Jul 30, 2007 at 10:48 am #1224340
A buddy is coming up to the Seattle area this October who wants to do a short (~5 day) backpack, preferably involving a coast.
So naturally I thought of the north or south coast sections of the Olympic NP.
Can anyone make some suggestions of things I need to know? I've read all about the tricky tides and headland crossings, but can anyone advise me on the weather?
How about wetness? My bag is a down WM Megalite…we'll be using a Rainshadow 2 tarptent, but do I need further protection for the bag (like a bivy)?
Also, can anyone advise on the car shuttle service I've seen mentioned?
Thanks in advance for your help!
J.O.Aug 12, 2007 at 2:40 pm #1398301
I've done a section of the beaches during spring from Rialto Beach northward, and it can be incredibly wet. We had a nice mix of sunshine and driving rain, so I would advise that being prepared to encounter rain is the number one priority. October can be a really nice month up here, of course, but you just never know. The book "Backpacking Washington" has a couple of different coastal routes and suggest itineraries for trips. You can find this book here:
I have tarptents and in excessive rain found it to be a bit of a challenge with two persons in the tent because someone will invariably roll up against the side of the tent and wet out their bags. I fidget when I sleep, and I move around. If you don't as much, it probably wouldn't be a problem.
One thought on tides: if you have to do some of the overland routes, be prepared to go slow. The brush was incredibly thick in some places, and it took us a very long time to proceed. I was glad I wasn't using some of the lighter weight (more fragile) gear at a few points, instead opting for a heavier, yet tougher, pack. This allowed me to be a bit rougher on the equipment, which was made necessary by the terrain. Of course, there are a lot of people on this site that would probably challenge this notion. And by comparison to them, I am inexperienced in the outdoor arts. So consider the source!
In this regard, I would also suggest tuning down your mileage goals. The terrain is spectacular, the tide pools extensive and interesting, and the boulders sometimes prodigious. All in all, we went considerably slower than we expected because we spent so little time on the beach, instead opting to explore the tide pools and rocks or overland when the tide was high.
I can't remember if it was required, but it was at least heavily suggested that we carry a bear cannister. The reason had less to do with bears than those pesky raccoons, which know that people have good stuff to eat.
We didn't use the shuttle, but we also didn't leave much in the car. Since it was outside of the normal tourist season, we weren't as worried. I, too, am curious by the shuttle option.
I would also suggest coming up with a backup plan in the event the coast is rainy. Forks generally gets 100+ inches of rain annually, but October tends to be a bit drier than most months. Here is a annual rain forecast. http://www.forks-web.com/rainfall/
Finally, I'd suggest having a backup plan for east of the Cascades in the event the coast is rainy. One suggestion that might be worth considering if the weather is relatively good east of the Cascades and it is after Oct 15th, is to hike the Enchantments just outside of Leavenworth. You don't need a permit after Oct. 15th (which are very hard to get) and the larch is changing color. Personally, I'd camp at Upper or Lower Snow Lakes at this time and dayhike up to the Enchantments, especially if you are in a tarptent. (it can get very windy up in the Enchantments and there isn't as much cover). You can find out more here:
Anyhow, have fun on your trip!
DirkAug 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm #1398582
I'm sorry I didn't back sooner…I've been traveling and offline.
I was concerned about the same things you point out with the tarptent, so that's why I got a Rainshadow 2. With just two of us in it, I'm hoping we can stay well away from the sides. Do you think I should invest in a bivy for insurance?
After a lot of research I think we'll try the northern segment. I spent a few days poring over the Custom Correct map and analyzing the tides; it looks like we'll have good windows if we start on 3 October. Having read elsewhere that the going can be very slow, I calculated based on 1 mi./hour. Do you think that's conservative enough?
I've planned it as a 3-day hike, but we've got extra days available if we need them.
To cut down on driving big chunks, we'll drive out from Seattle and spend the night in a rentable cabin I know of near Beaver. Then we're only ~35 miles from the trailhead. Staging like that will give us a chance to hit the weather radio and see if anything bad is coming; then we can do a backup instead.
