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Just Shi-Shi of Perfection

August 10, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most beautiful beaches in Washington (and therefore the world, my opinion) is Shi-Shi Beach out of Neah Bay. Broad, sandy beaches nearly 3.5 miles long, with the glorious Point of Arches and numerous beachside camping sites create a spectacular place for photography and peaceful contemplation. 

Located in Olympic NP, Shi-Shi is accessed through Makah tribal lands, so a National Park camping permit and Makah permit are both required. The Park Service also requires that all food, scraps, and scented toiletries be stored in a bear canister due to extremely clever raccoons and other camp robbers. A bear canister is provided with your wilderness permit, but plan on dropping the equivalent of a pony keg into the bottom of your pack, without any of the benefits! I got mine at the Quinault station (they have plenty) and they are also available in Port Angeles. Makah permits are sold at many of the stores in Neah Bay and at the Museum. I recommend the Makah Mini Mart as it is open 24/7. To lighten my pack by leaving the stove at home, I experimented with the self-heating meals (got them at REI). They are entertainment in themselves and taste great, but when they say one serving, they really mean one serving. So, pack accordingly.

Postings at the trailhead warn that parking is for day use only and that overnight cars will be vandalized, not "could" or "possibly".... "will". There are two residences just down the road that offer parking for $10/ day/vehicle - take it. The tribal trail in is two miles, the first half on rough-cut boardwalk and the second half on some dirt, but mostly in mud. The depth of the mud varies according to rainfall, but with no rainfall the previous week, it was still 2-3" deep in spots. Plan on serious boot clean up at the beach. The best thing I did was clip a pair of Tevas on my pack at the last minute because I wore nothing else after I arrived at the beach. Once you reach the end of the tribal access trail, the descent to the beach, which was once a root-bound, steep and ungainly trudge has been replaced by a beautiful series of switchbacks with railing, steps and gravel. Thank you Park Service!

When you finally step out onto the wide open beach, it is another 2 miles on flat sand to the area around Petroleum Creek (named for the tannin-color water). One warning that is not well published is chemical water treatment tablets do NOT work at Petroleum Creek, so be sure to carry water filtration gear. Also, there is a pit toilet just south of the creek. From Petroleum Creek, Point of Arches is another 15-20 minute walk, and that is where you will spend your time.

Now for the good stuff. Sunset is killer on this beach and to get the most out of it, plan your trip so that low tide and sunset are as synchronized as possible. The iconic strata rocks that run toward the Arches are only visible at low tide. And, they can be buried in sand some years. If they are, you still have endless, stunning possibilities. Low tide around the Arches area is absolutely fascinating in morning or midday and is worth allocating lots of time to explore, enjoy and shoot. Sunrise can be soft and beautiful. It was a bust for me, but, an hour later, a morning marine layer became nicely evocative. In the evening, even if the weather is pleasant, wear long pants as the sand flies will drive you to distraction. This is a wonderful location and I highly recommend staying at least two nights. I carried Nikon 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 80-400mm lenses and used them all. Tripod, absolutely, and pack 2 hand towels, one for you and one for your gear....and TP.

My deepest thanks to Barry Semple, thetrueshot.com, from Vancouver, BC. Barry's blog on his trip (one of many) was incredibly helpful, but more importantly, when I e-mailed several questions, he responded immediately, in great and helpful detail, all while traveling with is family in Spain! Would that we should all be so kind to each other!

So, in closing I can't resist, don't be Shi-Shy. I know, I know.

 


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