Storm watching along the Washington coast can be a tactile experience.
Standing atop a bluff, you can feel the wind buffet your clothing; the rain lashes at your face, and the cold seeps into your very being.
It also is a visual experience, as you watch large waves crash ashore. You see huge logs tossed about like toothpicks. You can see trees bend almost to the breaking point.
It also is an aural experience. The wind whistles as it cuts through overhead branches. The pounding waves create a bass soundtrack to the movement around you. You can hear the screech of gulls looking for a dry place to ride out the storm.
It can also be a relaxing experience. There are plenty of warm places — cabins, motel rooms, rental units — to enjoy a storm with a cup of coffee, family, friends and perhaps a good book.
Here are some options, from north to south, for watching storms come ashore:
There are four viewpoints at the end of the .75-mile trail. From this, the most northwestern point in the lower 48 states, you can watch storm-driven waves smash into the base of the cliffs or into Tatoosh Island.
You also can watch seabirds wheel above the cliffs and ships entering and leaving the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
There is a 200-foot elevation gain on the hike back to the trailhead.
Because the trail is on Makah Tribe land, a tribal recreation pass is required for non-tribal members. It is available for $10 at various locations in Neah Bay.
Another must-see attraction is the museum at the Makah Cultural & Research Center. Displays includes artifacts 300-500 years old that were recovered from the Ozette archeological site.
If you find yourself in the Forks area, make the drive to this beach inside Olympic National Park. It is short walk to the beach from the parking lot, and from there you will get the full experience of being outdoors during a storm. You can watch the waves pound offshore sea stacks, listen to them break against the rocky beach and hear the wind in the branches of the trees that line the head of the beach.
Be sure to watch your young children so they stay atop the short bluff above the beach. The water’s edge is lined with large logs that are easily pushed about by storm-driven waves.
If you opt to go to LaPush, and are willing to hike, you can make your way to First, Second or Third beaches.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, and is nice, Rialto Beach is still a great place to explore. There are tidepools, and the Hole-in-the-Wall sea-carved arch is a 1.5-mile hike north along the beach.
Hours at the Mora Ranger Station vary. Check bulletin boards for more information.
The rooms inside the lodge are nice, but the best option is one of the bluff-top cabins. From the cozy confines of a fire-warmed cabins, you can watch the storms drive ashore through large picture windows.
A set of steps makes access to the beach easy. At low tide, the beach is wide and sandy, and a good place to let kids and dogs run off some energy. Be careful if you walk north toward the mouth of the creek because logs tend to pile up there.
The cabins are a good option for families because there is room for everyone to spread out. Most also have full kitchens or kitchenettes, which helps keep dining costs down. Watching the waves roll in always seems more enjoyable while dining on a homemade spaghetti dinner.
Be wary of the brazen raccoons. They are not afraid to come right up to the doors, looking for a handout or a morsel to steal.
Information: thekalalochlodge.com, 866-662-9928
Here you can watch the storm toss the waters of Grays Harbor or the Pacific Ocean.
At the west end of the port, you can climb to the top of the observation tower and take in views of the protected harbor, Half Moon Bay, Grays Harbor itself and Ocean Shores on the other side of the harbor mouth. You might also see some brave surfers riding the waves.
It is advised to stay off the rocks that line the shore and jetty near the tower. They can be dangerous to walk on when wet.
There are ocean-view rental units that offer the comforts of home with views that are difficult to beat.
The beaches south of town do not have as many logs as those along the northern coast, making them a safer option.
If you want to stretch your legs, you can walk the paved Wesport Light Trail. The 2.5-mile trail runs from the lighthouse to Westhaven State Park. There is plenty of beach access, and benches along the way if you need to stop.
If you time your visit right, you might also be able to dig for razor clams.
This might be the best place to view the immense power of a winter storm coming ashore.
The two lighthouses in the park, Cape Disappointment and North Head, are good places to watch the seasonal tempests. A weather station at North Head once recorded wind speed at 126 mph. That ought to be enough to create some big waves.
If you want to get closer to the action, head for Waikiki Beach. If conditions are right, waves can toss spray 100 feet into the air, making it a great place for photographers.
A Discover Pass ($10 daily, $30 annual) is required to enter the park.
If the weather becomes too violent, you can visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center for a great lesson on the area’s history.
In addition to campsite and cabins at the park, there are plenty of dining and lodging options in Ilwaco and nearby Long Beach.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
Tips for storm watching
▪ Know when to go. Check the National Weather Service forecast at wrh.noaa.gov/sew. Watch for forecasts that call for high wind gusts and strong sustained winds. The action is best when a storm hits as the tide is coming in or at high tide.
▪ Dress for the weather, from head to toe. There is no quicker way to ruin a trip that being underdressed.
▪ Be prepared for power outages. It happens often in coastal areas, so bring your own flashlight or lantern.
▪ Avoid the temptation to park on the beach, where it is allowed. It is best to park above the visible high tide line.
▪ If you are walking on the beach, keep an eye on the waves. Avoid getting caught by a sneaker wave that comes higher up the beach than other waves.