John Guilford's Hikes
Olympic N.P. Coast from La Push to Oil City on 1990-08-18/19
Location: Olympic N.P. Coast from La Push to Oil City
People: (including myself): Lynn, Jim Guilford
Start : 12:00 8/18
Out : 12:00 8/19
It is important when hiking along the coast to get the topo maps from the
NPS that show the tidal levels required to cross particular points. You
can also get copies of the tides for each hour during the day. This helps
in planning the trip. Originally, we had planned on going from Oil City to
La Push. We left home Saturday morning to get the 6 AM ferry. We got to
the NPS visitor center on the coast around 10am. We knew that the high
tide on Saturday was around noon and on Sunday, it was around 1 pm. At the
visitor center we learned that the stretch above Oil City would not be
passable until later that afternoon. We therefore changed plans and
decided to go North-to-south. After shuffling cars and getting loaded up,
we left at noon. The weather was overcast with intermittent light (very
light) drizzle. The temperature was warm, though, so it was comfortable
hiking in t-shirts. A short way down the beach, we came to some headlands
that couldn't be crossed until 3pm. We had lunch and waited to see what
would happen. There was no trail around this point, but you could cross
overland with a scramble. We decided that we didn't need to wait, and went
around. As we went south we had to cross several sections of trails due to
the high tide. Many of these involved "sand ladders" (which are pieces of
landscape timbers attached to steel cables that lay on the sand) and ropes
to hang on to. Sometimes there were just ropes. The ropes were typically
nylon, muddy and worn, with little strands of nylon sticking out to make
them stickery. At one point we came to a headland that we would have had
to wait about 45 minutes for the tide to recede. There wasn't any trail
around, but you could climb over the rock "wall" and get on the other side.
There were some logs laid against this side of the wall to help. It would
have been easy to do without packs, but we didn't really want to do it with
them. Jim opted to climb over with his pack (using some blue rope that he
had brought for help down the far side). Lynn and I switched to shorts and
sandals and did a little wading to get around. It took about the same time
to go either way. Lynn and I went a little ways down the beach in sandals
(or wet tennis shoes) before we decided that that would kill our feet and
switched back into hiking boots. We got to ? point around 5 pm. This was
the first objective. We could stay there, but then we wouldn't be able to
get by the stretch down by Oil City until 3 or 4 the next afternoon (due to
tides). The point is a real pretty area and it would have been nice to
stay, but we decided to push onto Mosquito Creek, which is the 2nd most
sizable creek we had to cross. We got there around 7 or so and set up
camp. The tide was way down then, so we were careful to make sure we set
up above high water. There were some good clear spots among all the logs
that had gotten tossed up during storms. This is also a rather pretty
spot. Lynn and I had brought 2 1-1/2 qt bottles, 2 1 qt bottles, and a
1-1/2 qt canteen of water while Jim brought 2 1 qt bottles. It turns out
that during the trip we were able to drink only out of the water we
brought, so we didn't need to purify any water. We did cook with creek
water (but the cooking would kill any bugs in it). We had sunset just
after dinner. We set up a bear bag in a tree to keep our food in (Racoons
are known to be in the area). It was a pain since we didn't have any good
bags to put the stuff in. We put it in the tent bag, but that wasn't
water-proof, so we stuck that in the garbage bag and kludged it up. Next
time, I'd rather go out and buy a water-proof sack of some kind to use.
Lynn wanted to spend the night outside under the stars. I was rather
skeptical about it due to the weather, but Lynn insisted. We put all three
packs in the tent to keep them dry. We wrapped Lynn in the space blanket
to keep light rain off and retired. If it started raining much, Lynn
planned on bailing out and joining us. Despite some sprinkles early in the
evening, it was dry, so Lynn stayed out all night. In the morning we had
breakfast and broke camp. We planned on leaving around 7am so we could
make it around a point that required a 4 ft tide (which came around 10am).
If we missed the point, we'd be stuck waiting 6 hours for the tide to come
up and down. Instead of wading Mosquito creek (and with it being low tide
in the morning), we went down the beach to where the creek spread out real
wide and shallow, and walked across in our hiking boots. Since it was low
tide, we took the shore route south of the creek instead of hitting the
upland trail. There were a couple tricky climbs/descents on the way south,
but no real problems. When we were crossing the 4' and 5' headlands, we
had to do lots of rock scrambling since the sandy beach part was already
under water. The later we would have been, the harder the crossings would
have been. If we had been about an hour later, we wouldn't have been able
to make it. When we got to the Hoh river (at Oil City) we took a break to
look at the coast before heading inland to the car. We saw a trail that
was marked with some orange tape. We took that, which turned out to be a
mistake. It looks like that marked a trail under development. It was in
very poor condition, and very muddy. About half way along we decided it
wasn't the correct way, but that it was probably just as easy to continue
as to go back. The correct way (probably) was to follow the river coast
inland further and then pick up a trail. We got back to the cars around
noon. On the trip we discovered that (if the tides work right) you can
cover distances pretty fast. We had originally planned a 3 day weekend for
the trip, but found we easily did it in two. I'd expect that we could do
the northern trip (from La Push north) in a weekend (a 3 day weekend for
Additional note (for 95/08/30): gloves would be convenient for use on the
ropes on the sand ladders. Bring them next time.
Lynn on beach near start of hike.
Jim climbing a sand ladder.
Lynn climbing a sand ladder.
Lynn and Jim crossing under a fallen tree.
Campsite in the sunset glow.
Running in front of the sunset.
Island off the coast in morning clouds.
Jim and Lynn near the end of the hike.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015