Coming Back to Second Beach

Coming Back to Second Beach

By: Shelby March 28, 2017 8:51 pm 396 comments

This is a trip we’ve been looking forward to for months now. Second Beach is my happy place. It was the first spot Spenser and I camped at together in Washington, it was where we got engaged, and it’s where we like to go sit and watch storms come in from the ocean. It’d been a couple of years since we’d been out there (actually, since we got engaged!), and it was definitely time to go back.

We left work a little early and got in line for the 5:30 ferry to Bainbridge. After dinner at Ivar’s on the waterfront, we boarded the ferry and were on our way. We had to make a few stops along the way, but we eventually got to Port Angeles for our camping permit. From there, it was another hour and a half to the trailhead.

our handy tide chart

on the ferry to bainbridge

We arrived at the trailhead at 10:30, packed up the rest of our gear, started our hike, and found our way to the beach by about 11:15. It was raining gently on us. We climbed over the huge field of driftwood that stands between the trail and the beach, and knew that high tide was at 11:33. Originally we had wanted to camp down near the south part of the beach, but with the tide being so high we wouldn’t be able to cross in the dark. We found a nice spot where we normally end up, and judged where we thought the tide would end up based on where it was now. We set up the tent, and in order to keep it from blowing away in the stiff breeze, I got in and started unpacking. Spenser let out an expletive, said the waves were coming up to the tent, and I started packing back up as quickly as I could. I climbed out to see what was going on, and the waves were coming up to about 4 feet from the tent. It was 11:32. We had just 1 minute until the tide started going back out. We figured we were safe, but we still stood out there and stared down the sea until about midnight, watching it creep back down the beach and drinking a bota box of wine. We were so amped up afterwards that we read for about another hour.

you can see how close the water got to our tent

I tried to sleep, but the ocean was way louder than I remembered it being. I only know I slept because I had this crazy dream that a raccoon got in our tent and tried to drink all of our wine. Or was that a dream?? (Yes, it was, we kept our wine safe in our bear can.) Also the fact that it was dark and then instantly light clued me into the fact that I did manage to get some sleep. But otherwise I spent the night tossing and turning uncomfortably. Yay, the best part of camping. (And getting old?)

Despite the long, rainy night, we woke up to clear blue skies and a much lower tide. It’s always so glorious unzipping the tent and seeing the sea stacks rising up out of the ocean, just right there. It almost feels like cheating and sneaking into the front row of the best show ever. We took a few minutes to enjoy this, but we knew we still had to hustle and pack up because the tide would be a foot higher than the night before.

our morning view

our original site

scouting for a new spot

We scouted a good spot up in the trees and off the beach. It even came with a private toilet! We’ve been up and down this beach so many times but never noticed this toilet! It was incredible. It’s one thing to have your own private slice of heaven on the beach, and it’s a whole other thing when it comes with a toilet too. The spot was flat, under the trees, private, and had its own fire ring, complete with soaking wet wood. This spot would do.

the toilet in paradise

As we packed up our original site, the tide was rolling back in quickly. We threw our stuff haphazardly in our bags and departed our spot as the waves again grew closer and closer. I thought we had a ton of time, but I got slammed by a big wave as I crossed the beach very close to the headlands. We climbed up to the safety of our new spot and watched the tide come in all the way to the top of the beach over the course of the next couple of hours.

While the ocean roared below us, we laid on the super-handy waterproof blanket, ate some salami and lunch, drank some of our super fancy boxed wine. After our tent had dried out for a while, we decided it was time for a nap. That’s the kind of day it was. We woke up, rolled out of sleeping bag an hour or so later, and did some painting, some more reading, and some more watching the beach go by. Eagles were flying overhead all day, scouting for lost children and dogs (dogs aren’t allowed on Second Beach – seriously, don’t bring them).

our classy lunch

Once the tide was going all of the way out, we decided it would be a good idea to walk along the beach, maybe to the little cave at the end. We took our waterproof blanket for when we wanted to do a little acroyoga on the beach. We didn’t make it quite to the cave at the end, but we found a nice spot. We set up the tripod, remote trigger, and even put my phone on our little gorilla tripod and set up my selfie button. We were going to get some photos. We started in bird, moved to bow, entourage, and then ended with some star. Our original plan was to try to get a whole flow in (and get a video of it, because we never do that), but with the cold and wind, neither of us were feeling very flexible or flowy. So we stuck with static poses and it was just as fun. The wind eventually picked up some more, so we packed up and kept walking down to the end.


half bow

Star pose

Salamba Sirsasana

After wandering down to the end of the beach, we decided it might be time to head back and start a campfire. I threw down all of the wood that I had thrown up into the campsite earlier in the day while Spenser set up a fire ring down on the beach. Well, with a firestarter, some dry grass, and some dryish twigs, we got a fire started, but it wouldn’t last. It was doomed from the start! We tried at it for a while, but it was going to be way more work than was worth with the windy conditions and soaking wet wood that we had to use. We retreated to our sheltered, warmer campsite for some dinner, wine, and dessert, before climbing into the warm tent to watch the sunset’s last light disappear.

Sleep came, eventually. The rains came sooner.

We woke up to what sounded like pouring rain, and shockingly were able to almost completely pack up our stuff without getting out of the tent at all. Of course, by the time we stepped out of the tent, completely prepared mentally and (mostly) physically to make a break for it to the beach trailhead through pouring rain, we discovered it was barely sprinkling. Rain always sounds way more serious from the inside of a tent than outside. Also, the dripping condensation doesn’t help create an image of outwardly dryness. Anyway, our gear was packed (less haphazardly than before, but more haphazardly than originally), and we set down the quiet beach, alone in the rain.

our last beach views

Second Beach in the rain is one of the most Washington experiences imaginable. I took it all in, walking down the beach, with the rain coming down and the waves crashing around the sea stacks. All of the other tents appeared to be gone, and we were completely alone. With one last burst of effort, we scrambled over the wet driftwood, each of us awkwardly holding either the bear can or tent in one arm, and with one last look, said goodbye to our wonderful Second Beach for at least another season.


  • Treavor

    Can’t wait for my first trip to the peninsula. Love the watercolor drawing.

  • Stacey Pothier

    Absolutely beautiful and it looks peaceful. Added pleasure that it is where you were engaged. Something you will never forget and it will always be special and on your minds when you go there. Love Mom

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