How to Start Your Appalachian Trail Walk

I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail twice, plus another 2,000 miles working as an Appalachian Trail Conservancy ridgerunner for seven seasons.. How did I start all this? By locating the nearest trailhead to my home and setting foot on the trail. That one hour greeting let me hear my call to the trail “If I just keep walking, I can get all the way to Maine!”

Next step: a half day walk with my husband, exchanging the car key in the middle as we walked in opposite directions. Over the next four years, we built up to a full month on the trail, two trips per year, from over night to three nights, a week, two weeks. There are landmark steps, I think:

  • Connect to the trail.
  • Stay out overnight.
  • Do a resupply and go out again.
  • Walk 100 miles.

I would focus on training on the trail, itself. What I discovered by talking with thousands of hikers is that those who have a connection with their Inner Journey more than the physical athletic accomplishment of the trail feel fulfilled by their walks. In addition, those having a true connection and an enjoyment of Nature seem happier and more fulfilled.

So much to talk about! Oh! One thing that makes a big difference is having a method for easily climbing mountains – a breathing technique. Contrary to a familiar saying, which I will not repeat here – “Virginia is not flat!”

Here’s the method I came up with:

forgivenesswalks.com/reginameetsmountains

Oregon Coast Trail: Port Orford

September 13, 2019

There are many aspects of this particular journey that are different than my other long walks – the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, and others.

One of those is what piques my interest today. Generally, I have walked each trail once, in a single direction. By contrast, we have now actually traveled the length of the Oregon Coast trail three times! We’re staying in the same Sea Crest Motel in Port Orford where I made my last post a week ago! Let me explain with a brief recounting of our week’s itinerary.

On September 7, we walked out of this motel just at 11:00 a.m. and made a second stop at the Food Co-op where we bought delectables for the next few days – dried mangos and pears especially! We walked another half mile to Ray’s Food Place to wait for the Coastal Express bus for an hour ride south to Gold Beach, arriving at another Ray’s in Gold Beach a little after 2 p.m.

It was just a short walk down 5th Place and past the local airstrip to the beach. Soon, we caught sight of Cape Sebastian where we would leave the beach. I made sure to let my family, and grandson Sebastian, know we’d be hiking there! Clouds hovered over its distant peak, suggesting a lurking dragon, a suitable intrigue for a three-year-old.

There’s a dragon up there for sure!

We reached the base of Cape Sebastian in under three hours, after walking Gold Beach, suitably named for its treasures of tiny agates mixed in with the array of smoothed pebbles. Finding the post marking the trail up the cape presented another treasure hunt. I had pulled out my binoculars to find it almost hidden in the grass.

A beautiful, well-graded trail wound up Cape Sebastian through ancient spruce trees dripping with Spanish moss. Whimsical, handmade signs pointed our way.

Whimsical signs point the way

Just on cue at 1.7 miles we found the “good spot for a bivouac” noted in Bonnie Henderson’s Day Hiking Oregon Coast. It was only 6 p.m. but we didn’t think we’d find a better campsite, so we stopped! The site also included a view with a bench. Watching the setting sun reflecting on the ocean, I reveled in sketching and painting my view of Cape Sebastian. The ground, softened by a spruce needle cushion provided a luxurious resting spot for the night.

Cape Sebastian

Sunday, September 8th offered walks through three habitats. First, we completed the 5-mile traverse of Cape Sebastian, through the majestic spruce-hemlock forest, along the cliffs of convoluted rocks at the base of the cape, then down an eroded ramp, scaled with a rope, to regain the beach. All my senses were nourished, from the carpeted texture of the path, the scents of spruce, the vibrant colors of shrubs, mushrooms, and even the beautiful and threatening poison oak, to the sonorous quiet with muffled surf in the background.

Poison Oak flashes its red color

Next, we did some roadwalking to cross the wide Pistol River on a bridge, then re-entered the forest for our third habitat of the day. A beautiful and thoughtfully preserved stretch of coast called the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor welcomed us hikers with a good 16 miles of trail that followed the ins and outs of the coastline, up and down from road to beach and from road to bluff’s edge.

One spectacular section of the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor was Indian Sands, a dune atop the bluff

We knew we would be camping along the trail that night, even though no official camping is available. We had started looking for a flat spot. The steep, thickly vegetated forest offered none.

Just before dusk, we reached a feature called “Secret Beach”. We had read that it might be a place to camp. Two things negated that for us. First, there was the tide. I didn’t think I would sleep well on the narrow beach listening to the surf, worrying that it would inundate my tent! Secondly, we realized this beach was not secret at all! There was a well-used trail leading away to the road! The first people we had met on the trail all day were here! It was a wedding party taking pictures! The bride was deftly clambering up the bank, gathering folds of her white dress around her arm.

