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Thursday, December 31, 2009

To The North West

Grabbing an opportunity to get away during the holiday week I wanted to see someplace I had not seen before. The weather seemed to be stable for the long term so I booked a room at Bullman Beach Inn outside Neah Bay. What a sweet place. My room was right on the beach and had all I could need for a cozy stay. The kitchen was well stocked with cooking utensils. The table was right at one of two large picture windows The beach right outside that. Decor was basic 60's cabin. What a sweet deal!

See the notebook on the desk? It gives all sorts of helpful info. The first page is about the dog and three cats that live on or next to the property. The orange tabby cat is Mouse Mouse and Not To Be Allowed IN Cabin.

He claimed not to have read the book himself. He was a real con artist.

I arrived just in time for a pretty sunset.

The stone pillars in the Strait held plenty of sea birds and almost always held a Bald Eagle at the top. There were a lot of sea ducks on the water. At low tide this beach has a lot of low rocks filled with mussels and kelp beds. At the high tide line there is a lot of kelp and drift wood that held surprises. One my first morning the crows showed me where an octopus had washed up.

I gathered a lot of nice shells including a sea urchin. I didn't think to ask about gathering mussels on permit. I will keep that in mind for next time.

On my first day I drove out to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the lower 48 states. It was a short little journey through the woods on a nice wood plank boardwalk. The Makah Nation is doing a very nice job of preserving their areas for visitors. Entering these areas required a yearly permit which costs only 10$. This old dead tree was mighty interesting and certainly worth keeping and building the boardwalk around it.

Out at the observation point I encountered a man from Customs and Homeland Security. He was very well armed I can tell you. He gave me quite a start. But this is the point of entry for the ships from the Pacific and they have their share of drug and human smuggling to watch for. We had a nice chat and I said he had pulled good duty to not be at the airport on Christmas Week. He chuckled and agreed and said that he would likely face bringing his Mother-in-law to visit the viewpoint the next day. I don't know if he considered that "Hazardous Duty"

Tatoosh Island, just off shore is home to a lone lighthouse and serves as a very important research station. There have been some significant work done there defining rocky shore ecology. There have also been some wonderful birds seen at the location. They come ashore during faulty migration. With the open ground and eyes looking for the unusual, these birds are more likely to be seen.

Driving further south I visited Shi Shi ( shy shy) Beach. It is a serious hike through the forest to the beach, about 2 miles. Once there I had the beach to myself. The sand is a softer, looser sand than the beaches further to the south. I had thought I might hike down to Point of the Arches, but I could see on top of the 4 miles from and back to the car, another 6 or so miles on that soft beach was out of the question. I contented myself with poking around in the tide pools and walking along the beach looking at shells (protected, no taking) and finding interesting creatures washed up.

This was a rock fish of some type the night before. His expression makes him look a bit vexed to have wound up like this.

I was so pleased my drive home allowed this photo at the mouth of the Sooes River.

The following day it was off the the Hoh Rain Forest. So far the weather had been perfect, no rain, no wind, mild and cloudy. I was fully prepared for unending rains. In fact I welcomed the full experience of being at Hoh in the rain. No such luck. While it was gray and threatening, there was no pit a pat of rain to make the experience complete.

The Hoh is inside the Olympic National Park, just south of Forks. I could see glimpses of Mt Olympus which I cannot see from home. There was so little evidence of life in the outside world once I was out of Forks and off Hwy 101. A nice change of pace.

I saw no vampires.

The Olympic National Park was named a World Heritage Site in 1981 owing to its unique Temperate Rain Forest. Here it rains over 180 inches per year. There are gentle hikes and many nice graphics through the woods near the visitors center. Even with all the rain, the footing on the trails is excellent.

There is also a trail up to Mt Olympus which is a 17 mile hike. Here there is more potential for interesting ecology. It is listed in my Wildflower hike book. I have seen photos on the Flickr Washington Wildflower group which show the promise of unusual species.

Every porous surface is growing something. I am sure a botanist could spend all day recording the living content of one downed log. Yes that is a bit of snow.

The Hall of Mosses features many enormous Big-leaf Maple trees. They must be something to see when in full leaf. I conveniently left my spare battery in my room and my camera was on low juice. I wish I could have captured more images of this lovely place. The streams were filled with spawning salmon (and two researchers in hip waders BBBbrrrrrrrrrr)

The roads into Neah Bay are dark and twisty. It only takes about 4 hours from Edmond ferry loading. I will certainly return for another weekend. In Spring I hope to catch some of the wonderful old forest plants and flowers.


  1. The Old Dead Tree - what kind?

  2. I am not entirely sure about the old tree. Most of the bark had been stripped away. Some of the remaining resembles Sitka Spruce.

    The growth formation may represent multiple saplings that started on the same nurse stump and grew together as they matured. I saw such formations in the Hoh Rain Forest.