Adventures continue with my friend Katherine from North Carolina. We headed out from the coffee kiosk at seven o’clock Wednesday morning. Destination: the Olympic Peninsula, with an overnight in my tent.
Part Three—Kalaloch and Ruby Beaches
It’s another gorgeous blue-sky day, with another one forecast for day two. Two beautiful days sandwiched between rainy ones on the OP. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the wild coast under cerulean sky—and after two spectacular mountain days. The Pacific Northwest weather goddesses have found us worthy, apparently, and we offer them extravagant gratitude by loving all that surrounds us.
First stop is the Quinault Rain Forest and historic lodge. The nature trail is short but mighty. And there is nothing small about the trees. Including the fallen giants.
The waves are calling and we don’t tarry long inland, heading to Kalaloch beach and sand under our feet.
Kalaloch is home to the storied “Tree of Life,” or tree root cave. It is mystery how this venerable Sitka spruce has not succumbed to the cycle of life, how it finds nourishment, how it remains strong in the intense coastal storms. It seems to hold on to nothing but air. One day, one year, I will visit and find her fallen; but for now she holds on to life.
We walk down the steep trail to Beach Four, hoping to explore the tide pools in the rock outcroppings; but the tide is still too high to expose the flat, lower-surfaces.
Next stop is my cathedral, to worship at the feet of the 1000-year-old western red cedar. A storm in 2014 finally split her in half, and though she began her own circle of life as mother to other species while she still stood, now the fallen half is decomposing and becoming nurse log to a new generation of other giants.
Another giant, its womb exposed.
Ruby Beach, like Paradise, is my soul home. It was here my memories formed and next generations bring childhood back. Walking on drift logs (there are an astonishing low number this year), building forts, stacking stones. Bringing stones home. Always.
Part Four—The Hoh Rain Forest
There is a particular beauty to being in the temperate rain forest in the rain. (Fact: to be a rain forest, annual rainfall must exceed 100 inches a year. The average in the Hoh is 140.) But there is much to be loved about the late afternoon sun slanting through the trees and sword fern. And deep into this emerald stream.
Part Five—Rialto Beach
We emerge early from our tent womb into the cold and pack up quickly. We roll through a coffee kiosk in Forks and head west to Rialto beach with the rising sun.
If Kalaloch is the sand beach, and Ruby the driftwood and flat stone beach, Rialto is the colored pebble beach. In this short length of coastline, each beach is unique. They are timeless, even as the driftlogs come and go with each winter storm and the rocks and bull kelp land on the beach with each incoming tide and return to the sea with the outgoing cycle.
Part Six—The Olympic Mountains, Hurricane Ridge
Rain forests, ocean, mountains, sixty-eight mile natural fjord, 3500 miles of rivers. Is there another place on the earth like this one? If one is a looker and not an explorer, it can be driven in a day.
Our last stop is Hurricane Ridge. We stand at 6000 feet and look out over the Salish Sea and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, flowing toward the Atlantic Ocean, to Canada.
I am rooted in this place. Although I adapted to other places in the three and a half decades I lived elsewhere, it is this place—the mountains, the sea, the trees—that takes me in. It doesn’t belong to me, but I belong to it.
It is the womb from which I emerged and to which I will one day return.
You can view Parts One and Two here—The Cascades.