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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Why It's Called Cape Disappointment

It's October 15, 2019, and the 163rd anniversary of the first lighting of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on October 15, 1856!  We arrived at this Washington State Park campground yesterday.  Weather is coming in this afternoon, and is due to hang around for the remainder of our stay, so we tried to get all our hiking in this morning.  It was a challenge, with TWO lighthouses, the Lewis & Clark Discovery Center, and a climb up McKenzie Head.

Here is a map of our location.  It begins with a tale of two lights.  Cape Disappointment has the distinction of two lighthouses -- the Cape Disappointment Light on the Columbia River, and the North Head Light on the Pacific Ocean:

Or perhaps the tale ends with the lights.  Perhaps it begins with a visit from Lewis and Clark in 1804, before they decided to winter at Fort Clatsop in Oregon.  A plaque to their visit, on a several-day trek of exploration north, from their camp at Station Camp east of present-day Ilwaco, along the beach at present-day Long Beach, Washington, sits at McKenzie Head near our campground:

Cape Disappointment itself was named by Lewis and Clark; its name derived from their disappointment that they did not find any trading vessels plying the Northwest Pacific coast, as they had been led to expect, and thus they would not be resupplied for their journey back to St. Louis.

There are two dirty little secrets of all this Lewis and Clark stuff:  first, neither state (Oregon nor Washington) wants to recognize -- and, so, possibly cede credit to -- the other state for being the location of Lewis and Clark's visit to the Pacific Ocean; and, second, no one seems to know the one true pronunciation (or spelling) for Sacagawea, the under-heralded single reason why that Corps of Discovery ever completed its journey of discovery.

More on that later.

Our morning began with a walk out to the beach by our campground:

We got our first view of the North Head Light, reflected in the wet beach at low tide:

This inspired us to head up to the North Head Lighthouse Trail and work our way out to the light.  Before walking out to the lighthouse itself, we hiked out the Bell's View Trail.  As we did, we first encountered a World War II bunker supporting gun emplacements around Cape Disappointment that were intended to protect the U.S. and its West Coast from attacks by the Axis Powers:

The bunkers are ubiquitous throughout the park, and we ran into them on every hike.  Each of the bunkers, while huge compared to other gun emplacement bunkers we have seen in the U.S., has been overgrown.  Some have trees growing from the ground above them.  Others are surrounded by ferns, vines and coastal fir trees.  Yet others are slowly being decorated by ivy from the encroaching forest:

From Bell's View point, we had an impressive view north along the beach at Long Beach, Washington, which, as we later learned, the Lewis and Clark explorers traversed as they documented the area.  (On a more personal note, it might be worth noting that, when David was young, his family would visit his grandparents in Ocean Park, Washington and go clamming out on the beach you see in the photo below.)

Returning from Bell's View, we ventured out to the North Head Light, which is a beautiful specimen of a lighthouse!

The light is owned by the State of Washington and maintained by the Keepers of the North Head Lighthouse, an arm of the Friends of the Columbia River Gateway, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  We learned this from two full-time RV'ers we met, who staff the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center in the Park.  It was built in 1898, 42 years after the Cape Disappointment Light, which proved too small and ill-positioned to protect ships from the perils of Cape Disappointment.  In this photo, looking south, you can see the beach leading out to Peacock Spit, which forms the northern boundary of the mouth of the Columbia River:

Boats that enter the Columbia River must cross the Columbia Bar, a treacherous narrows with unpredictable tides, currents and shallows that will confound even the canniest boat pilot.

David remembers that, when he was a boy, he went salmon fishing on a charter boat with his father and grandfather.  The boat left the marina in Ilwaco and crossed the bar.  David mainly remembers this as an occasion of queasiness, but he also remembers that the fearless crew caught their limit in salmon and traded their catch for a hoard of frozen, canned and smoked salmon to take home to the family.

