This destination is a great choice with kids of varying ages.
In June, when much of the mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest were still covered in snow, we headed for the coast. Having just backpacked the Ozette Triangle, we decided to explore Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, about ten miles to the north. We spent three and a half days exploring this wild northern Washington Coast.
Day 1: Earning Your Camp Site:
If you are a Western Washington/Northern Oregon local, this trip begins with a couple hours drive to Port Angeles to stop in at the Wilderness Information Center to pick up a permit to backpack in the Olympic National Park. Then it takes an additional two hours to get from Port Angeles to the trailhead. Before you arrive, though, you have to stop in Neah Bay to pick up a Makah Recreation Pass. On your way out to the trailhead, you end up parking a half mile sooner, because overnight parking is not allowed at the trailhead.
We did just this, however we had a few additional surprises. Like one kid getting carsick, after drinking 20 ounces of chocolate milk. FYI, there are no clothing stores in Neah Bay. So after a quick wardrobe change (ie. hiking in pajamas) we evacuated the car and put backpacks on. Also, there was no cleaning up the chocolate milk and we left the car facing the sun. It was amazing 4 days later… but I’m blessed to not have a sense of smell!
Finally backpacks are on and me and three kids are hiking down the road toward the start of the trail. It is 4 pm and we only need to hike a minimum of three flat miles to get to the closest available camping. No big deal.
Mile 1: We are excited and we are moving. Visions of campfire, sand, waves and camping together all fill our thoughts. We hike through the beautiful moss covered forest with neat bridges all around. Lil Red is excited to see giant trees and long boardwalks. The older two are just cruising along because this trail is way too easy for them. We are making amazing time.
Mile 2: What kind of trail is this? Mom, I should have brought waders! How long can one mile be? Honestly, I read that the second mile was very muddy and a challenge, but I just thought people were too “glass half empty.” I was so wrong. This was a very tough mile for a three year old who would sink up to 8 inches in mud but was too tired to keep navigating the occasional side trails. After a while, the kids began to accept deep muddy, trail and were just covered in mud. Fortunately, we were headed for the ocean. We hiked on, and on, and on. The kids had started to feel like this mud fest was never going to end. Eventually, they even turned on each other, arguing over the best path through the mud. Fortunately, right as temperaments were being challenged, I walked up on the official sign that sends you 200 feet straight down an embankment to the beach. Spirits were lifted and sibling love had returned, thankfully……because I was a solo parent on this adventure.
Mile 3: We made our way, via trail and ropes down to the bottom and toward the beach. This too had its own incident. During the end of Mile 2, my bear can, strapped to the top of my pack, fell off. One child said, “I’ll carry it for you mom.” However, said child dropped it while descending 200 feet. Bear can survived, but nearly hit people at the bottom looking up. We were screaming “bear can” while shamefully watching our food can barrel down the side of an embankment. It landed next to everyone, thankfully.
After securing bear can and apologizing, we headed toward the ocean and began our mile hike along the coast heading south. We happened to run into another family of three, talked to them for a while and ended up camping close by them. This was awesome. The kids quickly made new friends and played all night together. All six kids went to bed at midnight!
Day 2: Climbing Rocks, Jumping Waves and Tide pools
We slept good! The tide came with in 20 feet of our site, but we were still perched a good 5 feet above high tide. This meant we could hear the waves crashing very close to us all night. The sun snuck in our tent around 8 am and we were up playing in the sand immediately. The entire coast was their playground. I had to force them to come back to eat breakfast. We hiked north and explored tide pools for hours. We hiked back to the tent to eat lunch and then we hiked south to explore more of the coastline. The kids spent the entire day digging, swimming, and climbing. This is what makes backpacking fun and why the kids worked so hard on the first day.
Day 3: Point of the Arches Tide pools
Our goal was to hike two miles to the Point of the Arches and check out the tide pools. This landmark, easily seen from our camp site, looked so close. After breakfast and packing a lunch, we headed out. We forded little creeks, saw very dead sea lions, played with Japanese tsunami debris and kept hiking the coast. Two leisurely hours later, we had arrived. My son climbed every rock he could safely climb. Then found more adventure in jumping from sea stack to sea stack. Eventually, he would come see me for the first aid kit with bloodied shins. The girls excitedly found pink and purple starfish and huge sea anemones. We explored every pocket of water, every rock and every sea cave.
Two hours before dinner, I turned them around to head north again. This time they were slower on the return (half tired and half not wanting to leave). Next time, we will camp in one of the camp sites next to Point of the Arches. Two fantastic days of “no itinerary exploring” for kids is a dream and they were living it.
Day 4: Do We HAVE to Leave
How do you convince kids to wake up, pack up, put backpacks on, hike up steep hill, hike a mile in the mud, hike another mile and sit in the car for four hours? This is what I thought about when I woke up. I just laughed. There was no real easy way to do this but as we packed up we talked about our favorite parts of the trip and how we would come back with daddy to explore again. Two hours after wake up, we were all packed up and the kids were sadly saying goodbye to the beach as they headed inland toward the climb. We conquered the hill and mentally prepared for the mud. It was another long mile with kids. Eventually, we hit our “dry” mile and everyone was excited again. Soon we were back at the trailhead. I dropped all the kids off next to the bathrooms and I ran the last half road mile to the car. Ten minutes later, we were all loaded in the car and the kids were begging for the windows to be rolled down……4 day old chocolate milk vomit….We stopped off at a mini mart, grabbed some celebratory popsicles and began our drive home. Another great trip and great memories! Everyone has to backpack Shi Shi!