Category: Trips ‘n’ Trails

My Oregon Coast Trail Reading List (Plus a Few More Titles)

My Oregon Coast Trail Reading List (Plus a Few More Titles)

Books may add pack weight, but they were some of the most valuable items I brought on my thru-hike. My Oregon Coast Trail reading list helped me to process the grief that inspired me to do the trail to begin with, to push through challenging moments, to learn more about the places I was passing through, and to evolve as a person.

I began my trip with Wild, and then my friends brought me a couple of books in resupply bags. Each time, I would trade my completed book for a new one, so I wouldn’t accumulate too much pack weight. I also purchased a collection of poems during my first extended stay in a small town.

The books, in the order I read them:

1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I know, how cliché of me. But this is an inspiring, authentic, and relatable story of a woman who sets out on the Pacific Crest Trail in order to rebuild herself. I read most of this right before my trip, and finished it on the trail. I was able to laugh through my early struggles with my heavy pack partly thanks to her amusing descriptions of struggling with Monster (her enormous pack). In some of my tougher moments, I remembered her strength and perseverance. Cheryl Strayed’s impressive physical accomplishments on the trail pale, however, compared to her great inner strength and the fearlessness with which she faces the challenging aspects of her life. Each time I read Wild, I am reminded that the only real option is pushing forward – no matter what is ahead – and diving deeply into what life has in store.

Bring this book on a camping trip, a thru-hike, or whatever. Just read this amazing book if you haven’t yet! There are a lot of options for purchasing a copy listed at the bottom of the Wild page on Cheryl Strayed’s website. I also highly recommend the movie. They did a great job of adapting the book to the screen.

2. Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken, Lodro Rinzler

Love Hurts by Lodro Rinzler

After reading Wild, I was ready to face my own demons and delve into my own grief. This book is a great guide for that process. Though Love Hurts contains a lot of profound advice, this book is an easy read. Consisting of small, digestible sections, the book encourages you to jump around to topics that feel relevant to you on a given day. As the author accurately notes, it is hard to think in a linear fashion when you are in pain. With compassion, wisdom, and a very relatable, human writing style, Rinzler guides you to reasonable ways of addressing the various facets of grief, and moving forward in a healthy way.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in any sort of emotional pain. Order this from Powell’s (they ship!), directly from Shambhala Press, or from Amazon.

3. Without a Map, Gary Lark

Without a Map by Gary Lark

I chose this small collection of poetry by a local author when I was at the amazing Gold Beach Books on a zero day. The book’s size appealed to me since I was backpacking. But more importantly, the fact that the author hails from southern Oregon and spends time on the southern Oregon coast caught my attention. I wanted to gain more insight into the lives of those who live in small towns, like the places I was traveling through. Lark’s blunt, well-crafted descriptions capture a diverse array of moments in an accessible manner. His poems feature descriptions of natural beauty, paired with reflections on the harsh reality of daily life, and ghosts of serving in Vietnam.

Order this from Gold Beach Books (free shipping!). I recommend calling or emailing them. Or I guess you could just get it from Amazon

4. Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

I frequently re-read this amazing book, and the final span of my trip on the OCT seemed like a good time to revisit it. Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of advice columns written by Cheryl Strayed under the pen name Sugar. Each response reads like a memoir, and conveys strength, wisdom, and humanity. Emblematic quotes include:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed“Trust yourself. That’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”
  • “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you are holding.”
  • “Run as far as you can in the direction of your dreams, across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”

These stories will inspire you to live on your own terms.

Check out Cheryl Strayed’s website for ways to order this book online.

Honorable Mention

Planet Walker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking, Dr. John Francis

PlanetWalkerI wish I had known about this book before I began my hike. It was recommended to me while I was in Newport, and I tracked it down as soon as I returned to Portland.

Planet Walker is a memoir detailing Dr. John Francis’s personal pilgrimage across the United States, after he swears off fossil fuel (thus even foregoing buses) and takes a vow of silence, a decision that began as a way to avoid further arguments about his choice to walk instead of drive, but evolves into so much more.

As he walks from California up the west coast and then east to Washington, D.C., Dr. Francis explores a diversity of landscapes and local cultures, paints and journals every day, earns a Master’s and a PhD, becomes a National Geographic Fellow, and through all of it, he deepens his understanding of himself and humanity’s relationship with the environment. It is also an important read because it illuminates the unique struggles of a black outdoor adventurer and environmentalist. In so many ways, Planet Walker is a beautifully written, wonderfully informative, and truly profound book.

Order it from Amazon now! And learn more about PlanetWalk, the nonprofit founded by Dr. Francis.

I also considered, and would recommend, the following for an Oregon Coast Trail reading list:

Each of these books is long – and therefore bulky and heavy. That is the main reason I did not choose them, but you can work around it. I would advise buying a used paperback and ripping it into smaller sections, or photocopying them and making small packets for different stages of your hike.

