Weekly Peakly: Volume 5
Or: Ass-First into a Tide Pool
Hello, my dear Peakers. Welcome to volume 5 of the Weekly Peakly, which is out late because I went two weeks without a day off and then crashed into a fire of non-productivity for three days. I am out of the burnout hole now, so find my hiking chronicle below!
I was blessed with another sunny weekend, so I opted to take advantage of it by heading out to the Washington coast! This time ended up being a proper excursion since I had to drive 4.5 hours just to get there. My destination was Rialto Beach, my intent to trek up the coast to the landmark listed as “Hole in the Wall”, which turned out to be quite on-the-nose.
I must say, the drive there was stunning. I took a round-about route to avoid a ferry ride (whose fees I found offensively high), so I headed south then turned westward in Olympia. This took me through the lower corner of the Olympian National Forest, which was a treat.
The trees towered over the sides of the highway, so high that you couldn’t see what lay beyond. I couldn’t help but be reminded of what it felt like the first time I walked into a labyrinth in Breath of the Wild. Looking up through the edge of my windshield, it felt like I was fenced in by impenetrable walls of green branches, intertwined so profusely that no hint of light could scatter through them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen foliage so thick, and it was both daunting and exhilarating. It took a lot of self-control to keep myself pressing onward, overriding the urge to stop and plunge into the strange wilderness that seemed so uncharted from this vantage point.
Past the forest, the highway moved further west before turning north, at which point the road flirted with the coast. I drove through heavy forest, but every few moments the tree line would break, and I was offered a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean as it crashed against the rocky shore. There were several beaches in this area that advertised hiking trails, and I was sorely tempted to stop again to see what they were like, but I really wanted to see the promised “Hole in the Wall”, so I opted to stick to the planned destination.
I wasn’t disappointed. Rialto Beach was worth the patience.
Being a southern California girl, I’m not used to the colder, rockier beaches that the north nurtures. Nor was I expecting the driftwood.
Calling it driftwood is perhaps the greatest understatement that I could choose. I don’t know if the trees that had fallen over across the shore were originally from the forest a few feet away or if they had been brought to this location by a robust tide, but in either case they were massive.
Behemoths whose roots had come unmoored, they were the woodland version of a beached whale. Most of them had been rubbed free of bark, sitting half-hollowed on the loose ground like twisted monuments to forests that housed things long-dead. It was odd to stand next to things that were so old. That were so big and so dead that it was obvious, no matter how much or little you knew about the age of trees, that these things were ancient.
This was the first hike where I got the sense that everything around me was so much older than I was. That the amount of time these things, the waves and the stones on the shore, the twisted trunks of fallen trees or the towering boughs of those still rooted in the mountainside above, the years that these things had to their name made my entire existence nothing more than the blink of an eye. I’m turning 30 on March 17th, and I felt as though that amount of time was nothing at all.
It was as humbling as it was empowering. I was humbled that these places still existed in the world, patiently waiting for humanity to rise and fall like the rhythmic tide. It was empowering because I got to see it, I got to walk along this shore and be part of the story that was told here in footprints and stone.
The stone was another prominent feature of this hike that I found fascinating to no end. There were two types of stone to be interested in: those that were below my feet and those that towered over me.
The shore wasn’t made of sand, exactly. At least, it wasn’t the same kind of sand that I’m used to. In SoCal, the beach sand is fine. It is closer to the dusty soil you might find in a desert. It seems like dirt more than anything else. The “sand” at Rialto beach was layered in gradients, and it didn’t seem so much like sand as different sizes of stones. The closer you walked to the mountainside the bigger the stones were, some as large as my head, piled in mounds that slid apart when you stepped in them. As you approached the waves, the size of the stones got smaller and smaller, until each one was the size of a speck of sand. It was hard for me to think of it as “sand” because you could see the transition from the original stone it came from. Small, dark grey bits of history, the last piece remaining that the sea hadn’t claimed.
The other stones were the rocky outcrops that clung to the shore, some of them reaching skyward. There were a couple that towered over me, that I could clamber around the base and get a look at what the ocean had done over who knows how many years. The sea had carved pathways through the bottom, creating curving shapes that lost the outer dullness that you would normally see in stone, revealing the striped layers within.
It made me want to write love poems about the relationship between land and sea. The ocean was always reaching for these rocks, always caressing them gently, and always they refused to move. They refused to slide into the depths like the smaller stones that chased the tide. These behemoths forced the sea to come visit, only giving the barest bits of themselves as the waves tried to whittle away their resolve. It seemed a tragic, beautiful relationship that had a sense of time that only stars would understand.
