Along the Ocean in the Pacific Northwest Part 2

Along the Ocean in the Pacific Northwest Part 2

By Michael Carignan

We had originally planned to keep Cape Flattery until the following day but with the weather improving and it being barely noon when we left the Makah Museum, we decided to go there for the afternoon. I wasn’t sure if my back would hold up for the three-quarter of a mile one-way hike, but with the aid of medication and a very patient helping hand from Dawn, I agree to try it. A deep desire on my part to see Cape Flattery helped as well.

The walk going down was steep at times, but we took it very slow and in any questionable areas Dawn offered a hand to help me through them. The Makah recently refurbished the trail to make it more accessible to the masses. Persons in good shape can make the one-way ¾ mile trip in 20-30 minutes. We took at least twice that time and it was well worth it. As the trail comes to an end there are five observation decks that offer spectacular views of the rocky coast, sea caves, crashing waves, sea birds and marine mammals. Off in the distance is Tatoosh Island, which the Makah once used as a fishing and whaling camp. Now the island houses a Coast Guard Station.

Sea caves at Cape Flattery.
Sea caves at Cape Flattery.
A view from one of the overlooks at Cape Flattery.
A view from one of the overlooks at Cape Flattery.

Much of the return trip, of course, was up hill through the Douglas fir trees but again we took it slow and completed the trip. We headed back to our cabin, no worse for the wear, to spend our final night at Neah Bay.

Dawn takes a rest between two cedar trees as we hike the trail at Cape Flattery.
Dawn takes a rest between two cedar trees as we hike the trail at Cape Flattery.

The next morning we packed up and started our journey to our next destination. We weren’t in any big hurry so we checked out Neah Bay once more. I had promised our friends, Tom and Jan, that I would pick up some fresh salmon to cook on the grill at our next stop, so we looked for a place to buy some. All we found was a place that smoked fresh salmon and only sold the final product.

We had seen a place in Clallam Bay about 20 miles away and so on our return route we headed there. When we arrived, the sign said closed so we kept going. We only got about a mile down the road when we decided that since it was still early perhaps the business just hadn’t opened yet for the day so we turned around to go back and see what time they opened. As we pulled up so did the proprietor with a fresh catch of salmon. He informed us they had closed for the season and the salmon he had was meant for area restaurants, but after some convincing he agreed to sell us a fish. He said he had both Coho and King or Chinook salmon both in about a 10 lb. size. He suggested the Chinook which was a dollar a pound more than the Coho, but he said the taste was well worth the price. I took it only to later find out that he gave me a Coho and charged me the Chinook price. Imagine that, a Midwestern boy gets taken by a shrewd northwesterner.

Back on the road we were headed to another cabin near Kalaloch in the Olympic National Park. About midway between Neah Bay and Kalaloch lies the city of Forks. Some of you vampire lovers might be familiar with Forks, a community of around 3,600 residents, as the setting for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I’m not a vampire fan and wasn’t aware of the Twilight connection in Forks until we passed a Twilight Tours bus in the middle of town. We gassed up in Forks but then decided we were way too early to keep going to our next destination.

We decided to take a side trip to La Push, a small unincorporated community located at the mouth of the Quileute River and on the Quileute Indian Reservation about 14 miles from Forks. We had been to La Push before so when we came to a side road leading off to Rialto Beach in the Olympic National Park near Mora, we took it. We had never been to Rialto Beach and we were not disappointed. Rialto is a rocky beach with giant drift logs, pounding waves and views of offshore islands known as “sea stacks.” We ate a quick picnic lunch and then explored a bit. Dawn took off down the beach and I found a comfy spot to sit for awhile because my back doesn’t do well with rocky beaches. Dawn and I agreed that Rialto Beach was a very pleasant surprise and it will be added to our list of places to revisit sometime.

The beach at Rialto Bay.
The beach at Rialto Bay.

Back on the road we traveled back through Forks and in an hour we arrived at our cabin three miles south of Kalaloch Lodge. As we pulled up to the cabin, our friends Tom and Jan, pulled in right behind us. What timing.

We let ourselves into the cabin and checked things out. It was a very nice cabin, fairly isolated in a stand of tall Douglas fir with lots of burls. A burl is a solid, hard, woody protuberance that forms on a branch of trees. It is more or less rounded or horizontally ridged, with no protruding limbs, twigs or stubs. It is a product of vastly multiplied cell division and growth at the point of occurrence. The wood is characterized by wildly knurley, contorted grain and is cherished by furniture makers.

A burl on one of the Douglas fir trees around our cabin at Kalaloch.
A burl on one of the Douglas fir trees around our cabin at Kalaloch.

The cabin itself was quite nice. The downstairs has a kitchen dining area, a bathroom and two bedrooms with double beds. Upstairs was a loft with an ocean view, another bed and couches and chairs along with an entertainment system.