Fire at Eden’s Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon Story, Brent Walth

Fire at Eden's Gate by Brent Walth

I can’t think of a more fitting addition to an Oregon Coast Trail reading list than the biography of Governor Tom McCall, who was instrumental in building Oregon’s Land Use program and passing the Beach Bill, the landmark legislation that secured Oregon’s public coastline in 1967. This compelling story also touches on the legacies of Governor Oswald West (who has a namesake state park on the northern Oregon coast), Governor Bob Straub (who has a namesake state park on Nestucca Spit in Pacific City, the very site he strove to protect), and many more noteworthy figures in Oregon history.

Order this from Powell’s or Amazon.

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Co-Founder, Kenny Moore

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore

Bill Bowerman is challenging to summarize, but here goes: Descended from pioneers, a veteran of the Tenth Mountain Division in World War II, a relentless innovator and tinkerer, a dynasty-building coach at the University of Oregon, the instigator of the jogging craze in the US, a US Olympic track and field coach, the co-founder of Nike, a practical joker, and much more. He is not only a fascinating figure in Oregon history, but also has changed the world of running, and, by extension, the world itself. His biography is written by one of the athletes he coached, Kenny Moore, also an Oregonian.

Bowerman also was the coach of legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who grew up in Coos Bay and is remembered in his hometown with two great exhibits, one at the Coos Bay Art Museum, and the other at the Coos History Museum. Reading this biography seems fitting as you pass through Pre’s hometown. I certainly wished I had my copy with me so I could re-read the section on the Prefontaine years. Then as I headed north from Coos Bay, into the daunting dunes, I recalled the self-discipline of Bowerman’s athletes, which inspired me to keep pushing. In many ways, this is a worthwhile addition to your Oregon Coast Trail reading list.

Order this from Powell’s or Amazon.

Dune, Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank HerbertThis sci-fi classic was inspired by the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and written by an Oregonian. Granted, I have not read this yet, myself, but I plan to this summer.

Learn more about this book and order your own copy on the Dune Official Website.

Though of course books add to your pack weight, they also will enrich your trip in so many ways. I highly recommend packing something to read!

What’s on your Oregon Coast Trail reading list – or your outdoors reading list, in general? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out my Recommended Reading page!

Cover Photo: “Summer Reading” by L.W. Yang, Creative Commons

John Dellenback Dunes
The Oregon Dunes is a surreal place; I can see why it inspired the Dune series! © Jenni Denekas
OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 2: Humbug Mountain to Bandon

OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 2: Humbug Mountain to Bandon

In this segment of the Oregon Coast Trail, accommodations are easier to come by. Continuing north from Gold Beach, you will pass through a lot of areas with solid lodging and camping options, which are, for the most part, spaced out evenly. There are also plenty of options to connect your destinations via the south coast’s surprisingly good transit system. Furthermore, after my first week, I was feeling stronger and more capable of logging higher mileage – likely you will, as well!

As I mentioned in my first lodging list, please note that your needs and preferences may differ from mine for a variety of reasons. Your budget, timeframe, daily mileage goals, fitness level, and a whole host of other factors will also determine where you stay and how long you remain there. Read about considerations to keep in mind as you plan your OCT lodging.

Jump to OCT South Coast Trail Data to figure out your daily mileage goals.

I listed prices for the places I stayed so that you can get an idea of what you may expect to pay, but please note that: a.) I did the OCT in the spring, rather than during the height of summer tourist season, and b.) Prices are subject to change. Please only use this information I provided as a general reference, and do your own research as to current prices.

I also experienced a bit of a snafu in Port Orford. As a result, my phone ended up in Davy Jones’ Locker, so some of the photos in this section are from Creative Commons. I specify the photographer in each caption. After the snafu, I had to leave the trail for a few days, and rejoined the OCT in Coos Bay. Therefore my descriptions of lodging north of Port Orford are based on a trip I did the summer prior to my 2017 OCT trek. The locations that I visited in 2016, rather than 2017, are marked with an asterisk (*). Though I researched each of these destinations thoroughly when planning my OCT trek, and researched them again when writing this post, and though I have been to some of them, please take the asterisked information with a grain of salt.

Night 7: Humbug Mountain State Park

Humbug Mountain State Park
View from the north side of Humbug Mountain State Park. Photo Credit: Mark Hillary, Creative Commons

I hiked north from Gold Beach and met a friend who was visiting me for the weekend. After a visit to the Prehistoric Gardens, an awesome dinosaur-themed highway attraction, my friend and I drove to Humbug Mountain State Park, a pleasant, forested location where we camped for the night. Lodging options within the campground include: Hiker-Biker ($5, cannot reserve in advance), reservable campsites ($17 plus online transaction fees ), and RV sites ($22, could be useful if you have a support crew following you!). NOTE: There are no yurts at Humbug. It was apparently unnecessary to reserve a spot, because there were still open campsites when we arrived on a Friday evening, but I was glad for the peace of mind.

The park was beautiful and quiet, and the restroom and shower facilities seemed to be new and well-kept. We built a nice campfire with a $5 bundle of wood that we bought from the camp hosts. It was a pleasant stay and I will gladly visit again!

Remember: Any time that you camp or hike anywhere, please practice Leave No Trace! Keep our Oregon State Parks beautiful!

