Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cape Alava Calls Many to the Far West

The view from my campsite at Cape Alava as a fog rolls in.

The farthest point on the west coast (outside of Alaska) is a draw like no other in Olympic National Park. Cape Alava is just west of Lake Ozette (third largest freshwater lake in Washington State) and is apart of a 78 mile strip of west coast largely protected as designated wilderness.

The area is so popular that you actually need reservations to camp there. Most days, there is space, but holiday weekends are packed. Cape Alava is just a three mile hike over a beautiful boardwalk between Lake Ozette and the cape.

After my shift, I drove from Forks north to Callam Bay on State Route 112 and then turned south and west on a slow road to Lake Ozette. In all, the trip was just over a long hour. A quick hike of 3.2 miles to the coast resulted in a late arrival to Cape Alava. Even on a Tuesday evening, in early June, near every available site was occupied. I did find a camping spot on the bench just above the beach, but I was less than 100 feet from two other campsites. It was a pretty shady wilderness experience and I found it hard to imagine where people camp when the area is fully occupied with the full number of 86 campers. On this night, there was only about 35 on paper.

One of the most amazing pieces of trail anywhere exists at Cape Alava and Sand Point. Nearly six miles of cedar plank walkway is constructed to prevent resource damage.

The wild coast has had a long history of wildlife interactions. In the interior of Olympic National Park, it is the black bears that both fascinate and serve as a challenge to visitor. Backcountry users are required to secure food and scented items from wildlife. On the coast however, ARFCs (Animal Resistant Food Containers) are required and the traditional practice of hanging food prohibited. The change is a result of inconsistent skill levels by visitors which made raccoons, not necessarily bears continue to find human food attractive even with modest success.

Park Service rangers have documented raccoons playing with the lid of the ARFC as if they are figuring out the new system, but have yet to master the two screws used secure the container. In the long run, wildlife incidents are are becoming rare and the required use of AFRCs are spreading to the higher elevations of the park where damage to the few trees above 3500 feet is apparent..

Upon leaving the boardwalk trail at the beach, it wasn't five minutes before I had a close encounter with the main nemesis of campers in the area. I approached a tree that extended into the shallow surf and a raccoon who was working something in the water. He/she scuttled away up the beach toward the trees before I could even turn my camera in the correct direction.

In the evening, I headed north across the Ozette Reservation which echoed ghosts of the past including the dilapidated ranger station.

Looking north from Cape Alava and the Ozette Reservation towards Cape Flattery, Shi Shi Beach and the Poitn of Arches area.

After a restful night, I headed south towards Sand Point during a solid low tide. My route across the rocky surface included many mid-level tide pools. It was important to watch my step for nearly every one of them could have been fatal to some form of life in this incredibly diverse habitat.

After two hours of wandering south, I reached Sand Point and found the availability of campsites much more to my pleasure. There was more space and vegetation in between the more numerous sites, but there would not be time to make use of them on this particular trip. I headed northeast again back towards my vehicle on one of the most unique trails found anywhere and finished up a nine mile loop.

Sunset on Cape Alava.

Keep checking in because I have more experiences to document.

An update on the Spotted Owl
Two hikes to Toleak Point on the Olympic South Wilderness Coast
The Forks Logging Museum Tour of a mill and logging sites
A trip off-shore into the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

1 comment:

Mossy Mom said...

Hi there, is there any chance you would consider changing your text and background colors to something that is easier on the eyes?

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