In The Middle of Gnome Where ~ South Coast Wilderness Trail, July 2019

“The child in us is always there, you know, and its the best part of us, the winged part that travels farthest.” ~ Elizabeth Goudge

Until we started venturing off into the wild I only felt my inner child emerge on rare occasions.  And when she did spill forth I hardly recognized her.  But, each time my bold bunion-ed feet take flight upon a dirt path she wells up in my chest and seeps through my worn and wrinkled skin.  She oohs and ahhs and dances and prances and wonders and wanders and wafts about.  Her song is a silent melody of thankfulness, for all she sees, all she has and all that is yet to be.  The wild enthralls her.

I get to dance around and explore the world with a part of me that never grows old or grows up but always and forever I am also a mother.  And what I want for my kids, more than fame and fortune and friends galore, is to never lose touch with their childlike wonder.  So although it seems as if they are growing less fond of the wild or just more fond of the unwild – I can’t help but continue to drag them out there.

The South Coast Wilderness Trail bobs and weaves in an out of the lush Olympic Forest and traipses along beautiful sandy beaches for 17 miles from Third Beach to Oil City.  Early Friday morning we loaded up the few teenagers we could gather (Chase, Hadley and my nephew Parker) to make the four hour drive to La Push and portioned out a mere 6 miles of that stretch to a little camp spot we named GnomeWhere (somewhere in between Strawberry Point and Toleak).  It was the perfect distance for the child within us all to come alive, breath the salty ocean air, feel the sand in our toes and welcome the sun drenched kisses from above.


From the time they were tiny, they’ve known how to warp through their dreams, traveling from home to new worlds far far away – seemingly in no time at all.
From home to far far away – just like that!
The last time we walked this way we were socked in and dripping wet.  So when we dipped down to Third Beach with blue skies above us and our shadows gently following behind us we were feeling pretty giddy.
One of the best things about this hike are the challenges you face along the way.  There are folds of the beach that cannot be crossed even at the lowest of tides.  Instead you must scale dirt walls…
and climb rickety old cable ladders.
This ropes course, of sorts, continued to pull us high into the lush green forest.
For almost two miles the path continued to rise one step at a time…
Then it fell,
and rose again – seemingly pulling us far from the pulsing beat of the ocean we drove so far to see.
But, just when we began to miss the rhythmic crashing of its waves we got a little peek-a-boo view.
And then the path dropped us back down to it’s comforting shores.
If the tide is low enough (4ft-ish), you can skip the rope the climb at Talor Point and hike around instead.  There is even a little cave you can spelunker yourself through.
The rocky beach walk is short lived here and before we knew it we were, literally, climbing back up into the forest.
This was the longest and steepest rope climb, but it was no match for these long lovely legs.
Once we shimmied on up and strolled through the woods just a bit more the trail led us back to the ocean and it was pretty much smooth sailing from Scott’s Creek on.
Just a pretty little stone display:)
We’ve been this way three other times and our favorite place to pitch a tent or two was shimmied right up next to Strawberry Point.  In years past, just before the point, there was a spot where water trickled down from the forest, making it just a short jaunt from camp to fill up.  But, as we approached our old stomping grounds we realized our convenient little trickle had disappeared.
Chase was pretty bummed, but the rest of us were still smiling as we pushed on towards Toleak where we knew there was a solid water source.
Jackson Creek meets up with ocean just past Toleak and although I’ve often read that this portion of the beach is less crowded we turned the corner to find more tents huddled around the creek than we had seen most of the day.  So we ventured down the beach some more in search of solitude.  We never found a great spot to pitch our tents but we did happen upon an even better satiating fall of tannin tinted water, which we ended up using the rest of our stay.
Hads and I lingered to stock up on aqua while the boys headed back the way we came to stake claim to a little spot we had spied along the way.
Our sweet spot – somewhere/gnomewhere between Toleak and Strawberry Point.
With a lovely Little Rock formation right outside our backdoor.
We settled right in.
Powered up.
And then EXPLORED.

Later while chatting around the fire we named this spot Gnomewhere.  We saw a variety of pictures in the face of these rocks that promptly became the boys’ playground, but the one we liked the best was of two gnomes chumming it on the beach, sitting back to back:)

The child within these teens couldn’t get enough of the wild shore.
They bounced from Gnomewhere to Toleak to Strawberry and back again – again and again and again.


