So this is the weekend I discovered the mystical Rain Shadow. I had heard rumors, myths, old wives’ tales. Dreams, perhaps. “Seattle is in a rain shadow.” “Port Angeles is in a rain shadow.” “The Olympics create a rain shadow.” Well shit, if we’re in a fucking rain shadow then I don’t want to know what it’s like OUTSIDE of the rain shadow because the sun already basically doesn’t rise at all and I’m sick of all of my running clothes being damp all the time and SAR tarps take up too much space in my trunk. But it turns out there’s a deeper part of the rain shadow, where precipitation levels are low and the clouds open in a small circle to allow a brief respite from the PNW winter. You can almost pretend it’s summer. Oh, and I can only assume it’s the same patch of sun that so often taunts us Seattlites from across the sound from 4:10-4:30 most afternoons. That cloud patch is a bastard.
- Distance: 11 miles round trip (I’m not convinced this is true)
- Elevation Gain: 0. You drop like 130ft in the beginning but that’s it.
- Weather: 50’s and wicked windy
- Commute from Seattle: 2:30 without traffic and assuming punctual ferries
- Did I Trip: No! sorry to disappoint.
The forecast called for rain. Everywhere. Seattle proper, Leavenworth, Yakima, ski resorts. Rain. Rain at 5,500ft. It’s like Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, except with more precipitation and fewer gremlins and you’re on a snow slope not in a plane. But the forecast for Dungeness Spit…. “mostly cloudy.” Okay, we’ll take our chances. I had never been there and it was on what I call my OG Hike List, the hike list I pulled together when I first moved to Washington and didn’t know anything about hiking or backpacking, nevermind mountaineering and skiing and climbing. So I whined about not skiing (I think Lucy and Andy didn’t want to ski circles around me for the second weekend in a row), but relented and agreed to go west, counterintuitively seeking sunshine towards the Olympic Coast.
And oh boy did we find sunshine. And like 40mph winds, but sun!! Who cares about the wind! I was wearing Arc’teryx head to toe as if I was on a glacier, the wind is my bitch! We left at a leisurely 9am, since I showed up at Andy’s only to be let in by Lucy because Andy hadn’t even woken up yet. We dragged his ass out of bed (he actually got ready impressively quickly) and arrived at the trailhead to start hiking (okay, walking) around noon.
The walk is exactly what you would expect. A long walk on a beach. No surprises here. Some neat driftwood, some endangered birds, some seagulls, some sand pipers (adorable!). Supposedly there is a lone coyote out there somewhere, not sure how long he’ll last. As with mountains, we got a glimpse of our final destination (the lighthouse) long before we were really close. It’s deceptive, you think you must be 15min away and actually you’re still a solid hour away. Sucker! Keep walking. Pick up some cool rocks. Take pictures of driftwood. Trip over yourself in the wind. Most people seemed to turn around a mile our, which meant we basically had the whole spit to ourselves, which was an unexpected surprise.
We got to the lighthouse where the volunteers were nice enough to let us have an indoor picnic to escape the wind. We toured the top of the lighthouse and learned a bit about its history. The woman who showed us around was from Victoria, and the lighthouse was always her “signal” that she was going home when she was on the ferry, so now she’s a volunteer to help maintain it. The volunteer association actually rents it from the Coast Guard for $1/year (as in one dollar a year) to prevent it from being torn down. I donated 5 years of rent. I’m rich. Or 1/4 of a picture frame, or a 40-pack of trash bags, depends how you look at it.*
We immediately dumped our rock collections on the floor like children excitedly comparing their hoards. We had stocked up on deli meat to go with the 5lbs of Beecher’s cheddar Andy had brought, and we had a feast. They have a well that you can use for water that is supposedly delicious, but we had brought like 3L of water each and had no room for new water. They had a picture book to help identify birds, where I figured out what little guy I had snapped a photo of a few hours prior!
We finally ventured back out to brave the wind, and it was a surprisingly quick walk back to the car since the tide had receded and we had flat, firm sand to walk along. The fact that Andy’s backpack of rocks weighed about 50lbs did not slow us down. The sun stayed out just long enough for us to reach the forest, and we got some “Jesus Rays” towards the end as well, where the sun streams through the clouds and it looks like every religious picture you’ve ever seen. Nothing like some Jesus Rays and salt spray on your face to refresh you in the darkness of the Seattle winter.
We hit up Propolis Brewing in Port Angeles on the way home, a recently-up-and-coming brewery which had impressively good ales (and a huge flight!) but nothing to really do with propolis like I had hoped. And then I had my first Dick’s experience, which despite living in Seattle for 3+ years now I had never tried. So I had my first bag of Dick’s. I don’t know, the prices are impressive and it gives endless opportunities for hilarity but when it comes down to it I think I’ll take a Big Mac or a Baconator (extra mayo).
So if you need an escape, check out the weather around Dungeness Spit. If it’s sunny, it’s worth the drive. And I bet in warmer weather you can even swim! OH AND THE FERRY HAD PUZZLES! How could I forget to mention that?! It was delayed 40min and I was so grumpy and then we walked upstairs and did a kitten puzzle and I swear to god it was like as soon as I sat down the ferry ride ended and then I was mad we didn’t have more time. And now we have routine puzzle nights. Well we had one, but I’m going to pester everyone until they’re routine.**