Our travels over the last 8 years have taken us all over the country. We’ve visited all of the lower 48 in Winnie. We’be been to the Eastern-most point in the US at Passamquaddy Light House in Maine, and the southern-most point in Key West. When I read the Cape Flattery was the western-most pint in the coterminous US, I decided I needed to go. It’s about 50 miles from the campground and I decided to go in late afternoon to try to catch the sunset. Much of the ride winds its way along the shoreline for he Straight of Juan de Fuca that separates the US and Vancouver Island in Canada. The road leads to Neah Bay, a small village on the Makah Indian Reservation. You have to buy a use pass for $10 to travel the remaining 10 miles to Cape Flattery. The Cape was named by George Vancouver in the late 1700’s because the land “flattered” him.
I have a book that describes the best “easy” day hikes in Olympic National Park. It said the trail to Cape Flattery observation point was 1.2 miles round trip taking about an hour. All the other hikes have a difficulty rating, but this just had “none”. The description did say there was a 200 ft. drop in elevation. I started down the trail and it was downhill all the way. It made for an easy entry, but the way out was going to be tough since my legs were worn out from the hike I did in the morning. Moore on that shortly. At the bottom of the hill are 3 observation platforms that allow you to view the cliffs along Cape Flattery and a view out on the longest stretch of unbroken ocean on Earth. The sea is so deep off these cliffs and there is no beach, the waves don’t break, but crash into caves in the cliffs and make a strange moaning sound that some people though were sea lions. The ocean has gouged out the caves over the years and some are worn completely through to form a “hole in the wall”. You can also see a small turtle back island called Tatoosh Island where there is a lighthouse. I came for the sunset, but is was cloudy and there was a “marine layer” of fog that obscured the sky at the horizon. Since it looked like there wasn’t going to be any “colors” from the sunset, I left before it got dark to begin the climb back to the parking lot. It took me nearly an hour to go the distance uphill that only took me 20 minutes to go down hill. With my tripod, backpack, and camera and wearing a fleece and outer shell, I was hot, sweaty, and tired by the time I reached the top. I think I may be getting too old for all this hiking.
The back story on the morning hike that I mentioned took on the proportions of my hike out of Rickett’s Glen a couple of years ago some of you might remeber. I started out to take a quick walk up the trail that passes the campground. It was called Lover’s Lane and was about 3 miles to where it intersected the trail to Sol duc Falls that I visited on Friday. I never intended to walk to the falls trail so I didn’t have any water, phone, or Personal Locator or anything else you would take with you. I just had my camera and 2 cell phones that don’t get a signal. I kept walking just to see what was little further up the trail and before I knew it I was probably more than halfway along the trail. It didn’t make any sense (poor thinking on my part) to turn around so I pressed on toward the falls trailhead. Little did I know that the rest of the trail was poorly maintained with huge trees across the path that you had to go over or under. The trail almost disappeared a couple of time, and I thought I was going to get lost. Thoughts of the bear and cougar sightings that were posted on all of the camp bulletins boards or falling an injuring myself entered my mind. I was able to maintain some sense of direction though because I could hear the river off to my right that kept me oriented. After nearly 2 hours I finally made it to the falls trail junction. It was a short walk to the trailhead and parking lot. At this point, it was only 2 miles back down the paved road to the campground. I thought I might try to hitch a ride back, but there weren’t any cars leaving as I started back. Another 45 minutes or so and I was back at Winnie. My legs were beat, but none the worse for wear. Despite the ordeal, I was able to get a few nice images along the way.
You’d think I would have learned my lesson from some of my other misadventures, but I guess I’m just a slow learner. I’m sure there are a few more hikes before this trip is over so we’ll see what lessons I’ve learned. Stay tuned.