Rialto Beach, Extreme Low Tide Day 1
Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park July 11 2010
Hole in the Wall Hike
Northwest Washington Coast
One of 2 parts
This is a hike I have been dreaming of doing for 3 years. I visited Rialto Beach back in September of 2007 in hopes of seeing the low tide and to find the “Starfish Rock” (a large boulder covered in starfish) that I had seen on another website. We tried to get there early enough but didn’t quite make it. Even though we missed it I was fascinated by this beach and vowed to come back for an overnight hike on a day when there was an extreme low tide. There are only about 3 really low tides of the year, so 3 years later (yes it took 3 years! I was pregnant during one of those years so cut me some slack. : ) I finally had the chance to make this journey I have been dreaming about. If you want to read my previous blog entry on Rialto Beach here is the link. Rialto Beach Hike.
Rialto Beach is on the Northwest Coast of Washington near La Push and Forks, and is in Olympic National Park. It is known for its hiking trails, tide pools and sunsets. If you don’t live on the peninsula you must take a ferry or drive the southern route on I5 to the 101. We took the Edmonds/Kingston ferry and drove about 3 more hours to get to the coast. See the map at the bottom of the page.
We first stopped at the Olympic National Park, Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles to purchase a permit to hike overnight and to pick up a bear canister. These are required to keep raccoons and other critters out of your food and scented items. You store your food and your garbage in it and place it away from your tent. I think it’s a $3 donation to rent the canister.
When we arrived at Rialto Beach the weather wasn’t as forecasted. I was expecting warm and sunny and it was drizzly and cool. We didn’t expect rain, so we didn’t have any rain gear. Probably the dumbest hiking mistake people make and of course I made it. So we got a little wet.
I must stress one rule if you are considering this hike, always have a tide table with you. The tides can get very high and some places are impassable at high tide. You cannot go through Hole in the Wall when the tide is too high, so if you are on the other side you will have to wait until the tide lowers to return to your car. If you do not have one I believe the times are posted at the trailhead. I use this tide table website. The people in the above photo were either overnight hiking on the north side of Hole in the Wall, or they were stuck there waiting for the tide to lower so they could return to the parking lot.
My hiking companions were my sister and our mutual friend, both had never been on an overnight hike, so it was very exciting for them. The hike is only about a mile and a half, but on sand it seems longer. There are many campsites along the beach but you have to get past Ellen Creek before you can set up camp. We were getting pretty wet so we found a perfect campsite a little ways past the creek. There is a sign posted in case the creek is too low to notice. The sites are in the trees past the high tide line and have a smooth spot for your tent and usually a fire pit. Ours was so large it could have been a group campsite. There were 3-4 tent spots and 2 fire pits. A giant log was positioned perfectly to use as a long table to place our packs and prepare food, and there was a square log with flat sides where we placed our stove, water and other food items.
I was pretty disappointed that it was cloudy as I had always heard that Rialto Beach was known for its amazing sunsets. Fortunately the drizzle had subsided and we were able to set up camp and start dinner. Since the hike was so short we decided to have a (sort of) gourmet dinner. We brought prepared pot roast (frozen), potatoes and asparagus. We also brought a grate to use over the fire. We baked the potatoes, steamed the asparagus and heated up the pot roast pieces, and had an incredible campfire dinner as we listened to the waves pound the surf. I could not have been happier.
When hiking shorter trails it is possible to prepare better meals since you aren’t carrying your heavier pack for very long.
After dinner we headed up to the sea stacks and Hole in the Wall. Hole in the Wall is a sea arch that is literally a hole for you to pass through (only during a low tide) to continue on to the trail. The trail to Hole in the Wall from the Rialto Beach parking lot is about a mile and a half. Backpackers continue north to the Chilean Shipwreck Memorial which is 4 miles from Hole in the Wall, then they can continue on to the Norwegian memorial 6.5 miles up the coast.
The campsites are in the trees so it could be difficult to return to your site after hiking up the beach. I thought it might be a good idea to mark my campsite so we could find it with no difficulty later. I made an arrow. 🙂
I was really excited to leave camp and explore the beach. The sea stacks were beautiful and I knew we would be seeing some starfish and sea creatures. As we walked north I realized that the sun was trying to break through the clouds. I was thrilled. I had my camera and was enjoying every bit of the scenery, especially the pounding waves. My companions wanted to stop and rest a bit on the beach but I wanted to continue past the sea stacks to see how close I could get to Hole in the Wall. There weren’t many people on the beach so the solitude made my experience even better. When I had gone as far as I could go I found a spot near a big driftwood log and sat down to watch the sunset. The light from the sun was peering through the arch in Hole in Wall so I just sat and enjoyed every bit of the show.
It was a spectacular sunset, especially since I had expected only a cloudy evening. The time I spent at that spot was something I’ll never forget. It was a tranquil and memorable time for me and being a mom of 4 children those moments do not come along all that often. I do wish that next time I am here my family can be with me. Kids need to experience the wonders of nature so they can appreciate this amazing place we live in.
When we returned to camp it was getting pretty dark so we stoked the fire, roasted marshmallows and of course I had to have my Jiffy Pop popcorn. I always bring Jiffy Pop, it’s light and for some reason it tastes incredible over the campfire.
That night the wind blew the tent pretty ferociously so we didn’t get much sleep. I needed to be up early for the low tide too, so I knew it would be a pretty sleepless night. The wind diminished around dawn and I was so worried that I would miss my wake up alarm. I decided to get up and walked to the beach to watch the tide begin to go out. Again, it was another incredible experience for me.
End of Day 1
Continue to Blog 2 – Second Day