After bonus mountains and the pelagic, we moved to the main destination for our trip, Olympic National Park (Park lifer #32!!). Since we were already in Westport, we decided to attack the park in the clockwise fashion; working our way up the coast and then turning east to head to the inland portion. We camped out at Kalaloch (pronounced CLAY-lock, apparently) for our first nights in the park. The campground overlooks the beach with incredible views. If you stay at one of the campsites along the western edge, you’ll be able to sit next to a fire, on a rocky cliff rising majestically over the driftwood dotted beach, basking in the serene progression of time as the ocean’s waves roll in below a setting sun. Alternatively, if you’re along the eastern edge, like we were, you get to enjoy a night of logging trucks bearing down on you from 20 feet away.
Regardless, it was a comfortable campground and convenient to the Hoh Rain Forest, our next morning’s target. Being Labor Day weekend, we were not surprised to arrive and see the lot packed. Getting there early definitely gave us a little peace in the mossy forest but, there were always people around. As such, we probably rushed through the two short trails near the visitor’s center. Such is the paradox of the national parks, I suppose. They need to be popular enough so people care about them but, being too popular robs them of their magic that made them worth saving in the first place. Luckily, the Hoh Rain Forest still had plenty of magic left. The “closeness” of the forest was fascinating. The clumps of moss and lichen hanging from the trees, themselves growing up from a fern-strewn carpet, acted as sound dampers that made the trail feel more indoors than outdoors. If you closed your eyes and just listened, you’d swear you were in carpeted room.
The bird life was pretty minimal, likely due to the growing crowds, so after we got our fill of rainforest, we headed back to Kalaloch where we, unfortunately, got rained out. We passed our time sitting in the lodge, play cards and looking forward to the next day’s destination Shi Shi Beach.
Based on a tip from a friend, we added Shi Shi Beach to our itinerary (Pronounced SHY-shy, I swear I’m not making this up). Heading up the Pacific Coast, this beach is right near where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the ocean. The hike was a short mile or so through restored, then old-growth forest until you arrive at a hand-rope assisted descent to the beach. The beach itself is probably the source of every Olympic NP postcard that features the coast, and with good reason, it’s extraordinary. We arrived just after low tide, with millions of mussels clinging to wave-worn boulders and tide pools filled with aquatic life.
Having an inkling as to what birds my be around I started to carefully scan the coast. Climbing over some rocks to the beach just north of the Shi Shi campground, I finally found one of my main targets, a Black Oystercatcher! Eventually, as I trapezed around the boulders, searching for every patch of bare rock I could actually stand on, I was eventually able to find myself looking at nearly a dozen oystercatchers. Not only was this a lifer but, the only other time I had seen an oystercatcher was upon reviewing photographs from a previous trip and discovering a few American Oystercatcher I had missed in the field. So this was a lifer bird family, as well.
We spent several hours hanging around the beach then turned our backs to the ocean. We ended the day at the Log Cabin Lodge, alongside Lake Crescent and prepared to explore the interior of the massive park.