The morning was a little foggy-cold as it has been here the past four days. So, instead of traveling toward La Push on the coast for pictures and on to Ozette to see one of the original fishing villages that is now an archaeological dig, we changed plans. The mountains had been so much fun yesterday, why not return, but to a different area? We chose Lake Crescent and after about forty minutes of our Pioneer’s story, we had arrived at the lake. It was not yet noon.
There was plenty of parking and an icy blue-green lake beckoning us to its shores. Needless to say, Crescent Lake is a long crescent shaped lake with mountain slopes for a shoreline. At only a very few spots is there level enough ground to pitch a tent, much less build a lodge. But, build a lodge they did. And cabins and trails. It is a most welcoming little settlement. Who knew? Certainly not us.
We walked down to the lake and admired its crystal ripples through which we could see the rocks on the bottom as if looking through a window pane. It was lovely, shimmering silver and green and blue all at once. Kayakers were paddling, kids slapping in the shallows and ducks inviting themselves among the picnicers. We walked to the lodge and admired the sun room that looks out on the lake. Truly, someone had the right idea. How restful everything was.
Checking out the literature, we decided on a short hike to Marymere Falls, a mere mile and a half through the woods with only 400 feet of elevation. My Driver actually put on shoes and a brace to protect his knee and we set out into the woods for another magical walk in Nature’s Wonderland. It was almost more beautiful than yesterday, if that could be imagined. Tall, old-growth trees with weeping moss adorning every arm. A babbling stream following faithfully beside the trail. Ferns, dead trunks, exposed root balls, vines and every kind of lichen attracted our attention. The sunlight played in all the open spaces between leaves, branches and hanging moss.
We crossed the stream and journeyed toward higher elevations. Some while later, we had to cross the stream a second time, but now on a bridge made of a narrow log. Thankfully, someone saw fit to add hand rails. I know I would balk without them. And then there were stairs. A kind couple coming down saw us hesitating at a fork in the path and advised us to go left. From that trail we would be able to see the falls as we approached, they informed us. Left was the next direction we took.
Marymere Falls appeared in our sight after only a few minutes of hiking. Water fell from 80 feet off a rock shelf to the forest floor. It is as beautiful as any falls; as every falls. There were brave hikers who had jumped the rails and crawled down into the cascading pool. But these sedate hikers enjoyed the view from the overlook along the path. A kind fellow offered to take our picture and we accepted. We journeyed back toward the car seeing all new wonders on the return hike since we were going the opposite direction. It was like having an entirely different walk through the neighborhood simply by walking on the other side of the street. The view and what we notice changes completely.
In search of nourishment, we arrived at the tiny coastal village of La Push around 3:30. Once again we marveled at the change in climate, geography and vegetation from where we were only hours before. It was foggy here, but the sun was fighting valiantly for exposure. We rested ourselves into “The River’s Edge” restaurant on the Quillayute Reservation and anticipated the arrival of our dinner. While waiting we looked out on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean and watched the fog swirl around the giant sea rocks off the coast. It was gorgeous.
The dinner was excellent – the best of this trip, and the location was thrilling. We were sitting at the edge of the world with all the beauty of the day wrapped around us. Full, and satisfied, we walked back to the car thinking we would head back to the motel. But, I simply couldn’t rest until I had seen at least one of the famous beaches at La Push. We were here and so close, I didn’t want to miss it. “Couldn’t we just drive over there?”
My Driver took a right instead of the left he was planning and we turned into a large parking lot. Pulling into a parking place I realized this IS the beach. I got my camera and got out of the car. Amazingly, at 5:30 the sun was just beginning to break through the coastal fog that had hung here all day. I happily snapped pictures as the sun played hide and seek among the wisps of fog. Finally content after dozens of photos, I was ready to go.
Yet, my Driver was certain there was one more beach, Second Beach, where his information was telling him was the favorite spot of photographers. “We’re going to go right by it, do you want to stop?” I wasn’t sure. We’d already hiked three miles today and I didn’t want to tax my driver (or myself.) “I’m fine,” he kept assuring me. “It’s only a .7 mile walk to the beach. We can do it.” I softened, allured by the possibility of pictures in the sun when it actually did make a full break through the fog. “Maybe we could just stop and see what it looks like,” I hedged.
There was little signage and no visible information. We guessed we were in the right spot. There were other cars parked along the roadside. I was still waffling. My Driver said, “I’m just going to get out and read that sign over there.” He came back, informing me, “This is it. It’s only a .7 mile hike. Do you want to go?”