For backup, I was thinking of the Hoh River Trail that starts in the rain forest and heads up to the glacier. What do you think?
Also, have you had any experience with the car shuttle service that the NPS site and guidebooks mention? How does it work if we miss a tide window and end up coming out a day later or something?
thanks again for your help!
J.O.Aug 15, 2007 at 8:36 am #1398670
The shuttle company that runs over there is great, the lady is very nice.
You will need a bear canister, but you can rent one if you don't have one from ONP.
As for the Hoh, it is always a great choice-and I find that the parking lot is great there for long term parking, there are rangers there year round. (And you don't need a bear canister on that trail) Even not doing the whole trail, it is a nice walk. In October I might suggest a lightweight tarp no matter where you go, so you can have a cooking/sitting area if it does rain.
Check out my friend Mike's website: http://www.rainforesttreks.com/Aug 15, 2007 at 10:23 am #1398690
@p-kLocale: San Diego
Boy, I've been listening to waaaay too much NPR. I thought from the title that this would be a discussion about the space shuttle repair (as it applies to UL backpacking?).
Don't mind me! %-)Aug 15, 2007 at 10:49 pm #1398794
Hey, no problem on the work schedule, we all know about the rigors of a career. I think the 1 mile/hour is a good number to use for travel. Our coastal adventures have gone darn slow because it general coincides with either very low tides (explore tidepools) or very high tides (cross land expeditions). If you can walk on the beach, it will go fairly quickly provided you do not have to cross any major log jams or rock fall.
If you venture off to explore (and I'd encourage this) the crabs, kelp, starfish and other assorted creatures, well, then speed should be adjusted accordingly. Rock travel is pretty slow because I am easily distracted.
Onto the tarptent question, hmm, Sarah has a nice tarptent (as pictured) and she ventures off often into the mountains with it and has had good success. I love my tarptents, they're terrific and light. I found it takes a little more planning with two people sharing a tent. I have never used a bivy, but during one particular rainy week in a Cloudburst, it would have been helpful. My partner's bag wet out pretty good partially because we were victimized by a flash flood (pick your site carefully, I cannot emphasize that enough). We did dry out the bags, but the condensation for the rest of the week was murderous. It rained, it was very cold and there wasn't much of a breeze after the first day.
If I were to use one within a tarptent, the kind I'd likely choose is something like the Equinox Ultralight Bivy Cover. It's $54 and while not as robust as more expensive bivys it's light (6.5 ounces) and a relative bargain. It's also roomy enough for a down bag to keep its loft. (With a normal range of bag – with a -25 winter bag all bets are off.) The downside is if you are really tall it could be a bit of a problem. I am 5 feet 8 so it's one of the few times it pays to be short.
Here is some thoughts from our fellow backpackers about the Equinox Bivy: http://tinyurl.com/3xatcx
Finally, I think the Hoh River is a great suggestion. I didn't even think about it, but that would be a heck of lot closer in the event the weather on the coast is too rough.
Anyhow, I would encourage you to solicit the opinions of Sarah and other users here and at http://www.nwhikers.net since they have a tendency to deal with Washington state primarily. There are a lot of incredibly experienced backpackers over there who could provide you much better advice than I. Have fun on your trip, the coast is outstanding! And when you are going, you should have the beaches mostly to yourself!
DirkAug 15, 2007 at 10:54 pm #1398795
Your friend has a great website. A very good read! Thanks!Aug 15, 2007 at 11:45 pm #1398797
Good ideas here. I've done Olympic coast trips on many occasions, from August to a great 4 day trip in January a couple years back. On the winter trip we expected really cold weather and hefty winds and it delivered, but the trip was GREAT! I've done the Hoh before too- another fantastic trip, as is Enchanted Valley and basically anything else in the Olympic NP.
