To kick-off this awesome collaboration, Melinda and I took a weekend trip to Long Beach. Hopefully, Melinda will tell you all about the quaint small-town magic and seaside charm we encountered, cus this post is just about our hike. What follows is a long-ass post about hiking. It has no real purpose nor conclusion, and unlike WILD, there are no torrid tales of sex and drug abuse woven in. So please, keep reading.
On Sunday, we went hiking at Leadbetter Point State Park, located on the northern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula. This cute little peninsula is located on the Washington coast right above the Oregon border and juts up north – sorta like the Cape…or an inverted Florida.
I was super excited to hike at Leadbetter Point because my guidebook touted its super awesome views…like this one:
If you’re not thinking what I’m thinking, then we can’t be friends.
Dear Mr. Jeff Burlingame of MOON Handbooks: Olympic Peninsula, you are doing the West Coast a great disservice by counting this amongst its “most-scenic views.”
Anyway, we arrived at the parking lot / head to the various hiking trails and choose one that would lead us to the beach. Like Lewis and Clark before us, our destination was the Pacific Ocean! Our hike would follow the eastern coast up along Willapa Bay and then cut west across the peninsula to the ocean. The bay side of the park is pleasant (see above) and the beach is littered with washed up shellfish. There are hundreds of clams, oysters and Dungeness crab baking in the sun, instead of being enjoyed on dinner plates. Seeing all those dried up crab shells that had previously held gloriously creamy crab guts just waiting to be mixed up with steaming white rice would make anyone hungry.
After a short walk along the bay, we cut through a muddy marshy area then headed into a forest-y area that would eventually lead to the beach. It’s a nice short hike, made even better by the sounds and promise of the Pacific Ocean that lie ahead. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? It really is a nice hike, and there really are some pretty views. I think this guy describes it best, “the scenery is quite nice.” Take note, Mr. Burlingame.
So while the book vastly overstated the beauty of Leadbetter Point, it also greatly downplayed the flooding in the area. All the trails that lead to the (real) beach are pretty much guaranteed to be flooded for most of the year. Apparently, there’s even a sign at the entrance that states “It’s not really hiking, more like wading, from October to May. Thigh or even waist deep water is possible so plan accordingly.”
TL;DR We didn’t make it to the beach.
No. The joy is in the journey, folks. Keep reading.
After a bit of happy hiking, snapping pics and enjoying our surroundings, Melinda and I ran into some flooding. Honestly, it was just a big puddle that blocked the trail – probably a few yards long and ankle deep at most. A small obstacle for real hikers, and we are real hikers! Melinda (the more directionally adept one) led the way and we bushwhacked around the puddle only to encounter other mini marshes, rivers, and ponds. We were going in circles but I was still having fun. A major factor in the success of our friendship is that I am happy to follow Melinda around in circles without ever questioning if we’re getting anywhere. However, I did ask her, “What would Cheryl Strayed do?” Obviously, Cheryl would have walked through the puddle an hour ago and be sitting on the beach already. Still, we weren’t quite ready to go hardcore Cheryl as walking around with wet feet is really gross. Instead, we decided to fill the big puddle with sticks to walk over.
While we were ingeniously filling the puddle with sticks, a hardcore Cheryl showed up, took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his pants and walked right through, all NBD.
Whatever. The trail was even more flooded ahead, so he had to turn back, walk through the puddle again, and deal with wet squishy feet in sneakers for nothing. This guy (who I will call Mr. Strayed) did seem like he knew what he was doing, and was also determined to get to the beach; so we followed him. Melinda later said that this was okay to do because she took note of all his high end hiking gear and was able to assess that he wasn’t a crazy homeless man living in the woods. While I also noticed his brand name gear, I only thought of my mom, who really likes to hike and shop at REI. My survival skills need more work.
I don’t have much else to say about Mr. Strayed. Melinda exchanged conversation with him while trailing close behind. I figured Melinda wouldn’t ditch me, so I had the luxury of taking my time, looking around, and taking pictures of my feet.
Melinda told Mr. S that, before he showed up, we had been wondering what an “experienced” hiker would have done when faced with the puddle situation. I mention this because I totally laughed to myself assuming Melinda had purposely replaced “Cheryl” with “experienced hiker” so that we wouldn’t seem like clueless chicks who had just watched WILD and shown up in the woods. Which was totally not the case – again, we are real hikers.
We followed Mr. S and he pointed out things like elk poop and beaver marks, and confirmed that the roaring ahead was the ocean and not a freeway. Ultimately though, Mr. Strayed doesn’t live up to his name; all he did was lead us into more flooded areas. Eventually, we hit a real stream (not just a big puddle) that was thigh deep and would require jumping. Mr. S walked up and down the stream looking for a narrow point to jump over it, and this worried me. I’m short and there was no way jumping could end well. Thankfully, before any of that impending horror would come to fruition, some local hikers appeared on the other side of the stream and told us that they had jumped the stream earlier and it was still impossible to get to the beach. One of the hikers was an elderly woman who kept pointing out that our footwear was not appropriate for the hike. Mr. S and I were wearing Nikes, but Melinda was wearing hiking boots and she kept glancing down at them. If I had to guess what Melinda was thinking, it would be. “Lady, I am wearing hiking boots! I’m prepared! I’m a real hiker!” while my thought process was more along the lines of, “how did this old lady jump the stream!?”
And that is where my story ends. Mr. S navigated us back to the parking lot. Melinda asked about foraging; he talked about doing ‘shrooms. We reached the car, said our goodbyes and set off on our next unavailing adventure: finding decent food on the Long Beach Peninsula.