You Can’t Always Get What You Want

OCT Day 9

9/23/20

5 miles

As anticipated, the rain starts in the wee hours of the morning. I only have a few miles to walk today into Lincoln City, where I plan to wait out the next 4 days of storms. I can’t check into my motel until 3, so I laze about my tent as long as I can. Sadly I can’t fall back to sleep, and there’s not much to do, so I decide to get going anyway. I circle back around Devil’s Lake in the pouring rain. When I rejoin highway 101, the oncoming traffic is terrifying. I’m walking as far over as I can, legs being ripped to pieces by blackberry vines. I’m not in a good mood. I consciously decide to raise my head (despite the rain) and smile. This helps to a certain degree, and I guess there’s a lesson there.

When I enter town proper, there are a few diners I think I might be able to chill in for a bit. This part of Oregon allows dine in now. All of them look super crowded, and I’m not willing to hang out inside with all those people, so I keep moving. I eventually spot a place called Snack Attack with some wooden beach chairs out front under an awning. It appears mostly dry, which is good enough for me. I order some clam strips and a mocha. The mocha is awful, but to be fair, it’s the barista’s first day. I sit and enjoy my clam strips while looking at the sea, which as this moment is indecipherable from the sky. Everything is a wet, grey mass. I occasionally get sprayed when the wind changes, but stay mostly dry. I pass at least 2 hours here.

When I get moving again, the sky really opens up and starts dumping. My hands and phone are so wet that I can’t really look at directions. I finally get to the motel around 1PM looking like a drowning victim. My room is ready though, and they graciously let me check in. After a shower and a short nap, I start writing my blog. I’m midway through finishing when I decide that I’m done with this hike. I try to shake the idea, but I can’t. I’m really not enjoying myself, and I’m spending a lot of money to not enjoy myself. The weather has been foul, all the hiker/biker camps are closed, most of the actual trails are impassable due to downed trees, and I’m sick of walking on highway 101. I don’t want or need this hike now. It’s just not what I thought it was going to be. I feel like a piece of crap, and a little bit like a failure. I question my ability as a backpacker, and what giving up here means to me. I know these feelings will pass, because they just aren’t true. Sometimes my stubbornness and tenacity are a gift, but sometimes you just have to let go of the rope so it doesn’t burn your hands.

Thank you all for reading and cheering m along this time. I hope you enjoyed the 150 miles I did get to hike. I’m sorry that I didn’t go through with the whole thing this go around. It seems it was time for me to learn a different lesson than I set out to. Oregon, you’re beautiful, but we need a break. Until my next adventure, everyone stay safe and healthy. Do things that make you happy, and don’t be afraid to change your mind about something if you realize you were wrong.

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you may find, you get what you need.” -The Rolling Stones

Rescued from my pity party.

PS – My amazing sister drove all the way to Oregon to rescue me. We had our traditional pizza and margaritas. This time we upped our game with face stickers, masks, and she even brought me a gift basket to make my crybaby ass feel better. I’m a lucky guy. Thank you Amy!!!

Thank you Amy!!!

Road, Beach, Repeat

OCT Day 8

9/22/20

25 miles

It’s still pitch black when I awake, but before I even look at my phone I know it’s 6AM. As far as I can tell I have a long walk today, though it’s hard to tell because the maps and info for this trail in general are horrendous. Even so, I’m grateful, as the guy from last night who told me about this campsite didn’t come along and murder me. I stumble down to the beach and head towards Cape Kiwanda. From m this side it’s kind of cool looking, but nothing spectacular. It is a hellish slog to the top, as it’s basically a giant sand dune. On the other side, I see the beginning of Pacific City. As I come down, I see that Cape Kiwanda is much more spectacular from this side with the morning sun shining on the sandstone. I walk into town and am excited to see an open cafe. From the window I order a breakfast sandwich (quite possible what I crave most on trail) and a giant mocha. I devour my breakfast and watch the sun spread new colors along the cape. In the center of town I find a gas station and am able to replace the chapstick I lost yesterday. I may be addicted to chapstick, and not having any really REALLY bothers me. Last night I resorted to using my Bag Balm which usually goes on my inner thighs to prevent chafing. Now maybe you understand how much I need chapstick.

The walk out of Pacific City is a longish, dull road walk. After an hour or 2, I rejoin the trail at Winema Beach. From this beach I admire the misty forest off to my left. 3 separate people stop to chat with me, more than have talked to me anywhere else so far. Proposal Rock at the far end of the beach is pretty impressive. There’s a wedding shoot going on at it’s base. I leave the beach here and head into Neskowin. I can’t pass up the general store where I grab lunch, a doughnut, and another coffee.