We unpacked the cars and decided to go down to the beach. The Kalaloch area is known for having nice beaches with lots of washed up logs. Getting down to the beach here though was a bit of a trek. The dirt road down to the bottom of the cliffs overlooking the beach was very steep at times. My back was still barking at me from my hike at Cape Flattery but again I was determined to get to the beach, and with Dawn’s help I succeeded.

The beach at Kalaloch.
The beach at Kalaloch.

The beach had many logs along the upper beach but it also had lots of large pebbles, which I have a real difficult time with, but again I made it to a nice resting spot on a log and let the ocean waves wash through my mind, a much needed cleansing. We all chatted for awhile and finally decided it was time to head back up to the cabin. The first thing I did is take a nasty fall and hurt my hip. Nothing was broken, just my pride was dented, and I was able to hike back home.

Back at the cabin everyone was getting hungry and we decided rather than cook the salmon we’d settle back to deli meats Tom and Jan had brought with some crackers and cheese. We did a lot of catching up as we ate. When sunset approached we all headed outdoors to explore some more. Tom had discovered an overlook with a bench positioned to look out over the ocean from about 80 feet above the beach. As the sunset we waved goodnight to the Emperor of Japan and headed back to the cabin to settled in for the night.

Sunset from the bench above the beach at Kalaloch.
Sunset from the bench above the beach at Kalaloch.

The next morning we were up with the sun, grabbed some breakfast, and decided just to take it easy. My back and hip were still barking so I stuck around the cabin area. Did some reading and went to the overlook and spent more than an hour there while the others hiked down to the beach.

Come evening we put Tom to work grilling the salmon. While he did that I started a fire in the fire pit. Tom did an excellent job of grilling the fish and we had a wonderful meal then spent the evening hours gathered around the fire until it was bedtime.

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Along the Ocean in the Pacific Northwest Part 1

By Michael Carignan

The Pacific Northwest defines nature’s beauty to its fullest. With the Cascades and the Olympics there is mountainous splendor, whitecaps hanging in the sky. With the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound there are the sights, sounds, smells and the squish of sands that live in the dreams of a snowbound Midwesterner.

Sure, there are those that will argue that it rains a lot, but the trade off is the mild winters and summers where the rain ceases and temperatures range in a pleasant comfort range without many mosquitoes.

Early this past September my wife, Dawn, and I traveled to Washington to kick back and spend some time in one of our favorite areas of the United States.

We started our trip with a flight from General Mitchell Field in Milwaukee to SeaTac International in Seattle. Once we gathered our belongings and picked up our rental car we started south for Olympia and the home some close friends. (I went to college in Olympia at The Evergreen State College back in the late ’70 and early ‘80s.)

After recovering from our flight and catching up with our friends, Tom and Jan Balaban, we decided it was time for dinner. Tom suggested Anthony’s down near the marina on Budd Inlet in Olympia. I wasted no time ordering the scallops while Dawn ordered shrimp Alfredo. Neither of us were disappointed.

Back at the Balaban’s we watched the Mariners for awhile before the time change finally caught up with us. The following morning our stomachs again expressed their rule and we were off to breakfast at The Spar in downtown Olympia. The Spar has been an icon in Olympia since long before my first days there in 1978.

The name Spar comes from the lumber industry. As the lumberjacks harvest trees on the slopes of the mountains and foothills they used a high lead cable system to help get the cut trees off the mountain. The spar tree is selected based on height, location and especially strength and lack of rot in order to withstand the weight and pressure required to get the other trees down. Once a spar tree was selected, a climber removes the tree’s limbs and tops the tree. Block and tackle is affixed to the spar tree and the cabling is run and as other trees are harvested they are lowered down the slopes on the cable. Spar trees are not used much anymore but as you view the hillsides you may spot one from years gone by.

As I said, The Spar restaurant has been around for years although it recently got new owners. Its breakfast menu is traditional and always good. Our breakfast was great.

After breakfast it was time to move on. Dawn and I packed up so we could begin our journey to Neah Bay. But first we made a stop at the wonderful Olympia Farmers’ Market. This is one of the finer farmers’ markets I’ve ever visited. It doesn’t have the robust taste of Pikes Place Market but is more of a laid back marketplace.

Being early September the market features lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. There are at least three bakeries set up offering a variety of breads and pastries. Fresh meats, smoked meats, seafood, fresh flowers, herbs, a few crafts and sundry items and if you’re hungry at the time there are food venders available serving hot meals with picnic tables where you can sit and eat and listen to live music on the outdoor stage. The market is only open Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., April through October. We often time our trip to the area so it includes a stop at the Farmers’ Market of Olympia.

Once we were stocked up with groceries for the week, we headed out for Neah Bay. The drive from Olympia to Neah Bay is about four and a quarter hours and covers nearly 200 miles. There are two possible routes. We chose to travel up Puget Sound on Hwy. 101 first to Port Angeles and then on to Neah Bay.

Anyone who has ever visited the west coast of the U.S. has probably experienced Hwy. 101 somewhere in their experiences. Known as the Pacific Coast Highway, Hwy. 101 runs from just north of San Diego, California following the coast north through California, Oregon and Washington to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and then down the Puget Sound to its terminus just north of Olympia, Washington. Long stretches of the road follow right along the coastline but occasionally it is forced inland for short distances. The result, in any case, is a beautiful drive.

