Hoh Head from the North on the Overland Trail!
Washington Alpine Club Olympic Coast Beach Cleanup!
Jefferson Cove Trip report!
April 20/21 2002
| "The wildest, the most remote and, I think, the most picturesque
beach area of our whole coastline lies under the pounding surf along the Pacific Ocean in
the State of Washington . . . It is a place of haunting beauty, of deep solitude."
William O. Douglas
The weather service promised a great weekend for the annual Olympic Coast Cleanup. We had seen front after front blow through the last two weeks so we were due for a couple of days of good weather. The Olympic Coastal Strip is the only wilderness coast left in the lower 48. It looks and feels very much like it did when Captain Cook visited our area 200 years ago. Only surf and storms provide change.
Laurie Rich, Mike Tanner, Mike and Doerte Mahanay met at the Oil City Trailhead, at the south end of the Olympic Coast Wilderness, at 9 am. The three of us left for the beach at 9:30 am. Dace Krasts and Leslie Whitney left a short time later.
The trail follows the Hoh River on its final stretch to the Pacific Ocean. It is .9 miles to the Ocean from the Trailhead. The Hoh River starts way up on Mount Olympus, 7,965, about 30 miles to the east. From a sub-alpine environment the river descends into temperate rainforest where precipitation ranges from 12-14 feet a year!
As we neared the Ocean we saw evidence of the massive flooding of the Hoh River, with great piles of logs accumulated along the banks.
We set up camp at the North end of the beach. Although our campsite was not as well protected as some of the others, it offered wonderful views of the surf, the rocks offshore, and the islands. We set up our tents well above the high tide line.
Our primary cleanup area was Jefferson Cove, a mile to the North. As the high tide receded we went around Diamond Rock to Jefferson Cove. A few years ago, a large piece of the Headland fell away making the hike more challenging. Since then, Diamond Rock cannot be rounded at most high tides. One party once spent 5 hours waiting for the tide to recede so they could get around the headland. Knowing the tides is essential to travel on the Olympic Coast.
Jefferson Cove is a beautiful low tide beach about a mile long. At the North end is the first ladder and the route over the big Hoh Head that eventually makes its way to Third Beach, some 17 miles distant. Hoh Head can never be rounded, even at an extreme low tide. It is 1.5 miles to the low tide beach at the North side of Hoh Head, and 3.5 miles by trail to Mosquito Creek.
We started working north on the beach, gathering the flotsam and jetsam into large trash bags. Soon, we were joined by Dace Krasts, Leslie, and Kirby. It was amazing how much faster we worked and how much more we accomplished as a larger group.
Our cache site was above the high tide line near the overland ladder to Hoh Head. We made a great pile of floats, styrofoam (one as big as a 40-gallon garbage can), 14 full trash bags and an old propane tank. The Park Service will come later with a zodiac and remove the cache to the Port Angeles landfill.
We hoped to find treasures such as glass fishing floats that arrive via the Kuroshio current from Japan. These glass floats have fascinating marking, delicate colors and come in a myriad of designs. They are the most sought after of all beach treasures, but we were not lucky enough to find any. However, Jan Klippert just found one at Ocean Shores a few weeks ago! No one could be more deserving than Jan! Flotsam takes the Ocean currents a year to cross from Asia to North America!
With the low tide, we went out to look at the fascinating tide pools. We saw many anemones and we were amazed at the number of starfish; there must have been several hundred in a variety of colors. The big rocks were covered with hundreds of small mussels. Mike Tanner feed the anemones and knew a lot about the tidepools! He reminded me of "Doc" in Steinbecks Cannery Row. Our new friend Kirby headed solo to Mosquito Creek.
Back at camp, we had time to relax, read, watch the surf, and get in the rhythm of the surf and tides. Bald Eagles soared overhead, we counted at least four individuals, two mature and two immature. The immatures are brown for 1-3 years before they get the white head and tail. With a fondness for fish and waterfowl, this is a perfect area for them, as the Hoh is a prime Steelhead run. Although the Bald Eagle is regarded as a feared predator, it is often found scavenging carrion or robbing the sea gulls. Two years ago, near Goodman Creek, Doerte and I saw five Bald Eagles enjoying breakfast on a dead whale carcass!
We were entertained all evening by the antics of seals fishing just offshore, and at the mouth of the Hoh. Lori had some great binoculars! The lighthouse far offshore on Destruction Island came on exactly at sunset, and our warm fire provided a beacon to passing ships (We didnt see any). Mike Tanner told jokes, and we enjoyed crispy jiffy pop.
We awoke to misty weather and hiked out, gathering some more rubbish as we went. Dace and Leslie used Forth Century BC technology to carry out a huge tangle of fishing line to the Trailhead. Many yellow skunk- cabbage lined the trail. These early spring flowers thrust up from the wet forest or marsh, and the leaves are food for elk and bear, and used by Native Americans in former times for medicine.
We had great weather, and a strong supportive team! Each storm brings more rubbish, so we will have to come back next year and do it yet again. Maybe to Toleak Point?
A huge thank you to Jan Klippert for organizing over 200 volunteers over 70 miles of beach! And to Doerte, Laurie, Mike Tanner., Dace, Leslie, and Kirby for their time and effort at Jefferson Cove!
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