BEACH BACKPACKING: DON'T FORGET THE ZIP-LOC BAGS

The Olympic beaches are all beautiful. The stretch from Rialto Beach north toward Ozette has some of the nicest scenery without having to hike on often-muddy trails inland, which is what backpackers encounter more often farther south. Rialto Beach also enables you to begin right on the ocean, which is a three-mile hike from the Ozette trail head.

Driving around Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula is also worth doing, especially with visits to the Hoh River Rainforest and to Hurricane Ridge, which is above the town of Port Angeles.

The most unique scenery in the mountains, rain forest and beaches is seen by walking, however.

The beach backpack requires all the equipment, experience, and savvy that most backpacks require, and more. The western half of the Olympic Peninsula is the rainiest part of the contiguous 48 states, so high-quality rain gear worn over quick-drying synthetic or wool clothing is a must. Ponchos and even umbrellas can also work well except in strong winds.

You can keep your tent, sleeping bag, and clothes dry in your backpack and campsite by using Zip-loc freezer bags, or even plastic garbage bags.

I usually prefer hiking in running shoes because of their lightness, but the dryness and ankle protection that hiking boots provided on this hike's countless rocks made me glad I chose to use them on this trip.

Always remember the 10 essentials when on an extended adventure, which include map, compass, flashlight, extra food, extra clothing, waterproof matches, water, sunglasses, hat, and knife. The 11th essential on this trip is a tide table, which you can pick up at any of the local ranger stations when they're open.

I found that using a hiking stick as a staff for a third point of support in the rocks was helpful, and given the unbelievable supply of driftwood a good one is not hard to find. You'll soon find that the most innocent-looking brown algae is about the most slippery surface on this or any other planet, so be careful.

For more information, you can write to: Olympic National Park, 100 Plaza Drive, Port Angeles, WA 90021. Or call: (306) 555-1212.

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