PNT Day 32: A Nice Walk on the Beach

Today’s miles: 2

Total miles: 449.1

In the morning I am at the laundromat just as the owner unlocks the door. I need to get this chore done efficiently so I’ll be ready to go when Colleen arrives. I met Colleen in 2017, in the California desert on the PCT. She was part of a larger group of cool, smart, funny women that I met in the shade by a water source — it was the first time on that trail that I found people I really liked. The next day, we all had lunch together at Paradise Valley Cafe, where I got my trail name. But after that, I got off-schedule from them all, and never saw them again. But I did connect with a few of them on social media, and now five years later Colleen is joining me for this last section of my PNT! I’m very excited to actually have a hiking partner for the first time on this trail, and also a little nervous: will we still like each other in person? Will we have things to talk about?

But oh, haha, as soon as I get in her car I’m taking a mile a minute. “I’m not usually like this,” I explain, “but I’ve hardly talked to anyone in a month!” Since our first campsite on the coast only requires two miles of walking, she offers to take me on a driving tour of Forks. We drive up and back down the main street (~4 minutes) and go into the visitor’s center (~20 minutes, because Colleen talks to the staff there about Twilight and I learn from a booklet at the desk that the strange small creature I saw several days ago was a mountain beaver!). And then our tour is over.

We magically find a great parking spot at crowded Rialto Beach. I am skipping some of the southern coastal portion of the PNT, because the tides right now are such that I would have to cross one cape at like 2am, and I didn’t want to do that alone (I had to book my permits way before Colleen agreed to join). So here we are at Rialto, setting out to do the northern portion. It’s cold and foggy, and everything looks very dramatic. What an incredible landscape for the last days of this hike.

Colleen on the foggy beach.

We walk along the beach marveling, dodging the crowds. A dead otter and a dead seabird have washed ashore. There are incredible tidepools, especially near Hole-in-the-Wall, the landmark designating our first camp area.

Sea stacks.
Bright green anemone in the tidepool.

The clouds have burned off and it’s sunny now. We begin to look for campsites, but several nice spots are already taken. One long stretch of beach looks promising, but two people spy us assessing it and walk over to (passive-aggressively) dissuade us. They clearly want this whole area for their group. Eventually we find a perfect spot for two tents, tucked away like a secret behind big logs of driftwood. There are nice places to sit, and even some wind chimes made out of wooden bits that have washed up. We’re thrilled.

View of Hole-in-the-Wall from near our campsite.

It’s still very early in the day. “This is great,” I gush. “It’s so nice to have these short days, to end with nice beach walking and have all this time to relax by the ocean.” We spend more time wandering around, looking at the miniature dramas playing out in the tidepools. We chat without pause all afternoon: books, childhoods, therapy, writing, hiking. My voice is hoarse by sunset, but I don’t mind. It’s beautiful and wild here, and I’m glad to have a friend to experience it with.

Beginning of sunset.

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