Monday, March 6, 2017

Hike of the Week : Ozette Triangle

Last weekend, again in search of snow-free hikes, we headed out to the Olympic Peninsula to hike the Ozette Triangle. Okay, sure, some people call it a "loop", but as the above map clearly shows, IT'S A TRIANGLE.

We were able to slip out of town a little early -- just early enough to race down the ferry loading ramp at Edmonds... and sit on the dock for an hour. No, we weren't the first car not to get on... but we were the fourth. Still, that meant that 50 minutes later we were the fourth car on to the ferry, so we had that going for us. Which is nice.

Even after getting on the ferry we had a long drive ahead of us ... but it was mostly uneventful.

The farther west we drove, the darker the skies got... and then, just before we turned onto Hoko Ozette Road, the storm broke. Twenty-one miles of unlit, winding, two-lane road... in the dark, with sleet and rain and "limited warning signs". I ended up essentially driving straight down the middle of the road, staring at the double yellow line. It took us 45 minutes to go the 21 miles.

But then, happily, we arrived at the Lost Resort and were directed to our cabin. And, no, I didn't take a picture of the cabin in the dark. We huddled on the porch eating our dinner (mediocre falafel), looking wistfully through the pouring rain at the fire pit, hoping for better weather on Saturday. This didn't seem likely when we woke up in the night to the sound of torrential rain on the roof. But, hey, we did want the chance to test out our Gore-Tex pants...
We woke up early to find a dusting of snow:
Lost Resort, Cabin #1
But the skies were brightening, and THE MORNING WAS GLORIOUS!

I'm getting ahead of myself again. 

We were going to hike the Ozette Loop Triangle -- 3-ish miles out to Cape Alava, 3-ish miles along the beach down to Sand Point, and then 3-ish miles back to the ranger station. We were encouraged to drive the quarter mile to the trailhead, but we're hardcore, so we walked. 

And surprised a couple of locals en route.

Oh deer!

We paused to have a quick look at Lake Ozette -- look at how nice the weather had turned!

And then set off from the ranger station. Why, yes, that *is* snow on the bridge.

We crossed this handsome bridge across the Ozette River to begin the hike proper.

"slippery when wet" ... or, um, snowy 
One last look at Lake Ozette: 

And then we headed off into the forest. We soon came to the fork in the trail, and -- following the advice of Rob, the owner of the Lost Resort, headed north to Cape Alava for the first leg.

The forest was glorious and quiet, with little dustings of snow here and there. The trail was really well maintained, not super muddy despite all the rain, and with only a few minor ups and downs. 

Much of the three miles was on raised boardwalks, most of which were made of local cedar. There was one stretch of large composite planks, and another stretch of smaller ones, but otherwise the boardwalks were wooden.

And snow sticks to wood.

Now, it wasn't a death trap or anything -- it just required us to slow down a bit and take our time, even on flat stretches. And, somehow, most of the stairs didn't have snow on them. maybe because they weren't raised up? ("Ice forms first on bridges")

After a mile and a half or so the forest thinned and the trail opened up onto Ahlstrom's Prairie, named for Swedish immigrant and homesteader Lars Ahlstrom.

For the record, why, yes, that is still snow on the boardwalk.

I usually prefer forest to open vistas ... but this was so lovely. We kept expecting to see deer leaping across the prairie.

But all we saw was this gorgeous landscape:

As we stood in silence we became aware of a sound ... and realized it was the sound of  waves. 

Eventually we re-entered the forest for the final stretch to the beach. 

The waves were getting louder ... and the forest looked more and more like the forest moon of Endor. Seriously, it's the boardwalks that make it.

Look, there's even an Ewok!

Oh, wait, no, that's Wil. Furry and fierce, yes, but short and carnivorous, no.

Then we caught a glimpse of the water through the trees:

One last scramble down a snowy, grassy hillside, and we popped down on to the beach.

We had planned this trip around low tide so that we wouldn't have to scramble back on to the bluff to get around headlands. The orange and black circles indicate where trails leave the beach. To make them even more noticeable, people had added colorful flotsam (or is it jetsam?) to the trail markers. 

We seemed to have the beach completely to ourselves, and the tide seemingly low enough to walk out to Ozette Island. (We demurred.) 

It was funny to think that we'd woken up with snow, but some of it remained on the beach as well.

We wandered along the beach for about a mile, sometimes in the sand, sometimes on the rocks to peer in the tide pools. Not too many beasties visible other than some crabs and a lot of tadpoles.

We did see several eagles circling overhead, but soon we were distracted in our search for petroglyphs at "Wedding Rocks". One downside of being on our own at the beach meant that we didn't have extra sets of eyes searching for the petroglyphs. We did a lot of poking around. A lot. At some point we stumbled across a Canadian ... also searching. Our six combined eyes found this one.

That's #13, "guy with fish on a spear" according to this map we we given later in the day.

Apparently there were lots of other ones not far from #13... but we didn't spot them. Next time.

We continued down the beach, alone again. It was amusing to see the Canadian's footprints every now and again -- the first we'd seen all day.

Clouds started to roll in ...

And small rivulets grew more full as the snow melted...

And on we walked.

And still we had the beach to ourselves.

We liked this haystack with a hole in it:

Eventually we made it around to Sand Point, and then couldn't spot the trail marker. I remembered reading that others hadn't found one either, but had seen one just slightly back before the point. As I had spotted that, too, we just headed back to it. 

A few yards in we saw this sign, so we were clearly on the right track!

The hike back to the ranger station was uneventful, more boardwalks through forest and prairie, just fewer ups and downs. We also met a few other hikers -- a couple with a baby staying at another one of the cabins, and another couple we saw later in the store.

We'd had a really nice day, but at the same time I think we were both happy to be done. I was also happy not to be driving all the way home that night!

We headed back to our cabin, took turns having showers and beer in the store, and chatted with Rob.

Eventually we headed back to our cabin, built a fire, roasted veggie dogs and marshmallows, and enjoyed a perfect evening.

We loved this hike -- especially in the winter when we were alone most of the time.

The following morning we woke up to snow -- again -- and decided against going out to Neah Bay for another hike. I'm hoping that some time next winter we can come out again and do some more hiking. And maybe see some more petroglyphs.

Ozette Triangle
9.4 miles
100 feet elevation gain

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