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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.