Alternatively, you could choose to stay in the small town of Ophir (the end of the hike from Gold Beach before you’re forced onto Highway 101) and bus north the next day, or stay in Port Orford (see my recommendations below) and bus south to Humbug the next day to complete your mileage.

Night 8: Port Orford

Port Orford
Port Orford. Photo Credit: Jim Oliver, Creative Commons

For a small town, Port Orford sure has a lot of great lodging options, as well as nice restaurants. My friend and I stayed at the Battle Rock Motel ($75/night). I chose Battle Rock due to its price, positive reviews, and location. It is pretty much literally right across the street from the Battle Rock State Wayside, which is the end of the hike from Humbug Mountain State Park to Port Orford. It also was a short walk from Redfish, a delicious restaurant that we visited for dinner, and Hook’D Café, a delicious diner that we visited for breakfast the next day.

Our room at the Battle Rock Motel was basic, but clean, quiet, and really spacious – the latter three are what I care about! We enjoyed our stay and would be happy to visit again. Yet again, I had reserved this in advance, but they still had vacancies when we arrived – even on a Saturday. I wouldn’t count on that, of course, and I don’t spend much time in Port Orford, so I can’t speak to how common that is.

Alternatively, one of my dream destinations is the WildSpring Guest Habitat in Port Orford. They have luxurious outdoor hot tubs – which would be so satisfying after a lot of hiking! This place sounds ridiculously nice, but I decided it was a bit too expensive this time. Hopefully one day!

Again, there are quite a few options in town, and if neither of the places I have mentioned strike your fancy, I would recommend checking out the Chamber of Commerce website.

* Night 9: Cape Blanco State Park

Cape Blanco State Park
Lighthouse at Cape Blanco State Park. Photo Credit: Rick Obst, Creative Commons

North of Port Orford is stunning Cape Blanco State Park, the next stop I would recommend along the OCT. Cape Blanco is the westernmost point of Oregon, and is home to Oregon’s southernmost lighthouse. The park features sweeping ocean views, in addition to a nice campground.

The campground offers the following options for accommodations: Hiker-Biker ($5, cannot reserve in advance), reservable campsites ($17 plus online transaction fees ), cabins ($41-$51 plus online transaction fees), and RV sites ($22, could be useful if you have a support crew following you!). This park also has a horse camp.

As mentioned above, a snafu in Port Orford caused me to miss a few days of my trip, hence the asterisk. I am writing this description based on a brief stop I made here the summer before, thus the reduced amount of detail.

* Night 10: Awesome Remote Spot!

North of Boice Cope
The beach north of Boice Cope County Park. Beautiful, quiet, and not a soul around. © Jenni Denekas

North of Boice Cope County Park is what some people consider the most remote spot on the Oregon coast. In this area, Highway 101 bends inland. The highway is separated from the beach by farmland (including some cranberry bogs), and then the farmland is separated from the beach by a river that parallels the shoreline for several miles. The two main access points to the beach in this area (Boice Cope to the south, and China Creek to the north) are about 15 miles apart. In between, this relatively pristine beach is quiet, isolated, and most likely, all yours.

In summer 2016, my then-boyfriend and I spent a weekend on the southern coast. We spent our first night at Boice Cope County Park, which I also recommend. It was a nice campground, right next to Floras Lake, and sheltered from the wind. Although it was pretty crowded, which isn’t my preference, we had pleasant interactions with our fellow-campers. We also enjoyed learning about the windsurfing and kiteboarding that goes on at Floras Lake. However, in my opinion, you might as well continue up the beach to a truly remote and magical spot!

The next day, we walked 7-8 miles up the beach to that magical place: The most isolated spot on the coast, according to the guidebooks and websites I consulted prior to our trip. We were out all day, and only saw one other person. As luck would have it, it was a guy hiking southbound on the OCT! He broke into a wide grin as he approached us, because, apparently, he hadn’t seen anyone else for quite a while, and we stopped to chat. I don’t recall your name, mystery-hiker, but thank you for sparking my interest in the trail!

Snowy Plover Closure
A fair amount of dry sand is roped off during snowy plover nesting season to protect this endangered shorebird. Please respect these closures. © Jenni Denekas

Please Note: This area is prime nesting ground for the endangered snowy plover. As my then-boyfriend and I joked, these birds are not very good parents, because they dig shallow nests in the dry sand, where their eggs are in danger of being stepped on by humans, and they readily abandon their nests when humans approach. Though they would probably increase their own species’ odds of survival if they improved their parenting skills, this does not mean you are off the hook. We humans must be responsible visitors to this beach, and you must respect area closures in place to protect nesting snowy plovers. Stay off the dunes, stay out of closed areas, and please camp in the area directly between Boice Cope and China Creek, the only spot where it is legal to stay overnight. Even if you stop early, please note that the beach is wide enough that you can pitch a tent well away from the surf, while still respecting snowy plover habitat. We can all be winners here. So don’t be an endangered-species-killing loser. K thx.

Alternatively, in this area, you could also stay at Floras Lake House Bed & Breakfast, located near Boice Cope. I haven’t stayed there, but it looked really nice when we drove by, and you can’t beat the location!