On almost all of my trips out there I've used a Tarptent. Usually partners have them too. On the deep winter trip I was field testing a Rab Summit Extreme which was massive overkill. The other couple had a Tarptent Cloudburst which was just fine…I think my Squall would have worked just fine.
With the exception of Cape Alava, you typically have spots with at least some protection. And October seems very mild in my book for a Tarptent on the coast. I've never carried a bivy with a Tartptent and I doubt I ever will. When the weather is wacky, I just pitch them closer to the ground, put the packs in plastic, and use them to block any splash from heavy rain. Heck, I often use Tarptents above the treeline in hefty winds and have even had them in good snowfall with minimal issues. I think your Tarptent has you covered.
I'd trade the weight of the bivy for a lightweight umbrella if you do any forest approaches, like those from Lake Ozette. The Olympics are my #1 spot for an umbrella because the rain falls heavy and the temps are mild. I also typically use a pack liner AND a pack cover…especially when I'm using down.
I love the trip from Rialto to Cape Alava but yes, you do need to work a shuttle. Two cars are nice but the rangers can help you find a shuttle- I've used a "taxi" service from Forks before, although it was really just a nice guy and his car. :-)
Another sweet one is doing the triangle from Lake Ozette. From there you can go north (with a good ford) or south and explore some beautiful country. This is a wonderful place and in October, it should be faily lonely. Too many people, head away from the crowds to the north or south to total lonliness.
The Hoh is brilliant too, but a very different hike.
If you do the Ozette trip, you do need a bear canister, but mostly for racoons. They allow those plastic buckets and you can sometimes get them at the ranger station. When I've met the rangers, I explained and showed my Ursack and they were cool with that. The last few trips we've just used a bear bag and it's been fine (although I risked having to carry a huge plastic bucket…it's not oficially okay but my gut says that it's at least as effective as the buckets).
Last, this is a great place for poles. Walking sand, crossing slippery rocks, walking wet boardwalks…these are all ideal places for poles.
Oh- one more thing. There is a really cool side trip off of the Ozette loop where you can see an old pioneer cabin- the Roose Cabin. Shh…it's a secret.
No matter what you choose, have a GREAT trip! You are about to experience one of the truly incredible places in the lower 48!
DougAug 16, 2007 at 12:26 am #1398802
I am going to hijack the thread here, so forgive me. Doug, could you expand upon your technique with a tarptent in high winds and heavy rains? Better yet, I shall start a new thread under philosophy and techniques. I am seemingly get out there a great deal of the time when the weather goes bad….
DirkAug 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm #1398862
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Will it be wet and windy? Most probably. You need a tide guide and a watch to work the tides. Depends on where you go too. The Cape Alava/Lake Ozette trails make a nice 2-3 day trip and it's an easy walk– basically a triangle with 3 miles sides. You can day hike it all too. You can borrow a bear can from the ranger station at Port Angeles or take your own. The bears aren't so much the problem– the raccoons are totally brazen and the ravens help them– no joke! The raccoons will go right into your camp in broad daylight and take anything they can get the minute you walk away.
I recommend a double wall tent and synthetic insulation. Once your stuff gets wet, there's no sun to dry it out and the humidity is high too. You're not climbing like you are in the mountains, so a little more weight is not so bad. If not a double-wall, a fully enclosed tarp-tent would be next on my list. If you are tarping it, you do want a bivy. October is not the roughest month, but big storms can come in any time and the rain can be near horizontal. Y'all gonna get wet if that happens!
And it is green and beautiful and there are 10,000 kinds of rain and shades of grey. The eagles soar right over your head and you can see all kinds of marine mammals and sea birds.
On other beaches, climbing some of the headlands with a pack on is a pain. The guidebooks plus local ranger info will help too. Hiking the higher part of a beach can find you walking in slippery gravel– harder than steep mountain climbs, IMHO. Walking at low tide puts you on hard packed sand and easy walking.Aug 16, 2007 at 1:24 pm #1398878
Ha! Thanks Dirk- I've responded to your new thread.
