Third Beach is almost a mile and a half. It’s quite the gradual slope, so all kinds of people can make this a quick hike down to the scenic beach.
After the 30min walk through the forest, sounds of the ocean begin to fill the surroundings. And once you get that first glimpse of the coast, your heart begins to fill with anticipation.
Finding my way over the logs, I finally get to the sand and get my first look at the surrounding landscape.
Looking back at these photos, it’s hard to explain the amount of amazement I experienced once I first laid eyes on the adventure ahead.
While standing on the beach, taking in the view, a pair of bald eagles soared overhead. As a Floridian, I am still in awe no matter how many times I see bald eagles. And Washington has a ton of them.
I was also surprised at how calm the Pacific ocean was. Every now and then a small set of waves would come rolling through.
It took me 30 minutes to get from the trailhead to Third Beach. And then another 15 minutes to work my way down to Taylor Point where the first “overpass” is found. Even if you plan your hikes at low tide, which is mandatory at some places, you still have to scramble up the cliff at a few spots in order to make your way down the coast.
The image above is the first such overpass. You need to use the ropes to help “walk” up the muddy/rocky cliff face. At this point they kindly provide a wooden ladder. Which if you look closely will see that some of the rungs have snapped.
None the less, these ropes and ladders really help when you have 35-40lbs on your back.
At the top of the first overpass you get a lovely view of the surrounding shoreline. For comparison, I included some people in the shot, just so you could see how high up you have to go to make your way around the point.
Making your way through the overpass is like the previous forest trail. However this time the trail isn’t as well maintained and there are a lot of places where things get really muddy.
After 20 minutes of hiking through the muddy forest you are now greeted with a stunning view of Scotts Bluff and the Giants Graveyard.
Making your way down to the beach is a lot easier than the previous rope ladder. This time a large section of wooden stairs has been built into the cliff’s edge. While some of the steps have snapped from overuse and old age, they are still entirely useful and much more convenient than the muddy rope with knots.
Wearing my trusty goretex boots, I severally underestimated a section of mud along the staircase down the cliffs edge. In a bit of a rush to make my way down, I wasn’t expecting to end up ankle deep in some of the thickest clay/mud I have ever walked into. If I wasn’t wearing boots, I would have more than likely lost a shoe in there. But then again, I wouldn’t have been carelessly tromping through mud. Lesson learned.
Once down on the shore’s edge. I checked my time and scouted around for some photo ops.
Low tide at Taylor Point with the Giants Graveyard in the background.
I can’t tell you how many photos I took of this rock. I was in love with the sharp angles and was trying desperately to capture it’s dominating presence. It reminded me a lot of the profile for a Lambda-class shuttle from Star Wars.
A slightly overcast view of the Lambda rock.
Seeing as how it was low tide, there were quite a few starfish exposed to the afternoon sun. I like to imagine this one is laying on its side with its left arm propping up its head, just lounging and enjoying the sun.
Looking through the rocks, I think I finally captured the experience. It was time to let go of my obsession and move on with the journey.
And along with the journey comes more muddy rope cliffs. This one is the access point to circumvent Scotts Bluff.
There are no ladders here, just a couple ropes along an eroding embankment.
Once on top of Scotts Bluff, here’s a shot looking back at Taylor Point.
While the Scotts Bluff overpass is a quick one, there was still some time for some interesting photography.
I was finally able to get some good shots of these flowers. Usually when I run across them they are half dead or wilting from damage.
Back on the beach, I found the mecca of stranded fishing floats.
My obsession with fishing floats quickly became bitter sweet. I finally found so many quality floats, yet it was too far from the car to harvest them. I had to settle for photos only and then continue on with my hike.
Heading further south, you pass the Giants Graveyard. From this angle, the double pointed rock reminds me of Totoro.
Here’s my attempt and trying to capture some depth with all of these crazy rock structures.
Looking north towards Taylor Point.
Further south, past the Giants Graveyard is Strawberry Point. It’s taken me roughly three hours to get this far. So I stopped for some lunch and enjoyed the view of Toleak Point.
As I sat here, eating my lunch, I noticed that some of the small rocks would disappear and reappear in slightly different locations. Focusing in on them, it turned out that those were not rocks at all, but a family of harbor seals diving amongst the rocks for a meal of their own.
From Strawberry Point, I knew I wanted to head a little further south to Toleak Point. Judging the distance and applying my current rate of travel, I could safely say I would be around Toleak Point in 30 minutes. That would bring my total hiking time up to roughly four hours. Which seemed like it would make for a reasonable amount of time on the return hike. So with the food all packed and bag loaded on my back it was on to the next point.
A heart shaped what ever that is.
It was some kind of wood that washed up. I was interesting enough to photograph, but not so much that I wanted to pick it up and spend some time inspecting it.
Aside from the Lambda rock, this rock structure was by far my favorite of the trip. It had sharp angles, grass and a tree. Best of all, it was close to shore so you could get a good look at it. I must have stood here for 15 minutes waiting for a large enough wave to break and throw some spray.
One of the more eerie rock structures on Toleak Point. This one looks like some kind of hairy ogre toe.
