As you’re traveling along US 101 on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll have several chances to hike down to a scenic beach. Along a brief stretch of the road, there are a handful of places to access the water. Not much imagination went into naming them: they’re simply known as beaches one through six. After you pass the numbered beaches, you’ll have one final chance to see the Pacific Ocean at Ruby Beach, before the road turns inland again.
You don’t need to stop at every numbered beach, but you should pick at least one. I decided to hike down to beach number one — the first one I encountered as I headed northbound on US 101.
a short trail leads down to the water. You’ll need to remember to take note of where the trail is located, since there are no signs to lead you back to the trailhead and your car.
If you’re used to the well manicured beaches of Florida or Southern California, you may be surprised by the rough and untouched nature of the beaches in Olympic National Park. Once you reached the beach, you’ll find piles of driftwood that have washed ashore.
In order to get down to the sand, you’ll need to climb over the driftwood. Be careful, since the old logs can shift and roll as you’re stepping on them.
The same sea fog that blanketed Ocean Shores the night before was still hanging around the coast. Today however I enjoyed it, as it mingled with the blue skies above, giving the coastline a quiet, eerie feeling.
While you’re on the beach, take some time to stack some well-rounded rocks…
… or just sit on a log and watch the fog drift in and out.
The trail back to the car is fairly easy to find, if you know where to look.
Along the way, notice the odd shapes in the trunks of the trees. These formations are called Spruce Burls. The tumors formed when something damage to the trees, long ago. They may look like a cancer, but they’re not, since the chemical makeup of the tumors is the same as the trees. Experts aren’t sure what caused the tumors, but they believe it may have something to do with the presence of the ocean nearby. Perhaps the water allowed some kind of invasive worm to attack the trees.
In between a couple of the numbered beaches, you’ll find the Kalaloch Lodge. In addition to a place to stay and a place to eat…
… it also provides another access point to the water, and an abundance of driftwood on which to climb.
Even if you stopped here, or at one of the numbered beaches, you’ll want to stop again, just a bit further up the road at one of my all time favorite beaches, Ruby Beach. It’s our next stop.