Land's End hike

Land’s End

About two hours and fifteen minutes away from my house in Sequim, Washington is the farthest northwestern contiguous point in the United States: Land’s End at Cape Flattery.

Cape Flattery

Once you are on the northern Olympic Peninsula on the 101 west take the left onto the 112 past Port Angeles. Keep going until you come to Neah Bay. Next continue on to the Makah Reservation. There is a modern world class Makah Native Culture Museum which is worth the stop. At the gift shop you can buy your Cape Flattery parking pass good for the entire year. This is mandatory because you are on their sovereign land.

The hikes around Neah Bay are famous and even have a historic YA mystery written about them, “The Ghost Canoe” by Will Hobbs. The Land’s End hike down and out to the legendary massive bolder cliffs outlook has an impressive view of Tatoosh Island. There is a gradual sloped wide trail 1.2 miles down to a narrower trail head. The second part of the trail is mostly a boardwalk over an old moist rain forest floor. The massive old growth trees are gnarled by the wind and could be featured in any Harry Potter movie for terrifying and mysterious.

Land's End Boardwalk

Sally Franz at Tatoosh

As you approach the point, there are look-out platforms off the main path to your left and right with vistas of 20 story high cliffs with water surging 10 stories high. In the nooks of the cliffs are cormorants nesting on just inches of space. I have seen baby birds take their first dives from dizzying heights. It brings new meaning to being “pushed out of the nest” with a 200-250 foot drop to the swirling waters below.

The final platform is a short ladder climb up to the amazing view of Tatoosh Island and lighthouse. The island is named after the Makah Chief Tatooshe and is 20 acres of rock 100 feet above water. The Lighthouse was built in 1857. The Lighthouse service had a hard time keeping a staff because the housing was leaky (with 100 inches of rain a year), the work of hauling oil up to the fire daily for the 10.5 foot high Paris made lens, not to mention attacks from the local tribe who did not agree to the treaty terms made for them by the Governor of Washington State of giving up the island.

By 1906 improvements were increasing the living conditions. Later in both world wars the island was used to find enemy signal as well as send safe signals to mariners. The light and fog bell and later wired fog horn helped ships find the 12-mile wide opening to the Straits of Juan De Fuca between Vancouver Island in Canada to Neah Bay and to the Puget Sound down to Seattle. Steeped in history, it is now fully mechanized and not staffed. But the lighthouse stands proud in the middle of the rock.

The animals and birds in the rain forest are elusive, hiding in the thick underbrush of ferns and fungus. If you slow down enough you might find a 5-inch long banana slug. It looks like it sounds, yellow with small brown spots. The way back is the way you got there.

banana slug

Just retrace your steps to the parking lot. A walking stick helps as you will find that lovely gradual wide trail coming down is now all uphill. Just transverse the trail like skiing up and you’ll make it. And it will be worth it to check another great adventure off the bucket list.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause. She hosts a local radio humor segment, “Baby Boomer Humor with Sassy Sally”.

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