Scout troop 853 and the Ozette Loop Expedition

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Ozette Loop Trail
By Kurt Herzog, Scoutmaster

If Troop 853 were going to beat the tides, we had to be up at 5 am to hike two miles north across slippery rocks and deep sand wearing packs that were at least a quarter of our body weight. When we arrived at our destination, the river which the park service said was there… wasn't.

By this time of year it had dried up, which meant another mile or two to the next water source. By 10 am, a couple of scouts were tired…

On the Boardwalk. Photo by Kurt Herzog.
Scouts fall through rotten boards
half a dozen times.
Boy Scout Troop 853 had been planning our annual summer trek since last September. Scouts get to choose the destination and do the planning. This year the boys chose The Ozette Loop Trail -- a 9-mile trek from Lake Ozette in the northwest corner of Washington in Olympic National Park to the Pacific Ocean coast -- to Sand Point, north to Cape Alava and back.

August 11
We left Shoreline and drove the five and a half hours to Ozette, camping at the Lost Resort near the national park campground.

August 12
Up at 6 a.m. to pack up and drive a mile to the start of the trail. Much of the trail to and from the coast is a boardwalk made of cedar planks built by the park service so the hike sounds like a breeze. However, we find that many of the boards are broken through or, even worse, about to break through.

Within the first hundred yards, our lead scout, Michael (our smallest, lightest scout ) breaks completely through one board, falling hard. He says he can't feel his arm. We check it and it turns out he's just hit his funny bone and it's fine. He is soon up and back on his way, but we need to be very careful. A broken limb will obviously mean the end of the trip for everybody.

By the end of our three-mile hike to Sand Point, scouts have fallen 7-8 times. Miraculously, nobody is hurt. That would be a different story if it had been an adult.

The water is cold, but they don't care.  Photo by Kurt Herzog
When we arrive at the ocean, the sun is out and it is beautiful. This as close to Hawaii as you can get in the Northwest. The scouts get their bear buckets out and have lunch. They immediately decide to wade in the ocean. They deserve it. The water is cold, but they don't care.

Dinner is "freezer-bag chili," dehydrated backpacking food we made ourselves to save money.

Michael and Joaquin by sleeping tarps set up with a taut-line hitch.
Photo by Kurt Herzog

A couple scouts want to camp outside. Older scouts use their Wilderness Survival Merit Badge training to show the scouts how to set up a tarp for sleeping using the good old taut-line hitch. This turns out to be the highlight of the entire trip for a couple scouts.

August 13
Five a.m. always come too early. It's freeze-dried eggs for breakfast and then we need to get packed up fast. A few of the scouts are in a daze and don't know how to get started. Their Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) Max reminds them what needs to be done first and then guides them through the rest of the process.

Our destination tonight is supposed to be Wedding Rocks, so called because Native Americans have carved petroglyphs at the site representing a marriage. The ranger at the park headquarters where we obtained our required permit assured us there was fresh water at the site for us to filter for drinking. When we arrive, there is nothing. We have no choice but to keep going to Cape Alava.

Dragging foraged firewood in a travois
Photo by Kurt Herzog
Cape Alava is also beautiful. Fires are allowed here, but the place has been picked clean of firewood so the next day we spend exploring tidepools and hike another mile or two north to get firewood. The scouts lash together a travois -- a sort of three-legged sled -- and load it up with firewood which they drag back to camp.

It's a long way and there was firewood closer, but it keeps them busy and it teaches them to perhaps plan a little better next time.

Scouts sit for hours around the campfire, telling stories.
Photo by Kurt Herzog

Later, the ever-watchful park ranger is on his nightly patrol through the campsites and appears out of the dark to remind us to keep all food in bear buckets. He is already annoyed because another group of campers has improperly stored their food and chipmunks and/or raccoons have made a big mess.

There are doubtless bears somewhere around, but the park service's main concern is the raccoons who have learned that campers are an easy source of food. We have seen a good deal of wildlife on our trip: several bald eagles, sea lions, harbor seals, tame deer, raccoons, countless chipmunks and even a very unafraid coyote who glided silently within 10 feet of the early-rising scoutmaster and through all the other campsites sniffing tents and packs for breakfast.

Tomorrow we hike the boardwalk back to Ozette and then drive home. But tonight, we have freezer-bag Minestrone and sit for hours around the campfire telling stories. Planning for next year's trip will start in just a couple of weeks. 

Call Scoutmaster Herzog at 425-244-5840 if you want to be part of it.


Janet Way August 31, 2011 at 8:03 AM  

Dear Scoutmaster Herzog,
Hats off to you and your team of Scouts and volunteers for this wonderful outing for the boys. And what a great essay and photos of what looks like a great experience for all of you. It's so great for boys (and girls) to have these hands-on learning experiences and GET OUTSIDE!

I was so thrilled to get my boys out camping with scouts and our family over the years.

It means so much to kids to get close to nature and learn personally about how amazing the world is outside of our very tech oriented world.
They learn things that can never be experienced in just the classroom, computer or on TV.

Thanks for your service to kids and for making this opportunity available to them.

Janet Way

Anonymous,  August 31, 2011 at 9:23 AM  

Thanks for your kind words, Janet. The boys had a lot of fun.


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