After a minor hiccup missing our ferry, we’re back on track and speeding down the highway of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We’re on our way to meet our shuttle bus that will take us to the beginning of our thru-hike along a portion of Olympic National Park’s rugged wilderness coast – the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the lower 48 states.
We’re dropped off at the trailhead with our packs, and set out on foot for what will be 5 days traveling along the coast. We start out along a beautiful sandy beach, but before long we’re into the difficult rocky terrain this section of the route is known for. It’s a tough slog navigating the seaweed covered boulders, ubiquitous tidal pools, and gigantic driftwood logs. Each step requires total concentration, but after a while, we begin to find the rhythm.
Our schedule is dictated entirely by the tide, as the route takes us almost exclusively through the intertidal zone. We must pass certain headlands before the water gets too high each day, or risk getting trapped by the tide in treacherous rocky terrain. In some cases headlands are only passable via steep overland trails with weathered and often questionably rigged fixed ropes.
Along this stretch of remote coast there are zero amenities. We camp near water sources where possible, but drought conditions force us to ration our water when there are no streams to be found. As with many other wilderness beaches on the open ocean, there is an abundance of human garbage, washed in from far and wide. In some cases, beachcombers before us have put the trash to good use, fashioning some pretty functional setups.
While it’s a lot of work to travel to these remote areas, nothing compares to the regeneration you get from being in the wilderness. Watching the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean every night is a welcome reward for our efforts.