We're sure the lighthouse keeper and his two assistants who manned the North Head Light would have also caught salmon for recreation or subsistence.  In any event, the State of Washington kept them in comparative luxury, which you can verify when you see this gorgeous mansion of a house in which their families lived:

The light was automated and electrified in 1962, and at that point there was no further need for a lighthouse keeper (not to mention his assistants), or their families.  Now, the residences are available for people to rent to stay for an unique experience.  As we walked the grounds, we counted three vehicles and estimated that three sets of guests were occupying the three residential units originally occupied by that doughty keeper and his assistants and their kindred.

At the time of the keepers' residence, the point was not so wooded as it is today.  As we walked, we could trace the concrete walks that were installed for their use.  One of the walks stretched out through hedges toward the lighthouse, and we imagine that the lighthouse keeper had the same view we did to the light, which has a signature of two flashes every 30 seconds:

From the North Head Light, we ventured down to the earlier-built lighthouse, the Cape Disappointment Light.  It was a longer hike out to that installation.  Along the way, we passed Deadman's Cove -- so called because, it is reported, the bodies of dead seamen would wash up in the cove every time a ship wrecked upon the rocks of Cape Disappointment:

Toward the end of the point, near the lighthouse, we looked north across Deadman's Cove and spotted the Lewis & Clark Discovery Center, which we would be visiting later in the day:

The Discovery Center has a dramatic view of the ocean and the coves, as we discovered later.  First, however, we needed to see the Cape Disappointment Light.  And there it was:

We noticed immediately that it is not in nearly as good repair as the North Head Light.  When we chatted with the RV couple at the Discovery Center, we learned that our guess was correct:  the Cape Disappointment Light is still owned by the Coast Guard, which does not have enough funding to keep it in good repair.  This seems a shame.  Because the light sits on important property for the Coast Guard, it is probably impractical for the Coast Guard to surrender control to a private group.  Still, we wished that perhaps a "Friends of the Cape Disappointment Light Association" could adopt the light and give it the care that the North Head Light has received.

Walking back from the Cape Disappointment Light, we turned up the trail to the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center.  This includes a museum about Cape Disappointment and a visitor center for Lewis & Clark National Park, with a very well curated exhibit telling the story of Lewis and Clark's exploration of the western United States.  It appears to have been constructed on the foundation of one of the old World War II bunkers; it was possible to explore the bunker underneath while strolling around outside the Interpretive Center.

We spent over an hour in the center, watching a video and following the chronology of the Corps of Discovery. After seeing all that it had to offer, we walked out to the viewpoint outside and had another look at the Cape Disappointment Light to the south --

-- and the North Jetty to the north:

This wasn't the end of our exploring.  On our way back to our campsite, before the rains, we stopped at McKenzie Head and climbed it to get the view that Lewis and Clark did when they explored this area.  Our view was of land that didn't exist when Lewis and Clark were here.  When the jetties were built in 1962, they caused the shoreline to fill in and the headland to expand below McKenzie Head.  What had been shallow ocean water is now a forested lowland with a trail for visitors:

With this, it started to rain and blow.  Winds are expected to reach speeds of up to 35 mph in the next day or so.  We plan to hunker down and enjoy a Ken Burns video on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Tomorrow, we visit Astoria, with possibly a blog report (or not).  Stay tuned!


It's tomorrow now, October 16.  The weather came in last night -- 35 mph winds and heavy rains as predicted.  The RV rocked and rolled all night long.  When we woke up this morning, the winds had moderated and the rain had slowed to a sprinkle.

We decided to take a coffee walk out to the beach to look at the ocean.  We probably were standing just about where Captain Clark and his small party finally reached the Pacific Ocean as they ventured north from Station Camp.  Our weather was probably just about the same as their weather had been.  Now we realized:  there were two reasons they called it Cape Disappointment; one was the lack of trading ships; the other was that miserable Pacific Northwest winter weather.  Take a look at this video to see what we mean.

