Completely separate from the main Olympic National Park is a strip of national park along the Pacific Ocean coast. This section of the park is 73 miles long but only a few miles wide. The beach has unbroken stretches of wilderness up to 20 miles long and constitutes the longest stretch of unspoiled coastal wilderness in the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported connecting the coast with the main park, but such a move was never approved by Congress. This photo shows the famous “sea stacks” just off Railto Beach. Sea stacks are erosion-resistant rocks isolated from the land by the sea. They are originally connected to a sea cliff or headland, but the relentless pounding of waves erodes adjacent softer rock and leaves behind the harder rock of the sea stacks.
The driftwood piles along Railto Beach were higher and larger than I’d ever seen. In some places the driftwood piled up 20 feet high and hundreds of feet deep along the beach. As we entered the beach area, there was a sign warning that driftwood can be a deadly missile. Most coastal communities in the US consider driftwood as a safety hazard and/or eyesore, so they remove driftwood from their beaches. Being a wilderness area that must remain undisturbed by humans, Olympic National Park gives people the opportunity to see what a real unspoiled beach looks like, even if it’s all covered with driftwood.
Author Stefenie Meyer staged her massively famous “Twilight” trilogy of books about vampires and werewolves in the town of La Push, Washington–which sits on the Pacific coast and is enveloped by Olympic National Park–and also in the nearby town of Forks. So naturally the locals have fully embraced the Twilight craze in order to boost tourism. Rumor has it that after each book is released as a movie, more visitors come looking for Edward and Jacob than the park. By the way, in spite of what the sign says above, we didn’t see any sparkly-skinned folk.
Unfortunately much of our time on the coast was spent shrouded in fog. Sometimes we could see the silhouettes of the sea stacks standing offshore like giant ghosts. We hiked along the beautiful Second Beach but couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet offshore.
While it was foggy along the coast, just a couple miles inland at our campground it was sunny and warm. Here Theresa and Darby were waiting in a grassy picnic area for Shadow and me to return from the beach. We had driven over to the beach to see if the ocean had lifted its fog shroud (it hadn’t). When we returned, Darby enjoyed chasing Shadow around this open field.
The nice thing about Railto Beach is that dogs are allowed, which is uncommon in a national park. So we made the best of the fog and went for a long walk along the beach. The dogs were especially interested in the carcass of a large sea lion that had washed up onshore, but we wouldn’t let them near it.
While the sea stacks looked like ghosts, the trees stripped of their leaves along the shore looked like skeletons. The winter gales off the Pacific Ocean can reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
On our last night on the coast, I could tell the fog had lifted as I drove toward the beach and the sun blasted through the trees.
Sure enough there was only a slight mist in the air, and I could see the ocean waves pounding on the beach.
Previously invisible sea stacks now appeared offshore in the sunset.
I had been waiting for three years since my father Tom Martin had passed away for just the right time and place to spread his cremated ashes. My dad loved the sea and the sun. I believe he was happiest in life when he was spending time on his boat in Florida. On the morning that we were leaving the coast, the fog had completely disappeared, the sun was shining brightly, the sea stacks were standing proud, and the waves were crashing loudly on the shore. I could gaze out over the deep blue water of the Pacific Ocean all the way to the horizon. It was the perfect place to set my dad free. And as I did, a calm peace came over me, for now he was home. I love you, Dad!