Location: Ozette Triangle in the Olympics
Distance: 9.4 miles
There is no beating the variety on this hike. It starts at one of the state’s largest bodies of freshwater, drops you onto a wild coastline and leads you through canopies of lush forest. Not to mention the deer, eagles and harlequin ducks that popped up along the way!
The loop began from the lake with a bridge leading over the graceful waters of the Ozette River. A quick right at the junction and I was off to stare wide-eyed at the Sitka spruce and western cedar that towered overhead. The planked boardwalk was a tad icy and I nearly lost my footing more than once, but I managed to stay upright. The trees eventually gave way to Ahlstroms Prairie, which was beautiful in its simplicity.
After 3.3 miles, I could hear the ocean and quickly dropped down a slope to Cape Alava. Sea stacks and forest-covered islands dotted the coast and inches of smelly seaweed covered the rocks. I carefully picked my way over the rocks to perch atop a large boulder and indulge in some Brie and bread – none of which I shared with the seagulls or deer that curiously watched me.
The most adventurous part of the trip was following the shoreline 3.1 miles south, squishing over bug-infested seaweed and balancing on slippery rocks. It amazed me how much longer it took to hike the beach than climb a peak. As I walked, the desolate scenery came to remind me of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings.
I fruitlessly searched for petroglyphs an older couple had tried to direct me toward on some boulders dubbed the Wedding Rocks and then continued on to Sand Point, which marked the end of my coastal trek. I climbed the grassy knoll and gazed north and south up the shore, marveling at the sandy beaches marred by nothing other than an occasional light bulb carried in on the tide.
Eager now to work up another appetite and less impressed with the last 3 miles of forest after seeing such beauty on the beach, I fast-tracked my walk up another stretch of boardwalk to the ranger station, waved goodbye to the couple I had passed hours before and settled in for the long drive back to civilization.