My crappy map claims that I only have to walk about a mile along 101 before taking a wooded trail over the hill for a couple of miles before it joins 101 again. I go much further than a mile, but never find the trail until I see it rejoining the highway. From this side I can see it’s closed. If I had ever found the entrance I probably would have taken it. I’m pretty freaking tired of walking on roads and beaches, especially roads.

By now I’ve been walking along 101 for almost 3 hours, and I’m hurting. My legs and feet are mad at me. I find a tiny side road which serves as the entrance to a pasture to sit down on for a bit. I’m not far from the KOA I’ve booked for the night, but I definitely needed this little rest before continuing. Moving on, I’m coming to the outskirts of Lincoln City, and the highway is very busy. I’m relieved when I turn off a side road towards Devil Lake. I don’t see any burned residences along the road, but I see a lot of people who got very lucky. The fire cones right down to the road, and the smell is still strong. Frankly I’m surprised this campsite is still open, but I’m sure glad it is. It’s supposed to start raining tonight, and I’m glad I’ll at least be on a flat spot underneath some trees. Tomorrow I only have to walk into Lincoln City proper to my motel where I’ll attempt to wait out the storm for a few days. My shower is phenomenal , even though I just put back on my nasty clothes. I can worry about laundry tomorrow. As I head back to the restroom to brush my teeth, I realize the “cows” I’ve been ignoring in the field next to my tent are elk!

“And when nobody wakes you up in the morning, and when nobody waits for you at night, and when you can do whatever you want. What do you call it, freedom or loneliness?” -Charles Bukowski

Proposal Rock

Please Don’t Murder Me

OCT Day 7

9/21

18 miles

I awake to a strange huffing sound, clearly coming from an animal. It’s followed by stomping noises. I have no idea what it is, but I’m happy when it wanders further and further away. It’s a miracle I managed to sleep here at all, between the slope, the hole, and all the strange noises. My stomach seems to be giving me some trouble too, but I think it’s because I’m hungry. I didn’t eat a proper dinner last night. I was just too tired.

Shortly after I get moving I see a few coyotes playing, they’re so sleek and beautiful. I heard them on the PCT, but I only saw one. After I enter Cape Lookout State Park, it’s a long, paved, climb to the top. Huffing and puffing I arrive a the Cape Lookout trailhead, which is closed. I weigh my options, and decide to go for it anyway. I’m normally quite rules abiding, but this hike is testing my patience. I can’t road walk all the way to California! As it turns out, the trail down to the beach only has one major blowdown, and while it’s a big one, it’s quite easily navigated.

Once I reach the beach, I have an early lunch on a driftwood log. Unfortunately, I wait until after eating to examine my map. It appears that there’s a section a few miles down the beach that can only be forded at low tide. I check the tide table and it’s low tide now. Maybe if I really haul ass I can make it in time. I make good time, but by the time I arrive at the Sand Lake ford, I’m too late. I only make it about a quarter of the way across before realizing that it’s just too deep. Annoyed, I head back to shore. Examining my map, I see an alternate route.

The long way around turns out to be an insufferably long road walk, again. My feet and shins are definitely not fans of the road walks. I could kick myself for missing that low tide ford. This roundabout way is hours of extra walking. As if sensing my dismay, the universe throws me a bone. The couple from yesterday pulls over and offers me another beer. I can’t refuse such lovely trail magic. Even though I don’t really like beer, the gesture perks my mood. It turns out the young lady hiked the PCT in 2013 by the name of Hoop Dreams. I thank them profusely, and head on my way.

My body hates me at this point, so I’m excited to see a camping area ahead. Sadly they are fully booked, and taking no tent campers due to Covid. I drag myself a few miles further and find a beautiful nature area, complete with restrooms, water faucets, and even bike pumps. It is of course closed… I go in anyway and sit on the soft grass behind the restrooms (which are locked). Likewise, the water has also been turned off. It’s frustrating for sure, but after a brief rest and a little stretching I decide to continue on. About a mile later I realize that I must have dropped my chapstick back at the nature area, cry.

I have no signal, so it’s difficult to make out a wilderness area I could potentially stealth camp in. It’s still relatively early, and I hope I can find something near Cape Kiwanda. Once I finally rejoin the beach, the going is extremely slow. The sand on this beach is exceedingly soft, and with each step I sink a little. Just for fun, it’s decided to start raining a bit too. Trying not to draw attention to myself, I walk to the tree line and start poking around, looking for any hidden spots that I might curl up in for the night. A four wheel drive truck heads my way and I pretend to be stretching. He asks if I’m looking for a campsite for the night. I fib and say that I’m continuing on past the cape. He knowingly tells me that if I change my mind, that there’s an excellent sheltered spot up on the bluff a little further down the beach. He is correct! There’s a beautifully flat, dry area up here, out of sight of the beach and any residences. I really hope he was an angel, and not a serial killer who now knows where I’m sleeping tonight. At the moment I’m too tired and sore to care… much.