We hiked on, back up the bluff. Our willingness to move on was rewarded with the discovery of a cleared viewpoint, just big enough for our tiny tent, within twenty minutes south. We had a scenic view directly above Secret Beach that was safely distant from the surf. We slept well, even as the first drops of rain started falling during the night.

Just enough clearing for our tiny tent!

On Monday, September 9th we walked through the forest of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor during our first full day of rain. This would also be our last day of trail walking! In short, it was a fulfilling day of beauty, with rain adding a particular touch of refreshment.

Late in the afternoon, we left the forest, learning on a plaque that Samuel Boardman was the founder of the Oregon State Parks system. What a fitting honor that this wondrous corridor had been dedicated to him on the eve of his retirement from the Parks!

A short road walk led us to Brookings, connecting to a welcome bike path for our last mile to our day’s end at Harris Beach State Park. We easily found the registration kiosk where we paid to stay at the Hiker-Biker site, grateful that the Oregon State Parks provide special sites for campers without cars.

In the morning on September 10th, John made a few calls to locate a nearby car rental place. We had just one more leg to walk to reach the California state line, the official southern terminus of the Oregon Coast Trail. What he came up with was the plan to continue walking 2 miles south into downtown Brookings, catch the northbound bus 100 miles to Coos Bay, rent a car there, drive north to Fort Stevens to retrieve the “Old Gold Van”, drive back to Coos Bay to return the rental car, then drive back south to walk that last bit of the trail. Got it?

Well, that’s what we did! By 3 p.m. on Tuesday, we had taken our hundred-mile bus ride, watching ten days’ walk melt before our eyes and rented a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica van. By 8 p.m. we had retraced another two weeks’ walk and checked into the same campsite where we had slept on our very first night at Fort Stevens, completing two traverses of the trail in 28 days – and 7 hours!

Next morning, on September 11, with somber reverence for the day, we drove around the corner to the protected lot where the Old Gold Van had been parked for a month. We knew we’d have to jump start the battery. Opening the hood revealed that a month had given a couple of mice ample time to get comfortable there. They wouldn’t leave!

In an hour, we were headed south, driving separate vans, John in the mouse van. The next two days were focused on our third traverse of the Oregon Coast Trail! This time, we stopped at certain spots we had missed on foot:
*The Tillamook Creamery
*Back road to Netarts, Sand Lake, and Pacific Beach
*The hike on the Harts Cove Trail on Cascade Head
*Elk Viewing Area in Reedsport
*Seven Devils Beach
*Bullards Beach and the Coquille River Lighthouse

Midway through the day, just before the side trip to Seven Devils Beach, we stopped in Coos Bay to shop for food, fulfill John’s official interview call for his seasonal job at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and return the rental car. No mouse sightings had occurred. Maybe John’s laying of dryer sheets throughout the van had driven them out. Maybe they were now moved into Wax Myrtle Campground where we had stayed the night before.

What impressed me with this part of the journey was how quickly we had covered the trail by car, yet how shallowly we had experienced the true nature of the coast this way! The road rarely gave us views of the beach where we had so deeply connected to the surf, the sand, the rocks, the sky during our walk. By car, each of the stores, trailheads, and road stretches that had been such vital landmarks for us while walking, were insignificant blips along the road!

After a short visit to the Coquille River lighthouse, which we had glimpsed from Bandon Beach on Day 12 of our walk, we hopped into the Old Gold Van together and drove to Port Orford, destined for a second stay at Sea Crest Motel and watching the Democratic Debate. Twelve days of walking evaporated in forty minutes of driving, my mind quickly reviewing the rich details we had relished by walking!

Which brings me to the present day of September 13, a lucky Friday for me, being one of those people lucky to have the 13th as a birthday. We were lucky to get to stay in a hotel with an ocean view and to have that be one night before the full moon! At 4 in the morning today I watched the moonlight shining on the ocean. At 6 a.m. we watched the full orange moon set into the western ocean horizon. Time rolls continuously, like the surf, but I’ll end this post here! Stay tuned for our next, and final episode of our Oregon Coast Trail saga – touching the California State Line at Crissey Field State Recreation Site.

Thanks for reading!

Oregon Coast Trail: River Crossings

September 4-6, 2019

Three days, in which we walked into the night toward a lighthouse, stopped briefly at a County Park, camped near a river to cross at midnight, stopped briefly at a State Park, walked another six miles on beautiful beach and finally rested at a hotel in Port Orford.

I’ll bundle these three days because they flowed together in an unusual -and exhausting- stretch of walking outside my circadian rhythm. There were rivers to cross at low tide which didn’t happen at convenient times. Ironically, this was the longest stretch of undeveloped beach along the Oregon Coast. We saw just a handful of other hikers and uncountable and varied scenes of coastal beauty on the beach for three days!

