OCT Day 2

Sleeping in the shelter was nice. There was a curtain-type thing to block the entrance and that, surprisingly, kept the cold wind out. Critters didn’t find their way inside either, at least none big enough to wake me or chew on my gear. It was still a bit cold overall and I used my emergency blanket for some additional warmth. This had the unfortunate side effect of collecting moisture though and caused my quilt to retain moisture. I’ll need to dry it out at some point today.

Today it still took me an hour to pack, eat breakfast, and head out. I feel so rusty, how did this take 10 minutes on the PCT?

Hiking out of Ecola to Cannon beach was partially on trail and some on road out of the park. I enjoyed the hike through the forest and the air not being as damp as the previous two days. This was a 6 mile stretch, a perfect length to stop in town for coffee and a pastry!

Cannon Beach to Nehalem Bay

I meandered the streets of Cannon Beach, making my way to the cafe. Once obtaining said coffee and pastries, I got back onto the beach, spread out my stuff, and sat for a peaceful second breakfast. After staring out at the ocean I decided to check my map and confirm distances for the day. I checked, calculated, recalculated, and then in a panic packed all my gear. There are 24 more miles to cover today and it’s already 10am!

I quickly strolled through the sand, drinking coffee fast enough to throw the cup out before leaving town. Looking at the map, my liter and a half of water would be enough to get me to the next spigot, at Short Sands Beach, which should be on. Just south of Cannon Beach lies Hug Point, that is impassable during high tide. As I’m waddling through the sand, I double check the tide chart. Shit, I don’t think I can walk fast enough to make it. To the highway!

Luckily, this portion of the highway has some wide bike lanes, which made for an easier highway walk. Next stop, Arch Cape. Had I taken the beach, I would have gotten off the sand here and back onto hiking trails on the east side of the highway. However, due to a storm, there was a middle portion of the forest trail missing. Thus, I continued my highway walk until the trail crossed back onto the west side of the highway. Overall, I only had four miles of highway in this section.

The day started warming up and I am comfortable hiking in a tshirt at this point. Thank you sun!!! There wasn’t a great spot to stop along the highway, so once I had rejoined the forest trail I pushed to Short Sands Beach to refill my water bottles and eat. My body became angrier due to rationing water in the heat and lack of food. I really should have snacked more earlier. Finally, I get to the parking lot for Short Sands and, the water is off due to construction.

Breathe! My mind is attacking me at this point. “You know better. You should have filled an extra liter in Cannon Beach. It’s so hot, you’re sun burnt (forgotten item: sunblock), you’ve ruined your own hike!”

Although my mind is in full on rage, I decide to stop at a picnic table and eat. Some of this anger will go away if I just allow myself to eat. While I snack, I consciously take note of my last half liter of water. Only five more miles into Manzanita, some of this will be highway walking too, which is faster. Half liter will be enough, “it will be fine.”

Finally, arriving in Manzanita, hungry and parched, I darted towards the first market I saw. My eyes greedily filled my shopping basket and I refilled my water bottles at the fountain. At the edge of town, there was a beautiful spot in the sand to watch the start of sunset and eat my dinner. Store bought potato salad never tasted so good! After finally feeling refreshed and nourished, I walked the mile or so down the beach to Nehalem State Park to stay at my first Hiker/Biker site.

The campsites were sheltered in the trees, there was zero wind, and it was the warmest campsite I had experienced so far. There were 3 bikers already there, I was the only hiker (and only woman) in the group. One man had biked about 150 miles that day! The other two men were biking together and were taking their time, enjoying the Oregon coast, and promoting Outside Safe Space, whose mission is to help businesses, specifically in rural areas, show that they are a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

After introductions and finishing my dinner, I made my way to the showers. These are marketed as “hot,” which was far from the truth for me. It was very quick, but felt like I was being sprayed with a pressure washer, so the sand, salt, and sweat from a few days was finally gone.

My sleeping bag had time to dry between setting up, eating, and showering. I crawled into bed past 10pm and had the warmest sleep I’ve had yet!

Daily Stats

Date: May 16, 2021

Start: Hiker Camp at Ecola State Park

End: Nehalem Bay State Park

Miles: 28

Fun: First shower!

OCT Day 1

Welcome to Seaside

The cold last night was relentless and I slept in my thermals, socks, and a fleece sleeping bag liner. The wind also picked up at some point, in which I took a mental note to position my tent better to block wind from the coast, which only increased the chilliness. I woke up at 5am to the sound of hundreds of birds! It was a beautiful, magical thing to wake up to and made suffering through the cold worth it. Fort Stevens park is packed with old trees and these birds remained hidden in the canopy, though they echoed throughout the park.

