So, I’m going back in time to my last backpack of 2018 (New Year’s Eve, to be exact) since I never had a chance to write about it. This trip was about needing to say goodbye to the wonderful year I celebrated being a half century, and even though I had already spent over two months on the trail, I felt I needed one last hurrah in my tent. (Get the book about my trip on Amazon )The problem was finding a trail in December where I didn’t have to deal with snow. Thankfully we are blessed here in Washington with the wild ocean coast – where anyone can go (after getting a permit at a Ranger Station first) anytime of the year, and stick a tent up pretty much anywhere they want. I wonder how long it will be before that changes.
But for the time being, if you get a hankering to be in your tent in the middle of winter, and want to avoid the hassles and crowds at Shi Shi, (which you can read about on my old blog here) Hole in the Wall at Rialto Beach is a great place to be. You can self permit at the trailhead if the Mora Ranger station is closed, but be sure to have your own bear canister. (They are required along the entire coast, though more for raccoons than anything.) Then it’s only a little over 2 miles to the famed hole…but half way there you’ll first need to get across Ellen Creek.
Beach hikes are all about the tides, so check here before you go. (http://kaleberg.com/tides/lapush/index.html) A low tide at Ellen Creek means a quick crossing of 25 feet or so in ankle deep water; a high tide means scrambling over what looked to me to be a real pain in the ass jumble of logs. (In case you didn’t already know, log crossings are not my favorite.) Plus, if you don’t hit the tide right, you won’t be able to make it through the hole – which is kind of the whole point of this hike. I guess it is possible to go up and over on an impossible looking trail to the side; but that way didn’t look fun in the slightest.
I know I said you could set a tent up wherever, but I have to admit this was much harder than I expected. There were more options before passing through the hole, but I loved the idea of the hole “closing” so I could have complete solitude. Without really having a good idea just how high the tide would come up (something I probably should have paid attention to when I was looking at the tide information) I wanted to be extra careful to choose a spot that would not include being washed out to sea. Thankfully I found one, squeezed in between the drift logs.
When I watched a fellow hiker make it through the hole the next morning, I figured the tide had gone out enough for me to make my departure. What I didn’t figure was that it’s much easier for someone to climb up wet, slippery rocks without a pack, than for me to go down them with 30+ pounds on my back. So, after barely being able to pass through the hole without taking a dip, I still could not make it down to the beach on the other side. Not wanting to risk turning around on the ledge I really didn’t like going over in the first place, I found a place on the rocks to sit (for almost an hour) and wait for a few extra feet of less steep rock to become exposed as the tide continued to recede. Trying my best to enjoy the crashing waves, it was difficult to ignore my mind’s ominous imagery of a rogue one dragging me to my death. That would not have been the ending I wanted for 2018.
Though an adventure with solitude, mixed with some fear and excitement, was the way I wanted to say goodbye to one of the best years of my life – and that’s exactly what I got. Thank you, Rialto Beach. Happy Trails!