Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The West is the Best - Shipwreck Coast III

… We rolled out of our tents on day three and were greeted by another cloudy day. I knew it had been raining off and on because I was occasionally woken by the pattering of rain drops against my tent in the night. For now it was dry, and after the tide receded some, we were off.

Like the day before I was worried about Stevie. What was left of his plastic red parka he had wrapped around his head and wore like a turban. I found my gaze constantly drawn toward the sea as I scanned the horizon for a clue to the incoming weather. I could see so far west that I spotted all the rain clouds before they reached us. Rain clouds over the ocean are quite a bit different then ones you see in town. They are so dark and ominous, and with nothing blocking your vision of the all encompassing sky they almost seem like massive black bombers soaring high above the sea searching for landfall so they could dump their deadly payloads. We could see them coming from miles out, and when we could, we sheltered under giant deadfalls or behind huge boulders to escape the rain.

This day would be opposite of the one before. It didn’t rain nearly as much, and most of the route we had beautiful sand beaches to walk on. It was like a walk-in-the-park compared to what we had already gone through. I had my camera out the whole way and was taking pictures like crazy. I took over 600 in all.

We found some Halloween vampire fangs just sitting on the beach. “How the hell could these have got here?” I wondered. Think about it for a second. We were basically in the middle of nowhere. The closest town or road was 10 miles or more as the crow flies. It is highly unlikely that someone brought them backpacking and dropped them. The only possible explanation is that they washed up on the beach, but from where? Somewhere south on the Pacific coast perhaps? One of the Pacific islands maybe? I guess it’s possible that someone went swimming shitfaced on Halloween dressed as a vampire and lost their fake teeth, which floated across the Pacific and wound up on the Olympic coast, which happens to be where the most famous vampire movie ever made is based. Either that or someone lost them from a boat, but then you have to ask yourself, “Why would someone be wearing fake vampire teeth on a boat?”

I was really looking forward to a place called "Wedding Rocks" where I knew some centuries old petroglyph's existed. I had heard they were hard to find, but I didn't realize how hard. I searched for about 15 minutes and found a couple drawings etched into some rocks, one of which looked like it might be fake. I guess I'll need an expert to inspect my photos and tell me.

We ended the days trek at a place called Cape Alava, the western most point in the contiguous United States. It was beautiful, and crawling with the other backpackers, enough to play a game of beach baseball. I have never seen so many backpackers in one place before. Usually when we go backpacking we see maybe one or two other small groups, but on this beach there were twenty or thirty people.
As the sun crept closer to the western horizon the scene from our camp became picturesque. So I yanked out my camera and fired away. I got by-far the best shots I’ve ever taken. When I got home and uploaded them to my laptop I was in shock that I actually took them.

After the sun went down and we sat around the fire eating freeze-dried dinners and reminiscing about the adventures of the last couple days, I spotted movement in the trees near our camp. I flicked on my head-lamp and after scanning the woods for a minute saw a huge raccoon sitting anxiously on a tree branch totally scoping our camp and watching us eat. These little pirates are what the park service is so worried about, and why all backpackers are forced to carry large, obtrusive bear canisters, so I was a bit worried that he was going to slip into camp and ransack are stuff in the night. I was hopeful though that since we ran a tight ship in camp the raccoons would bother some of the other backpackers on the beach, who, no doubt, had much worse camp discipline then we. Either way, when morning came our camp was untouched.

The last 3.5 miles to the Ozette Lake Ranger Station was actually overland and through woods. I was grateful to be hiking through more familiar territory with trees and shrubs and streams and everything green. The woods on the coast are thick and wet, so thick in fact that the park service had actually built a boardwalk the entire 3 or so miles from Ozette Lake to Cape Alava. We marveled at the time it must have taken, and the sheer difficulty of the job.

As we walked out through the lush coastal rainforest it felt so different from the past few days; it was quiet, calm, and peaceful, and it gave me time to reflect on how lucky I was. As we pulled out of the parking lot, my thoughts were on Memorial Day weekend and Upper Priest Lake.

PS – It’s funny how writing works for me. The first two chapters of this story were virtually written in my mind before I even touched the keyboard. This last part however, was so hard I had to force my way through, and the result I feel is a lesser quality of writing.

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