I wanted to say “Yes,” but I kept thinking about my Driver’s bad knee. “No,” I whined, “we can come back tomorrow.” But, I also knew that by tomorrow morning the fog would be thick and there would be little opportunity for good pictures. And, the sun was beginning to pierce the cloud cover now. It could be perfect picture taking light by the time we reached the beach. Perfect!
“I’m fine,” my Driver assured me again. “You want to go. Come on. It’s a short hike.” I really, really, really did want to see this famous beach. I wanted more than anything to see it in the setting sunlight. It’s as if I couldn’t help myself and my desire for one more beautiful experience before the day was done and we left the area. Just one more.
We got out and began the hike. Again, it was more majestic trees in lush undergrowth with mossy limbs reaching out to each other over our heads. We walked on and on. And on. At one point I could hear the surf crashing and I was encouraged. But something felt wrong. I said to my Driver, “If I were by myself, this is the point at which I’d turn around.”
“Why?” he questioned surprised. “Then you wouldn’t be able to see the beach.”
But, I knew we were not close to the beach and we’d certainly walked more than .7 miles. Yet, we carried on. After a time, I questioned him again. “What beach is this we’re going to?” He calmly assured me it was Second Beach, the one the photographers love. Yet, I knew somewhere deep inside me, it was not. About this time my walking app on my phone announced “One mile.” We had already gone beyond .7 miles and still no beach in sight.
We met a family that overtook us and their pre-teen son was running ahead and then back again to meet his parents and I asked him, “How far is it to the beach?”
“I don’t know,” he said flatly. “It’s a really long way, I think.” And, I have to admit, I thought the same. But, we walked on. The sun came out in full force and fell among the tree tops to the forest floor before taking it’s time to retreat again into the fog. And we walked on.
“If we turn back now, we’ll miss it.” Certainly, my Driver was right. So we walked on, the path winding one way and then another. I suddenly had my first realization of how easy it would be for a person to get very lost in woods as dense as these. There is no possible way to know which direction you’re going or where you have been. After a while it all looks the same.
The trail started to slope downward making the walk more difficult, but at least that meant we must be getting close to the beach, I thought. We met a woman coming up the trail, huffing and puffing. “What beach is this?” I asked her. “Third Beach,” she reported definitively. “So,” I stated, “this is the longest trail to the beach.”
“Yes,” she affirmed. “But, the beach is just straight down there.” She pointed behind herself to where the trail fell off in the distance. “But it’s really a crawl back up. I mean, it’s really steep going down.” She gasped for air as she talked, catching her breath after her ascent. I thanked her kindly and we walked on for about 20 more feet. We could now see the trail drop significantly and the beach was almost visible through the thick trees about 500 feet below us.
Having climbed 400 feet to the waterfall this morning on a staircase trail I knew I was not going down this one. “I’m not doing it,” I reported to my Driver. “I’d never get back up.” He agreed. So, after walking 1.7 miles we turned around with nothing but a slice of sight to the water below between the thickness of the forest.
FOUR: AFTER THOUGHTS
I had lots of time to ponder on the 1.7 miles back to the car. What does it take to be satisfied and when is enough enough? I simply wanted to see one more beach and I thought the sun would be perfect if we went ahead and tried for it tonight rather than returning tomorrow morning. My Driver is such an optimist and is always so supportive of my creative pursuits. He wanted this for me; I wanted this for me. We led each other on.
I realize now, I was just being too greedy; as if Mother Nature wouldn’t share her gifts with me again tomorrow. As if this day had not been glorious enough. I wanted more. It was as if I was a beauty glutton. It wasn’t enough to have this morning and this afternoon; not to mention all day yesterday and the day before; I still wanted more. I was drunk on wonder and stupefied by beauty, simply craving more.
In my disappointment at missing Second Beach in the setting sun, walking back to the car I thought about what I learned in the failed attempt.
- Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
- All information received from others is not necessarily correct. Double check your sources.
- Don’t get too greedy for something that is overflowingly plentiful on a daily basis.
- Be satisfied with what you have seen and experienced.
- Trust your own instincts and be willing to act on them. Turn around if you have to.
- Don’t be afraid to encounter the locals.
- Enjoy all you can with every step.
- Stop and listen to the silence along the way, even if you don’t know where you are or if you will get to where you are going.
- Always take your best friend with you.
- Laugh a lot together afterward.
After hiking 3.4 miles in about an hour and a half, we returned to the site of the famous sign that said it was .7 miles to Second Beach. I examined the map closely. Indeed, it did say .7 miles to Second Beach. But, just a tiny distance to the right it said 1.4 miles to Third Beach and accompanying that was added information in a box stating: YOU ARE HERE.
The only problem with the information on the sign about Second Beach was: WE WERE NOT THERE.