As I was crawling through the rain slick log jam, I thought, “This can’t be the rain I’m feeling, it can’t be raining that hard, the surf must be dumping on the logs”! Well, it was both. And that was in direct competition with all the noise. This time the battle was between the wind in the tree tops and the dumping surf. Was I on Toleak Beach or an alien world.?
Pacific Northwest
It takes a lot of rainfall to keep this rain forest green.

COASST

Last month I attended the Beached Cast Bird Survey class held by the University of Washington COASST program. You can read more details here,  but let’s just say I was anxious to get out there and start my first search. I was also using this opportunity to get out to those ‘more remote’ areas of the Washington coast. But as the saying goes, be careful for what you wish for.

Toleak Beach

There are dozens and dozens of beaches one can volunteer for in Washington. A handful of those are on the coast. I’m waiting for approval for my first choice but in the meantime I’ve chosen Toleak Beach as my survey beach. It’s located just south of Scotts Bluff in some of the most rugged and stunning coastline in Washington. Jason and I had paddled through this area a few summers back so I was somewhat familiar this beach; we had actually brought our kayaks in not far from here to camp.

Mora Campground

However, camping on the beach wasn’t in the cards this time around. I needed a basecamp to stage out of that would accommodate the A122. It could be argued that I’ve grown soft (or wise, depending on your point of view, but  I’ve grown accustomed to warm dry accomodations in the morning!

Mora Campground is located on the north shore of the Quillayute River and just inland of La Push in the Olympic National Park. What it lacks in amenities it more then makes up in beauty. There are 94 first come, first serve sites located in 5 loops. All are surrounded by beautiful old growth trees and rainforest but many are rather small. The maximum size of trailer is listed as 35’ but I’d guess there are really only a handful of sites that would handle that size. Best to arrive early.

Rain...And Then More Rain

My email with the directions on locating the beach mentioned going down a forest service road to the end where you can pick up the trail down to the beach. I read and reread the description and compared them to my topo map of the area. I thought I had a good idea of where and how long it would all take to get to the beach for the survey. Not quite.

My stretch of beach has an unnamed point that is covered at high water. The plan was to catch the falling tide an hour or so after highwater. For the first survey I wanted to have plenty of ebb to work with. What I couldn’t know or control was the series of storms that were taking aim on my chosen weekend.

Theresa and I left that morning under overcast but light breezes late in the morning (high tide was approximately noon). We were cautiously hopeful that perhaps we’d get there and back before the forecasted high winds and rain actually started.

Our first snag came when we found that our Forest Road had been blocked well before our described trailhead. It would add some time and distance to the overall hike but we were anxious to give it a try.

Our second snag was that it took much longer to find the trailhead then expected, it’s easy to find once you know what you’re looking for but it isn’t quite where my directions said it would be, it’s actually just short of the end of the road.

Third snag; we weren’t following Scott’s Creek like I had hoped but rather we were actually headed up and over Scotts Bluff. We realized this was going to be a bit more of a slog then we had hoped but we were committed and Theresa is nothing if not tenacious.

So up and over we went. Once we reached the top of the Bluff we had about a half hour hike on fairly level ground. This fog surrounded us and it was eerily beautiful. Easy to understand how the ‘woods’ once hid the boogeyman. And even today I really wouldn’t want to get caught out at night in these thick, dark woods.

By the time we made the beach we were breathless, sore, and getting pounded by the rain. To add insult to injury even though we were well past the mid-ebb point, the storm surge was pushing the waves into the logs. In other words there would be no survey for April!

If you could have heard me above the wind and surf, you would have heard a string of blue curses!

Later, back in the warmth of our trailer, we reviewed what we did and didn’t do. Although we didn’t accomplish a survey as hoped, we took some solace in the amount of knowledge we gained about this particular beach; things like when, how long, at what tide etc.

We’ll be back in May!

Steve Weileman

I've been lucky enough to have some of my work featured on CNN, Outside TV and, National Geographic. Join me as I continue to both learn the art of film-making and document the exciting new modern world of citizen-science. His work has been featured on CNN, National Geographic, and OutsideTV, as well as numerous local outlets.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Wish I cold be on some of your adventures. Live to read and live vicariously through you though. Great read!

    1. Anytime!! I’m just trying to stay busy till I can get back up your way. 🙂

  2. Wow what an adventure
    Would like to see more of your work

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