* Nights 11 & 12: Bandon

Bandon
Beach in Bandon. Photo Credit: Bill Reynolds, Creative Commons

Bandon is a beautiful small town, with tons of sea stacks offshore. I have visited a few times and am always eager to return.

As mentioned above, a snafu in Port Orford caused me to miss a few days of my trip, hence the asterisk. I am writing this description based on a trip from the summer before, as well as a lot of research I did for my OCT trek.

In summer 2016, my then-boyfriend and I spent a night at Table Rock Motel. It was a pleasant and quiet motel, albeit the room was a bit small and basic for the price we paid. However, I’d be happy to stay there again, eventually.

I elected to book a room at a place that didn’t hold memories for me when I was planning my OCT hike. I reserved a room at Bandon Inn ($99.50/night, including tax), which, based on my research, seems really nice. I also chose Bandon Inn due to their central location, within gimping distance of a lot of restaurants and shops – perfect for a tired hiker! They were also really understanding when I had to cancel my reservation. Please note, however, that I haven’t actually been there, so I can’t fully attest to what this place is like.

I had planned to spend my second night in Bandon at Bullards Beach State Park, on the north side of town. This was the starting point for the next day’s hike, so that made logistical sense to me, as well as financial sense (obviously camping is cheaper than hotels and motels!). Lodging options within the campground include: Hiker-Biker ($5, cannot reserve in advance), yurts ($41-$51), horse sites ($19), and RV sites ($26-$29, could be useful if you have a support crew following you!).

If these options don’t appeal to you, I would encourage you to check out the Bandon Chamber of Commerce website. There are a lot of places to stay in town!

The only place near Bandon I will say that you SHOULDN’T STAY is the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. They have a problematic history with trying to weaken protections for Oregon’s public shoreline and trying to expand their resort in ways that would (and did) negatively impact coastal habitats and parks. Read more here and here. And if you think the battle is over, think again: It shifted north instead. And they’ll try again. Trust me.

North of Bandon, there is a pretty significant breakdown in lodging options, and in the OCT. I elected to bypass this area and rejoin the trail in Coos Bay. From Coos Bay, I took a day trip to the beautiful trifecta of Oregon State Parks: Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. Though arranging a visit to this area without a car seemed a little daunting, it is ENTIRELY WORTH IT. As in, you are doing something wrong if you don’t go there. I explain how to visit this must-see area in more depth here.

I will discuss lodging options near Sunset Bay, in Charleston, and in Coos Bay in my next OCT Accommodations post. Stay tuned!

Go back to OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 1: Smith River, CA, to Gold Beach, OR.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Strategies for Drying Wet Gear

Strategies for Drying Wet Gear

It’s like searching for Sasquatch: An ongoing saga where your quarry is elusive, and possibly fictitious. I am talking, of course, about the search for the best technique for drying wet gear in the backcountry.

Roasting a Shirt
Campfires make drying wet gear way easier. Unfortunately, this is not always an option. Photo Credit: Stephanie Hughson

The dilemma of how to dry wet gear weighed heavily on my mind as I prepared for my March-to-May trek on the Oregon Coast Trail. Spring on the Oregon coast is no joke: I vividly remember a run my dad and I did on the beach during spring break back when I was in school. It began with diagonal rain, and quickly escalated into an invigorating march through sideways hail. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and as a Wilderness First Responder, I also am well-versed on the dangers of hypothermia. Getting warm and dry was going to be critical – and challenging.

Of course, I packed a raincoat and water- and wind-resistant pants. I packed plenty of warm clothes, including two pairs of Darn Tough Merino wool socks, which wick moisture well and stay warm when wet. I always pack the Ten Essentials, and I have built a fire in the rain before. But I knew my gear had its limits, and so the big, complicated question was: What do I do when my rain gear eventually gets soaked through (because it will), and all of my clothes are soaked through (because that will happen next), and I have no chance to dry my wet gear in the sun (because there may be none) or with a fire (because it may be impossible to build)?

I knew that my safety and the success of my trip hinged on finding an answer. So one of my goals was perfecting a method of drying my clothes in wet weather.

Before you start talking about that trick where you sleep with your wet clothes, let me just say this: NO. I’ve tried it. It makes my wet clothes warmer, but not any drier. It gets my sleeping bag damp. It gets my warm nighttime layers damp. It is uncomfortable and clammy and doesn’t set me up for a pleasant night’s sleep. I do not see any redeeming aspects to this “technique.” Before I set out on the OCT, I already knew that that was a no-go for me.

Then of course there is the option of simply airing wet items out. I have a cord around the top of my tent that can serve as a clothesline during the night. Or you can drape your wet items on the outside of your pack, allowing them to dry as you hike. However, even drying clothes on warm summer trips can be challenging, and it was not going to be warm or dry. So I knew I had to be more creative than that.