Here’s where I woke up…

Trail Magic and Bad Camping

OCT Day 6

9/20/20

28 Miles

I awake next to the tracks and think, “Damn, I should have just slept on the tracks.” I backtrack along the tracks so I can rejoin 101. The first town I stroll through is Bay City. My headphones are playing “We Built This City,” which is hilarious as Bay City was definitely NOT built on rock and roll. I see a Tillamook outlet, and stop in for some jerky and an energy drink. I ask the lady working if the Tillamook Creamery in the actual town of Tillamook will be open today, and she tells me not until 11. Boo… That was my brunch plan, but I’ll get there around 9, and I can’t wait that long to eat. I’ll have to figure out something else.

After stepping around (and occasionally in) a dozen or so opossum corpses, I’ve decided I’m done with roadkill for the day, and I head back to the railroad tracks. The tracks here are clear, but several of the ties are slippery with oil, and the area smells like sour milk. At least the sun is out. I haven’t really seen it on this hike until today. As I leave the tracks to rejoin the road into town I see a beaver, but he’s too quick to get a good photo of.

In Tillamook I decide against any indoor dining. I don’t know that I’m ready to do that. The places all look pretty crowded. Instead I settle on a Mexican food truck, where I order a chorizo torta (I’m sure that will feel wonderful 8-10 hours from now). A guy with a tricked out van chats with me a bit about hiking the OCT. After hearing that I’m hiking stoveless, he offers me his own, on the condition that I mail it back to him when I’m done. I thank him, but my cold soak dinners are ok so far.

After leaving town, it feels like I walk forever before finally reaching Cape Mears State Park. It’s a huge climb, but finally I reach the lookout, and the Octopus Tree. It’s a huge spruce (most of the trees around here are) with multiple limbs. I missed it last time because I took the wrong road and bypassed this part of the trail. As I’m leaving the park, a young couple in a truck pull over and ask if I’d like a beer. I’m not actually a fan of beer, but I’m not going to say no to the first trail magic being offered to me. I put it away in my pack to enjoy later.

As I walk through Oceanside I start trying to figure out where the heck to camp. I’m still wondering as I pass through Netarts. It’s getting late, but maybe if I push hard I can make it to Cape Lookout State Park. Soon the sun has set, and I realize that I’m not going to make it that far. I’m getting really desperate for a place to sleep, so I finally just walk off the road into the woods. I’m not sure if this is someone’s property or not, and it stresses me out. There have been residences at pretty regular intervals all along this road. I push further from the road and into an area that was clearly logged about 5 years ago. In the fading light, I set up my tent in the WORST spot I’ve ever made camp. It’s barely large enough, it’s not level, and there’s a hole. I set my food bag in the hole, and I place my pack so that I don’t roll off of my sleeping pad. The sky is clear, so this is the first night I won’t use my rain fly. I’m exhausted, so maybe I’ll be able to sleep here regardless of what a ridiculous spot it is.

“The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” -Unknown

The Octopus Tree

Opportunity in Adversity

OCT day 5

9/19/20

19 miles

Though I’m enjoying my comfy motel bed, I’m up and at it almost on time. I change into my lucky socks this morning, so maybe that will help. My lucky socks are a green pair of Darn Toughs that I found on the PCT. They were hanging on a tree in the middle of the wilderness. Their owner probably hung them out to dry, and forgot about them. This morning is a little misty, but mostly clear, and my sense of adventure has returned. The beach is beautiful this morning as I stride towards Nehalem Bay. At one point I see a sea lion playing in the waves. Later, I wade through a beach stream up to my unmentionables, but my mood remains light. Eventually I arrive at the jetty. I follow the bay and find myself directly across from the RV park/crab dock that offers ferry rides for hikers. Soon a young man arrives in a fishing boat to whisk me across the bay. After tipping him, I head into the store to pay my fee. I chuckle when I see some bodice ripper novels for sale. These must be for the bored wives who have no interest in fishing and crabbing. I grab an energy drink, and a couple chemical hand warmers just in case. I’ve mostly been very warm so far, but with all the rain on the way, who knows when they’ll come in handy.

I briefly road walk towards Rockaway Beach, but hop back onto the beach as soon as it’s possible. It’s drizzling pretty heavily, so I take a moment to find my rain jacket, and keep moving. A few miles later, before rejoining the road into Garibaldi, the rain let’s up. I stop to have my lunch on a driftwood log. My legs and feet are a bit sore, but overall I’m having a lovely day.

