Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Eve 2010

The drive over the Olympic Peninsula to Forks is always a long one. An early start is just about a prerequisite to make an overnight trip worthwhile. I've driven this route too many times to recall, and I'm always happy to finally pull into the parking lot, stretch, and let the blood flow back into my extremities. Even being a meticulous packer, the parking lot has always served me as an invaluable opportunity to change into hiking clothes, make any last minute additions or subtractions to the backpack base on weather or whim, and run through the checklist one last time before hitting the trail. Although we didn't get the early start we had hoped for, Will and I were soon on our way.

The trail to the beach is a wonderful stretch of forest that wanders it's way toward the ever-increasing sound of the surf crashing against whatever crossed it's path. The trail leading to the first stretch of beach is just shy of a mile and a half, so it's quite wide as it serves as an easy gateway for even the most timid foot travelers. At the last minute, the trail plunges downward to an intersection with a creek and the beach. During winter storms, many trees and logs are dashed about and jettisoned to the very limits of where the beach and the forest meet. These logs pile up to a point where you have quite a scramble just to step out onto the sandy edge of the North American continent.

As it was the last day of 2010, temperatures in this area were hovering right around freezing. I'd expected constant winds as soon as we stepped onto the beach, but gladly that was not to be. What we happened upon instead was a gloriously sunny day that held promises of adventure and a feeling of freedom that can't be matched in any city or town in the world! Now, the middle of winter is not usually a time for backpacking in Western Washington, and we found our desired campsite vacant as expected. Shortly afterwards, groups of backpackers and hikers with the same idea we had began to file their way onto the beach. The backpackers stopped to scan the horizon, pack away an unneeded windbreaker, or grab a snack, but were soon lifting their heavy loads again to make their way to other destinations. Meanwhile the hikers milled up and down the beach for several hours before slowly making their way back to their cars and civilization.

Will decided the weather was right for a bit of kayaking, so took the trip back to the car to pick up the kayak and gear. He was back in about an hour with the kayak strapped to his back and a huge smile on his face. A Park Ranger came by tracking some dog prints and stopped to chat with us for a bit as Will wriggled into his dry suit. I believe the ranger thought Will to be a bit mad as he repeated several times that "911 still works even though you won't have cell service here". Shortly, he bid us farewell stating that he was glad to have folks back on the beaches. I'll bet he has seen things on these lonely stretches of beach that I can only dream of.

Will navigated the receding tide and rocks and paddled out to where the waves were just beginning to build. He would spin around at just the right time and ride the wave in for a bit, then start the process all over again.

He managed to stay out for about an hour before needing to come in for a short rest. Soon enough, he was back out playing in the bay. Someday I may get the opportunity to try my hand at what looks like great fun, but for now I'm content to take some pictures and mosey up and down the beach, looking for treasures or enjoying the show nature puts on all day, everyday.

As dusk fell upon us, we decided it was high time to get the campfire started. The temperatures were starting to plummet as darkness took over, and we knew the fire would fend off the bitter cold enough to sit and chat a bit. Now, I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that the fire took a great deal longer than it should have to get crackling. Once we'd built up a coal base, we buried some foil-wrapped potatoes in the embers and positioned our grate over them to grill our steaks. With dinner almost ready, we porepared a wonderful spinach salad and washed it all down with a six-pack of Blue Moon (my favorite beer). But alas, a roaring fire, good conversation and many layers of insulating clothing couldn't stop the creeping, penetrating chill, and I eventually retreated to the safety of my fluffy, down sleeping bag. I'm pleased to report that my bag works quite well and I slept through the entire night.

The sun shone early, but the cold held a firm grip on the land as we began to stir New Year's Day. Foregoing the fire, we chose instead to wander aimlessly up and down the beach until we decided it was time to pack up and head back home. Will, not wanting to make two trips back and forth, decided to try packing it all in one trip. Didn't hear a peep out of him and he made it seem like no trouble at all. Before long we were back on the road headed home. All in all, a great way to end the year, and an optimistic way to start the next. Hopefully I will be blessed to get out many more times this coming year.

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