On the 4th, we awoke at Sunset Bay State Park to the calls of ravens. Although the camphost had said there were crows, the guttural croaks, in contrast to the crow’s high-pitched and definite “caw”, tells me they were ravens. This explains why they might pilfer campers’ food from their tables, as the camphost had warned the night before. Ravens are relentless scavengers of convenience! Our food, however, was safely untouched by raven beak.

We were out by 8 a.m. headed to a path through the forest out of the park. It climbed steeply to a ridge because we were leaving the beach -headed north! We had to get back to Charleston to position ourselves for our next southbound beach walk. From Charleston, we took our third ride with Yellow Cab back to the North Bend Safeway. That’s the stop for the Curry County Transit Coastal Express, which whizzed us 27 miles down US 101, over a highway bridge with no space for pedestrians, to the Ray’s Food Place in Bandon. We shopped, first for something to eat immediately, then for food tforo pack out for the next two days. I wanted soup to eat, but they didn’t serve it in their hot bar. John asked the deli clerk about soup. She kindly offered to heat up whatever packaged soup we bought from the store! We bought a box of sweet potato curry, a deli sandwich, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs for a warming meal in their snack area. I sought out the manager to thank his staff for that personalized service!

From Ray’s we walked through historic Bandon for a mile or so, then clambered over some big rocks to the beach. Our goal was to cross the mouth of the New River at low tide, which was at 11:30 p.m. Huge rock stacks loomed near the beach and we wove our way around and between them over low dunes swept by wind and sand. The fine brown sand we had grown accustomed to walking on had turned to coarse, black sand that gave way with each step.

Coarse black sand on Bandon Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We kept walking. Into sunset, past sunset, into darkness. Without our headlamps on, the waxing crescent moon was the only light – besides the Cape Blanco lighthouse, that is. It flashed dimly, some 20 miles away. Soon, even the moonlight was hidden behind clouds, leaving the whitecapped surf as the only contrast with the dark beach. I kept my sluggish pace going with determination to reach that river crossing at its unknown distance. To trick my mind to keep going, I paced myself to walk all the way to that lighthouse before stopping. That worked and I didn’t get tired, just kept walking, listening to the surf and focusing on doing deep, rhythmic breathing.

At 9 p.m. we reached a flow of water towards the ocean! “This must be the mouth of the New River!” John said. It’s tricky because this river, only about a century old, flows north, parallel to the surf and 20-50 yards in. Sometimes, new mouths form. Even a few hours before low tide, it was just knee deep and easy to cross. We kept walking. I had thought we would camp soon after this crossing, but John kept going. And going. He said there was a hiker camp, but didn’t know it’s distance.

The bank was steep, the sand soft, the walking cumbersome, the darkness grim. We walked near the surf because the sand was the most firm there. The problem was that waves would sneak up. I had put my shoes back on for easier walking, although I had given in to walking in the water. One wave lept up and soaked my shorts though, and I cursed, exasperated with this interminably long night walk. One thing I’ve confirmed about myself on this trip is that I rely on regular meals and sleep. Although I think I’m good at tolerating whatever happens, my impatience bursts out when that last straw gets piled on. That soaking was my last straw this time. “Let’s stop here and camp!” John relented. We stomped up the beach through deep sand. We stomped past the line of markers for the protected plover nesting zone and we set up the tent in the dune sand well away from the tide line. It was only 10 p.m. but I was glad to end that night walking.

Next morning, September 5th, we resumed our beach walk. In just an hour we saw a post on the dune that clearly said, INFORMATION in vertical letters. We climbed up the shifty sand and read it. “It’s the BLM hiker camp!” John said. “We would have missed this last night! I’ll mark it on my map.”

About 1 p.m. we reached the next landmark at Flores Lake, a beautiful, marshy area with a county park and campground. “What if we stay here and get to the Sixes River for tomorrow’s low tide instead of the one at midnight tonight?” I suggested, appealing to my sleepiness and attraction to this location. It could provide soothing subjects for drawing and painting. I was thrilled with the sight of a marsh hawk gliding over the lake edge.

“That won’t work because of the bus from Port Orford, letting us skip the longest road walk section. It only runs Monday though Saturday.” John gave me the news. We ate the soup we had skipped last night and refilled our water bottles, discovering that John had lost his liter bottle during the night walk. Inconvenient, but not dire. We still had five liters capacity. We walked back out to the beach. Resigned, I particularly noticed how unpleasant it was slogging though the loose sand of the approach road, keeping comments to myself.

The afternoon provided another several hours of determined beach walking, broken by an hour on a woodland trail over Blacklock Point, a jaggedy black headland jutting out into the ocean, winged by golden cliffs of sediment, topped with windblown spruce pointing south. I savored the firmness of the soil beneath my feet and reminded myself to enjoy the beauty, which I could not deny.

Golden Sandstone Cliffs

Soon, we were back out on the beach, this time, however, touring a whimsical museum of driftwood sculptures and collectibles. Every size, shape, and wooden caricature, from huge roots and trunks to tiny sticks and tokens, littered the sand and grass ledge for the rest of our evening walk!