I'm sure that for Captain Clark, also, it was a "two cup day"!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Walking Our Coffees on Hobuck Beach

Our campground in Neah Bay, Washington is across the point of Cape Flattery from town, down the Hobuck River by Hobuck Beach.  There is a "resort" campground nearby, but we picked a small private campground, run by a local couple who also have a cafe.  The campground has its own little trail to the beach, which we've explored each morning on our coffee walks.  The following are some photos from our various walks.

It's hard to miss the trail:

It's a short 200-yard walk to the beach, across a gravel road and through some pretty vegetated dunes --

-- to a very pretty, wide, flat beach, crescent shaped, stretching a mile or so in each direction from where we enter the beach.  Our footprints help us find where we came onto the beach, although on the first morning it was so windy that our prints were nearly obliterated when we tried to retrace our steps:

The south end of the beach boasts some tide pools tucked among quirky volcanic rocks, where various critters, including beautiful green anemones, make their home:

Huge flocks of seagulls hang out at Hobuck Beach, probably because the river brings food down, and because the beach is so flat that whatever is stranded by the tide is easy to spot.  For some reason, this cove is protected from the ubiquitous seaweed and kelp found on so many of the area beaches.

This particular area is not known for its clams, but we've found telltale airholes along the beach, and one or two beautiful clamshells:

It's getting late in the season, and, with Daylight Savings Time still prevalent, the sun actually rises after we do.  So we've had a chance to enjoy dawn on the beach each morning:

Looking north toward Cape Flattery, the clouds still had some color from the rising sun, and water stretching across the flat sands was quiet enough that we could see reflections, making David think of the Wallace Stevens poem, "A Sea Surface Full of Clouds":

We can't get too many views of blue sky, clouds, gulls and mirror-like reflections:

It seems that pristine, unbroken sand dollars are one of the elusive goals for people who collect shells.  David has never found one himself -- only broken ones.  Imagine how excited he was this morning to find FOUR complete sand dollars, in a variety of colors.  We think perhaps the flat beach makes it easy for the sand dollar creatures to find a spot to rest, and the waves are gentle enough that they do not wash the shells out to sea or break them.

It's been quite a while since we've stayed near such a beautiful beach.  It reminds us of some we've visited in New Zealand and Australia.  We'll be sad to leave Hobuck Beach when we move tomorrow.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Olympic National Park - Cape Alava Trail

Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of Washington State. The park has four regions: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforest and the forests of the drier east side. Within the park there are three distinct ecosystems which are subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest, and the rugged Pacific coast.  President Theodore Roosevelt originally designated Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909. The monument was redesignated as a national park by Congress and President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. In 1976, Olympic National Park was designated by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 as a World Heritage Site. In 1988, Congress designated 95 percent of the park as the Olympic Wilderness.  Encompassing nearly a million acres, the park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.

The coastal portion of the park is a rugged, sandy beach along with a strip of adjacent forest. It is 60 miles long but just a few miles wide, with native communities at the mouths of two rivers. The Hoh River has the Hoh people and at the town of La Push at the mouth of the Quileute River live the Quileute.  The most popular piece of the coastal strip is the 9-mile Ozette Loop. From the trailhead at Ozette Lake, the Cape Alava Trail, a 3-mile leg of the Ozette Loop, is a boardwalk-enhanced path through near primal coastal cedar swamp. This area has traditionally been favored by the Makah tribe from Neah Bay, where we are staying.

Here is the trailhead sign for our hike to Cape Alava:

Cape Alava Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1981.  It is the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest Trail, which is a 1200-mile hiking trail running from the Continental Divide in Montana to the Pacific Ocean on Washington’s Olympic Coast. Along the way, the PNT crosses three national parks, seven national forests, two other national scenic trails, and several mountain ranges, including the Continental Divide, Whitefish Divide, Purcells, Selkirks, Kettles, Cascades, and Olympics.