To say that I found this hike inspirational would be another understatement. I wished that I had enough supplies to stay the night, to camp on the edge of the world and sit with a notebook, scribbling away all the poetic thoughts that rattled around my head. Hiking makes me feel like I am not only finding the magic left in the world, but I’m gaining control of it. I’m taking pieces of it and borrowing them for my own purposes, to eventually color the worlds I make with word and page. This hike, in particular, made that sense stand out starkly against the other things I felt.
Between the sea and the forest, I realized I was alive, that the world was alive, and that together magic was made real.
I eventually reached the Hole in the Wall, which has an appropriate name. It’s a hole that’s been carved out of this rocky outcropping. I climbed up and through it, wandering around the rocks by the sea on the other side. There were a lot of interesting things to investigate here, and I really wanted to get as many pictures as possible of the little tide pools hanging out in the shallows. There were little shrimpy looking guys and hermit crabs and anemones, and it was neat to encounter that stuff in-person.
Newsflash: it turns out wet rocks are slippery. Despite my best efforts to stay upright, I spent a little too much time tempting fate trying to hop around on the rocks above the water. My boot contacted one, and that was it. My feet flew out from under me completely. I went down, ass-first into a tide pool.
Luckily, this tide pool wasn’t full of critters, just very cold water. I soaked my pants and scuffed my elbow, but I kept my camera and phone out of the waves, so I’m counting it as a win. Thankfully, that was my only tumble.
I think my ability to stay on my feet was aided greatly by my discovery of a perfect hiking stick. I had been thinking about getting a hiking stick recently, thinking it could help as I go on hikes with more and more elevation gains. I’d planned on buying one, but the minute I arrived at the beach there was so much driftwood around that I sort of new I would find the right stick. I found one about halfway through the hike, not far from the Hole in the Wall, and I’m kind of in love with it.
I’ve got it at home drying now, and I’m going to sand it down a bit, fill in the cracks, and seal it to make it waterproof. I also plan on decorating it with a wrapped handle and maybe some dangling decorations. I’m quite excited about the project, if I’m honest. Making a hiking stick out of something I found on a hike feels infinitely more meaningful than just buying one online.
After puttering around the rocks, I followed the beach up as far as it would go, until it ended in more rocks. I was tempted to climb them and see how far I could get around the bend, but after falling into the water once I deemed that a bad idea. I didn’t want to end up in deeper water. I’m good at swimming, but it was far too cold for any kind of submersion, and the way the waves crashed against the rock faces made me sure I would have been slapped into smithereens.
In total, this hike came out to exactly 4 miles round-trip. I made it back to my car, drove to a local burger place in Forks, WA, and had the best fish n’ chips of my life.
This hike, I’ve decided, was a phenomenal success.
Mistakes and R E G R E T S:
1. Hiking boots will NOT save you from slippery sea-rocks. Nothing can give you traction against that kind of slime. I found it to be as slippery as ice, and since ice has given me a concussion, I definitely should have given the rocks a wider berth. I’m an idiot who wants to get as close to the water as possible, though, so out I went. Then down I went. Lesson learned: wet rocks are not your friend.
Hot Takes for Hikers:
If you’re in the market for a hiking stick, and you live in an area with a beach, I highly recommend checking there for a few candidates. The ocean strips the bark and smooths it for you, so you end up with half the work taken out of the equation. I also found that the pieces that survived the sea were a bit hardier than those I’d seen in the woods.
You’re Still in Public, Asshole
Hey, couples? I know you love each other and you’re all chocked full of endorphins from climbing the trail, but that isn’t an excuse to sloppily make out next to the landmarks. Kissing? Sure, fine. Hugging, holding hands? Adorable. Making out so loud that you’re louder than the entire fucking Pacific Ocean? NOT APPROPRIATE. There were children all over this beach, but these fuck-os were half a step from ripping each other’s clothes off. Not cool.
Song of the Hike: Black and White by Skyhill. Fuck, man, I really love Skyhill, and it breaks my heart that it’s a dead band. I picked this song as the hike’s theme because there’s something about Skyhill songs that makes me feel like I’m in tune with “old magic” when I listen to them. I’ve touted it as perfect writing music before because it seems to unlock doors in my head that lead to new depths of creativity, and when this song came on during the hike it felt like I was tapping into that creativity again, and I understood that it was some of the same kind of magic as what lingered in the driftwood and the stones that had withstood the ocean for centuries.
In a less existential explanation, it was a big fucking mood.
Animals Seen: four very good doggos, several shrimpy friends, multiple hermit crabbos, this one very green very round rock, and a motherfuckin’ bald eagle friend that decided to pose for the camera in-flight. Also, like four seagulls and a handful of crows.
Mood: Infinitely connected to the ancient magic that churns the rhythms of our world.
Trail Rank: Good workout, impressive hole, foamy waves. Majestic eagles. Would gaze out to the sea with wistful longing again.