Huge Root Sculpture

Tiny wooden tokens

What a delight for my imagination! I could spend days of drawing time studying the patterns and textures of these wooden forms! We had another destination, however – Sixes River, known to be easily crossed on a sandbar or formidable and requiring a retreat back to the road. We checked it out about 6 p.m. and found that the 8ft high tide made the crossing of the formidable variety. We camped nearby and set an alarm for 11:45 p.m.

Beach camp

In the dark, we revisited the crossing by headlamp and found it pretty easy! We quickly forded the twenty-foot wide outflowing stream that was just knee deep. Mission accomplished. John wasn’t quite sure how far it was to the trail up to Cape Blanco State Park. We walked. Another night walk of unknown length. Thirty minutes in, I said that I didn’t really want to walk without a clear time and destination. John snapped back, “OK! We’ll stop here!” I explained that I was willing to walk for another fifteen minutes, but John stubbornly stopped.

It was easy setting up the tent again in the sand because I had packed the long sticks I had used for stakes at our first sand camp that night. They worked better in the deep sand than our short metal ones.

At first light the next morning, September 6th, we packed up again, this time to continue south on the beach toward that lighthouse on Cape Blanco, now just short of a mile away! In the morning light, it was easy to find the trail up the cape to the lighthouse road, then another 3/4 mile to the Cape Blanco State Park campground.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse at dawn

I was so grateful John had not insisted on walking that whole stretch in the night! From the Sixes River crossing to the campground was 2 1/2 miles!

Here was another stop we could make, but we didn’t stop! There was that bus to catch in Port Orford tomorrow and it was still about eight miles away! We ate our oatmeal, took lukewarm showers, packed up and walked out of the park. The beach between Cape Blanco and Port Orford really was beautiful, but I was tired! I did my best to pay attention to the wind carved cliffs, the blue water, and the rainbow colors of smooth stones which now graced the beach.

Now there were pebbles of many colors!

Mostly, I kept walking, silently forging my way through the soft sand. Walking barefoot for awhile helped refresh me somewhat.

John had called and made a reservation for the Sea Crest Motel, so at least we had a destination. We got into Port Orford at about 12:30 and made our way from the beach access into town, headed for Ray’s Food Place. On our way, though, we walked past a place called Golden Harvest Herban Farm. “Let’s see what they have.” They had a fine selection of prepared food, a salad bar, and ice cream. We feasted on the best meat loaf ever, a piece of quiche, a cup of barley soup, and a fantastic salad, topped off with carrot cake and ice cream. The unique flavors were ones I would not have picked out in the grocery store and made me feel alive and special!

A delicious stop, right on our way!

I made a second purchase to carry out and eat in the hotel: cauliflower curry soup and second helpings of meatloaf, quiche, and salad. We didn’t need to go to Ray’s today!

We made two more stops conveniently located between Golden Harvest and Sea Crest Hotel: the Post Office and the Food Co-op. At the Post Office we talked with the clerk about how inconvenient it had been that our maildrop package we had sent to General Delivery had been returned to California. The clerk in Astoria had told us the P.O. holds packages for 30 days. Ours was held for only 15. After several minutes’ discussion, he agreed that we had not been served as expected, assured us that he would ameliorate this inconsistency in what clerks are telling customers and the newer 15-day hold policiy. He refunded the postage for that package. That felt good!

At the Co-op, we did some recognizance on what we could buy during tomorrow’s resupply. We got plenty of ideas! We also got a sampling of some irresistible radish kim-chi from the Korean woman who supplies it at the Co-op. We bought a pint of it, and even gave her the canning jar back after dumping the kim-chi into an empty bag from our food bag.

Now, we were ready for that hotel room! We had a room complete with a tub, a refrigerator, a microwave, and an ocean view! Perfect for nineteen whole hours of rest!

I was ready for it!

Oregon Coast Trail: High Tide

September 1, 2019

Our hotel rest stop was a welcome break and a sort of new beginning for the rest of the trip. We took an entire day off at the Villa West Hotel, at the crossroads of US101 and 126 in Florence, Oregon. We stayed until checkout time at 11.
John’s willingness to take a taxi out of Florence, skipping a few miles of roadwalking, and even a little forest walking, made today a delightfully easy day! Well, mostly, anyway. The cab driver dropped us off at the Wax Myrtle Trailhead, 3/4 mile from the beach. Yes, there were wax myrtle trees on the route!

