South Sand Point, on the North Coast Route of the Olympic National park coastline is an introduction to the sometimes creepy side of the coastal strip. And I’ll go to the “why” in a bit. Kirk, Ford and I did the long drive out to Ozette Lake (it truly is a long drive, it’s nearly as far as one can drive across the United States). The parking at Ozette is easy to do, it is vast and plentiful (though it fills up on sunny days, especially weekends). You must get a backpacking permit before you get there, so you know you will have a spot. Call the WIC in Port Angeles for that, you can also rent a bear canister if needed (required on the Coastal Strip). The hike also requires a National Park pass for parking. So many rules. But needed for this area to control the crowds.
The hike in is on the Sand Point Trail, of the Ozette Loop. It gets you out to the Pacific Ocean in about 3 miles. The hike is pleasant, thorough forest, and elevated trail above various marsh areas and sometimes streams, the boardwalk keeping you dry and out of the mud.
The trail is relatively level (where as the sister trail out to Cape Alava has ups and downs). Walking the trail is a breeze in good weather, but in cold temperatures (yes, it does freeze on the coast) the boards get very slippery.
Entering the coastal forest, just before you get to the beach.
Once you reach Sand Point, and take a good look around (it’s a great break spot), walk through the forest, looking for the overland trail marker in the trees (red /black circle) and walk out onto the beach. Head south.
Looking south, where the creek at Sand Point comes out onto the beach. That creek, inland, is the water source for Sand Point. It is black tea color, due to the tannins in the area. Treated it is safe to drink.
Ford, looking back at Sand Point (it is the large bump at the end of the forest).
The walk to South Sand Point is easy going in the warmer months, the sand is wide and the tide far away. Lots of wood bits hang out on the sand.
After crossing Wish Creek that comes out onto the sand from the woods, the marked overland trail is marked – look to the trees to see it. This is the Ericson’s Bay Primitive Trail. South Sand Point camping area is tucked into the woods here, just after you enter the forest.
This fantastic neon green open air privy is part of it. We found a lot of garbage in the area (lots of beer cans), and packed it into a cooler someone had left behind, and left it by the toilet. I didn’t have the pack to haul it out, but knew the rangers do check the areas. At least it wasn’t blowing around.
The forest of South Sand Point is interesting. It wasn’t particularly welcoming to humans I felt. I pushed it down because Kirk was with us, and I didn’t feel unsafe. Had it been just Ford and I, most likely I would have slept on the beach, above the high tide mark.
That night the winds kicked up, which is normal for the area, and we were settled into our tent. I had been out on the beach till sunset. There wasn’t anyone else camping in the area, in the forest or the beach, past Sand Point. On the beach it had been quiet. That night I woke up to the sound of a young girl laughing. I could hear someone running down the beach, through the trees. The sounds of laughter faded away. It was the middle of the night.
I didn’t sleep well there, the nagging part of us not being welcome was there all night to me.
In the morning I went out onto the beach. There were no footprints and the tide was out. I felt inclined to leave as soon as possible.
When I brought it up to a hiking friend who grew up near the Queets River on the coast, his answers didn’t exactly make me feel assured. Needless to say, I’ll stick with Sand Point from now on and not go down to South.
Once on the beach I felt fine though. The hike back was peaceful and we took our time on the coast.
The bonus was the tidal pools near Sand Point. We took a long time enjoying them.
I have hiked many miles on the Coastal Strip and always camped near the water outside of this time. And it might just stay that way.