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John Guilford's Hikes

Olympic N.P. Coast from La Push to Oil City on 1990-08-18/19

Date: 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 sure). 

Additional note (for 95/08/30): gloves would be convenient for use on the ropes on the sand ladders.  Bring them next time. 


[ PIX1 ] Lynn on beach near start of hike. 

[ PIX2 ] Jim climbing a sand ladder. 

[ PIX3 ] Lynn climbing a sand ladder. 

[ PIX4 ] Lynn and Jim crossing under a fallen tree. 

[ PIX5 ] Campsite in the sunset glow. 

[ PIX6 ] Running in front of the sunset. 

[ PIX7 ] Island off the coast in morning clouds. 

[ PIX8 ] Jim and Lynn near the end of the hike. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015