We got there right at noon. A half hour later, the trail ended at the beach, beginning our 4-hour beach walk as the tide came in. Incoming tide means that the surf encroaches further up the shore, covering the firmer sand that’s easier to walk on. I decided to walk barefoot, which is fine for an hour or so, then is tiring.We had a little excitement for choosing a driftwood log just surfside to a tidepool that was filling. We had to grab our packs and dodge the water when a high wave crept up to our log!A few miles down the beach we had to cross a river that flowed into the ocean. As an inlander, I rarely have thought about what it really looks like when a river flows into the sea! I’ve gotten familiar with it on this trail, as we’ve seen many – from trickles to wide bays. This one is about twenty feet wide and shallow. We could simply wade across, although I got a little nervous when it crept close to the bottom of my pack.

Where we crossed the Tehkenitch River

Twenty minutes later, we reached Access Point 115A and turned off to Three-Mile Lake, our day’s destination! This is when the “mostly” easy qualification came in! To get to the lake, we had to traverse the half mile of dunes between the beach and the lake. That was slow going in the deep, loose sand! I used my Meet the Mountains Technique to make it easy, even though these were not actually mountains! The constantly shifting sand gave shifty resistance to each step, though, so I was glad for my stepping and breathing practice. (You’ve got this, right? If not, I’ll give you the link, so your mountain – and dune – climbing can be easy! https://forgivenesswalks.com/ReginaMeetsMountains)We did not like the looks of the camping around the lake, so turned north on another trail and found a sweet wooded campsite with a perfect distant view of the ocean and sunset! At only 5 p.m. we’re all set up and relaxing. No waiting for six days to summarize the day!

Sunset from Three Mile Lake Campsite

Oregon Coast Trail: Amanda

August 28, 2019

Although I have been disappointed by the roadwalking along 101, my suffering pales to that of Amanda, the Yachats woman, and the thousands of others, who were cheated out of their homeland here, tortured, murdered, and forced to walk along the lava rock coast to an encampment. It would have taken great foresight to preserve a natural coastal corridor for our trail, yes. Even better would have been to ratify the treaty in 1855 giving the original people their twenty-mile wide coastal area.

Today’s walk took us off of US101 for quite a number of trail miles. Trail advocates had arranged for several miles of the trail to wind around through the coast houses, vacation homes, and resorts. The route is called The 804. On this day, it was well-populated with day walkers enjoying the cliff lands, staying back from the edge where signs warned of fragile cliffs, and a memorial reminds us that two “strong young men” had been swept off to drown by a “sneaker wave”. We stayed back and watched the crashing surf billow over the rocks.

The 804 Trail

Stay back!

Later, another trail wound up a steep hill on the east side of the highway. The signs admonished us to respect this private land where we had permission to walk on “Amanda’s Trail” to Cape Perpetua. Along the way, we visited the statue commemorating Amanda, the Yachats woman who had been forced away from her daughter and white, unmarried spouse when the cavalry came to drive off the native people in the 1850’s. No one knows if she lived or died, but her story reminds us of the genocide our America has perpetrated more than once.

Amanda now adorned

We talk somberly about the topic as we climb the rest of the mountain to another period monument at the crest of Cape Perpetua – a CCC rock shelter.

Cape Perpetua Rock Shelter: window to a gray sunset

By this time, it’s late afternoon, and we still have a few miles to go to the Cape Perpetua Campground. The overlook is suddenly rain, dark, and windy so we don our rain jackets and hats. Twenty minutes later, we’re peeling them off because it’s dry and warm below! We learn that this effect is peculiar to the high elevation spruce forest that traps moisture that drops off the trees like rain!

We descend quickly, and soon drop off into the USFS campground, our destination for the night. We see the Hiker-Biker site listed and head for it. However, we meet the campground manager on our way. He takes our ten bucks and we walk back to site #11, unusually far from the entrance, but closer than our other option, site #29A!

To our dismay, though, Site #11 is literally a blocked car slip with a picnic table on it next to a ten-foot wide strip of grass. Although we look at other sites, we decide to stay there, grumbling about the layout. I held my tongue, but wanted to say, “We come without a car, so we get to BE a car and have our table in the parking slip.” I add this to my growing list of quandaries for the makers of this trail. Just what are/were they thinking hikers are like? I sleep with my hat pulled over my eyes to block out the headlights that go by during the night. It’s yet another chance for me to do The Thirteen Steps to Radical Forgiveness. Grateful for the tool, I choose peace.

Parked table at site#11

Oregon Coast Trail: Seal Rocks

August 27, 2019

This day had similarities to yesterday, with a few variations in the details of food and campsite services. We had beautiful beach walking, some awesome rocks, not so much roadwalking, and early evening arrival at South Beach State Park Hiker-Biker site.

My notes for the day:

7:20 away from camp at South Beach
8:40 stop to cook breakfast on beach; Potatoes onions garlic cheese
10:36 shoes off. In close view of Seal Rocks cliffs. I’ve been trying all variations of beachwalking: sandals, barefoot, shows and socks. All have pros and cons. The sandals work if I wrap my toes in gauze tape. Barefoot feels great – for a while, then my feet are tired. Shoes are most supportive – and get my shoes wet.

