BY: SUSIE MESKILL
SHI SHI BEACH, WASHINGTON
The wind was howling ferociously and water was dripping from every corner of the tent. There we each lay butt naked in our own sleeping bags. The final question of the night remained: should we crack open a can of Rainier? We all laughed at the absurdity of the situation at hand. We were drenched. We were freezing. We couldn’t fall asleep. I think we all wished we could rewind twelve hours when we were sitting in a co-op in Clallam Bay, Washington. We were cracking jokes with the cashier, probably breaking into a container of hummus, and relaxing with expresso in hand.
Shi Shi Beach was supposed to be the most picturesque, secluded beach on the entire Olympic peninsula. Few people make the trek up to this region of the United States and even fewer make their way to the Makah Reservation to hike two miles through puddles and swamps to see Shi Shi Beach. As we drove the winding roads through the reservation, we were second-guessing our decision. Reviews online told us not to park at the trailhead unless you wanted to return to your car resting on cinderblocks. We paid ten bucks to park in a random lady’s front lawn, packed our food in a dry bag, and started sloshing to the trail. A monstrous but fluffy dog named Bear began to walk with us from the parking spot acting as our guide/guard dog to Shi Shi.
The rain was coming down in a drizzle at this stage of the game. After avoiding puddles for the first fifty yards, we soon realized soggy shoes and muddy pants were inevitable. Almost a mile into the trail (and three miles from his home), Bear was still hiking with us. Jake was turning around every thirty seconds to shoe him away. After Jake turned his back, Jess would motion for Bear to come back to our crew. He would pause, stare at us for a moment, and then run back to us every time. We laughed while wondering how this sopping wet dog was going to fit into our tent. As soon as we saw the beach, we knew it was going to be a memorable night. The rocks in the water resembled giant snaggleteeth, and the greyness of the sky added to the eerie vibes. The only thing separating us from setting up camp was a 60 to 70-degree vertical slope (rated a Class IV scramble at least or potentially a 5.5 according to Jake) and a sketchy old rope. We carefully descended one by one while trying to avoid plummeting to the sand a hundred feet below.
We successfully made it to sea level. However, the intensity of the rain picked up, and daylight was dwindling. “Quick! You two set up the tents, and we’ll start making dinner!” Kate and Jess set up our Gear Tent to keep our packs dry and then assembled the Sleeping Tent. Jake and I lit the camp stove and grabbed a pot full of seawater to make Ocean Pasta (a nourishing and delicious meal satisfying our sodium intakes for the month). Tents were up. Dinner was ready. As we took our first bites of noodles and veggies, the rain came down even harder making it impossible to see anything more than ten feet away. Gusts of wind blew sand into our meal. We shoveled the pasta into our mouths in under two minutes. We all took turns stripping in the foyer of the tent before entering our sleeping bags. (This ordeal took us about ten minutes each due to the layers and layers of sopping wet clothes.)
“Did anyone check the tide levels?” We all busted out laughing picturing our tent getting slammed by waves in the middle of the night. We were squished into a three-person tent and drenched from head to toe. It’s not very often that one could find themselves in the most miserable conditions with such an upbeat and optimistic group of people. You are almost guaranteed to have a good time when complaints are rare and spirits are high (and the Rainiers are plentiful). We didn’t have an extra dry pair of hiking socks or underwear, but we had each other. We jokingly proclaimed that the next day we would wake up to clear skies and temperatures in the seventies. After emerging from the tent to more rain and clouds, we all learned a fairly important rule of the road. It’s the friends that lay shivering and laughing next to you in a tent in the middle of nowhere who make the world less of a cold, harsh place.