Dale is exactly right. Be careful with the tides. DO NOT camp in an undesignated spot, such as on the beach. Speaking from experience, this is DANGEROUS. And definitely use your tide chard. Certain crossings (such as Johnson Head) have to be carefully timed. Just show the tides the highest respect and you'll be fine.
I also agree that a double wall and synthetic are ideal for the conditions. That said, I haven't carried a double wall or a synthetic bag on my numerous coast trips in years. Just be careful with the down and you'll be fine. But I've gone to a system where I have a significant amount of synthetic (such as all- synthetic clothing) at all times- just to hedge my bets. But your down bag should be okay.
Dale knows his stuff. Low tide is like walking on pavement but much of your walking will be very slow through sand, gravel, and across slippery rocks. And yes- this is a magnificent place. I took my son there on his first backpack this year (he was 11 months old) and it was simply marvelous.
Have a great trip!
DougAug 16, 2007 at 7:26 pm #1398931
This past February we did our yearly annual trip out to Ozette. Only this year we had a gale force storm come in as we were hiking out there. It was so bad we turned tail and ran like the devil was chasing us. Now, I know better than to EVER run on boardwalk in winter, but I did. My foot went thru a rotting board, and I went down to my knee. I am very lucky I didn't snap my leg, I went down flat on my face.
So my point? Treat the boardwalks with the respect they deserve. They can be slippery as ice year round, some are rotten, some have good dropoffs if you slide. In off season turtling isn't uncommon when it is frozen out there.
Anyhoo, there is a very protected campsite at South Yellow Banks I have stayed at. The campsites in the woods might not be as purty, but you stay warmer and dryer in storms-and you avoid high tides.
As for the rocks in the low tide zone…just because they are dry….well, remember that they are ALWAYS slippery as ice! Be very, very careful walking on them around headlands.
And realize that 1 mph on beach is good traveling. It is depressing, but the beaches of rock just kill you!Aug 17, 2007 at 9:03 am #1398996
Thanks all very much for your valuable advice!
Our trip will be the North Coast route from Rialto to either Sand Point or Cape Alava (depending on how things go) in three days. First day the longest, from Rialto to Cedar Creek.
I had already planned on poles and both a pack liner and cover. And a BearVault with an OP liner. For food, BTW, we'll be boiling water only to do a mix of freezer bag and freeze-dried cooking. Haven't settled on stove yet–either alcohol or a small canister stove.
Not to discount Dale's advice, but I'm encouraged by Doug's position that I'll be OK with my down Megalite in a Tarptent though I'm definitely still considering a light bivy for insurance. In fact, I see that Oware is now offering a very light (5.25 oz.) bivy/bag cover w/ Quantum top and silnylon bottom for $139. I'm seriously considering it, though I'll investigate the one you've mentioned.
And believe me, I've been taking the tides very seriously. I spent probably half a day with the Custom Correct map, tide charts, and an Excel spreadsheet to determine feasible tide windows for the crossings that don't have overland options. Also taking into account the early sunset!
The tide windows that first week of October aren't great, but, I think, doable. As you point out, Cape Johnston seems to be the trickiest. The way I have it planned currently, we'll have a whole hour to get around it (during which the tide is < 4 ft.), then another hour or two to get around the next unnamed point that comes immediately after. All other crossings have windows of > 2 hours @ < 5 ft. For safety, if a big storm is forecast, I think we'll try the Hoh instead, since the tides could be a lot higher.
I talked with the WIC on the phone. They were also encouraging and mentioned that they could mark on our maps where camping was not possible due to terrain, just in case we miss a crossing window.
Tell me about footwear! I've read in various trip reports that ordinary boots can actually be too slippery. I've thought of a few options: 1) My usual pair of Inov8's but with Gore-Tex socks; 2) ordinary Chacos (too cold?); 3) possibly even the FiveFingers Surge. The last is a bit new and untested, I realize, but I do already wear the original FiveFingers basically as my only shoes all the time, so I have a lot of faith in them. The Surge is intended for wet, cold conditions.