My creativity ultimately paid dividends: Over the course of my journey on the OCT, it became abundantly clear that I was hiking during a rainy spring of record-setting proportions, and yet I was able to stay warm and at least somewhat dry when it counted. Since I honed the my methods for drying wet clothes in such conditions, you can rest assured that they work. Otherwise, I would have morphed into a mound of fungus and would probably have trouble typing this article. But I digress. Here are my three favorite techniques, listed from most to least effective, with pros, cons, and helpful hints:

  1. Drying Agent + Gallon Ziplock Bag. 
    Effectiveness: Pure magic. 5/5. Will use again.
    Upsides: Nearly 100% effective in drying and reducing odor.
    Downsides: Heavy, bulky, item only serves one purpose, possibly toxic.
    Key Component: Drying agents, or chemical dehumidifiers, are formulated to pull moisture from their surroundings. They are typically used to dry out damp basements, closets, etc. (Please note that these chemicals can be hazardous, so please handle carefully.)
    The Experiment: I purchased a DampRid Hanging Moisture Absorber at Fred Meyer midway through my trip.After a long bout of rain and wading through marshes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, I figured I needed a heavy-duty gear-drying solution. I put one of my notoriously hard-to-dry sports bras; some soggy, stinky socks; and a wet tech t-shirt into a gallon Ziplock bag with the drying agent. After leaving the clothes in the bag overnight, the sports bra and socks were significantly drier (85% dry, and definitely bearable to wear again), the shirt was nearly dry (let’s say 95%), and everything was a lot less pungent. I decided to go for the gold and left these items in the bag for another 24 hours, or 32 hours total. (Don’t worry, I had a change of clothes to wear in the meantime.) After 32 hours in the bag with the drying agent, all the clothes were 99% dry, and the socks were nearly odor-free. Considering what I was starting with, that is truly impressive!
    Keep in Mind: The bag needs to be sealed, or the drying agent will be wasted on the fruitless task of sucking all the moisture out of the Oregon air.
  2. Microfiber Towel + Hand Warmers + Gallon Ziplock Bag.
    Effectiveness: Great. 4/5.
    Upsides: Easy to pack, components have multiple uses, quite effective.
    Downsides: Towel ends up damp, handwarmers aren’t reusable, not 100% dry by morning.
    Key Components: Microfiber backpacking towels aren’t typically that great for wiping oneself off after a dip in a lake, but they are AWESOME at soaking up moisture over an extended period of time. Hand warmers are great to pack for multiple reasons, including, as it turns out, drying your wet gear! I purchased a large bag of Grabber hand warmers at REI before my trip. These are the BEST because they stay really warm/hot for a really long time.
    The Experiment: At the end of my second day on the OCT, everything I had was soaked, so I tried this technique out: I rolled some soaked socks, a soaked sports bra, and my soaked gloves into my towel, interspersed with hand warmers. Then I put that bundle into a gallon Ziplock bag. After leaving the clothes in the bag overnight, everything was significantly drier (maybe 75% dry, and definitely bearable to wear again), and my socks smelled better (the odor was somehow miraculously eaten by the towel). I tried this trick multiple times throughout my trip, both with and without hand warmers. I will say that the hand warmers aren’t 100% necessary, but they do accelerate and enhance the drying process.
    Keep in Mind: If you are drying your socks along with other, less stinky, clothes, make sure that they are not touching. The bag should be slightly vented, so some of the moisture can escape.
  3. Hand Warmers + Paper + Gallon Ziplock Bag.
    Effectiveness: Solid. 3/5.
    Upsides: Uses lightweight and packable materials that served multiple purposes.
    Downsides: Materials aren’t reusable (except Ziplock bag), not as effective as other methods.
    Key Component: Hand warmers are the real key here. They will drive off the moisture by producing heat. Obviously, they also need to be hot enough. I can’t say enough good things about the Grabber hand warmers! Next, the moisture needs somewhere to go. First of all, it is important to make sure that the Ziplock bag isn’t entirely sealed. Secondly, it helps to wrap your wet gear in paper, or paper towels, which will absorb some of the moisture. I advise against using toilet paper, because it will disintegrate and cover your clothes in gooey white blobs. For my part, I used the maps that I didn’t need anymore. I had created and printed all of my own topo maps because there aren’t that many good resources for the OCT (yet). I had elected not to laminate them, so that they would be easier to use as tinder, or as gear-dryers, etc. I kept them stored in a Ziplock bag until it was “go time.”
    The Experiment: As mentioned above, Day Two on the trail was brutal. So after a day filled with sideways rain, I put hand warmers in the pockets of my soaked-through raincoat and rain pants, and rolled them up with a bunch of sheets of paper. Then I placed the bundle in a Ziplock bag. After leaving them in the bag overnight, they were significantly drier (maybe 70% dry, and definitely bearable/useful to wear again). However, when I did this trick with some other clothes later in my trip, it didn’t seem as effective. I have a suspicion that has to do with how waterlogged an item is – and so, in a roundabout way, it has to do with the fabric. Items that hold on to a lot of water will not get very dry from this method.
    Keep in Mind: The bag should be slightly vented, so some of the moisture can escape. Thicker items like socks may not do as well with this method – but it’s certainly better than nothing.

So there you have it: Three trail-tested ways of drying gear, which were vetted during a record-setting rainy spring on the Oregon coast.

