Oregon Coast Trail: Water Shuttles

August 21, 2019

“$40 cash would make that happen” I heard the voice on the phone say. John was arranging a shuttle across Netarts Bay with Zach at Big Spruce RV. This would be our third water shuttle in three days on our walk of the Oregon Coast Trail. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and Netarts was about 8 miles away. Not bad. We could make it. What John and Zach had arranged was a site for the night at his RV park and a shuttle across the bay in the morning, about a quarter of a mile ride. That was great because having a known place to camp plus the shuttle were two essential services we needed!

This business of water shuttles is something new for me on a long distance trail, except for the Kennebec River ferry on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. That one, however, requires nothing of hikers but to show up at the riverside during operating hours with the small fee in hand. On this trail, we must call and schedule our rides, once we find out whom to call. John has gotten names from Dayhiking Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson.
Our ride from Zach was at 7:30 a.m. on our eighth day. He was able to add it to his morning of renting that boat out to a crabbing customer (No, I did not say crabby customer!).

Our first water shuttle was easier! That one, provided by Jetty Fisheries at the Nehalem Jetty, had us finding landmarks like on a treasure map. John called them the day before and I heard the voice say, “Come to the river side of the bay and look for the American flag. Then, you’ll see the little yellow building. Across the river from there, you’ll find a couple of tall posts. That’s where you call us and we’ll come over and get you.” Worked like a charm! On the morning of our sixth day we walked two miles down the trail to the North Jetty from Nehalem State Park where we had camped the night before. As we left the trees along the dune and reached the channel flowing between the bay and the ocean, we looked inland and saw the flag! We walked toward it and when we could make out the buildings, we saw the small yellow shed on the dock. Picking up our pace along the beach we soon saw three bleached tree trunks, like flag poles sticking up out of the ground. One was emblazoned with streamers and a pirate-themed flag. And, just as planned, John called, and within ten minutes, our pilot motored over the 100 yards to pick us up. He dropped us off at the Jetty Fisheries dock where we could see their bustling business of selling crab dinners and renting out boats. In the store, we paid our $20 shuttle fee and bought some snacks. Success!

Now, you’re wondering why we’d go to the trouble of hiring these shuttles? Well, this one saved us a 5-mile road walk around the bay. This way was lots more fun and kept us walking along the beach, not the road!

The second shuttle we took, thanks to John’s research, was easy and smooth as well. In the crabbing town of Garibaldi, he called the Garibaldi Marina, a private marina that serves the public. John had arranged a 10 a.m. shuttle with them for $30. We arrived in Garibaldi before 8 a.m. having left our campsite at Barview Jetty County Campground by 6:30 a.m. Instead of walking on the road, we followed the railroad bed and found that much more scenic and safe.

In Garibaldi, we found picnic tables all around the public parking area. A shaded one was a perfect place to cook our oatmeal for breakfast. Afterwards, we walked along the block next to the marina and found the office for Garibaldi Marina. We checked in with Jeff who agreed on our ten o’clock time. We had plenty of time to walk to the local market and pick up our food for the next couple of days. We included half a cantaloupe, which we ate at one of several tables installed around the docks. What a pleasant town for us!

Right at 10:00, we’re sitting in the boat with life vests buckled, ready for our shuttle. 15 minutes later, Jeff is ready to go back to the marina, only delayed by Rose, one of his Labrador dogs who fancied playing on the sand on the far side of Tillamook Bay more than riding in the boat with Jeff. We say our goodbyes, then happily walk off to the beach side of the spit, giving us a far more scenic walk than an 18-mile roadwalk around the bay. What we missed by taking the boat shuttle was the famous tour of the Tillamook Creamery! That could wait, we figure!

One caveat for the Garibaldi Marina service, though, might make a hiker consider going southbound. John asked, “How do you pick up someone from the south side”? Jeff’s answer? “We don’t!”

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