This trip was long overdue. During our first summer in Canada back in 2007 we crossed the border to the US on Canada Day long weekend. Inexperienced and naive, we didn’t know what it means to cross the border on long weekends. We were stuck at the border for over three hours and by the time we were on the other side we realized that with the long drive ahead we wouldn’t have time to actually complete the hike. So we changed our plans and always kept this hike in mind. Now, eight years + one baby later it was finally time to hike along the coast of the Olympic Peninsula.
We took a few days off in between two stressful weeks. After a week of being out of the house every day in order to run the first pilot of my Kids on Wheels program I longed for some one on one time with Neil and Gili without interruptions and being completely alone – just the three of us. The weekend after we were moving, so this was a golden opportunity before more stress.
We drove down on the Monday of the long weekend. The border itself was actually not too bad, but we had to go inside so Gili could get his I-94 to go into the US. Inside there was a long lineup and the clerks seemed like they took a course in how to be the most inefficient in their jobs. Neil was very tolerant of the long lineup but at some point he did his famous “whaaaaaa!” and many people laughed. Then he fell asleep just before our turn, telling the Americans what he thought of their long lines.
Once we were finally in the United States of America we could get around to doing more important things – like finding Mexican food. After a good meal both for ourselves and for Neil in Bellingham we continued the long drive to the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend. Like the ferries of the San Juan Islands this ferry also had puzzles all around, and we tried to add pieces to a complicated elephant puzzle.
We drove a little bit longer till we reached a nice campground and built our new three person tent. By this point Neil was already very tired and fell asleep easily. Neil loved sleeping in the tent, and all through the trip he slept at night for about seven hours straight, ate and went back to sleep for a few more hours. Then he woke up smiling to himself and to us, he was truly a happy camper. Our new tent felt like a villa with so much more room and with tiny Neil in the middle.
On Tuesday afternoon after getting the permit and bear canisters (not for bears apparently but rather against raccoons) we were finally ready to start the hike. Since going one way required a complicated shuttle arrangement, and although Gili had a plan involving a bicycle, we decided it would be easier to go 2/3 of the way and then hike back. We actually didn’t miss that much of the trail and hiked more that way.
The first day was very short, just about an hour’s hike till we reached Third Beach. We had to think for a while where to set up camp since the tide was very high that night and we didn’t want to wake up floating in the ocean in the middle of the night. Gili worked hard to make a higher sand platform for the tent. We had our dinner, played with Neil a little bit and went to sleep early. Life was simple and good.
In the morning we knew we couldn’t delay too long since we had to cross a section on the beach before the tide came in. We managed to get ourselves and Neil organized and walked for 2.5 hours straight till we passed the problematic section. First we walked along Third Beach and then had a long section in the forest with some ropes and then walked more along the ocean. The feeling was magical. Long sharp sea stacks pointing out from the water – some looked like castles, some like elephants, and some just of no particular shape.
After the long hike we were ready for a break and took a long one that involved lunch, tummy time, naps and a diaper change. The sun also decided to come out and the ocean became that perfect turquoise colour and for a while we were thrown back to a beach in Thailand or perhaps Hawaii. Alas, the water was too cold to swim in…
After our long break we walked a little bit farther till we found a good spot to set up camp. Then Gili had a very dirty mission to do: washing Neil’s diapers. He hung a line with the diapers, but the problem was that the diapers never dried properly. Neil didn’t complain about somewhat moist diapers, but for our next hike we’ll bring much thinner diapers that will hopefully dry quicker. The evening routine was pretty much the same as the previous night, with Neil taking a nap just when we wanted to have our dinner, such a considerate baby.
The next morning we took it quite easy and left for our day hike only around noon. Again there was a long section in the forest that involved a lot of ropes and ladders. Gili did it easily with Neil in the front carrier and with Neil sleeping most of the time. It’s amazing all the things that this baby has been through without really being aware of most of them. We finally emerged to the beach again and continued walking by the ocean.
At one point a guy came running towards us pointing at Neil, who was in a carrier on Gili, covered with a blanket. He shouted in excitement: “Is that what I think it is?” Gili showed him Neil’s feet and the guy was very happy. He asked for Neil’s age and when we replied that he is almost three months old he said that he thinks it’s great that we are out and about. He said that he’s not worried about the baby, he knows he is fine, but the fact that we ourselves managed to go on the hike with him is incredible. He pointed to his son who was sitting by the fire and said that he was hiking with him when he was that young. Now they were on a family hike with his granddaughter Kaya who is three and walked most of the way. She was busy taking a nap at that time, but when we walked back she was happily playing naked in the sand.
We reached Mosquito creek (no mosquitoes) and had a long break before turning around and walking back to camp for a few hours. This day involved two river fords. The water was a bit cold, but refreshing nonetheless. Since this has been a very dry year, the water wasn’t very high and overall the trail wasn’t as muddy as we were told it could get in rainier seasons.
On the fourth day we walked all the way back to Third Beach and out. Although we walked the same way the feeling was very different because the tide was lower. Now there were many tide pools to explore and we found endless starfish hiding around.
When we were back on Third Beach we had to hurry up to cross a landslide again before the tide came in, which was just minutes after we crossed. We had a long lunch and many laughs with Neil before we headed back to our car.
During the hike we saw many groups of people but none seemed in a hurry. The trail is 17 miles long, so in order to fully enjoy it you need to lower the pace and truly savour the moment. Since Neil is at an age in which he is changing literally every day, spending that much time with him, seeing his faces and smiles, hearing him laugh and enjoying the sounds of the ocean was just an incredible feeling. Yes, he did cry every now and then, but he was mostly happy, loved the tent, loved waking up next to his parents, loved the natural shooshing sounds of the ocean, loved feeling the sand (also on his face). A baby doesn’t need much more in life than that.
Back at the car we had a small victory moment: our first four day hiking trip with the little guy turned out as a big success. It was time to celebrate with… yes you guessed it – Mexican Food. We drove to Port Angeles, found a nice Mexican restaurant and had a good dinner. Then we drove to the same campground we slept at the first night. Since it was the beginning of a long weekend in the US, finding a spot wasn’t easy, but after Gili talked with the camp host it turned out that there was still an empty spot waiting just for us.
On the morning we drove to the ferry. We had no idea of the timing of the ferries but with pure luck we reached the terminal one minute before the ferry left…. We couldn’t have timed it better even if we had tried. The elephant puzzle had a few more pieces and we had many more memories to treasure.