Have you tried these? Do you have a method that you like better? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.

OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 1: Smith River, CA, to Gold Beach, OR

OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 1: Smith River, CA, to Gold Beach, OR

There are some significant gaps in terms of lodging and camping options along the southern Oregon coast. Creativity and/or high-mileage days will help you garner places to stay in this span. Here I’ll list your options, but with a heavy emphasis on what I did. That’s partly because I can only speak to what I have experienced myself, and partly because there aren’t that many other options.

Please note that your needs and preferences may differ from mine for a variety of reasons. First of all, I was northbound, and therefore this was the first part of my journey on the Oregon Coast Trail. Seasoned southbound hikers would likely be able to hammer out more mileage, thus bridging some of the gaps in lodging. I also took some long rests in a few towns, which I personally benefited from, but you may not need. Your budget, time frame, daily mileage goals, fitness level, and a whole host of other factors will determine where you stay and how long you remain there. Read about considerations to keep in mind as you plan your OCT lodging.

Jump to OCT South Coast Trail Data to figure out your daily mileage goals.

I’ll list prices for the places I stayed so that you can get an idea of what you may expect to pay, but please note that: a.) I did the OCT in the spring, rather than during the height of summer tourist season, and b.) Prices are subject to change. Please only use this information I provided as a general reference, and do your own research as to current prices.

The Night Before: Stay Near the Border

Lodging Options: Solid (A few choices, good reviews)
Camping Options: Non-Existent
Jenni’s Recommendation: Casa Rubio (0.3 miles south of the border)

There are NO CAMPING OPTIONS right by the Oregon-California border and Crissey Field Station. Google Maps claims that there is a US Forest Service campground by Crissey, but that is NOT TRUE. So your options are to:

  1. Stay a little farther north, in Brookings, and bus/hitch (or walk) to the border the next day, or
  2. Stay a little farther south, in Smith River, California, and walk (or bus/hitch) north from there.

Since I didn’t want to miss a single inch of Oregon and wanted to actually walk across the border (and take a picture with the “Welcome to Oregon” sign), I decided to find a place in Smith River. I originally hoped to stay at Casa Rubio, 0.3 highway miles from the border. My friend and I ended up staying at Sea Escape Oceanfront Lodging, 1.6 miles south of the border ($108/night). I found this place on AirBnB. (NOTE: The motel does not list its name on AirBnB, and the address/location is incorrect so I initially THOUGHT this was Casa Rubio, and I was a bit disappointed to find that it was actually farther south.) When I realized my mistake, Casa Rubio was already booked, so I kept my reservation at Sea Escape.

Our cozy motel in Smith River
Sea Escape Oceanfront Lodging.

Sea Escape was fine; our room was cute and cozy, and we had a small kitchen area with a stovetop, refrigerator, microwave, sink, and dishes. The room had a slightly odd, musty smell, but we weren’t there long enough for that to be an issue, even for me (I’m like a canary in a coal mine with my asthma!).

A big plus: We were able to just walk out the door the next morning and get down to the beach.

These formations were beautiful but treacherous. We cut up to Highway 101 to circumvent this.

However, after only about a mile, we had to cut up to Highway 101 because we ran into a big, rocky headland. Since the cliffs overlooking the beach in this area were all covered in private homes and vacation rentals, we had to climb someone’s staircase and cut through their yard to reach 101 (sorry!). This is another reason that I would have preferred to stay at Casa Rubio: It would have been more straightforward to walk into Oregon. It would have been an easy, short jaunt on the highway, or an easy, unimpeded beach walk, based on my Google Earth observations. Casa Rubio also has good reviews, but I can’t personally speak to what it’s like to stay there, of course. From a purely logistical standpoint, however, I would recommend Casa Rubio.

How to get there: My friend and I took the Greyhound from Portland to Smith River ($98). After Medford, we left the official Greyhound bus and traveled the rest of the way on a local bus that collaborates with Greyhound (included in the $98 Greyhound ticket). Local buses on the coast are really laid-back, and we were able to request that the driver drop us off right in front of our motel. That was awesome! Read more about transit on the southern coast.

Night 1: North End of Brookings

Camping at Harris Beach State Park
Home sweet home, night one. A skunk visited us!

Lodging Options: Great (Many choices, good reviews)
Camping Options: Harris Beach State Park
Jenni’s Recommendation: Harris Beach State Park

My friend and I camped at Harris Beach State Park (pictured, top and right), on the north end of Brookings. This is a stunningly beautiful park featuring sea stacks, beaches, and coastal rainforest. Lodging options within the campground include: Hiker-Biker ($5, cannot reserve in advance), reservable campsites ($20 plus online transaction fees ), yurts ($43-$53, could be useful if you want to save pack weight and not bring a tent), and RV sites ($28-$30, could be useful if you have a support crew following you!). Since I began my trip during spring break for most Oregon schools, I didn’t want to risk not having a spot at the end of the day, and chose to reserve one of the $20 campsites online. The campground was pretty full, but the hiker-biker camps always seem to have spots available, so it was probably unnecessary to do that. I was glad for the peace of mind, though.

