The Worst Best Night in Olympic National Park
With 20 miles of coastline hiking ahead of us, we set out around 8 am. It was day two of our hike and it was about an hour later than we had planned on leaving. We had a fire this morning and we got caught up enjoying sunrise on the beach for the first time! This was rare considering the amount of rain Washington can get in mid-September. Shi Shi Beach was just as beautiful as I imagined it to be! Both carrying 40+ pounds, my girlfriend Brooklynn and I set out on a 3-night backcountry trip along the most Northwest coastline of the United States. Our plan was to head south from Shi Shi to North Ozette Beach by night 2, set up camp, and hike back out. I was given a tide chart and a bear canister at the ranger station when we picked up our backcountry permits. These both would come in super clutch, even though I was learning to read a tide chart on the fly.
Hiking in Olympic National Park is definitely a great place to test your skills and push your limits. Most of our hiking was climbing and repelling down paths with fixed ropes that lead up and down the mountainous coastline. The other portions were done on the extremely rocky beaches during low tide. The rain only made carrying our packs up and down these trails that much more difficult and dangerous. The conditions made our hike a little longer than planned, but the constant views and ocean breeze made it totally worth it.
With 1 more, “Up, down” as we called them, left ahead, we could see the beach we were gunning for about a mile out. As we climbed down and crossed the beach below, we looked everywhere for any signs of an overhead trail. There was nothing! Confused, we decided to take another look at the map and tide chart. I knew exactly where we were! We were on the right path, we were exactly where we wanted to be… Just about an hour late! The tides were just high enough for us to not be able to safely make it around the edge of the coastline. It was around 1:30 pm and from what I could make of the tide chart, it wasn’t going to be low enough for us to pass again until 8 or 9 that night! Bummed out, with plenty of time to kill, we decided to take some cover from the wind on the beach and eat lunch. We ended up throwing the tarp down and taking a nap.
After napping for an hour or so, we couldn’t help but notice the sudden change in weather. The crystal-clear blue skies we had all morning were beginning to fade away. Immediately we had a decision to make. We still had a few hours before we could push ahead, but we didn’t have that long. We didn’t have any phone service and I’m no weatherman, but it was obvious. There was a storm coming! We tried to reason every way we could to ride it out and push on, but we just couldn’t risk it. We decided to hike back a couple of miles to a part of the trail that we had noticed had some natural cover and set up camp there.
Secluded on a sea stack on the coast of the Pacific Northwest, stranded between high tides, we prepared to ride out the storm. We had just enough time to rig the tarp over the tent and boil up some water on our JetBoil to make dinner. With the pitch black of night set in, we busted ass to hang our bear canister away from the tent before the torrential downpour set in! Before the rain we were really concerned with bears. Although we hadn’t seen a bear, we saw multiple wolves and signs of bears. Enough to concern us a bit! It would be a stretch to say we were comfortable in the tent that night, but with the constant rainfall we felt a lot safer from any predators.
Although we never made it to North Ozette, we still had a little over 2 miles of hiking left ahead of us to make it back to our camp for night 3. With the tide continuously going down, and clear skies ahead we packed up camp and set out on the trail around 9 am. We arrived at camp for night 3 much earlier than we had anticipated, but it was nice to set up camp and air out the gear!
We felt like we had been chewed up and spit out. The Pacific Ocean put a beating on us. One we weren’t anticipating but were completely prepared for! We stayed warm and dry most of the trip. We stayed fed and hydrated. Hell, on our final night we even got the chance to set up a rain catch, boil the rainwater, and use it for coffee and breakfast before heading out on our last leg of the trip!
The Worst (Best) Night
On our trek back to the trail-head we met a few hikers heading into the same adventure we were making our way out of. One of the hikers asked us if we had made it to North Ozette and sadly we had to tell them no. Instead we told them how we had gotten stranded between the tides and set up a last-minute camp. One of the guys looked at me, smiled real big and said, “Not a bad place to be stranded, huh?” All things considered, some would say that sounds like a nightmare. But, BK and I both agree it was the best night our trip!! We will be back Olympic! See you soon North Ozette Beach 😉
Avg. High Temps – 72
Avg. Low Temps – 45
Minus33 Gear Breakdown