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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Get Away to Neah Bay

Traditional figures give the open palm greeting of "Welcome" at the Makah Tribal Museum.

Last Christmas Week I wrote about my trip to Neah Bay. I returned last week for a little get away. I had hoped to leave Wednesday mid-day but a late meeting at work and the less than wonderful weather made me wait until Thursday morning. Being met with a new layer of snow and huge flakes falling did not brighten my mood.

By the time I got to the freeway the road was wet and clear. There was no waiting line for the ferry so I knew all was right with my world! The drive on Highway 112 snakes along the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There were some places with amazing frozen waterfalls right on the road side. The upper Peninsula got hit harder with the Fraser River airflow and they took a beating as far as snowfall. Here at sea level there was snow and it remained in the shady spots all through the weekend.

I could not have asked for a prettier picture than this.

The rooms at Bullman Beach Inn are cozy and perfect for doing nothing more than drinking cocoa and watching the waves.

It rained overnight and the morning was beautiful. I decided to drive up to Cape Flattery while the weather was fair. It didn't feel chilly, but this was my car window.

You can compare the pictures from my entry last year to these. The clouds really changed the light and sharpness in the pictures. I love the lichen covered trees in this area. Alder trunks are white with lichen and mosses enrobed all the limbs.

This vantage point over the caves reminds me of a ships bow.

The caves will eventually erode and collapse this cape point. I am not sure if then it will be considered the most north and west point of the lower 48.

On the way back I found Trumpeter Swans in the same location as last year. There was a young bird. Very likely these are the exact same birds I saw last year, a small family.

The weather was ever changing. I stopped at the salmon smoker. He just pulled a rack off the fire. During cold weather he says the process takes about 3 1/2 hours. In hot weather ,only 1 1/2. He says the heads make great stock. He gave me a fin to chew on. Crispy fin and that little nugget of fat at the base. Wonderful. A begging dog got the little bone.

Neah Bay is a real working bay with boats used for fishing and shrimping close at hand. The Coast Guard also maintains a facility as this is the entry from the Pacific Ocean. The Upper Coast is a very dangerous navigation area and the remote upper Peninsula is a historic area for sea wrecks.

This afternoon, before the above picture, we have rare thunder and lightening then a rainbow. The new weather front brought hail after dark!

I didn't know what to make of this weather system on Saturday morning. We have had the full meal deal so far..

A stroll on the beach was productive. I found the usual shells and lovely sea greens.

This Ratfish was on his final journey. A gull patiently waited until it stopped flopping.

I decided that I would visit Shi Shi again. By the time I hiked the two miles from the parking lot the sky had cleared.

There were many people hiking setting off south to Point of the Arches. I preferred to stroll and poke and explore. I found the usual array of stones and shells.

Beautiful sea grasses, I do not know their names.

I also found an unfortunate pair, an Elephant Seal and a baby Sea Lion, both dead. They serve to feed the birds. I also found paw prints which were clearly felid, a Bobcat.
A type of sea bird was the next unfortunate find. I had to examine its unique bill. These type of birds are called tubenose. The tube at the top of the bill holds a gland which gets rid of excess salt from their body. The stormy seas bring these creatures on the tide and leave them high and dry. The beach here is quite steep in places. I am not sure of the identification I am guessing this all black bird is a Northern Fulmar.

I hiked about 41/2 miles down the beach until I came to a creek crossing which turned me back. I hate wet feet. There was a sizable number of logs I could have crossed but I had a fall Friday morning which resulted in a still undiagnosed finger injury. I just didn't feel up to potential slippery logs.

I did not "trust my feet"
So I returned up the beach. By the time I got to where the trail sets into the woods it was noticeable that the seas were changing. The tide was coming in and it was coming in rough. This cedar log appeared while I was taking pictures. It was there in an instant. Being in the breakers is not safe on the rising tide.

I love coming here. I love the moodiness and changeable nature of the beach. I know people who have said they would want their ashes brought here. I understand. The hike through the woods is great while you are on the boardwalk. The mile nearest the beach is a sodden mucky trail where you pick and weave your way through and around permanently wet areas (wet feet, remember???)

I am already wondering if I can make it back out for Christmas Break. This year does not look as promising as last year as far as free days but I will try my best.

Salt Water does something for me.


  1. You have a wonderful, precise 'eye'! Love what you saw.
    It's been a while since we have been on the West Coast.....your pictures have whetted my appetite to return soon.
    Beautiful post.

  2. What a beautiful place, Marty! I love to explore with you. I would love to see some of those places for myself, someday.

  3. What a great place and a great way to spend your holiday. Must admit I'm a bit envious.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Marti. You really have some excellent photography here - the boats, that weird fish, the gull's beak, the breakers (that one has a real ethereal quality to it), the sea grasses. This is some of your very best photography, and makes me envious of the opportunity to poke around and hike in the area at this time of the year.

  5. Thank you all for the kind words. This is a pretty special place. The best of the Washington coast is north of the Quinault reservation. I look forward to getting further south to LaPush and Klaloch. All of the area off-shore is a marine reserve and holds an outstanding coral ecology.

    Ron it would be a snap to get to , for you , via the Coupeville / Pt Townsend ferry. That crossing in itself is an adventure.

    Bullman Beach Inn is on the web . Unit 5 is the one with the beach side, ground floor windows. Keep it in mind for spring exploration looking for those pesky orchids. Crescent Lake and Lake Quinault are a good day loop trip. I would love to get up to the Hoh Rain forest for blooming season.