Lovely Seal Rocks captivate my attention

The waves crashed high over Seal Rocks

11:16 talked with Washingtonians
11:40 lunch at seal rocks before going up off the beach to get around Seal Rocks. It took just a few minutes to get around this time, and we were quickly back on the beach.

Lunch break included a quick drawing of Seal Rocks.

Seal Rocks Closeup

12:10 leaving beach again for walk on US101 to NW Coast drive. Back soon, this time for a couple of hours.
2:15 off beach at Bayshore Beach Club, Access #67B. We rest in the shade nearby an elegant pool, feeling the awkwardness of the homeless next to the rich. We walk on Westward Dr to Bayshore Dr to the beach on a bay. We have to cross another bridge, lver the Alsea River. We can’t tell if we can get up the dune right at the bridge. We ask a woman walking her dog. She thinks we can. She’s right! There’s a good trail winding up the hill next to, not through the KOA, with its No Trespassing signs. The trail goes right to a park with steps up to the bridge. This one is similar to the Newport Bridge – without the wind today! We are soon across and looking for our route to Ray’s Food Place, a half-mile away.

3:31 At Ray’s we engage our two-visit strategy. We are hot and hungry, so we get something to eat immediately. This time, it’s a box of greens, an avocado, and a tangerine. John goes for a 1.5 qt juice blend. The store has a welcoming section of tables at their deli.

We cross the street to Ace Hardware to search for a canister. They have an empty shelf where our product would be. No luck! However, the clerk digs in the cash register for something else we need – a safety for John’s button, which just popped off.

Back at Ray’s, we buy no cook foods: Frito’s bean dip, ramen, cheese, pears, red pepper, avocados,blueberries.
5:30 leave store, walk down the beach and exit at Beachside State Park.
7:05 Beachside State Park has a Hiker-Biker site conveniently located next to the registration office and bathroom. Alas, there’s no charging station. There is an outlet in the bathroom nearby. These are good sites in the woods. The Registration is closed when we arrive, so I dip into my stash of groups of 10, 5 ,and 1 dollar bills to make our $16 fee. We heat our ramen with the dwindling fuel and hang our food bags in a nearby tree. No other hikers or bikers arrive.

 

 

Oregon Coast Trail: Whale of a Day

August 25, 2019

On which we walked big miles, made a big leap in our thruhiking style, and saw some really big creatures!

Adding a few more words or phrases to the words above, like in one of those grammar games, we walked something like sixteen miles, starting our day at 5 a.m. at Devil’s Lake State Park and ending at 7:30 p.m. at Beverly Beach State Park. We made a big leap in our thruhiking style by catching the Lincoln County bus to skip four miles of walking on US 101 between Taft and Gleneden, making our day’s trip miles jump to 20. And, for our first time on this trip and over several hours of our day, from Boiler Bay south to Cape Foulweather, we saw whales – Gray Whales! Mostly, we saw the spouts of water sprayed from whales, and sometimes the backs of whales, to the tune of about 20 sightings in four to six spots along the coast. We just caught a glimpse of one whale between two houses as we walked down residential Coast Street in the southern streets of Depoe Bay. It was a whale of a day!

Other highlights include:

  • Walking into the sunrise on the beach. We had to walk 3 miles down the beach to the bus stop in Taft to catch the 7:30 a.m. bus. A blessing, really.
  • Meeting a winter resident of Palm Springs, CA (near us in Borrego Springs) at the park in Gleneden as we cooked our oatmeal and kale breakfast after our 7:30 a.m. bus ride.
  • Stopping for “the best of the best” latte at Pirate Coffee in, guess what, Pirate Cove! I’m not a good judge of coffee, but it was a nice stop on a windy day!
  • Visiting the Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay where we saw more whales and I got an idea for an activity for the Visitor Center at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where I’ll be from October through May.
  • There was a stretch of roadwalk along Otter Crest Drive that actually had a dedicated pedestrian/bike lane, a single one-way lane for cars, signs identifying bikes and walkers, and a 20 mph speed limit. We felt gratefully accommodated in the transportation corridor for three whole miles!
  • Several stretches along US 101 today had dirt trail built off the shoulder, sometimes behind the guardrail or through the nearby vegetation. We noticed that it coincided with a utility line. We were grateful that we could share that space! In one of my many Radical Forgiveness moments of this journey, I noticed the irony of celebrating a powerline.
  • I was tired and cranky on our last 2-mile beach walk of the day, but grateful to reach Beverly Beach State Park to find the nice storage boxes with receptacles for phone charging in the Hiker-Biker campsite. Another irony of hiking all day – too worn out to fully integrate the beauty I came to enjoy!

This was our 12th day in the Oregon Coast Trail, 138 miles from our starting point.

Boiler Bay, Sighting our first grey whales

Taft, OR Historic District at dawn

Whale Cove Overlook where we saw whales and harbor seals too!