Or a combo? Maybe the Inov8's for the drier bits but switch to sandals or FiveFingers for the wetter bits?
Thanks again for your help!
J.O.Aug 17, 2007 at 9:47 am #1399004
One more thing. Since nylon expands when it gets damp, it can be tricky keeping a taught pitch in wetting conditions … requiring adjustments to maintain interior volume and clearances … true of TarpTents and all other nylon shelters and the larger the shelter's fabric panels, the more this is a factor. Your RainShadow is has very large panels.
Here is what I did to trick out my RainShadow, and why:
1) The arched foot end can rock fore & aft and when the corners of the foot end move towards the head end it slackens the lower side edges. I prevent those corners from moving by added stake loops at the corners of the foot end and staking with 6" ti stakes.
2) Water weight can push the side edges lower and wind can push the large side panel all over the place. I sewed strips of hook and loop to the mid point of the side edge (where the side guy-out loops are) and use those to wrap around found sticks or trekking poles. I also added guy lines to those guy-out loops and stake those lines with 6 inch ti stakes.
3) I sewed loops to 4 inch circles of silnylon (10cm for the rest of the world) and glued (GE Silicon Sealer II) the circles to spots 22 inches (55cm) up the sides above the side buy-out loops. Then I run guy lines from the loops to the top of the afore mentioned sticks/trekkng poles and then down to the afore mentioned side stakes.
The end result is almost no loss of interior volume due to wetting or moderately strong wind pressure. Well worth the effort IMO.Aug 17, 2007 at 12:40 pm #1399025
I have done the Cape Alava/Sand Point loop, and I've traveled as far south as yellow bank on multiple occasions, so I'm pretty familiar with at least part of your route.
I think your idea of inov8's with a pair of goretex socks is the way to go. If you hike in them regularly and have strong feet, the light shoes will provide the best balance for hopping around on slippery rocks. The socks will help out if you get one of those wet, cold nasty storms that the Olympic coast loves to dish out. I was out there early one spring in a nasty storm, wearing approach shoes, and my feet were soaked and freezing the whole time, so something waterproof to help keep your feet warmer is a must, IMHO.
You might also want a pair of short gaiters to keep water and sand out of your kicks. I have those ID event shorties, and they are awesome for this (super breathable to so you won't overheat in the miraculous instance that you get nothing but warm weather)
You might also want to think about getting a paint can if you don't have a bear cannister, apparently they keep coons out, and are I've heard they are acceptable to the rangers, and with the handle removed are a bit lighter and more compact (definitly better than a pickle bucket.)You cannget them new and empty at a paint store.
Have fun, it's a beautiful stretch of coast, and look out for Japanese net floats! one spring my wife and I found 10 of them, including one the size of a basketball, between cape Alava and Yellow Bank.
JoshAug 17, 2007 at 2:19 pm #1399037
Thanks for the input on the footwear. I'm hoping to find some of the Surges somewhere so I can check them out in person (they're neoprene, like a wetsuit).
I have probably the same eVent short gaiters you mention, so maybe I'll bring those along too…have to see how the weights are going once I get it all together.
J.O.Aug 17, 2007 at 7:17 pm #1399075
I have hiked in boots on the coast always, but that is becuase the rocks tire my feet out. Vibram soles can be slick on boardwalk but I liked the security in off season.
Bring extra socks no matter what-it is worth the weight for being warm at night. Especially if you get wet at all.
I have slept in a down bag on all but one coastal trip, and have not had any issues. Do make sure your bag is in something waterproof for when you hike.
No matter what, even in a storm, the coast is gorgeous. It is so quiet out there even in a storm. There is something so primal about the beach and the foreboding forest that runs almost into the water.Aug 21, 2007 at 10:49 am #1399437
So I came across this site (http://windsox.us/ME/FAQ.html#LENGTH)for an Olympic shuttle service. I don't know if it's the same one that the Olympic NPS recommends.