Soon I’m on the outskirts of Garibaldi, occasionally walking along the road, and occasionally on the railroad tracks. There’s a sign saying it’s ok, as the trains are few and far between. The Oregon coast hiking guide I have suggests this as an alternative to road walking the long stretch between Garibaldi and Tillamook. I can’t decide if I like it or not. It seems safer than road walking, but it requires quite a lot of concentration as well.

Leaving Garibaldi behind me, I’m in the home stretch for the day. There’s nowhere legit for me to camp between here and Tillamook, so I need to be sneaky and creative. I keep my eyes peeled for stealthy spots to steal off to as I continue to alternate between road and track. Here, waist tall weeds occasionally grow up from the railroad tracks, and I can tell no train has been through here for several days at least. Much to my dismay, I come across more downed trees over the tracks. I grumble a bit, but find my way through a few times. These trees are huge! There’s no possible way that a train could actually make it through here. Eventually I get to a mass of fallen trees that I can’t pass through, and for a moment I’m almost as frustrated as yesterday. Calming myself, I realize that this problem is a solution to my camping situation. I can camp next to the tracks between all of these giant blowdowns! Clearly no trains can come this way, and no one is likely to go through the trouble of walking through them either. I can’t quite convince myself to sleep on the tracks, even though I’m 100% sure they’re not in use. I do toy with the idea though.

After setting up my tent, I use a trick of my sister’s. I have some eucalyptus oil (she prefers lavender), and massage my poor, sore, damp feet. I teased her endlessly about her oils, but it feels damn good, and smells delightful. I think I’m just going to snack for dinner, and maybe read a little before bed. I’m looking forward to treating myself to brunch in Tillamook tomorrow.

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” –

Shakira and Curry to the Rescue

OCT Day 4

9/18/20

13 miles

Today has just been a hot damn mess. Miraculously, my waterproofing worked, and I stay dry through the night. When I get going it’s still dark because of how dense and misty forest. I’ve hiked this section before, and don’t remember it being particularly challenging. Today is a different story. There are downed trees all over the place. At first the blowdowns aren’t too bad, but they are frequent. They require a lot of work, as you usually need to climb them, or scuttle under them, and occasionally take off your pack and shove it through them. I come to one that needs to be crossed like a log bridge. Another I have to circumvent, which is difficult as there is a steep, wet hill on one side, and a steep, muddy drop on the other. I work at this for nearly 2 hours, grumbling, cursing, and nearly hurting myself who knows how many times. I’ve come only 1 mile! Finally, standing in the guts of one of the largest trees I’ve ever seen, smelling like sweat and Christmas, I give in. This trail is impassible at the moment. Defeated, I work my way back to the start of the trail, facing each of the obstacles once more from the opposite side. I arrive back at the beach, and wipe myself down with water from the stream. I’ve exerted an incredible amount of energy, and sweat is pouring off of me. I’m also bleeding from a dozen scrapes and scratches. I look at the weather report and see more rain. I feel like giving up. I never felt like this on the PCT (well, almost never). After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I pull up my big boy pants and decide to road walk to Manzanita. I call the state park there to see if the hiker/biker camp is open, but because of Covid it’s not. There’s also no room in the regular campground. I open my chapstick and promptly drop it in the sand, and almost lose my shit. Breathe in, breathe out.

I’m road walking along 101 and it’s terrifying. I have an angry stride now, and I’m getting places. Shakira comes on my playlist, and I lighten up a little. What a ridiculous figure I must cut. Shaking my ass on a dangerous highway, soaked and covered with scratches. It’s not so far, but it feels like it takes forever. Resting would have improved the walk, but there’s limited, safe options along the highway. Finally I stumble into Manzanita. The main Mighty Thai restaurant is here (I ate at the one in Seaside last year). I sit down in their outside patio. It’s raining, but there’s a large umbrella covering the table. I have some curry and Thai iced coffee. I look for motels again, and miraculously find one. Someone must have canceled, there were none earlier today when I checked from depression beach. I don’t want to stay in motels all the way, nor can I afford to, but tonight I shall. After I finish my lunch, I call ahead to make sure the Jetty Fishery is still ferrying hikers. Thankfully they are.. that’s tomorrow’s adventure. While using their restroom, I manage to plug it up. I have a moment of shame and panic, but manage to find the plunger and fix it on my own. This freaking day!