We started by crossing a moss-covered bridge, which was an introduction to the rain forest environment we would be hiking through:

Crossing the bridge, we could look up Ozette River toward the lake, which the river drains:

As with the entire area, this region was logged heavily in the early 20th Century.  Huge ghost stumps reminded us of that earlier decimation, although the forest itself appears to have completely regenerated:

There were still some really old, huge cedars along the trail, and Kathy found her favorite Ent to hug:

This was the first time we've spotted a purple mushroom!  There were lots of them in two or three different areas.  We wondered whether they were fostered by the litter from surrounding cedar trees.

Nearly the entire trail was boardwalk across wetland terrain:

We crossed a few bridges -- this one being the largest along our portion of the trail:

There were also sections of wetlands and meadow.  Below, David demonstrates the proper way to stand in a wetland:

After about 3.5 miles, we reached the beach, with haystack-type rocks and volcanic islands scattered up and down the shallows off the beach:

This was our view to the south --

-- which David enjoyed at lunchtime:

Kathy relaxed after lunch with a view north behind her:

Less than a mile to the north of us lay the Ozette Indian Village Archeological Site -- the site of a village occupied by the Ozette Makah people until a mudslide inundated the site around the year 1750.  The mudslide preserved several houses and their contents in a collapsed state until the 1970's when they were excavated by Makahs and archaeologists from Washington State University. More than 55,000 artifacts were recovered, spanning a period of occupation around 2,000 years, representing many activities of the Makahs, from whale and seal hunting to salmon and halibut fishing; from toys and games to bows and arrows. Of the artifacts recovered, roughly 30,000 were made of wood, extraordinary in that wood generally decays particularly fast.  Hundreds of knives were recovered, with blade materials ranging from mussel shell, to sharpened beaver teeth, and iron, presumed to have drifted from Asia on wrecked ships. The oral history of the Makah mentions a "great slide" which engulfed a portion of Ozette long ago.

Today, the driftwood and dead trees littered the beach.  This fellow was one of the larger and more dramatic:

We spotted these two gulls cavorting in the shallows along the shore:

As we hiked back from the beach, this huge fellow accosted us in a friendly way:

As we returned to the Ranger Station at Ozette Lake, we crossed Ozette River again and spotted this fisher as he swam, dove, caught fish and swallowed them whole.  He seemed not to notice us.

Eagle-eyed Kathy spotted a seller of preserves and fruit wines along our drive.  As we returned to Neah Bay along Hoko-Ozette Road, we turned into the small farm and asked the lady what she had that might interest us.  As it turned out, she had a lot!  Here is what was left of our blackberry wine, along with such interesting preserves as thimbleberry jelly, rhubarb jelly, salalberry preserves, pickled fiddlehead fern, and some luscious fireweed honey!

All in all, we scored some really precious samples of local flora and berries.  We can attest to you that the blackberry wine was luscious, because there is none left.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Neah Bay and Cape Flattery

Friday, October 11, 2019
Hi Blog!

We had a very dramatic drive yesterday as we moved our RV from Sequim to Neah Bay. Highway 101 was closed just past Port Angeles and all traffic was detoured to Highway 112 which runs along the coast. The road twisted and turned with many 20 mph curves. The slow speed allowed us to take in the spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca when we weren't trying to dodge oncoming logging trucks! Most of the traffic returned to the 101 south on Highway 113 and we continued north on 112 into Neah Bay.

Neah Bay is a small coastal village located on the Makah Indian Reservation on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.  We are staying in a small family-run camp, Hide Away RV Park, which has its own espresso bar and cafe. We started our day with a coffee walk to Hobuck Beach. Here we got our first look at the Pacific Ocean.

We walked south along the beach to check out some rock formations and tide pools.

We discovered Giant Green Sea Anemones. This green plantlike creature is actually an animal with algae plants living inside it. In this symbiotic relationship, the algae gain protection from snails and other grazers and don't have to compete for living space, while the anemones gain extra nourishment from the algae in their guts. Contrary to popular opinion, this anemone's green color is produced by the animal itself, not the algae that it eats.

