By Judy Smith
My relationship status with Second Beach is complicated.
I love the second beach trail. It was one of the first places I checked out after moving to Forks. The trail meanders for a half-mile through tall timber before descending the last quarter-mile to the beach on long turnpiked earthen and timber steps. About halfway down there is a tangle of tree roots where passersby leave shells, rocks and other flotsam left by the ocean.
I return to this trail in all seasons. At low tide I’ve walked out to the sea stacks and down to the south headwall. On the incoming tide, I’ve taken hundreds of bad cell phone pictures trying to catch the perfect wave cresting through a natural arch. I’ve built sandcastles with my grandson. The Second Beach trail always shares something different, even though it is familiar.
Where the upland trail meets the beach, there is a tangle of beach logs. Sometimes there is an easy path through, but the next big storm rearranges the logs and creates a labyrinth. I slowly and methodically cross the logs using multiple points of contact – hands and feet, arms and legs, crawling on my knees, slithering on my belly or scooching on my rump. The objective is not to provide amusement for other hikers (even though it does), but to get safely across.
My extreme caution is due to a trip to Second Beach with my husband and son on July 5, 2015. A zillion cars clogged the trailhead parking lot. Warm air over the cool ocean generated dense marine fog that provided a sense of quiet solitude as we came down the trail, crossed the logs and trekked to the south headwall.
The fog lifted as we approached the upland trail, revealing an extremely long queue of people with coolers, chairs and camping gear slowly threading their way through the beach logs. “Let’s go over the top!” declared my agile son and husband. They leaped onto the nearest big log and gracefully bounded across the jackstrawed driftwood like a couple of gazelles.
They made it look easy, so I channeled my inner unicorn and attempted a leap to the top of the nearest log. Unfortunately, I forgot that in reality, a chubby unicorn is actually a rhinoceros. I skidded in loose sand atop the log and tumbled out of control into the beach logs. My knee wrenched. My hamstring snapped. I came to a hard stop, smashing the shin of my other leg into a log. If I was a screamer, I would have been screaming. Ouch. Darn.
My husband came to my rescue with a bottle of Gatorade and a banana. After all, he had been hiking with me through 35 years of hiking stumbles where my worst injury was a leg cramp. This was more than a charley horse, but I gratefully accepted the snack so I could postpone trying to get on my feet for a few more minutes. My son went up to the car to retrieve my hiking poles, which gave me another 30 minutes to lay there and contemplate a helicopter rescue.
On the plus side, there was no blood and nothing broken. Being blessed with stubbornness and a high pain tolerance, I eventually got to my feet and limped the glacially slow three-quarter mile journey up to the car. The leg with the pulled hamstring was worthless. Quite frankly, it was the most painful injury I’ve ever experienced. Don’t ever pull your hamstring. It was so overwhelming, that I didn’t realize the extent of the soft tissue damage to the other shin until swelling sent me to the emergency room a few days later.
There were many months while my hamstring was healing where I could only walk slowly on level ground, but I eventually got back up to full speed. On my first two trips back to Second Beach, I walked down to the logs but didn’t cross them. On the third trip, I went by myself, worked up the courage to cross the logs and enjoyed a walk up and down the beach. That was the day when I was truly healed.
The Second Beach Trailhead is right in our big backyard. It is just 20 minutes from Forks on Highway 110 (La Push Road). With careful planning, you could even take Forks Transit bus #15 to the trailhead in the morning and return in the afternoon.