One thing I’ll note is that my friend and I were careless about storing/hanging our food that night, and a skunk ate some of our oatmeal. When I tried to scare the skunk off, he was completely unimpressed. I retreated into the tent so I wouldn’t get sprayed. That was definitely our bad for being careless, but it does seem as though skunks are habituated there – based on our experience, as well as conversations I had along the trail. Please do your part by being diligent about how you store your food. This will be better for you, as well as for the next people who pass through the camp.

Alternatively, you could choose to stay in Brookings. There are a lot of options in town. From a purely logistical perspective, I would recommend staying on the north end of town so that you do not have as much mileage to do the next day. There is only one official place you can stay the next day, and it’s about 9 hilly miles away from Harris Beach. When I was at the start of my trip and trying to get back into backpacking shape, that was a lot!

Night 2: Whaleshead

Lodging Options: Only One, Too Expensive
Camping Options: Gotta Get Creative
Jenni’s Recommendation: Stealth Camp

There are two options in this area: One legal, and one illegal. One is expensive, one is free (unless you get caught).

Legal Option: Whaleshead RV Resort, which has cabins for rent (the cheapest seems to be $169/night) as well as RV spaces (again, potentially useful if you have a support crew following you). I called in advance, and was told that they didn’t allow tent camping on their property. I was also not interested in paying so much for such a basic cabin. (However, they redeemed themselves in my eyes when they let my friend and I sit in their lobby for a little while to warm up and dry off at the end of a brutal day of sideways rain. Thanks again!)

There isn’t a place to stay other than Whaleshead for the 16.9 highway miles (20 or more trail miles) between Harris Beach State Park and the campground at Pistol River.

This nice, open, flat, grassy area would hypothetically be a good (albeit illegal) campsite.

Illegal Option: The alternative in this area is “stealth camping.” Note that the entire Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is officially day-use only. It is illegal to camp. If you DO follow through on this, DO NOT blame me if you get caught. DO be aware of the consequences. Most importantly, DO NOT TRASH THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE. Put the “stealth” in “stealth camping” and make sure that you practice Leave No Trace techniques to a “T.” If you are unfamiliar with LNT, read more here.

I would hypothetically consider the day-use area at Whaleshead, which is nearly directly across the highway from the Whaleshead RV Resort, to be a good spot for some “stealth camping.” The OCT emerges from the forest into a lovely, shaded, grassy, flat area that is set back from an outhouse and a parking lot far enough that one would have some privacy if one were to set up a small tent there.

Morning at Whaleshead
Morning at Whaleshead.

This spot is right next to Whaleshead Creek, which we did pump some water from as we passed through. This area seemed quiet at night (it’s officially day-use only and is down a steep, gravel road that seems to discourage many from driving down), and would be really beautiful, hypothetically, to wake up to. There are some picnic tables in the vicinity, too. Again, this is NOT LEGAL to do. I’m simply stating that if a hiker was hypothetically desperate for a place to sleep, and didn’t want to pay an absurd amount for a cabin, this seems like a good, safe spot for a hypothetical camp. And again, if you ever are to do this, please practice Leave No Trace – in fact, you ALWAYS should when you camp, no matter where you are!

A seasoned hiker could blast through this area in one day, but 9 miles of ups and downs in brutal weather was enough for my friend and me on Day 2. By the trip’s end, I probably could have done Boardman in one go, but certainly not at the start!

Night 3: Pistol River, Stealth Camping, or Gold Beach

Lodging Options: OK (Gold Beach has a lot of options, though you’ll have to backtrack the next day)
Camping Options: One Legit Option (Pistol River)
Jenni’s Recommendation: Pistol River Campground

Pistol River
Looking north from Pistol River State Park, towards the river itself, and Gold Beach Beyond.

There is no evidence of this campground online, but there IS one at Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. It’s across Highway 101, away from the ocean. My friend and I didn’t stay there, but we saw the signs for it! Logistically, I think this would be the best option for the pace/mileage we were doing. What I would envision is hiking from Whaleshead to Arch Rock Viewpoint (about 10 trail miles) and then getting a ride to Pistol River (otherwise you have a lot of highway walking ahead of you). This would put you in place to hike about 15 miles into the town of Gold Beach the next day.

Alternatively, there is a spot called Secret Beach near the Arch Rock Viewpoint in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Word is that it has been used for camping before. I would be cautious about using this spot, though, especially in the spring and fall, when waves are driven higher by storms. During the time I was doing the OCT, that would not have worked out. Also, please note, again, that Boardman is OFFICIALLY day-use only. Camping there is illegal, but hypothetically could be done with discretion.

I suppose one could also hypothetically camp at the Arch Rock Viewpoint. There is a relatively large, forested area a little ways off the highway where one could pitch a tent. There is an outhouse and there are picnic tables. Just note that, again, this would be illegal, and that this is a very popular tourist stop, so you would need to arrive late and leave early to avoid detection. And again, if you are to “stealth camp,” then BE STEALTHY and LEAVE NO TRACE. Review LNT principles here.

