by Barbara Ann Weibel of Hole In The Donut
On the windswept shores of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State lies Ruby Beach, named for the rose-colored garnet fragments found in the coarse gray sand. This rugged, often fogged-in shoreline is part of Olympic National Park, which, with its mountains, glaciers, temperate rain forests, and wilderness coasts, is one of the the nation’s most diverse parks.
Although this is not a beach for sunning, surfing, or swimming, there is no lack of stunning scenery at Ruby Beach. Mounds of bleached driftwood have been tossed carelessly on the shore like handfuls of pick-up sticks. This log bone yard derives from forests up river where floods undermine the forest, cause trees to fall, and then deliver them to the ocean. Rocky ironshore at the water’s edge plays host to tidal pools where visitors can examine a host of marine critters struggling to survive in the ebb and flow of the tides. Offshore, sea-stacks thrust up from the depths, their tops covered with the barest vegetation.
Because Ruby Beach is off the beaten track, the crowds are never large. As you wander the shore, duck into one of the cliff caves that are the backdrop for this rugged coastline. As you crouch in a small cavern that has been hollowed out by eons of crashing waves, it is easy to imagine prehistoric inhabitants eking out a living in this isolated spot. Any time of day is a good time to visit Ruby Beach, but do stay for the sunset, when the sinking sun glints off the crushed garnets, turning the sand a lovely shade of rose.
With dozens of activities to choose from in and around the park, you could easily spend two weeks investigating Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. However all the eco-zones within the park can easily be experienced in a single day. From the coast, you can ascend nearly a mile high to Hurricane Ridge, which offers a visitor center and nature trails. From Hurricane Ridge, a three-hour drive to the west will bring you to the Hoh Rain Forest, which also has a visitor center, picnic area, and short nature trails leading through the dripping tropical forest.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Ann Weibel