Oregon Coast Trail: Stamina

August 24, 2019

I awoke with gratitude for being in the quiet green spaciousness of the Cascade Head rainforest. Our choice to stop our forced march to the Sea Echo Motel in Lincoln City and sleep in this forest was a good one! This is what we needed! The stop also broke up our road walk on US 101 into two days instead of one very long, arduous one! With my spirit renewed by a night in the woods, I could bolster my courage and tolerance and walk on the road again. We still had 3.7 miles to go to Lincoln City, where we could shop at Safeway and return to the beach for a short walk to Devil’s Lake State Park Campground. We got away from our camp at a leisurely 8:40 a.m. We still had an hour’s walk in the forest. This time, I paid attention to its beauty!

About 9:30 we reached US 101, resuming our walk on the shoulder. An hour later, John noticed Clancy Road, which Bonnie had noted in her Dayhikers Guide as a short cut to the beach. We followed the road about 20 minutes to her cryptic description of a gate, then a trail, but stopped short of walking through private property. We simply weren’t willing to do it! We retraced our steps on Clancy Road, picking a handful of ripe blackberries on our way, and got back on US 101. At least we had tried!

At 11:25 we passed the Neotsu Post Office. Across the street I spied a golf course. “Maybe we could walk along the edge and avoid some of 101,” I suggested. We tried it and boldly started walking along the golf cart road toward the south side of the golf course. No one seemed to mind. A few minutes later, we heard, “What are you doing here?” A man wearing a white hat lettered Chinook Winds Resort pulled up in his golf cart. “Good! Someone who can direct us!” I called cheerfully. “We’re trying to stay off 101 and get over there!” I pointed to the next busy intersection. “Well, you can’t be here! Keep moving! Golfers are coming!” He snapped. We kept moving. Another golfer came along and we asked him for clearer directions. He gave them kindly, and we walked directly through the course on the cart road and out into the neighborhood, freed again from 101 for half a mile. Within ten minutes we reached Safeway, a safe place for us to be. There, we knew we were welcome to shop and eat a tasty lunch of guacamole, red pepper, lettuce, and fresh strawberries. Then, we shopped again for our food for the next 24 hours.

At 1:45 we were back on the road again, looking for the beach access at the Chinook Winds Casino. We found it quickly, along with the noisy rock band and crowd enjoying a car show. We ignored all that and headed to the beach! Two hours later, we ambled through the beach crowds to leave the beach at D River, “The Shortest River”, according to the signs, and walk north for one last bit on US 101 to the entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park Campground. Soon, we were all set up at the Hiker Biker site, with four others.
We had arrived so early, I had time to shower and wash out my clothes!

We were still hiking, undefeated by the challenging roadwalking on US 101!  John made no further mention of his idea to leave the trail. I was glad I had made no response to his frustrated threat yesterday. Tomorrow, we would be on the trail again after a good rest!

Oregon Coast Trail: Roadwalking

August 22/23, 2019

“I’m going to call this Horrible Hill!” says John as we pace up the hill on the shoulder of US101. He must not be using Regina’s Meet the Mountains Technique, I thought. It wasn’t the elevation change bothering him, though, it was the threat of zooming trucks veering over the white line on the narrow shoulder. I agree, roadwalking is not fun, and this stretch bothers me too. It’s 2 p.m. on a Friday between the beach towns of Neskowin and Lincoln City. We were on a 4-mile stretch of the trail where there’s no trail. The official route follows the U.S. highway.

Our memories were still fresh of the 6-mile road walk the prevoius evening. The pang of that four-hour road walk was raw because we had missed our chance at getting a boat ride across the Neskowin River to skip it. Both of us had hoped the other one was asking the boaters for a ride when neither was. We did have the chance to talk about that while we walked along the busy two-lane highway, though.

Today’s walk is similar. Sometimes there’s a shoulder. Often, there’s not. Often the road curves so drivers can’t see us. It’s not safe. We persist. “How can they call this a trail when there’s no place to walk?” I grumble silently, sometimes out loud.

An hour into the walk, we see a mowed hay field we could cut across. Squish! Down in the ditch of tall grass that we must cross, John steps in a creek. I get to miss that. The field is lumpy, but it’s safer than the road. We rejoice that fifteen minutes’ walk takes us safely back out to our road. At dusk, we reach the return to the beach and cap off the day with tenting on the beach, tucked beyond the tide line in the dune grass. The roar of the ocean surf is a welcome respite from the roar of the traffic.

On Friday’s walk between Neskowin and Lincoln City, up Horrible Hill, we got a break a couple of miles in. The official trail turned off into Cascade Head Science Research Area. We started out with 1.5 miles on the Forest Service Road, then turned off on dirt trail through the lush, green rainforest. I’m sad to say, though, that I was so caught up in my grumbling about having to walk 3.7 miles through the forest then another 3.5 on the road to reach our hotel goal for the night, 7.2 more miles and it’s already 4 o’clock, that I pay only slight attention to the forest.