The motel is kind enough to let me check in almost 2 hours early. I soak some of my woe away in the bathtub. I fall asleep almost immediately after. I wake to the heart breaking news of RBG’s passing. This freaking day, this freaking year! I want to cry. I walk to little, local grocery store and buy myself some chapstick (thank god), and some canned wine to have with my couscous dinner. I need this freaking backpack to lose some wait. I have to eat more of the food I packed!

Back in the motel I do bathtub laundry before dinner. After I write this, I’ll enjoy my can of wine while I chow down, and maybe read a little more of my book. I also need to plan out where I think I’ll end up tomorrow. Today was a low, but you don’t have highs without them. RBG, you will be missed. I’ll be drinking to you tonight…

“Real change, enduring change, happens be step at a time.” -Ruth Bader Ginsberg

From the road walk along 101.

Into the Goondocks

OCT day 2-3

9/16-17/20

23 miles

On the 16th I just bum around the touristy little town of Seaside. It’s equally garish and charming, in a weird end of the world sort of way. It was the end of the road for Lewis and Clarke anyhow, after exploring ever westward. I know because there’s a statue, and many plaques. There’s also a carousel, but I don’t think that has anything to do with them. I do make use of my time waterproofing my tent (again). It looks rather silly set up inside my motel room, but you got to do what you got to do. I accidentally melt my Talenti jar in the microwave. It’s what I use as my food bowl and cup while backpacking. I’m not too mad though, it just means that I get to buy more ice cream, for the jar of course. I also pick up a small pocketknife at the hardware store. I couldn’t bring mine on the plane. It’s small, black, sleek, and sexy. I’ll use it to cut veggies, and maybe shiv Bigfoot if I need to.

On the 17th my plan is to get up at 6 and get moving. I feel like I’ve wasted a day, but I don’t really have a deadline, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. I wake up at 5, and only know what time it is because of the motel clock. My phone is completely dead, and the cord isn’t charging. I drag myself down the street to the gas station to buy a new one, along with candy. Trail candy is the best candy. By the time my phone is finally charged, it’s 7:30, and I need to get moving! The morning is misty, but not smoky, as far as I can tell. I quickly make my way through town, passing quaint and grand vacation homes alike. Soon I’m climbing out of town into ever more expensive, hilltop homes, until I reach the Tillamook Head trailhead.

It’s a steamy, slippery climb up Tillamook Head. It’s muddy, and incredibly verdant. I can hear waves crashing below me, but can see nothing through the muffling mist. After huffing and puffing for a few miles, I find myself in the hiker camp that I stayed near last year. The 3 small cabins sit here, still looking just as charming and terrifying as last time. I briefly chat with a couple from Portland who stayed in one of them last night. They’re curious about the OCT, and are doing a small section to get a feel for it. We swap a few stories, and I answer some questions while I stuff my face with a cookie. I say my goodbyes and head down the hill towards Indian Beach.

I would have made it down more quickly, but I have to circumvent several obstacles on the path, mostly fallen trees. My sister Amy/Essential would not be pleased with this section, but at least it’s downhill. The humidity has me sweating profusely, regardless. When I reach Indian Beach, I make my way down to the stream to filter some water, and decide it’s a good lunch spot. I’m munching contentedly when I spy a cheeky (fat) squirrel about to steal my candy! I give her a piece of my mind. She retreats a bit, but keeps trying to sneak back from different angles. I add coconut powder to my tortilla today for the first time. I think it will taste good with the almond butter and dried fruit, but it just looks like a pile of cocaine on top of a tortilla. Maybe my squirrel friend is a junky.

After lunch I have a steep road walk. There’s a trail to Ecola Point, but just like last year, that section of the trail is closed due to a landslide. The road walk almost kills me, but at least it’s lush and beautiful. Once I make it to Ecola Point, I take a few pictures, hit the restroom, and start walking. This section is crazy overrun with landslides and downed trees. I feel like I’m on a game show, bobbing, weaving, climbing, and occasionally taking my pack off to push it over some new obstacle. Man, this section is not for the faint of heart, but before to long I’m back on the road (much dirtier than before), strolling into Cannon Beach.

I stop at the Chocolate Cafe to get a Mayan Mocha (I love chili and chocolate), before rejoining the beach. I’m surprised at how many people are on the beach. It’s not cold, but it’s so foggy, you can’t see more than 100 feet ahead of you. I’m nearly on top of the Goonie rocks before I know they’re there. I try to snap a picture, but you can barely see them at all. As I continue down the beach, the crowd thins. I stop off at another public restroom. Strangely enough, there’s a rabbit outside when I come out. Is it the same rabbit I accused of being mangy a year ago? Who knows, but this time the rabbit lets me freaking scratch it behind the ears, and I squee, and I’m in love with the bunny forever and ever… Ummm, I’m better now, but the rabbit was really freaking cute. Back on the beach, at some points I can’t see the hills to my left or the ocean to my right through the fog. It feels like I’m the only person in the world, just making my way through limbo.