The view looking back towards the north from Toleak Point. You can see my favorite rock and Strawberry Point in the distance.
After doing some quick scouting around the other side of Toleak Point, I decided that this was as far as I was going to hike. It had taken me a little over four hours to get this far, so it was time to make camp. I found this amazing spot in the trees with a view of the Giants Graveyard in the far distance.
Once I got the tent set up and tools unpacked, I realized how exhausted I was. It was roughly 2:30pm and I had been up since 5am. With the afternoon sun blowing out most of the photo opportunities, taking a quick nap became an excellent idea.
Durring my nap the tide had reached its high water mark. And along with the tide came an increase is swell size. Nothing better than sleeping along the beach listening to the waves roll in.
Once I got back up and started wandering around I noticed that there was another family of harbor seals relaxing and playing just a few yards from the shoreline. I ran back and grabbed my telephoto lens and started shooting away. I think I took over 100 photos of these guys. It was hard to reduce it down to the best shot.
One of the harbor seals made its way onto the rocks for some sun bathing. It’s funny how fat their bodies are compared to their heads.
Another view of Giants Graveyard and Strawberry Point.
As the sun begins to set, the harsh afternoon light starts to fade and the warming tones slowly take over.
The retreating tide leaves behind a clump of seaweed.
With plenty of time left before sunset, I set out to explore the tide pools of Toleak Point.
I love how the water distorts the image and provides for some colorful rainbows of light.
A set of sandy sea anemones.
A sea anemone sits just below the water’s surface. If you look hard enough you will also see a few starfish.
Rocks everywhere! If you are not yet tired of rock photos, then great! There are quite a few more to come.
A view of the tidal pools I was exploring.
Looking south from Toleak Point, there is an impressive rock structure. While it looks good now, it’s a little boring since it’s the only one in the area. Wow, look how spoiled I have become. If this was the first rock I saw, I would have been excited as can be. But now I’m all “meh, it’s ok, I guess.”
Ok, there we go. A little more perspective and good lighting now make this a beautiful shot.
While it wasn’t quite time for sunset, I decided to head back to camp so I could get the fire prepped, make a drink and light a cigar for all my hard work.
A view of the camp site, and me waving to myself.
With whiskey and cigar in hand, it was almost time to enjoy the show.
Just to remind you, this was the view from my camp site. 🙂
Actually, I am going to shut up now and let the pictures speak for themselves.
After the sun had set, and I finished eating dinner, the stars really came out.
Trying to reduce my pack weight, I didn’t bring a tripod on this trip. So in order to get a long exposure, I propped my camera up on a log and tried to get some sort of shot. It’s hard to represent the feeling. But the bottom of this shot is actually the horizon. It was like the stars were almost overwhelming.
After going back to my campsite I sat by the fire and watched or listened to a couple make their way up the beach. They had headlamps on so it was easy to see them. But as they got closer, I could tell that the woman was rather intoxicated.
As the woman yelled to her partner, I could hear her say “Oh this is the camera man! This is where the camera man is!” Surprised that other backpackers were keeping close enough tabs on me, I began to feel a little uncomfortable and slipped into the shadows of my camp area. I watched as they stumbled closer and the woman yelled “HEEEaaayy CAAAAMerrramannnn…”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t need to.
Instead of getting any closer, she face-planted into the sand and began to laugh hysterically. As her partner tried to help her up, she managed to pull him down with her. After a couple minutes of drunkenly thrashing about she finally regained her composure, and they both agreed to head back to their camp.
With the threat of drunks fading, I went out onto the beach and watched to make sure they made it back to their camp about a quarter mile north of mine. Once the headlamps were gone I could go back to my camp, put out my fire and get some sleep.
That morning I woke up to a hazy sky. So instead of taking photos, I went back to sleep and waited for the sun to come up over the forest’s edge.
One more shot of Toleak Point before breaking down the camp and heading back to the car.
The morning sun made for some beautiful colors on my favorite rock. It was also easier to see Toleak Point and Round Island in the background.
Fast forward through Strawberry Point and Scotts Bluff. The increased size of waves was making for an impressive sea spray.
Going back up the stairs at Taylor Point, I managed to avoid the mud traps this time around.
Absolutely exhausted at this point. I slowly made my way down the ladder and arrived at the final stretch of beach.
One last final shot of Taylor Point and the small waterfall before packing up the camera gear and making the forest trek back to the car.
So was it worth it, or will I be back anytime soon?
It was an amazing time. I can’t even begin to describe how great it felt to be out here hiking through such a beautiful landscape. But coming back, that’s hard to say. I would definitely want to comeback and share the experience with someone. Maybe even hike further south and make it a two-night trip. But the problem is that there’s so much more of the Olympic Peninsula left to explore that I have a hard time going back to the same thing.
I think the next time I am in the La Push area, I will head north towards Rialto Beach. But otherwise, the next real target for me is Cape Flattery.
Looking for a little more details on my adventure? Here’s a handy little hiking map I made over at WentHiking.com. Hope this helps and maybe even inspire you to get out there and see it for yourself! If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below. I am happy to answer them.