I took a long time to get my things together and didn’t leave camp until 6:30. Most of the time was spent trying to get warm, packing, and eating some cold soaked oats for breakfast. Finally, I hiked the mile out of the park to access the beach and begin my hike south!

The goal for the day is 23 miles to Hikers Camp in Ecola State Park. The camp is unique along the trail and has 3 Adirondack-style shelters with bunks, meaning I will not be using my tent tonight. My friend’s plan is to drive, explore the coast, and hike 4 miles from a trailhead to stay a night at the shelter with me. Most of the day is spent hiking on the beach, but once I get to Gearhart, the path is along Highway 101 into Seaside.

Fort Stevens to Gearhart

This section is all beach walking! A perfect way to start the Oregon Coast Trail, strolling along the beach. Soon after leaving Fort Stevens, I ran into the Peter Iredale shipwreck. At this point, it’s only a frame and a few pillars rising out of the sand.

I stopped half way to Gearhart for second breakfast of coffee and a probar. There were pit toilets and a table that was somewhat blocked from the wind. I don’t know why I am stoked every time there is a table and bench for breaks, but it is a simple pleasure that I make sure to enjoy when I can during hikes.

Things I’m enjoying so far

I’m already so thankful I decided to bring pants on this trip. For those of you who know me, I live in shorts and they are my preferred attire, especially while hiking! The pants are keeping me warm, without the need of wearing thermals too. Really hope the rest of this trip is warmer.

The wind jacket was also a fantastic choice. I lived in it all day and it managed to keep me dry against the ocean spray.

Concerns

I’m second guessing my choice to make my own synthetic quilt. It was so cold last night and is looking like it’ll be just as cold tonight. I’m becoming more open to the idea that there will be more inns in this trip than I had planned.

If it continues to stay cold, I may buy a fleece when I get into Lincoln City, where there is an outlet mall. I thought I would be warm enough with my shirt, long sleeve base layer, and puffy. If it’s too cold during the day for my base layer, I’m hesitant to wear my puffy and risk it get soaked, and the additional fleece would be great to have.

I keep realizing things I forgot. First, it was leaving my pack towel. Then I realized I left my trekking poles! Which, no big deal, it’ll be fine without them. But now, I realized that I forgot hand sanitizer!!! I never forget this while backpacking, but especially during the pandemic?! How could I have overlooked this? Thankfully, I’ll walk through a couple towns with stores today and can pick some up. What else did I forget?

Gearhart to Hikers Camp

The walk from Gearhart to Seaside is a bit of road walking and about 1.5 miles walking along Highway 101. The highway is notoriously busy, but along this section there are wide easements and sometimes sidewalks to walk along. Though it’s not pretty, it wasn’t a stressful section of 101 to follow.

The sun came out while walking along the promenade in Seaside. Seaside is a very family-friendly, tourist town and it was PACKED! It was a bit overwhelming after hiding in rural Washington during the pandemic. From the promenade, there is a road walk through some neighborhoods to the trail head to Tillamook Head. The paved promenade was easy walking and there was quick access to restrooms and water fountains.

Once back in the forest, it began raining. The trail was so muddy I slid all over the place, my mind berating me for leaving my trekking poles at home, and me just laughing at the situation in general. I couldn’t recall if my friend’s car was parked at the trail head and since I was struggling with footing, I had the feeling that they opted out.

When I arrived at the shelters, I was the only one there. Glancing into all three shelters, looking for my friend, I realized they did opt out. I didn’t blame them though, I was soaking wet, cold, and covered in mud. I got my sleeping arrangements set up and started cold soaking my ramen. The ramen didn’t rehydrate well, how am I so bad at this cold soaking thing? Ramen should be the easiest meal. Maybe it works better with the cheap ramen, rather than my fancy-pants-gourmet stuff?

About an hour later a group of hikers arrived, even more unprepared than myself for the cold. They tried to start a fire, but all the wood in the area was soggy, it hasn’t been dry here in months. I was honestly surprised they stayed the night, but was happy to have some company and talk to strangers.

Once the sun started to set, I curled up in my shelter, listening to critters run along the roof and the wind blast against the walls.

Daily Stats

Date: May 15, 2021

Start: Fort Stevens State Park

End: Hikers camp in Ecola State Park

Miles: 23

Fun: I wore pants all day!

OCT Prep & Day 0

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.

All of my gear

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!

Day Zero

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?

Daily Stats

Date: May 14, 2021

Start/end: Fort Stevens State Park

Miles: 5

Fun: Fort Stevens has a lot of paved bike paths and would be fun for a weekend stay.