I finally make it to Hug Point, which is a low tide crossing. Luckily for me, the tide is headed out, though it’s still quite high. I manage to make the crossing though without even getting my feet wet. Just beyond Hug Point, a small wedding is taking place on the beach. I give them wide berth. It’s an eerie sight on such a misty day, but they all look incredibly happy. Shortly after, I take a small break to snack, and read a little of my book. After pushing onward, I traverse more limbo-like beach, until I finally reach Arch Cape Creek, where I filter more water, and start cold soaking my dinner. It will be teriyaki noodles tonight with sweet Thai chili tuna.

After crossing a rickety suspension bridge, I’m in the home stretch for the day. It’s dusk, and there’s no designated campsite nearby, so it looks like I’m stealth camping in Oswald State Park. Frankly, this is not ideal. It always creeps me out when I stealth camp, especially in misty forests, at dusk. Fear and unease are a very real part of the solo thru-hiking experience, and I do my best to think happy, Disneyish, non horror thoughts. It takes me awhile to find a flat space, but eventually I settle on a spot. I have to clear it a bit of deadfall and overgrowth, but I think it will do nicely. It looks like it’s going to be another very rainy night, so I stake my rain fly out as tautly as I can manage, and hope for the best. If the weather report is to be believed, it’s going to be raining all day tomorrow as well, joy… Please stay dry tonight, please stay dry tonight…

“You don’t need to have it all figured out…” -Unknown

Endless Beach

OCT Day 1

9/15/20

19 miles

I wake up several times throughout the night worried about the rain. I waterproofed my tent, but the seams on the rain fly seem to be leaking, directly above my face. One does not sleep well while water is falling on their face. A deep puddle seems to have formed under the tent as well, probably as a result of me not staking things out correctly. Luckily this part of the tent seems to be waterproof, and the puddle does not intrude into the tent. I look at the weather report, and it looks like a few more days of this weather. I can’t sleep like this, so around 1:30AM, I book myself 2 nights at a cheap motel in Seaside. There I hope to dry everything out, and do a better waterproofing job. I hate to take a break so soon on the trail, but I need to set myself up for success. I don’t want to be a grumpy bunny for this trip.

I have my alarm set for 6:30, hoping that a sleep in will help me recover from yesterday. I’m awake and ready to move early though. I head back to the start of the trail to take some pictures in the daylight. Soon I’m off along the beach, and what a long, long beach it is. On my last trip here, this was my least favorite part. The beach is misty more than smoky at least. I sing out loud, occasionally interrupted by the fog horns, and look at what the tide has washed up. Miraculously I find a small rock with 2 natural holes all the way through. When I was little I read a book that claimed looking through such a rock would show you what your human eyes couldn’t see on their own. I pocket it for good luck. I must be an idiot, carrying extra weight at every turn.

When I reach the wreck of the Peter Iredale, I try to use the public restroom and refill my water. It looks like I haven’t drank as much as I should. It’s hard to tell though using a water bladder and hose instead of bottles. I’ll need to be careful to drink enough on this hike. Once I finish a small snack and my chores are done, I head back down to the beach.

The next several miles are littered with crab pieces. It looks like some horrible massacre, but the seagulls are sure happy. One of the half buried bodies I prod with my trekking poles turns out to be alive. I help him back out to the waves, and hope the curious birds don’t get him.

Eventually I stop for lunch. It’s actually one of my dinners, but I forgot my peanut butter, and can’t have my normal lunch. Instead I have curry chicken cous-cous. It’s been soaking in a plastic container for the last hour, and it’s delicious. I’m glad I looked up a few no cook recipes before I headed out.

Once I’m walking again, it’s more of the same. There’s mist, waves, dead crabs, and sore legs and feet. Walking on the beach is hard, and monotonous. I eventually pass a washed up fish that has to be at least 7 feet long. Finally it appears that I’m making my way into Gearhart, where I’ll road walk a bit into Seaside. Normally I don’t like road walking, but it’s a nice change from the beach. I stop at the Sweet Shack and get a cold brew coffee, just like I did last time. Moving on, I pass the pizza/seafood restaurant I ate at last year with the good curry. I’m stuffed, but it’s closed anyway. Hopefully only temporarily. By now it’s raining, my feet hurt, and I’m ready for a nap. It’s been a rough day, but soon I’m checked into my room. I can take some time to rest, and improve my hike. I’m looking forward to the rest of the OCT even if I’m a whiny little bitch today.

