Today’s miles: 10.5
Total miles: 474.5
It’s my last day on the PNT, and as with many days on this trail, it will not proceed exactly as written. Technically, I should hike a few more miles right up the coast to the terminus at Cape Alava. But the tides are such that, to get around one headland, we would have to wait until the afternoon and thus miss our shuttle. We study the maps and devise an alternative: we’ll use the Ozette Triangle trail system to walk through the forest to the trailhead, then back out to the coast right at Cape Alava, the retrace our steps back to the trailhead. It requires some extra walking, and I’ll miss a few coastal miles, but it feels worthwhile to at least be able to reach the real endpoint of this trail.
In the morning we have a short, peaceful beach walk to Sand Point, where the sea birds are bathing. We find the Ozette Trail and enter the woods, temporarily leaving the ocean behind. After the last few days, it’s remarkable how quickly we can hike this forested trail, all flat with nice dirt and boardwalks underfoot. We haven’t run out of things to talk about, and the conversation is steady all the way to the trailhead, where we turn onto the other inland leg of the triangle, now headed back to the beach.
I can kind of see where the tree line just ends, indicating our arrival at the ocean, and we hear what sounds like a large party of chattering people. But when we emerge from the woods, there’s just one sleepy campsite set up. All the noise is from a group of sea lions barking on a nearby island!
There’s no official marker at the western terminus of the PNT. Cape Alava is the westernmost point of the contiguous 48 states, and the endpoint of this trail. I walk out onto the rocks here, feeling the conclusion of this hike. What a rugged, beautiful, challenging adventure this has been. What extremes I’ve experienced along the way: landscape, weather, emotions. What an enormous internal capacity I’ve sensed within myself, tempered by the recognition of my smallness in relation to the complicated expanse of forests, mountains, and ocean I’ve traveled through and with.
We take many pictures here and sit on a large chunk of driftwood for lunch. I rapidly consume everything left in my food bag, and ten minutes later announce to Colleen that there’s a small store and deli just near our shuttle stop, and we can have time for second lunch there if we head back now. We both spring into action, packing up and getting back on trail, back to the Ozette trailhead again. On the small paved road to the store, we pass two hikers hitching a ride out. They’ve just finished their PNT thrus, and it’s kind of cool to meet other PNTers here — I’ve seen so few! We don’t linger, though, because I’m already hungry again.
At the store I consume the most delicious deli sandwich I’ve had on the entire trip, and chips and a soda, and take a Gatorade to go. Our shuttle is waiting when we return to the trailhead, and the ride is quite long because there are so few roads out here, and the roads themselves wind all around. The driver talks endlessly of fishing in the area: his own fishing experiences, his daughter’s fishing history, the best places to catch this and that type of fish. I zone out, leaving poor Colleen to keep up the conversation (though she just seems to go into journalist mode, occasionally asking another question that prompts twenty more minutes of fishing stories from the driver).
Back in her car, we stop for milkshakes and curly fries (yes I am already hungry again) to sustain us on the drive back to Seattle. She drops me at my friend Jeannette’s apartment — J is out of town on her own hiking adventure, and generously offered her place for me to crash. I’m so grateful for the quiet space to shower, wash clothes, and rest before my flight home. While there, I eat pretty much every two hours, insatiable. And then I fly home, a temporary farewell to this blue-green landscape, already planning where I’ll hike next time, when I come back with Cyn. Meanwhile, though, I have only two weeks to recharge before my next long hike, along a trail almost entirely the PNT’s opposite…
ps. For more narrative and pictures of the coastal section, you can check out Colleen’s post here!