This little peanut stuck closer to home.
We knew there was a chance of rain in the evening so as the clouds rolled in we cozied up a bit back at camp.
And put up a shelter for good measure.
The boys watched the water boil, eagerly anticipating dinner.
While Hads reconnected with an old book by the fire.
Apparently, “I Funny” is just as funny second time around:)
The day faded without much flare and the rain held off until nightfall.
But, everyone was so tired from our early rise and the 8 or so miles of hiking that got us here, to mind the drops that ushered us into our staked abodes  by 10pm, cutting our fireside chat a bit short.
From 12-3am it POURED. Mike and I rose early to a drenched camp – feeling a bit sluggish:)
But, before long, brilliant beams began to warm the faces of our gnome friends.
So, we joined them for a bit while we waited.
For those golden rays of light to dry up camp.
And stir the teenagers.
Our water station was a 2mile round trip walk from camp.  Jackson Creek was closer, but we didn’t mind the extra jaunt to what seemed like fresher water.  After breakfast Mikey and I headed that way and back again to refill our stores.
And then while the kids went adventuring again…
We climbed back into the forest South of Toleak to see what we could see.
There were more ropes to assist us, but with no packs to weigh us down we made it up without their help.
Once again the forest quickly hushed the Oceans roar and we wandered through its tall timbers in silence.
This portion of trail strolls through the forest for just under two miles crossing over Goodman Creek a couple times and then…
Drops you down to a long and lonely stretch of beach.
We didn’t linger long because we had kids back at camp leaping from boulders ~ but if you happen to come this way when the tide is low you can crawl through a cave in the rocks just to the right (once you drop down to the beach) and explore a little hidden stretch of sand that looked like it could be pretty pretty:)
Luckily our stretch was pretty pretty too.
So we didn’t mind hurrying back.
We were happy to find everyone back at camp – with no major injuries.
Hadley was weaving together some beach trash to fashion herself a swing, of course.
Chase didn’t have the patience for weaving so he shimmied up a tree to cut loose and repurpose this wrecking ball of a bouy.
Which proved to be quite the ride:)
After high tide the night before we realized our tents would be safe and sound closer to our lounging elfish neighbors as well as the morning light, so we rearranged a bit.
And then I reclined with those fine fellas for a few.
We whittled away the rest of the day with dancing and prancing.
And explorations of all kinds.
And just a bunch of chumming around.
It was a happy…
child-like wonder…
sort of day:)
And Hadley even found time to complete her swing.
All too soon the sun began dip.
So, we gathered ’round the fire once more.
And filled our bellies with a late dinner while we watched the fading sun lavishly spray paint the sky a sherbet hue of loveliness.
We chatted and laughed…
and lounged the night away.
Huddled ’round our cozy fire, with a seemingly endless sunset as our backdrop, there was gnome where else in the world ANY of us would rather be.
But, by morning – everyone was ready to pack up and make the long journey back home.
The boys bid Gnomewhere farewell.
And then we did as we always try to do – and left it better than we found it.
On the way in we set out at as high tide was ebbing, but in hopes of getting an earlier start for our exodus, we headed out as low tide was ascending and thus we had to walk a little faster.
And repel a bit more rapidly.
It made for a few stressful crossings.
And we had to go up and over,
Where we had originally been able to just mosey around.
But, once we climbed back up into the last stretch of wooded wonder we settled in to an easier stride.
And soon that endless blue beauty was sprawling out before us once again.
Of course, there was a bit more shimmying.
And scaling.
And one last repel.
But, once we had all dropped down out of the forest,
And so casually slipped through that last little thread of sand at high tide on Third Beach,
It was just an easy little stroll along a dirt path to our car – and yet another happy ending to a blissful adventure on the wild shore

Bear canisters and backcountry permits are required for overnight stays on the Olympic Coast. You can obtain both at the WIC in Port Angeles. Or, if you own your own canisters you can grab a mail-in permit at the Third Beach Trailhead. Just be sure to take of the wild by following through on the mail-in portion. The overnight fee is $8 per person 16 and older per night.

Tide Notes

I did a lot of searching before this trip to figure out just how low the tide needed to be to get from point A (Third Beach) to point B (Gnomewhere – or rather Somewhere in between Strawberry Point and Toleak).  But, to no avail. So I just printed out a tide table for Third Beach at and then penciled in the feet at each ebb and flow as well as at several points a few hours in-between.  Our morning high tides seemed to be relatively low (less then 5feet coming in and just over 5feet when we headed out), so I hoped that if we started our hike just as the tide was headed back out  the beaches would continue to open up as we went along and we’d make it to camp just fine.

Luckily, my reasoning panned out on the way there.  We even made it to the second rope climb at Taylor Point with just enough room to walk around the bend instead of climbing over it.  I am guessing that the tide was at about 4ft when we passed through.  At 4ft or less we made it all the way to Scotts Creek and around the next rocky bend without a problem.

On the way back out we didn’t want to wait for the tide to hit its 5.4ft height at 10:40 so we left camp at 8a.m., with the tide pulsing at what I think was probably just under that 4ft mark, hoping to slide through before it rose too high for us to make it all the way out.  This proved to be a little more stressful than I thought.  The first stretch of beach between Strawberry Point, crossing the rocky area by The Giants Graveyard and on down to Scotts Creek was fine.  But, when we climbed back out of the woods around the bluff we had to wait in line to scale down the ropes.  There were only two groups of two in front of us but one of them was really slow and at one point I wasn’t sure if we’d make it across the beach below in time.  I am guessing the tide was close to 4.5ft as we slipped through and by the time we got to Taylor Point we had to climb the ropes rather walking around as we had on the way in.  We reached Third Beach at a quarter after 10 which was just 30 minutes shy of high tide that morning (5.4ft) and even there there one little rocky spot that we just barely made it through.  That second to last picture is of Hads acting like it was no big deal:)

With all that being said, I believe you want the tide to be at least as low as 4ft to get around the tricky spots – Taylor Point, the rocky beach in-between Taylor Point and Scott’s Bluff, as well as that point near the Giants Graveyard. And note to self, traveling while the tide is heading out is so much more pleasant than scurrying about while its heading in.


Day 1 – Third Beach Trailhead to our watering hole past Toleak and then back to Gnomewhere ~ 8 miles

Day 2 – Day Hike from Gnomewhere (somewhere in-between Strawberry Point and Toleak) down the beach and through the woods to that long and lonely stretch of beach just past Goodman Creek ~ 6 miles round trip

Day 3 – Gnomewhere back to the Trailhead ~ 6 miles

Trip Total ~ 20 miles for Mikey and Me, 14 for the kids (minus the day hike)





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