After napping I run out to Ace Hardware, to buy some seam sealer. I also pick up some take out Mexican food, and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, because I deserve it. I read a few chapters of my book, and I’m ready to pass out.

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.” -Henry Kissinger

Oh Look, I’m on the Oregon Coast Trail!

Guess what? I’m off, all on my own, to thru-hike the Oregon Coast Trail. That’s literally walking from the northern tip of the Oregon coast to the southern most tip. I don’t know nearly as much about this trail as I do about the PCT, I’m just kind of winging it. Wish me luck! It’s actually my third choice of trails for this season, but I’m not allowed in New Zealand at the moment, and huge chunks of the Arizona Trail are closed. Still, fingers crossed for a successful thru-hike.

This morning starts out as most hiking days do, entirely too early. The alarm goes off at 3:30AM, and my kick-ass sister drives me to the airport. My flight from Sacramento to San Francisco looks like a bust, so instead I’m flying from Sacramento to Denver and then from Denver to Portland. Flight benefits are wonderful, but the routes are occasionally weird. When I’m using my flight benefits I have to wear pants, which is annoying as I hike in shorts. I’m wearing a pair of cheap jeans I was going to donate, but during my first bathroom break of the day, the button flies off! Luckily I have a lanyard, for my crew ID which I pull through the buttonhole and first belt loop to tie a knot, effectively keeping my pants up. I’m proud and horrified of my ratchet ingenuity. I pass out while watching “Goonies” on the plane, appropriate.

By the time I arrive in Portland, I’ve already been up almost 10 hours, and still have almost 5 hours before my bus heads up to Warrenton. I get an Uber to REI to pick up the trekking poles I ordered for store pickup, only to find that REI is closed “temporarily,” with no helpful information as to when it will reopen. Luckily this is only a minor setback. There’s another outdoor sporting goods store down the street, so I’m set. I should mention at this point that Portland looks like a hellscape. There has always been a homeless problem, but it’s much worse than when I was here last year. With the city blanketed in toxic smoke, many businesses shuttered, and tents all over the street, it looks apocalyptic. That being said, I still stroll into Voodoo Doughnuts and grab a couple of my favorites. My plan is to hit up Blue Star Doughnuts as well, but the location I usually visit it shuttered. Take care of yourself Portland, you’re an amazing city. I love your quirkiness and thirst for social justice. I believe in you.

I pick up a book to read while I wait for my bus, but my body hates me because my pack is already stupid heavy. Why do I never learn to pack light? After several hours of waiting in the station I’m finally on the bus up to northern Oregon. Some of you are probably asking yourself if this is the right time to be doing this hike. I know I’m asking myself. After all, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and fires are raging through Oregon. I’ll admit, it’s a weird time. As far as Covid, I figure I’m limiting my exposure to other people by being on the trail. If last time I hiked in Oregon is any indication, I’ll hardly interact with anyone. The fires are mostly inland and to the south. I’ll rarely be out of sight of the ocean, so if the fire situation changes I can always go for a life saving dip. It’s supposed to rain for the next five days, joy. I’m also attempting this trail stoveless. No cooking for me this time around. It should be interesting. All my hiking this summer while I’m about to be furloughed has really brought to light how privileged I actually am. More so than I would have believed a year ago. It’s certainly something for me to ponder on this hike.

Just before arriving in Warrenton I call Downtown Coffee Shop Taxi. I spoke with the owner yesterday, and he has agreed to meet me, and take me up to the southern Jetty of the Columbia River, where the trail starts. He seems very concerned for me, as it is now raining and the middle of the night. I try to assure him that it’s not my first rodeo, but it’s pretty dark and wet out here. He offers to come back and get me if it’s to rough. Sweet guy. After he takes off, I rummage around in the pitch black for my headlamp. I locate a small restroom and use it as a staging ground for organizing everything. Once I’m sure everything is ready to go, I set off to find a flat dry spot to hunker down in until morning. I’m so ready for sleep it isn’t even funny. I have about a dozen different horror scenes running through my mind, but sleep is winning. Hopefully everything stays dry tonight. I’m happy for Oregon it’s raining though… zzz …

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” -Emerson

Just after I tied my pants together.

Push It and Unexpected Extraction

9/9 – 9/10

Day 2 and 3

20 Miles and 2 miles

Despite the chilly wind, I wake up after only 2 hours of sleep, absolutely roasting! I do my best to quietly (which is impossible on an inflatable mattress) remove several layers from my broiling body. A short while later I wake again to eerie sounds around my tent. After listening tensely for several minutes, I establish that it’s just the wind dropping leaves and pine needles on my tent, not in fact an 80’s slasher villain.