Our plan was to do the long drive from Puget Sound the day before and spend the night in a little cabin on the Sol Duc near Beaver. This would put us much nearer the trailhead.
But I see at that Web site that the estimated travel time from trail's end to the start is "at least 3 hours," which seems to be confirmed by Google. I had forgotten it would be so long.
This, coupled with the 1+ hours to get from the cabin to Ozette to meet the shuttle in the first place, is a problem!
I was hoping to hit the trail by 8 in order to hit Cape Johnson in time for the < 4 ft. tide between 1030 and 1340. That's based on moving 1 mi./hour.
But hitting the trail at 8 means leaving the cabin at like 0400. Bleah!
In your experience, about how long is it really likely to take to get from Rialto to Cape Johnston?
J.O.Aug 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm #1399451
Yeah, the tides create your schedule, and it isn't always pleasant. I remember a january trip where we had to leave at like 6AM (before sunrise), had a 4 hour hiking window, had to plant ourselves for many hours due to outrageous high tides (SO amazing to watch!), and then hike after dark to make the next camp. But you're smart not to mess with Johnson Head and to get that early start…once I did Johnson but we decided to beach camp in the next section. High tide came up in the middle of the night and it was exaggerated due to a huge off-coast storm. We were at the top of the beach, actually lifting the tent above the water during the highest waves. We were right on the edge of ditching our gear and scrambling to higher ground, which would have been really, really bad. We could have died that night if the situation was worse. Don't push it.
Re: shoes. You will be on boardwalks, sharp, slippery rocks, and loads of sand/gravel. Sandals would suck. Those Inov8s have reasonably sticky rubber and will be great. Good idea to have the GTX socks, but I've never bothered. Smartwools or Darn Tough get wet but stay warm and breath well. Not that your plan isn't good, I just usually save those for winter conditions because they get a bit warm. Anyway, have those and bring your regular socks for extra versatility. Camp socks will be wonderful becuase your feet will likely get wet.
YES on the gaiters! I wouldn't do it any other way!
I usally go basketless on the poles but in deep sand, you may want to consider having small trekking baskets.
Gosh- Rialto to Johnson. I'm not sure. I've never gone all the way in one push. Figure slower hiking times than normal though…
You are so stoked! This trip is the BEST!
DougAug 21, 2007 at 8:29 pm #1399519
Driving home today after posting that I realized there's a simple solution: camp just short of Cape Johnson. Probably right at Chilean Memorial.
That means a much less crazy first day out with much more reasonable mileage, time for a leisurely pace the next morning, and the luxury of crossing the cape (and the next headland) at our leisure. Duh. We have the whole week, so there's no reason to hurry.
I'll definitely take your footwear suggestions seriously. Though I'm still very curious how the Surge "hobbit shoes" (as I call them) would do.
J.O.Aug 22, 2007 at 8:27 am #1399574
If you do use them good company! I couldn't remember the name of her company.Aug 23, 2007 at 7:25 am #1399702
Amazing campsite alert!
Probably won't fit into your plans BUT..
Find Jagged Island. Go to the shore and see the overland route. At the top of that is an old cabin and an incredible camping spot. No water but the best views of the entire trip. At least stop and have lunch.
Also, don't miss the short side trip to Roose's Cabin on the way back from Alava. Look for the unmarked trail in the area of Ahlstrom's Prarie. Really neat. Another great lunch spot.
Have a great trip!
DougAug 24, 2007 at 6:50 am #1399812
I'll be sure to mark those spots on the map to watch for.
J.O.Aug 24, 2007 at 2:53 pm #1399882
Oh, BTW: will I need sand stakes or will the regular kind be good enough for this terrain?
J.O.Aug 24, 2007 at 4:45 pm #1399893
I don't camp on the sand on the coast, but rather up in the forest (safer in winter with high tides), so I have always just used normal tent stakes. If you will be on the sand, it might not hurt though-though you can always guy out to trees, logs, etc.
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