Way back in May, I took a couple weeks off of work to go hike the Oregon Coast Trail. Beaches along the Oregon coast are publicly owned, which apparently is very unique! Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I hadn’t realized, until sometime in my adult life, that beaches could be privately owned and the public blocked from using them. How rude!
The Oregon Coast Trail (or OCT) aims to connect beaches and hiking trails to form a continuous footpath. However, this is not completely possible and you are often walking on a side road or highway. Some of this is just due to no other option, other than the highway. Other times, it could be due to storm damage; trees knocked down due to wind or landslides taking the trail with them. There are also times where the incoming tide prevents you from walking along the beach, as you cannot make it around a cape or it would be dangerous to be caught on a cove with a steep cliff (that’s likely crumbling) to be the only escape out. Long story short, you’re not “just walking on the beach” and there are a few logistical things that you wouldn’t need to consider on some of the other long distance trails.
The OCT is officially around 362 miles long. However, it could be longer depending on reroutes and if you road walk around a bay versus taking a ferry across. The coast is lined with many, tiny towns, making it easy to carry a small amount of food and there is always an option for a hot meal or cup of coffee. It is possible to make this hike an inn-to-inn, staying at hotels/motels/bnbs along the way. The cheapest option, is to stay at a hiker/biker site in one of the many state parks. These sites are $8/night, usually they have showers (hot..sometimes warm), outlets, water, and lockers (bring a lock!).
What was my plan?
I took two weeks off of work, with the goal to get as far as I could along the trail. My intention wasn’t to finish the entire trail, but it would be cool if I did. To get to the trail head, I stayed with a friend in Portland, who drove me to Fort Stevens. A month prior, I had reserved a regular tenting spot at this popular state park. If you are to start this trail, I highly recommend reserving much further in advance, as the park was fully booked.
Since I would be walking through towns every day, my pack looked different than if I were to go out into the wilderness for the weekend or do something like the Pacific Crest or Wonderland trails. I opted to not carry a stove and rely on food in towns or cold soaking. Since drinking water was accessible either by public faucets and fountains, or bottled in stores, I did not bring a water filter. Additionally, I carried extra clothes, aiming for comfort over minimalism.
During the planning phase, I decided to make a synthetic quilt, specifically for this trail. My go-to quilt is down, is super warm, and reliable. However, the coast has a lot of….water. No matter how dry you think it’ll be, it is always humid, everything will be wet. I was really worried about my down quilt being damp the entire trip and lose it’s warmth. Thus, I had some extra material to make a synthetic quilt. My guesstimate put this quilt rated as 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 for those Celsius fans out there).
Some last minute items included picking up a wind jacket and a new pair of shoes. The wind jacket was inspiration from one of my first trail family members on the PCT. They had last minute bought a wind jacket and wore it almost every day. At the time, I scoffed at the additional ounces. Thinking back though, Southern California was so windy and the Oregon Coast was equally or even more so, thus, I splurged on this item. Bonus points for a front pouch to keep my snacks in!
The shoes were a replacement of my Altra Lone Peaks. I’ve been wearing the same pair of Lone Peak 4s for a while and can feel them giving up. The newest model, are the 5, in which Altra has changed the shoe shape. I had to buy a “wide” to get the roomy toe box that Altra is known for (and I feel in love with). I never buy shoes in wide and would never consider my foot that size, but ok Altra!
Since I had reserved a tent site at Fort Stevens, my friend and I had a bit of time before we needed to leave Portland. Lots of lounging, drinking coffee, and repacking ensued. We did a last minute run to REI for snacks, my new shoes, and a pack towel (I had forgotten mine). Finally, in the afternoon, we were ready to take off!
As we got closer to the coast, the fog grew thicker and moisture clung to us. It was so cold at our campsite, something that both of us underestimated. We arrived early enough that there was still plenty of day left, so went for a short hike in the park. Along the walk, we saw 5 elk, but of course I didn’t get pictures. These were the only elk I saw on the entire trip too!
There was construction around the official trail starting point, which blocked beach access. Instead of starting here in the morning, we drove up today, took my starting picture, and made our way back to our campsite. After getting back, we didn’t stay up too much later after the sun sat. Did I mention how cold it was?
Date: May 14, 2021
Start/end: Fort Stevens State Park
Fun: Fort Stevens has a lot of paved bike paths and would be fun for a weekend stay.