Our Victim Story builds when John, thinking I’m not waiting for him as I’m charging ahead athletically to the goal, catches up and says, “I’m thinking of getting off in Lincoln City and going to get the van. Then, I’ll do car support for you so you can finish the trail.”

I’m stunned! He’s the one who is focused on completing any trail he does! I hold my tongue for a minute, then say, continuing my pace, poking my trekking poles into the ground to dissipate my frustration, “I hear what you say, and I have no response!” My terse remark has wisdom behind it. I know that quitting a long term plan on a bad day is unwise. But, I now know that John is uncharacteristically wavering and I won’t fuel the doubt!

“What if we just stop this march and camp in this forest?” I muse to myself. I start looking for a flat spot. The forest is impenetrable with underbrush and no camping is allowed (Which is another rant about newly formed trails!). Fifteen minutes later, with probably another forest mile to go, I see an opening! Thick moss blankets little patches of flattish ground. “What if we stop here for the night?” I suggest. “I have no plan any more,” John says dispassionately and follows me off the trail.

Our spirits are uplifted during that respite of quiet green. The towering trees, dripping with Spanish moss, catching dappled golden patches of evening sunlight soothe my resentment. I rest, running the words of The Thirteen Steps to Radical Forgiveness through my head. Am I willing to see perfection in this situation? Is there an opportunity to learn and grow here? Yes. I let Spirit do the work of providing a suggestion of how.

At 3 a.m. I wake up still thinking. I listen to the tracks from Walk for a Singing Heart. Barbara’s songs and the three exercises shift my perspective to openness to a new way of seeing the roadwalking and of being in the roadwalking. I don’t know exactly what that will look like. I don’t have a clear plan, but I acknowledge that I probably have more choices in this situation than I had realized. I sleep again and wake up, still in awe of this amazing forest and emboldened by our willingness to rest here.

Saturday provides a clean slate!

Oregon Coast Trail: Rain Day

August 21, 2019

7:56 Zach drops us off by boat on the Netarts Spit. We walk the beach, wondering when the forecasted rain would start. It’s overcast and raining oh so slightly. As we walk, the only ones on the beach today, my mind wanders to the rhythm of my feet.

This is our eighth day of hiking and I have noticed some inconveniences – I’m tired from our long days of walking, ready for a rest day; my sandals aren’t working so great because they rub a couple of toes raw. I do have gauze tape which helps; Its windy and starting to rain making walking a little uncomfortable.

As I walk, though, I notice the immense and surprising beauty of this beach – frothing surf, constant waves, soft, smooth sand, forested ridges giving way to grassy dunes where the indigenous Netarts people lived, sand dollars in various pieces inviting me to see if I can make a collage of them into a whole.

All of the inconveniences dissolve in the presence of the captivating beauty!

We walk on.

I notice that the mid-morning sun occasionally pierces the cloud veil to my left while ahead the white mist of rain blankets the beach.

Something tumbles along the sand. A creature? No, a tuft of the grassy-bladed seaweed. Tumbling seaweed? Who would have imagined?

9:12 I spy a smooth, bleached log resting in the deep sand back from the surf and from the firm sand where we walk. Time for a snack. “Look! A rainbow!” John says. How can I feel anything but contentment? It’s a complete rainbow arching above the ocean straight out in front of me!

9:45 We walk on. Now, its rainy and windy. It’s warm, though, so I’m comfortable, realizing that most people probably limit their beach walks to clear days, missing this remarkable sensory experience! We’re getting closer to the end of this beach now. We meet the first other walkers of the morning. They’re holding their shoes, walking barefoot.

10:25 we reach the end of the beach at the base of Lookout Cape which makes a steep, insurmountable wall in our path. We climb up the dune and walk through the campground to find the Hiker Biker site at Lookout Cape State Park. According to our guidebook, this one is the favorite of hikers.

We look at the Hiker Biker site. There are at least 16 sites with tables and small patches for tents, all carved out among small evergreen trees and thick shrubs. There’s the charging station with cubic metal lockers equipped with usb connections. So far, the Oregon State Parks have all had these. What a nice feature!

We waited to check in ’til noon, when the rain started in earnest. We crawled into our tent and napped. In about thirty minutes, water was coming through the tent floor! I laid out the poncho for an extra layer. “Why didn’t we choose the site with the grassy spot?” I lamented. I took a walk around to look at the other sites. As it turned out, our tent was actually on one of the few dry spots in the whole Hiker Biker camp! Even the grassy spots were inundated! The cleared spot at our site where we had first considered putting our tent was now a three-inch puddle!

5:00 p.m. The consistent rain seems to have stopped, although it’s still cloudy and drippy outside. We’ll stay put! It’s nice to have had this rainy day to rest – and do some catching up on journaling!