The journey to Cape Flattery, (aka the northwestern-most point of the contiguous US) feels like a journey to the edge of the world. As you travel the narrow, curvy road past a smattering of small towns teetering on bluffs overlooking the coast, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that for centuries humans have called this land home.
After passing through the tiny coastal community of Neah Bay where fishing boats appear to outnumber people, the road jogs left and meanders along for a few more miles before dead-ending at the very far corner of the Olympic Peninsula. It is here that a jagged spit of land called Cape Flattery juts out into the Pacific. Famed for its designation as the Northwestern-most point of the US (excluding Alaska), you can expect a full parking lot, even mid-week on a chilly, gray afternoon.
The trail to the Cape is short and not particularly strenuous, although the somewhat precarious wooden boardwalks require careful footing. We stopped along the way to gaze out on the rugged coastline before climbing the final viewing platform at the tip of the cape.
Cape Flattery is a long drive from anywhere. Which is why instead of making it a day trip, we spent a whole week in Neah Bay at the oceanside Hobuck Beach Resort. This place gets good reviews online, but the truth is that without the ocean view, it doesn’t have much going for it.
In other words, don’t let the name fool you…there is nothing even remotely resort-like about this place. There’s a big open field where you can park for $25 a night, or ten full hook-ups sites squished together in a dirt lot with a smattering of picnic tables and seemingly random piles of rocks used as fire pits (some in the middle of the sites). The hook-ups are shared with neighboring sites, meaning every other rig is facing the opposite direction so you get the pleasure of sharing a front yard with a bunch of strangers. Or, your neighbors will pull in the wrong way and open their big-ass slide only leaving a few feet between it and your front door. In other words, the campground itself is kind of a shit show.
BUT, and this is big but, the ocean is right there. I mean right in front of you. The long stretch of beach with nothing but sand and ocean goes a long way toward making up for the less than stellar camping conditions.
The visibility was very, very low during the first few days of our stay. Thick fog combined with smoke that had drifted south from the fires raging in B.C. made for a few days of eerie beach walks where you could barely see anything.
While the fog did lift periodically, the smoke was with us all week making for some interesting looking skies.
The fog and unhealthy smoke-filled air kept us close to home for most of the week. Well, that and the chilly temps combined with frequent drizzle. I used to think that the heartiest people were those who lived in climates with cold winters. After spending time on the WA coast I’ve revised that opinion and now think that anyone who lives here year-round is the heartiest of them all. I mean, it might be frigidly cold six months out of the year in New England and the upper Midwest, but at least the sun comes out more than once every two weeks.
Despite my complaints, we had a pretty nice week and when the weather allowed, enjoyed a few fun outings around the area. One of those was a walk on Shi Shi Beach. So many people recommended this beach that we simply could not pass it up. Like many of the beaches on the Peninsula, Shi Shi is only accessible via a hike through the forest. It’s about two miles from the parking lot to the beach. Most of the walk is on an easy path with the occasional wooden boardwalk along with some muddy areas. At the end, we climbed down a very steep set of stairs, pushed through some thick undergrowth and there it was…another amazing beach.
Shi Shi is part of the Olympic National Park and marks the northernmost end of the Great Coastal Trail. Earlier in the summer, we had been planning a multi-day backpacking trip starting from here and ending at Ozette Lake. But for various reasons, it fell through and we settled on some day hikes along the trail instead. Hopefully, we can make the trip work next summer because you can only see so much during an out and back day trip.
As this was a mid-week, after-work kind of adventure we only made it a few miles down the beach. It was enough to decide that we need to come back here and explore more!
Another day we drove a few miles over to Neah Bay to check out the street fair that was part of the annual Makah Days. Turned out to be mostly food vendors along with a few booths selling trinkets. Since we were not in the market for either trinkets or food we walked over to the marina to see the fishing boats. I find a working harbor such as this so much more interesting than one filled with pleasure boats. As someone who gave up fishing at the age of 8 (the dead fish flopping around in the bottom of the boat did me in), I am not sure exactly what draws me to these boats. Maybe it’s the mystery of it all. The giant nets, coils of line, and endless amount of rigging along with other things I have no names for are simply fascinating.
Chances are high that we will make it back here next summer for the long anticipated backpacking trip. Fingers crossed that we can time it to avoid the worst of the wildfire smoke season.