We hike in wilderness to experience the most pure form of nature, hoping untouched lands still exist. We search for the wildest square miles on the continent, longing to get away from the metropolitans and pavement that brings stress and worry. When we find it, we become addicted, jonesing for the next fix of pure oxygen. We explore rugged ridges, wild coastlines and forests that feel like they are as old as human civilization. We return to a timeless wonderland for a day or a week, reconnecting with the history of Earth with each step. In wilderness, we never expect to see signs of civilization.
Civilization is a bad word for many outdoor enthusiasts. The sound of it causes them to cringe, with thoughts of garbage and traffic, noise and buildings filling their brain. While I tend to agree that areas that are considered wilderness should remain wilderness, there are a few signs of civilization that I love seeing in areas designated as wilderness- one of them is petroglyphs. Ancient paintings and carvings on rocks and cliffs are intoxicating, causing my mind to race to try and understand what was happening the day it was created. A picture into long forgotten cultures and a way of life unfathomable to most, I can’t get enough of them, and when I do see them on a hike, I feel like I won the lottery.
Out along the Washington Coast, where time is measured by the power of erosion and not in the gorgeous sunsets it sees, I had one of these moments where the sight of human history made the wilderness experience even more magical. I have observed amazing petroglyphs in Utah and throughout Public Lands in the South West, but seeing them in my wet corner of the Pacific Northwest is a rarity and a joy. Especially after a four hour drive to one of the wildest stretches of coast in the contiguous United States.
The Destination- Wedding Rocks.
The Trail- Ozette.
The National Park- Olympic.
Ozette is one of the best beach hikes in Olympic National Park. Growing in popularity, with stories and pictures being shared from this remote beach for generations, Ozette still feels wild, especially in the Winter. Year-round, this rugged and wild beach is one of the wilderness regions in Olympic that blow people away with stunning beauty. That is what led me there years ago, for a quick hike on the nine mile Ozette Triangle trail.
I had camped at a flooded Lake Ozette campground the night before, listening to great horned owls and rain. I remember being eager to head out alone on the coast, seeing the miles of sea stacks and tide pools with no human distractions. The weather called for a break in the winter deluge, and I was trusting it fully. As I awoke the next morning, the clouds were parting enough to see a beautiful sunrise. The weather was going to be awesome.
The first section of the hike flew by. Three miles through a few stands of trees and swampland, covered by a simple wooden walkway, mostly elevated above the ground. While beautiful and wild in its own way, I was here for the beach and powered through. Before long, the silence of the trail was gone, replaced with an increasing roar from the pounding waves of the Pacific. The trail eventually hit a bluff and I quickly climbed down to the beach. The tide had just started going out an hour earlier, showing off the first tide pools and smaller sea stacks. My day was going just as I had planned.
I explored the coast for hours, covering less than a mile each hour. So much beauty distracted me from paying attention to the trail that I rounded a sea stack and found myself looking directly at the Wedding Rocks Petroglyphs. I knew they were here, but wasn’t expecting to look at them so soon, or to see them in such great shape. Visible were nearly 40 scenes from the coast, including orcas standing out against the rock. Most of the carvings in the rock are thought to be around 300 to 500 years in age, though there few that are just a few hundred years old.
I sat here for an hour, looking them over and trying to connect with them any way possible. Out here, miles from anything, humans had left their mark and told a story, carving a snapshot of their lives that I could see hundreds of years later. Their work was beautiful and inspiring, helping me realize that while our individual impact may not last long, our stories will continue to be spread until the end of time. It was a sobering thought from the bliss of the day, but it was one that I caused me to smile. The carvings has helped generations develop an appreciation for wilderness and nature, and inspired me to keep plugging away at trying to inspire others to visit public lands. Our love of telling stories about nature has been passed on for hundreds and thousands of years, and we continue this as best we can, hoping the words or images we share will have even a fraction of the impact that ancient petroglyphs give.
Hiking the triangle offers coastal isolation in one of the most beautiful, rugged beaches in the world. The beaches of Olympic National Park are the most rugged, wild and undeveloped stretches of coast in the contiguous United States, so having a chance to hike, camp and explore there regions rarely seen by the masses gives hiking in Olympic a unique twist.
Hike here this year.
Find the petroglyphs, reconnect with history and fall more in love with the wild and wonderful Olympic Peninsula.
*This post was written in one hour for #NatureWritingChallenge
Discover a Hike a Week through Doug Scott’s Olympic National Park Area Guidebook