For this particular trip we picked up Hwy. 101 between Olympia and Shelton. For the first 20 miles or so the road travels inland but then just before Hoodsport the road picks up the west coast of Hoods Canal and follows it for 40 miles – water on one side and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains on the other.

A view of Puget Sound from Hwy. 101
A view of Puget Sound from Hwy. 101
A shot of the Olympic Mountains from Hwy. 101.
A shot of the Olympic Mountains from Hwy. 101.

From Quilcene to Mount Pleasant the road heads inland for 35 miles but then emerges on the waters of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We travel just another short distance before we make one last stop in Port Angeles for a last few remaining groceries we missed in Olympia. Port Angeles lies all along the shores of the Strait. It is one of the few spots travelers can board a ferry bound for Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.

Back on the road, just west of Port Angeles we turned off Hwy. 101 on to Washington 112. This stretch of road is about 70 miles long and extremely curvy and hilly. Top speeds were around 45 mph and so although it wasn’t far it, took fairly long to reach our destination: Neah Bay.

Neah Bay is a small town of roughly 900 residents located on the Strait. It is the furthest northwest community in the continental U.S. and is located in the heart of the Makah Indian Reservation in Clallam County.

Several things drew us to Neah Bay. Cape Flattery and the Makah Museum were of special interest. I have a personal affinity to all aspects Native American culture, especially those of the northwest. And of course if you throw in a beach and ocean waves I’m in heaven.

We stayed at Hobuck Beach Resort, which is not actually in Neah Bay but is about five miles south on the ocean side of the peninsula. We had reserved a handicap cabin. I have a bad back and have trouble at times with steps and other obstacles such as tubs and some showers. The cabin was comfortable with a nice front porch overlooking the beach and sunset in the evening.

Looking out at the ocean from the porch of our cabin at Hobuck Beach.
Looking out at the ocean from the porch of our cabin at Hobuck Beach.

We arrived around 6 p.m. and settled in to the cabin before taking a walk down to the beach. I found the beach a little disappointing in that there was virtually no life, no shells, nothing much except beach and waves. In the distance were some nice rock outcrops that made the view even more pleasant. It was still enjoyable though, and good to get out and stretch after that ride.

The cabin had a full kitchen so as darkness settled in we made supper, took photos of the sunset and then the full moon and kicked back for the evening.

Full moon over the ocean at Hobuck Beach.
Full moon over the ocean at Hobuck Beach.

Television was available, as was WiFi, but we never switched the TV on. We did use our laptop.

The following morning the weather was a little cloudy and cool but there was no rain and as the day progressed the weather improved. Our first order of business was to check out Neah Bay and see exactly what was there.

On the drive into town we got a treat in the form of a herd of elk near the edge of a woods. We counted 22 of them, some standing and grazing and others lying on the ground. We were only about 150 yards away from them, separated by a marshy area, and so the view was quite good. We stayed and watched them for 15-20 minutes before moving on.

We came upon this herd of 22 elk on our way into Neah Bay.
We came upon this herd of 22 elk on our way into Neah Bay.

When we got to Neah Bay I have to admit we didn’t find much, a couple of coffee shops and a general store. The museum didn’t open until 10 a.m. so we had some time to kill. Finally we headed for the museum.

The tribe calls themselves “Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx” or “people who live by the rocks and seagulls.” The name “Makah,” which was given to them by neighboring tribes, means “generous with food.” (from the Hobuck Beach Resort website.) The museum houses a collection of 300-500 year old artifacts recovered from the Ozette archeological site. Ozette was a Makah village located about 20 miles south of Neah Bay on the ocean. In the mid 1500s a mud slide buried a large part of the village and it remained buried until 1966-67 when it was finally excavated. According to Wikepedia, “It was not until 1970 that it became apparent what was buried there. After a storm in February 1970, tidal erosion exposed hundreds of well preserved wooden artifacts… More than 55,000 artifacts were recovered, spanning a period of occupation around 2,000 years, representing many activities of the Makahs, from whale and seal hunting to salmon and halibut fishing; from toys and games to bows and arrows. Of the artifacts recovered, roughly 30,000 were made of wood, extraordinary in that wood generally decays particularly fast. Hundreds of knives were recovered, with blade materials ranging from mussel shell, to sharpened beaver teeth, and iron, presumed to have drifted from Asia on wrecked ships.”

A Makah boat at the Makah Museum.
A Makah boat at the Makah Museum.

Along with the pieces from Ozette there are other historic and replica pieces and photographs related to the Makah Tribe on display. The Pacific Northwest Native Americans along with the Inuits are primarily the only tribes known to make totem poles and so there were several of those on display both in the museum and outside on the grounds.

Totems are used to hold the sign for the Makah Museum
Totems are used to hold the sign for the Makah Museum

Needless to say it was a very interesting morning.