Day 20: Seattle to Sunset at Shi Shi

The short version: We rented a car to head to the Northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, hiked to a gorgeous beach, watched the sun set, and went to bed hungry at midnight.

The long version: In our last post, we had ridden into Seattle and stayed the night in the City Hostel. You may have noticed that the post’s title alluded to 400 more miles to go. You may have been curious. In this juicy episode of “What the heck did they mean by that?”, we’ll take a closer look.

On Tuesday morning, we enjoyed our ample hostel breakfast and made it to a downtown rental car office. We caught a ferry to Bainbridge Island, this time in a car, found a coffee shop (classic) and embarked on our voyage across the Olympic Peninsula. We would drive 200 miles out West and 200 miles back – a trip that would have taken us at least a week on bicycle. To quote Bellingham Bob, “You travel one hour by car what takes you all day to do on a bike.”

We set up camp at Ozette Lake Campground per our friend Ellen’s suggestion, and immediately headed through the Makah Indian Reservation to the Shi Shi Beach Trail Head. The hike to Shi Shi Beach is about 4 miles long. It’s moderately tough, with a 150 ft drop in elevation at the end to get onto the beach. It’s so steep that a heavy rope is installed to help hikers down. The trail is extremely muddy due to rain and underground springs, such that there are parallel, more narrow and tedious paths throughout, where previous hikers have tried to stay dry. We were mostly able to keep the mud off the top of our shoes. We had a particular energy in our step as we traversed the 4 miles. Both of us were feeling strong, striving to get there before sunset. We made it with plenty of time and cracked upon two Blue Moons.

Arriving at Shi Shi Beach, we were greeted with a truly lovely view. The beach was guarded at both ends by jagged rock pillars and arches that tower out of the water, perhaps up to 200 feet tall. Some of the tallest rock stacks to the South even supported lonely trees. To the North, we explored large foreboding rock formations that protect delicate tide pools from chaotic, high-energy waves. This beach, more than others we’ve visited in this trip, felt familiar: a rugged, unprotected Pacific coast beach. There were several like-minded groups there as well who had hiked out to watch the sunset. Others had backpacked in with gear to set up camp on the sand.

To try to catch the sunset from a higher angle, we headed back up the trail just after 9:00pm. To quote Linda S., “it stays light up here until ‘a million o’clock.” It was absolutely stunning.

Under the light of dusk, we navigated the trail back, avoiding mud the best we could. The wettest spots would reflect the night sky, providing ample warning. Jackie relied on her eyes, Steve relied on a red headlamp. We arrived back at the trailhead at 10:30 to get back in the car and drive back to Ozette Lake. Initially our plan was to make a full meal of a veggie rice stir-fry, then is was oatmeal and eggs, then it was just oatmeal, then tea, then it was “Let’s just go to bed.” We had accomplished a trip objective, to see the Sunset at Shi Shi Beach in the “Northiest, Westiest, corner of the Northwest of the American mainland” and that provided us with enough energy and satisfaction for the night.

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