Over just about every weekend for the past 6 months, Dave & I have hit the trails, but sometimes there are places so beautiful, you need more than a weekend to explore. For Labor Day, I knew the extra day off was the perfect opportunity to take an Olympic National Park roadtrip! We “split” the nearly 5 hour drive from Seattle (it wasn’t equal, I know I’m the weakest link here) to the western side of the peninsula, with a quick morning ferry ride from Edmonds providing a breezy respite on our journey. My parents honeymooned along the WA coast in the early 90s, so I’ve grown up with stories of their adventures and couldn’t wait for us to have our own.
While we’re normally big fans of albums and playlists for long car rides, this trip was a bit different. Dave had been telling me about one of his favorite podcasts, In The Dark, since he first listened last year. I’d never gotten around to it, so as we drove out of our parking garage and into the cool, Seattle morning, we pushed play.
We spent the next 3 days completely enraptured by the story – the stranger-than-fiction scheming and decades-long legal drama unfolding in Winona, Missisippi. More than once, I shot a glance over to Dave in the driver’s seat, mouth agape. It’s the podcast for legal/political nerds, journalism enthusiasts, or anyone who appreciates good storytelling. If you’re ready to become emotionally invested in the case of Curtis Flowers, with twists and turns that would feel contrived if they weren’t reality, and rage at the deeply racist past, and present, of the American South, we whole-heartedly recommend In The Dark.
Shi Shi Beach
In typical PNW fashion, rain marked most of our trip. At times it was the typical, cozy drizzle. Occasionally though, the drops fell so rapidly I wondered if I’d returned to the Midwest! I also dramatically underestimated the hike to Shi Shi Beach. With our mileage steadily increasing hike over hike, a few mile trek to a beach sounded like a reprieve.
Joke’s on me 🙂
After parking, as instructed, at the makeshift lot in front of a local home (yes, really), the first mile of the day followed the paved road to the trailhead. Finally, we could escape the rain beneath the dense pines, but that didn’t last long. The trees opened up and the muddy path turned to peanut butter beneath our feet. The trail grew wider and wider from other hikers attempting to avoid the muck, until we were scrambling between bushes and trees to get to the other side. Thankfully, the rain makes incredibly moody photo conditions, so the less-than-ideal trail didn’t matter as soon as we stepped onto the sands at Shi Shi.
The rain continued until just before sunset, when the clouds cleared for a breathtaking view. We even saw stars while we aggressively, though somewhat unsuccessfully, brushed the sand off our feet outside the tent. The next morning, the sun finally greeted us. We seized the blue sky and our cameras and headed off down the beach to the seastacks, coves, and tidal pools that awaited.
The clouds rolled in with the tide that afternoon, so we ate a quick lunch and packed our bags in the rain. Unable to completely rid ourselves of the beach glitter, we forged back through the mud to our car and decided perhaps beach camping was best enjoyed in the sun 🙂 … then high-fived ourselves for booking a night at the Forks Motel. Drying the tent over the second floor balcony was a luxury we never imagined.
After a shower finally rid us of every last bit of sand, we decided to try again. Beach number 2. Literally.
The pizza box warmed my legs as we sat in the Second Beach parking lot, listening to the final minutes of an episode of In The Dark. We eventually realized that we were going to miss the sunset if we waited much longer, so we ended up jogging the whole way to the beach (thanks, TJs cold brew energy!). Immediately, we became the human embodiment of the heart eye emoji and gobbled up the sunset through our lenses.
By most accounts, the beach wasn’t terribly crowded and the hike was exponentially more pleasant than Shi Shi, so we both agreed that if we were to beach camp again, we’d set up here! That night marked my first hike back in the dark and I left the beach proud of my work, thanks to Dave’s sage photography wisdom. As much as I desperately wanted to sort through the day’s treasure trove on my camera that night in the hotel, we crashed hard.
The next morning, we headed to the mountains!
Switchback Trail to Klahhane Ridge
We ultimately decided to check out Klahhane Ridge after seeing a gorgeous photo while in line for the Shi Shi Beach camping permit at the Olympic National Park visitors center. We agreed it was one of the steeper hikes we’d done out here that didn’t involve roots and rocks. After a few days off, it felt refreshing to stretch our legs and get our blood pumping. Despite the nearly impenetrable clouds all weekend, we managed to steal some glimpses of the mighty Olympics on our ascent to Mt. Angeles via Switchback Trail. We plan to return to Olympic National Park soon to hopefully see more of the peaks, but the clouds do add a nice dramatic touch, don’t you think? 🙂
We left the Olympic Peninsula with a sense of knowing that we’d soon return. Our quick journey allowed us to just barely scratch the surface of the natural beauty of the second most-backpacked national park. Maybe the weather wasn’t ideal, heck we could barely see the mountains, but even a rainy long weekend turns into a grand adventure with the one you love.
Olympic Slow Motion Recap