April 25th was slated to be my son's first "official" backpacking trip. He had accompanied me on many other day hikes and we've even camped-out in our tent at my parent's property several times. He was definately overdue.
The trail would differ from my last excursion here weeks ago in two very noticable ways:
1. This trip was to be much shorter in mileage, &
2. This occasion would prove to be a fair bit drier and warmer than the last.
The long drive up and around the Olympic Peninsula to the rugged coast of Washington State went rather quickly with my son chatting with me one minute, playing his Gameboy the next. Before long we were strapping on the packs and he was taking his first steps down a road less traveled, one where you slow down and take notice of the little things, the natural things.
The birds welcomed us into one of the most beautiful forests I've had the pleasure to visit. The path is quite wide for a high percentage of this leg of the trail and we walked side by side as he figured out the straps and other adjustments on his pack. We stopped for several short breaks and I was proud of how he handled his load and scouted the trail ahead of him. As I said earlier, this stretch of trail is fairly short and nearing the end, your dropped steadily and rapidly down a gully until you break out onto a small creek that pushes out onto the beach and into the awaiting Pacific.
Squinting, we both scrambled over huge logs that have been tossed to the back of the beach by past storms, and plopped onto the sand. While the main trail continues south down the beach and disappears as it scrambles up a rope ladder back into the forest, we chose north, as our priority was to find a worthy campsite. After about the third decent spot, we finally found where we would call home for the next day. A little flat spot above high tide that was protected from the wind by a partially downed tree. Setting up camp was a breeze and in short order we were barefoot and strolling down the beach. Simon found a nice walking stick and got busy drawing in the sand. I smoked my pipe while watching him explore the beach, the surf, and the logs that divided the forest from the sand.
Being there all day enabled us to walk down both stretches of beach several times, and by mid afternoon, we were pooped! Simon decided to escape to the tent and laid around just relaxing and enjoying the sound of the pounding surf and seagulls and the occasional far away "V" of migratory geese heading north for the summer. Me, I found a comfortable log to recline on and stared at the seastacks and waves.
Dinner was next on our "to-do" list and we were prepared with some noodle soup and other fun snacks. Now, all the planning in the world will not save you from at least one forgotten item. This trip it was to be the utensils. After washing our hands we dug in...all-in-all, not the worst thing I've forgotten and we were full before long, which is, in fact, the point.
Another walk as dusk approached and we chose to lounge in our sleeping bags with the tent door open to watch the sunset over the beach until darkness and sleepiness overtook us both.
When nature calls in the middle of the night, getting out of your warm sleeping bag is not your favorite activity, but it does come with it's rewards...The stars! When you get away from the permanent light pollution that a city or town gives off, you can really start to see how vast space actually is. The stars were so bright the beach was lit up quite plainly and it provided a wonderful moment in time. But enough of that, it's cold out here and I hear my sleeping bag calling.
Mornings at the beach are pretty consistant. Things happen as they always do. Eagles glide low, racoons make tracks in the sand, and deer come out of the forest to get a good whif of the surf. Another walk before breakfast, with Simon continuing his sand art and me with my head down looking for interesting rocks. Breaking camp was also a snap and before we realized it, we were packed and heading toward the trail that would bring us back home. I think we both hesitated a bit, realizing that we had just spent two days together not just as father and son, but friends and hiking-buddies. I'm sure there will be more adventures to come.