Gene Woodwick — Time for winter storm watching and bravely beachcombing

The Christmas-to-New Year’s week brings to mind hardy local storm watchers and winter beachcombers, as well as those who flock to the coast from inland. This bunch is totally exhilarated with ice-cold noses, wet gloves, freezing water inside boots and shoes and a family dog hogging the car’s heater on the way home.

Wardrobe warriors

No L.L. Bean for these folks. They don’t care how crazy they look. Not a “fashionista” in sight. What they care about is A: seeing high rolling surf, B: finding stuff and C: adding some zing to their lives.

Out of sight lurks the Old Man’s woolen underwear, God only knows how many pairs of socks, with the last pair put on over plastic grocery sacks. Outer footwear can be anything from mudpacks or barn boots to an old pair of huge, puffy, space boots dug out from the back of the closet or the Old Man’s work boots.

Jeans are tugged on then covered up with a pair of sweat pants.

Now for the top: It can be anything from three t-shirts under a sweater to long-sleeved shirts with the arms covered by the tops of old wool socks whose worn out feet have been cut off just to keep arms warm. Wool shirts, topped by an old Filson jacket. Often the latter is well-covered by rain gear. As for the head: You’ll see anything from a baseball cap under a hoodie, to a goofy looking scarf tied under the chin cap to keep ears covered. And — his has really been seen — a football helmet as a final embellishment.

If one can be found after the hot summer, the best hat is a Sou’wester, but mostly those are only sold in big-headed men’s sizes.

Now it’s on to gloves. Storm watchers wear everything from ski gloves, to Dollar Store stretchy gloves, to gloves under dishwashing rubber gloves, or surgical latex gloves under White Ox gloves. Naturally, there are extra pairs of gloves in an inside pocket since it is a given hands will be getting wet.

To store any treasures that might be found on a storm watching trek, pockets are loaded with plastic grocery sacks, old onion sacks, or for the limber folks, a backpack that contains hot coffee and room for beach finds.

Best beaches

The Quinault folks will be out on their beaches while other beach folks sulk in green envy. It must be remembered that entrance onto the Rez beaches are by permit only for non-residents. Moclips offers some coves where flotsam may be found. Sunset Beach sometimes holds treasures.

No-entry points

Down on Santa Claus corner, folks now are fenced out from the area that had served beach travelers, diggers and explorers for more than 150 years.

Much of the North Beach has become fenced off from the public via development and commercial establishments, so finding an easily accessible beach is a not-so-mild annoyance to older beachers. Some are lucky enough to still have old neighbors willing to share the beach via access from their private driveways.

Discover Pass places

Storm watchers and beachcombers are reminded that access to Washington State Parks beaches requires an annual parks permit. Without the permit, called a Discover Pass, you may return from the beach minus glass balls or another lucky find, but will find a ticket on your windshield.

Be safe

Ocean Shores approaches offer a variety of long, sandy stretches to go beachcombing, but be safe and stay off the jetty rocks, as exciting as that may be. Winter waves are fierce and unforgiving.

Heck, why not find a good parking spot, bring along a thermos of coffee, the morning paper, and the loving family dog and take the easy way out — storm watch from the comfort of your car. It is still one of the special things about living on the beach.

Stay over in comfort

Now for a real treat, check into one of the North Beach hotels for an overnight stay and watch the storms roll in from the Pacific. You also may be lucky enough to see a spectacular winter sunset or two.

Bring your tacky beachcombing clothes and take advantage of the facility’s ocean beachfront. Shoot the works and get a room with a hot tub or a spa and pretend that money doesn’t matter to you. Just think how nice it will be to come in from an exhilarating, windblown walk, shed the grubby clothes and immediately crawl under nice, warm covers and take a nap. Such a deal. You don’t even have to cuss big city traffic!

Look for transponders

And when you are looking for neat stuff on the beach, remember the information from Dan Ayres, the state Fish &Wildlife Department’s coastal shellfish lead biologist regarding GPS drift transponders released by researchers at Tattori University in Japan. Three months after the March 2011 Japanese tsunami, about 150 of these transponders were released from the inundation zone in order to study debris drift patterns.

The transponders include instructions for how to contact the researchers if one is found. If unreadable, contact Ayres’ WDFW colleague, Jessie Schultz, at: or phone 360- 902-2184. Researchers would appreciate an immediate response if you find one of the devices that looks like a plastic bottle with chartreuse green and orange labeling.

You can dig it!

Ayres has delighted the sand pounders with the announcement of the latest razor clam dig openings:

• Jan. 2, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.; -1.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks

• Jan. 3, Friday, 8:00 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks

• Jan. 4, Saturday, 8:45 p.m.; -0.9 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks, Copalis

• Jan. 5, Sunday, 9:31 p.m.; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors

Photo ops, naturally

Another great outdoor activity this time of year is wildlife photography, especially with all the bald eagles congregating on the beaches. The deer are fairly lethargic and the cold ground provides different poses from that crowd. An odd thing is that the bucks are still herded together. On numerous occasions, one has been able to see two with horns locked together with the most puzzled look on their faces, as if they are thinking, “Well, Ollie. What a fine mess you’ve got us in now.”

This year’s fawns are being kicked out of momma’s range and their antics and cuddling make for not only interesting photo ops, but just plain watching, as well.

So, as you can see, there really is no excuse to sit in the house and mope. Go dress funny and enjoy the beach. Just remember the safety rule: “Never turn you back on the ocean and stay above the high water mark.”

Gene Woodwick may be reached at 360-289-2805 or


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