The sun finally made it over the mountains of Olympic National Park lighting the north end of the beach.

After breakfast, we went to explore Neah Bay. We stopped to admire the Wa'atch River as it meandered its way to the Pacific Ocean.

After picking up our Recreation Permit at the General Store, we stopped at the Makah Cultural & Research Center, home of the Makah Museum, to learn more about the Makah people. The name Makah was attributed to the Tribe by the neighboring tribes, meaning “people generous with food” in the Salish language. Archaeological research suggests that Makah people have inhabited the area now known as Neah Bay for more than 3,800 years. Ancient Makah lived in villages, inhabiting large longhouses made from western red cedar. These longhouses had cedar-plank walls. The planks could be tilted or removed to provide ventilation or light. The cedar tree was of great value to Makah, who also used its bark to make water-resistant clothing and hats. Cedar roots were used in basket making. Whole trees were carved out to make canoes to hunt seals, gray whales and humpback whales.

Makah artist Lance Wilkie created these twelve-foot tall Welcome Figures. These monumental human figures were common among many indigenous cultures in Western Washington.

The Makah Museum houses and interprets artifacts from the Ozette Archeological Site, a Makah village partly buried by a mudslide 300-500 years ago and discovered in 1970. The museum provides an exceptional, extensive and intimate glimpse of pre-contact Makah life. The exhibits feature 500 artifacts including whaling and fishing gear, basketry and replicas of a full size long house and canoes. Over 55,000 artifacts were discovered at Ozette.

The museum did an amazing job curating the exhibits to follow the different seasons. After exploring the exhibits, we watched an amazing documentary on the discovery of Ozette, how they had to excavate the site and the creation of the museum itself.

After the museum, we drove along the bay in search of lunch. We wanted to see for ourselves if the Makah were truly "people generous with food." We found Pat's Place, noted for its Indian Tacos made from wonderful fry bread. We were not disappointed. The fry bread was piping hot, crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside without being greasy. The toppings were piled high. It certainly met the "generous" criterion.

Here was our view of Neah Bay.

After lunch, we decided to trek out to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the continental US. The trailhead is just a short drive from Neah Bay. Fueled by fry bread, we were ready to tackle the trail.

Just as we started down the trail, Kathy found a big blue chair. Apparently, blue is the new red.

Not to be outdone, Dave began looking for a chair of his own. He found this "two-cedar":

The trail meanders through the coastal rain forest, sometimes climbing over roots, dancing down boardwalks or hopping cedar log rounds.

At the first viewpoint, we got to look down on a couple of "haystack rocks." The rocky coastline near Cape Flattery is a sea kayak playground.

Did you know that Cape Flattery is the oldest permanently named feature in Washington State, being described and named by Captain James Cook on March 22, 1778? Cook wrote: "... there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour ... On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery."

Tatoosh Island is a small island offshore of Cape Flattery. Historically, Tatoosh Island was inhabited seasonally by Makah fishing camps and employees of the United States Coast Guard, Weather Bureau, and Navy. Currently there are no residents on the island. Access to the island requires written permission of the Makah tribe. The island's name comes from a Makah chief known as Tatoosh.

Tatoosh Island has been home to the Cape Flattery Light, which has overlooked the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca since December 28, 1857. The Cape Flattery Light was Washington's third lighthouse. The whole island was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The lighthouse's light was decommissioned in 2008 after a 30-foot skeletal structure with a solar-powered beacon fitted with six-year solar pack batteries was built on the island.

The Cape Flattery coastline demonstrates the power of tides and storms through sea caves, sea stacks, and rocky islets. Here is our best view of one of the sea caves.

Before long, it was time to head back to camp. Here's our last look at the Cape Flattery coast.

We have two more days here and hope to get out and explore more of the Olympic Peninsula coast. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.