Port Townsend’s Glass Beach, WA

Happy Summer BeachBums!!

The last beach stop on my trip was Port Townsend’s “Glass Beach” which I discovered when researching the area and came across this video.   He shows finding so many cool pieces that I just HAD to make this a stop.  This area, much like the first Glass Beach I visited on this trip, used to be the town dump so there is glass that has been tumbling in the ocean for over a hundred years.

Just let me say right at the start that you really HAVE TO want to see this beach because the walk/hike/trek to it is looooong – like three miles there and then, of course, three miles back – and difficult at times.  And there is no other way to get to this beach – trust me, I tried to find one but the beach butts up against soft sand cliffs that are 50-100 feet high for the entire length of the trek. 

That is a long long long way over not the best of terrain.

I checked the tide charts for the week, a must-do because at high tide, sections of the trek get completely cut off by the ocean.  Amazingly, the day after I arrived in Pt.Townsend, the day I planned for this beach visit, there was to be a -1′ low tide – the lowest of the week – occurring at 12:45pm.  I left my hotel to arrive at the beach at 9am to give myself plenty of time to get to the beach before the tide turned. The tide was well on its way out at that point. The beach to start at is called North Beach and there is parking available for free, and you head west from there.

Anyone who has walked on sand knows it is difficult at times because it gives way under every step, and a lot of this walk was like that. There was also long stretches that were very pebbly and that made walking tricky. With the tide having just gone out, there were areas of sand that was wet and packed which made some of the trek easier. But then I hit a half mile long stretch that was all boulders piled one on the other. Thankfully, I had brought a walking pole in anticipation of just this (I had a knee injury several years ago and it has left me weak on that leg) or I don’t think I could have traversed this part.  A real ankle-turner.

Very rocky and rough – hard to walk on. The point to go around for Glass Beach is up ahead in the pic – still a fair distance to go.

The thing about this trek is, when you think you’ve rounded your last point there’s another one that isn’t visible until you get around the point in front of you.  It felt like it was taking forever to get there.  It was getting hot too – I had brought a litre of iced tea with me and I needed every drop before I got back to my car. I had read that when you see the rusted out car axle you have arrived. I finally got there, but alas – there was also a fallen tree across the entire width of the beach that extended far into the water. There was only about two foot of clearance between the beach and the tree to get under. With my bad knee, I knew this was going to be very difficult for me to do and it was. But I had not come that far (took me just over two hours) to turn back now.

There is lots of beach glass along the way to harvest if you have the time. With such a low tide, and getting there early, I knew I had lots of time so I picked up some lovely pieces well before I got to the car axle. All small but well rounded from years in the ocean, and lovely colors – even three pale pinks. There were also a lot of tiny pieces of cobalt blue but most not rounded so maybe newer.  

Once under the tree (someone needs to take a chainsaw to that thing) and on the other side (I tried not thinking about having to do that again on the way back) I started looking in earnest for the big, beautiful colored pieces I had seen on the video and also hoped to find a marble or two.  After 20 minutes of searching, I wasn’t finding anything like what I had seen that guy pick up.  Then I noticed that waaaay down the beach there were two women searching. I realized I was going over what they had already combed so finding anything amazing was highly unlikely. They were over half a mile away, maybe even a mile, and I just didn’t have it in me to walk another mile or more (both ways) to pass them on the chance that there could be something better on the other side of them. So I just kept combing through where I was. I ended up with quite a haul of smaller glass pieces. There was a lot of pottery – if I recall correctly from my visit to the Sea Glass Museum in Ft.Bragg, the pieces I was finding used to be electric insulators. I also found a couple of pieces of red and blue transferware pottery – a real find! I also found several pieces of bakelite and milk glass. There were more pieces of my favourite color, turquoise blue, than I had seen anywhere on this trip.  So no nice big pieces of red or yellow like in the video, but still a pretty great harvest.

Seaglass found in Port Townsend, WA

I spent a couple of hours on the beach until my back felt like it couldn’t take one more bend over, and started the trek back at close to 1pm. The tide was way way out and it would be hours before it came back all the way, so the Hunter Boots I decided to wear in case I got trapped served only to make me swelter on the agonizing trek back. I was overheated, tired, my back was killing me (but that didn’t stop me from picking up more glass that I spied on the way back until I honestly couldn’t bend over one more time). I rationed my remaining half-bottle of iced tea. I was dying to go to the bathroom as well. All in all just a torturous two hours.  At one point a rescue helicopter flew overhead really low, and I almost burst into tears wishing he had picked me up! I was SO thankful when I finally rounded the last damn point and could see my car in the distant parking lot. Somewhat like I imagine a marooned human would feel seeing a boat coming towards them.

I can see my car!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!

Am I glad I went?  Sure.  I mean, I would have always wanted to go if I hadn’t so, yes I am glad.  Would I go again?  No way.  Nope.  No. That walk is just too far over hard terrain and the threat of the tide turning before you get back to safety is nerve wracking – even though I knew it wasn’t going to happen. It somehow got into my psyche and made me nervous. Maybe if I had found a treasure trove of the most amazing glass ever I would be willing to go back, with way more to drink and way less on my feet, but as that didn’t happen, for me it is just not worth the considerable effort.

Sunshine and seaglass,

Sandy

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