Even though there are several interruptions to my sleep, I wake up at 6AM feeling well rested. Though it’s warm inside my mummy bag, the still-dark outside is quite cold. I bundle up a bit and get moving. I’m surprised and impressed at how quickly John breaks camp. I send him off ahead of me, promising to catch up before Dick’s Pass. He heads back to the fork in the trail before the lake to head back up towards the pass. Little do either of us realize that we have set up camp next to the trail, and doubling back is unnecessary. Eventually I’m ready to set off, but then trail poop comes a knockin.’ Just as I’ve dug my hole and am ready to do the deed, John comes around the corner from taking the long way around. I fervently pray that he hasn’t seen me with my ass out (he’s definitely seen me with my ass out).

This morning’s climb is steep, but rewarding. Down below I can see Susie Lake sparkling beneath me. At one point, just below the pass, I can see Aloha, Heather, Susie, and Half Moon Lakes all laid out like an intricate tapestry. I catch John just before the pass as promised, and we chat all the way down the other side to Dick’s Lake. We have a good conversation about toxic masculinity, ironically doing most of it in our dude bro voices.

After filling our waters, we pass a few more stunning lakes. This section of the trail in Desolation Wilderness is quite busy. We play leapfrog with one gentleman all morning and into the afternoon. His name is Exploding Cowboy, and he hiked the John Muir Trail the year I hiked the PCT.

At lunch I explain to John that he will be appearing in my hiking videos, and he does not disappoint. He’s quite entertaining. We have theatre degrees after all. After lunch we don’t dally, as we want to push ourselves to Richardson Lake. While I’m enjoying an audio book, something stings the back of my calf. I suspect it was a yellow jacket, but I didn’t see the culprit, so it remains a mystery. I wipe it down with an alcohol pad and put a bandage over it. It stings all afternoon, but it’s just part of the symphony of discomfort I’m heaping on my body today. Smoke hangs over the valley like a purple bruise, but thankfully never quite descends down to us. We arrive a couple hours earlier than anticipated, and we decide to really push it an extra 5 miles to Barker Creek. I haven’t walked this far since section hiking the Oregon Coast Trail last year. We are both feeling quite accomplished.

When John rolls into camp looking a bit like a zombie, I’m already set up and about to start dinner. Tonight I make Stove Top dressing, which is freaking AMAZEBALLS, and I will definitely be cooking it again during my travels. It’s packed with so many delicious carbs. After taking a little bath in the nearby stream, I stagger you to my tent, ready to collapse inside.

Aloha, Heather, Susie, and Half Moon Lakes

Waking up this morning, it isn’t nearly as cold. John hiked down the hill to take care of his business, and it sounds like an army tramping through the woods. It’s smoky this morning, but doesn’t seem as bad as it did at the beginning of the first day. Despite his lengthy potty break, John still starts hiking about 15 minutes before I do.

As soon start winding my way up to Barker Pass, the smoke starts thickening. It stinks, and it’s irritating my eyes and lungs. I see John ahead of me, and manage to sneak up on him. I smack his trekking poles with my own, scaring him nearly to death. I hug him to apologize while he cusses me out good natured. Now that we’re hiking together again, I notice that he’s going slower than usual. He confesses that his ankle (an old injury) is giving him trouble. By the time we reach the Barker Pass trailhead at the edge of Granite Chief Wilderness, he’s gritting his teeth. He decides to wrap it up and see how it feels. While he’s working on his ankle, I check my phone, noticing that I have service for the first time since we set out. My mom has sent me an article detailing the closure of every national forest in California. When I share the info with John, he confesses that he doesn’t want to stop hiking, but between the fire closures and his ankle, we probably should. I know how hard it is to call a hike, the poor guy must be in a lot of pain. Serendipitously, I have a signal and a road right here. After a short conversation with my mom, I’ve arranged an extraction for us.

We haven’t been waiting longer than 5 minutes when a CHP officer arrives at the trailhead. He’s a really nice gentleman, chatting with us about his love of wildlife photography. He needs a foot surgery, but he’s hoping to get more into backpacking. The air quality has continued to worsen this entire time, and he offers to give us a ride down to Tahoe City! What a stand up guy. Huge help as it turns out, as we take the winding road down to the lake, the forest service is locking the gates. It would have been a long, difficult hike down. I’m sorry to be off trail again, but for me it’s only a few days. I’m off to thru-hike the Oregon Coast Trail soon. Even though it was a short trip, it was a great chance to reconnect with John, and I’m looking forward to another adventure once his ankle is better.

“Optimism: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster. It’s more like a cha-cha.”