Days 37-39 (September 4-6)
Olympic National Park, Washington: Kalaloch Beach, Ruby Beach, Beach 4
“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refuges of a long war.” — Loren Eiseley
Kalaloch Campground and Beach are lauded in online reviews and by other travelers that we meet as must-visit area of Olympic National Park. Kalaloch certainly exceeds our already high expectations!
The campground sits on a bluff above the beach in lush forest. Campsite sizes vary widely, and large RVs have their own loop.
There are even a few tiny sites right on the bluff with open views of the beach and sunsets. Arriving at 10am, we just missed those view sites but were able to snag a big site just adjacent with our own little patch of forest and a constant concert of waves to lull us to sleep each night.
An afternoon drive north to Ruby Beach for low tide immerses us in thick, atmospheric fog. We haven’t seen pictures of this beach, and as such a leisurely walk through the pea soup air slowly unveils how just many sea stacks are here, including the magnificent vegetation-covered Abbey Island.
Crowd averse as we usually are, on a foggy day like this fellow visitors add to the experience versus detracting from it, by appearing as tiny moving dots in the distance.
Today’s conditions are perfect for testing out our new-old-stock weatherproof WP-1 film camera.
In the tide pools of a sea stack north of Abbey Island we find a healthy population of urchins and mollusks, but sadly now only a few starfish. Damn that wasting disease.
From Ruby Beach we drive south to Beach 4 in search of more tide pools. We are too late to see them today, but the fog has cleared in this area and we enjoy some warm sunshine.
One thing we notice about Olympic’s coastline is how thick the fog can be in one area and sublimely clear nearby, almost appearing to have a demarcation line.
The skies at Beach 4 are sunny again the next day when we return to the beach in time for low tide. Access to this beach is via a .2 mile hike downhill through rainforest (that’s the easy part) to overlook the beach, then a short scramble down a boulder to access the beach.
Beach 4 ends up being one of my favorite beaches of the many that we visit during this trip. There are no dramatic sea stacks but also no hoards of people.
Although Kalaloch’s massive 1,000 year old Big Cedar Tree fell in 2014, it’s still worth turning off Hwy 101 to take the short hike around the legendary tree’s remains. Be sure to take the 1/4 mile trail from the twisty, rooty stump through a grove of surviving ancient western red cedars.
At Kalaloch beach, access is easier than most other beach approaches in the southern part of the park. The campground is 1/2 mile from the charming Kalaloch Lodge, which overlooks a meandering freshwater creek leading down to a long, wide sandy beach.
The store at Kalaloch Lodge has reasonable prices on beer and wine, and the lodge’s public grounds offer games such as tetherball (hello 1980!) and ladder golf. Some of the cabins directly overlook the beach. Imagine watching spectacular sunsets from those Adirondack chairs, pup by your side, adult beverage in hand…