TJ – Memorial Day Beach Backpack 2005

South Wilderness Beach BackPack Journal–Memorial Day Weekend 2005

We left the gravel lot at 0520 Saturday morning. Stopping for fuel in Hoquiam, we shared muffins for a road breakfast and then motored on to the ocean. We arrived at the Oil City trailhead at 0845, and unloaded the cars. The scouts divided their shared equipment (water filter, stove, fuel bottle, cook set) and repacked for the trail while Tony, Ron and his son Ronnie drove the cars up to the Third Beach trailhead.

While waiting for the Smircich’s to return Tony to Oil City, the rest of us moved out to the mouth of the Hoh River. There were plenty of smooth flat stones to skip. Looking north we could see Hoh Head and several sea stacks in the surf. Tony eventually joined us and we headed north around the point along the beach. Soon we encountered car-sized boulders to scramble over, culminating at Diamond Point, which had some spectacular tide pools filled with sea anemone and colorful starfish. We lunched at the base of the Hoh Head overland trail, which was marked with the circular black and orange “target” we were to become all too familiar with!

The “trail” began with a rope and wood ladder that rose straight up the side of Hoh Head. At times, the ladder rungs took us over muddy rock faces, with some interesting exposures and challenging shifts of balance. Eventually the slope lessened and we entered the forest. The “shushing” of the waves gave way to bird whistles and the sound of our packs swishing through the brushy thickets of salal and salmonberry. In some spots, the trail was incredibly muddy. It was a coastal foot-path, not a well-graded hiker or horse trail, and had a maddening tendency to hug the cliff-side in an “upsy-downsy” sort of way that was pretty fatiguing to all. Although only 3.3 miles on the map, it took longer to cover the distance than expected. We were all glad to look down on tea-colored Mosquito Creek, and its cool waters felt good on our feet as we forded and moved several hundred yards north to our campsite on the beach.

Sunday morning dawned overcast again, but with the hope of sunbreaks in the afternoon. We were underway by 0930 and began a climb up and inland to a ford of Goodman Creek. Ushie and Carol were bringing up the rear, and arrived at the Goodman Creek ford to find it deserted. There were not very many tracks in the mud at the ford; there was a trail of sorts that led upstream, but it was covered with branches to discourage use. We forded, blew a whistle, and hollered, but heard no response. We continued to Falls Creek and forded, rested, and waited–still no sign of the rest of the group. We met a few south-bound hikers and asked them to be on the lookout for our group, and left a note in the trail, saying, “Troop 101–We are waiting for you at the beachhead–and it had better be a good story!”

A few minutes later, Spencer caught up with us and the rest of the group was close behind. They had taken the upstream trail at Goodman Creek to a sandy beach and had heard our whistles and shouts, but we hadn’t heard their hollers back. We hiked to the edge of the forest, descended a spectacular series of ladders, and found ourselves on the beautiful, broad stretch of beach south of Toleak Point. This area has so many sea stacks that it is also called “Graveyard of the Giants.” We stopped for lunch and a toss or two of the frisbee. Spencer and Casey harvested some mussels from one of the exposed rocks.

We decided to push on to the north another mile and a half to Scots Bluff. It was strenuous walking through coarse black sand, but we were rewarded with afternoon sunshine and a sheltered cove for swimming and beachcombing.

Monday morning we were climbing the trail over the bluff, then dropped briefly to the beach before taking the overland trail over Taylor Point to Third Beach. We had a late lunch at Third Beach and then climbed up into the forest one last time. At the trailhead, we found the cars in good shape–and headed for home. We saw Mount Olympus peeking through the clouds as we began to descend to cross the Hoh River. Long drive home–made more interesting because Carol’s spare set of VW keys didn’t work as well as expected. Fortunately the “magic wiggle” worked!

Thanks again to the Smircich family for their support with the car shuttle on this outing.