Before heading into the hills it's a good idea to call first to check trail conditions. Winter's grip is still firm upon many U.S. Forest Service roads and a couple of tough winters have closed many trails. Maybe someday I'll learn to take my own advice.
I checked trail reports online and gathered that the Slab Camp Trail was open and accessible. Maybe it was, but I lacked the four-wheel-drive vehicle to make it through the snow covering the last couple miles to the trail.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. A story is only as good as the telling.
Dawn broke softly. A muted pink still lined the underside of the clouds as I set out for Slab Camp. A golden glow glimmered in the trees; snow-shouldered Olympics beckoned at the end of Taylor Cutoff Road.
The first portion of Slab Camp Road, aka Forest Service Road 2875, was free and clear as I motored up the roadway. Isolated patches of snow clung in shadows. With little elevation to gain, I was not too apprehensive. That changed.
A mile or so in, the road continuing straight was immediately clothed in snow save for twin tire ruts. To the right, the road continued clear as before. Without any sort of marking indicating which was the correct road, I stayed on the clear roadway.
I think I made a mistake.
After a short distance, a sign warned that the road was closed to all traffic save logging trucks. A little farther along another sign ominously warned that the area was under video surveillance. I didn't feel welcome.
There wasn't anywhere to safely turn around so I backed down the road half a mile or so to a pullout and headed back down the hill. If Slab Camp was out, perhaps I could take Forest Service Road 2870 over to the Graywolf River Trail.
Sure enough, 2870 started out clear too, but soon it was a two-tracked path through a snow-covered road. I wasn't slipping or anything, as the road was clear on the tire tracks but if I had to pull aside for an oncoming vehicle I'd likely get stuck in the snow. Plus, what was clear now might soon be a morass of ice.
I resolved to turn around soon. I stopped at one of the spur roads, 2870-060, I believe, and decided to hike it. The untrammeled track was covered with pristine snow. Douglas-fir and cedar trees lined the path. Many younger trees, saplings really, sprung up alongside the road as I crunched my way down a mild incline.
I paused to study some animal tracks in the snow. I'm not much of a tracker but the combination of big and little paws said "rabbit" to me. The trail didn't get much farther before ending; more "rabbit" tracks graced the snow here. I put my boots end to end between the tracks and figured the little guy jumped about eight feet with his longest hop.
Heading back, I was barely satisfied. I'd hiked less than half a mile but didn't fancy challenging the snowy road.
I headed back to pick up Mandy at her folks' house to see if she fancied a beach hike. She hadn't wanted to trek in the mountains. After a little getting ready, we were on our way to Port Williams beach. I hadn't really hiked much there, just a cursory visit a couple of years ago.
We decided to first head south. The water lapped gently against the dark sand of the shore. A couple sea gulls wheeled silently overhead while a few others bobbed in the water. On the strait, a black freighter slipped quietly along the horizon toward Puget Sound. The tree-topped sand cliffs across the bay mirrored the cliff at our back - a cliff that soon melted away into a field of tawny grasses.
The beach isn't a place of solitude. We smiled and nodded at several groups of fellow beach walkers, some with four-legged friends. The sound of wind and surf, though, can give the illusion of being alone. There was a sign posted at the border of the beach and marshy field indicating private property. Others continued down the beach but we took it as a good place to turn around and explore the northern beach.
The sun played hide and seek with the clouds. The scent of brine and decaying sea things wafted on the crisp breeze. We squished the balls at the bottom of seaweed strands, trying to get them to pop. We watched as the water poured out of the broken balls.
There were several memorials, with crosses, photos and writings left in memory of people, that we noted on the way back. North of the parking lot, the cliffs are taller, the sand is layered and in places crumbles to the sea. We walked to a point, looked out across the water to Canada and the San Juan Islands, then moseyed back to head home for lunch.
Leif Nesheim is hiking columnist and a former reporter for the Sequim Gazette. He is a reporter at the Daily World in
Aberdeen. He can be reached at
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