Another option would be to get a ride at the end of the day from Arch Rock to the town of Gold Beach. The next day, you would have to backtrack to the Pistol River to complete the 15 miles of the OCT between Pistol and Gold Beach, but that would be easy enough to do by bus or hitching. See the entry below for my Gold Beach recommendations.

Nights 4, 5, & 6: Gold Beach

Lodging Options: Great (Tons of good places to choose from)
Camping Options: Two Good Spots
Jenni’s Recommendation: Pacific Reef Hotel

Gold Beach Books
The view from the second floor of Gold Beach Books.

Gold Beach is an adorable town, and a great place to spend a day or two resting and resupplying. There are two grocery stores, McKay’s Market and Ray’s Food Place; an Ace Hardware Store, where I bought a really nice knife after realizing I forgot to pack mine; a laundromat; some delicious restaurants; Gold Beach Books, an awesome bookstore that offers free shipping (useful when you want to buy everything they have but don’t want to fill your pack with books); and quite a lot of options for places to stay.

My friend and I stayed at the Pacific Reef Hotel ($75/night), which I would highly recommend. The room we shared was basic but spacious, clean, and comfortable. We had a microwave and a mini fridge. The staff were really friendly and helpful. They have an outdoor movie screen where they show a video about the southern Oregon coast each night (free), and at least when we were there, they also screened the adorable Pixar short “Lava,” which I recommend watching right now.

Pacific Reef also has a relationship with the Chowder House, which is literally next door. Guests at Pacific Reef are given a coupon for a free cup of delicious chowder, which was one of the most satisfying things ever after a few days of hard, rainy hiking!

There are quite a few other hotels and motels in Gold Beach, as well as some hotels and motels on the other side of the Rogue River in Wedderburn. There are also two camping options on the border of Gold Beach: Indian Creek RV Park (which DOES have tent camping), and Quosotana Campground, managed by the US Forest Service (first-come, first-served, 15 miles outside of Gold Beach).

Jump ahead to the next section: OCT South Coast Lodging, Section 2

“You’re Out Here Alone!”

“You’re Out Here Alone!”

Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail While Female, Episode 57, Day 26

Earlier in this gray, 10-mile day, I had reached the (approximate) halfway point of my hike: Waldport. I was trucking along on the short segment of Highway 101 that I needed to reach Driftwood State Park, and beach access.

I was not too happy about being on 101, especially after a pickup truck driven by a young male asshole swerved towards me and honked, apparently just for laughs. I tried to scratch his paint with my trekking pole. I was frustrated but not shocked. I had already been through this scenario before (which is why my right trekking pole didn’t have a tip protector on, so I was ready for maximum paint-scratching).

I sighed and pushed forward, knowing the best thing to do was to move quickly so I could get off the highway as soon as possible.

I was on a roll when I spotted a cyclist cruising towards me a half-mile later.

As he approached, he slowed to a stop. He looked incredulous.

He blurted, “You’re out here alone!”

Immediately I responded, with the same tone of voice, “You too!!!”

“Yeah, but, you’re… Never mind.” He seemed to think better of finishing his sentence.

We chatted for a couple of minutes. It turned out he was cycling to San Francisco on 101. I pointed out that that, to me, was crazier than what I was doing! I mentioned the truck that buzzed me a little while ago and said ruefully that I wouldn’t want to be on the highway that much.

He started to say, in that incredulous tone again, “But you’re out here by your-“

“You are, too. I guess we’re both crazy!” I kept my tone light but firm. He laughed and dropped the subject.

We shook hands, wished each other luck, and continued on our separate ways. He was going south, I was heading north.

I was glad that, only the day before, I had brainstormed snappy replies to people commenting on the fact that I was a woman hiking alone. This cyclist didn’t seem like a bad person; he seemed like the sort who probably just hadn’t thought about this issue much before. He was one of those cases where a comment like mine could, hopefully, get through to him. I sincerely hope that I made him think. I hope that I made him consider that he shouldn’t be amazed by a woman alone. I hope that when he regales his friends with stories from his trip, that I am just another endurance athlete, not an anomaly.

Bottom line: Women belong outdoors, out pushing ourselves, out experiencing the world, just as much as men do. HUMANS deserve these experiences. Male, female, trans, gender-non-conforming, all races, all abilities… WE ALL DESERVE ACCESS TO NATURE.

It starts with each and every one of you, dear readers: What will you do to make the outdoors more accessible and comfortable for all? See the Pitch In page for ideas!

Photos: OCT Section 1: Smith River, CA to Gold Beach, OR

Photos: OCT Section 1: Smith River, CA to Gold Beach, OR

The first 40-some miles of my trip were stunning. In this span, sea stacks and dramatic cliffs are interspersed with beautiful, quiet beaches and coastal rain forest. The lovely towns of Brookings and Gold Beach are great destinations.

There are many state parks along this stretch. From south to north: Pelican Beach State Park (California), Crissey Field State Recreation Site (Oregon), Harris Beach State Park, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and Pistol River State Park. Indian Sands, located in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, is on the National Register of Historic Places due to its archaeological significance. Learn more nitty-gritty details about the OCT South Coast.

I also was lucky to have a wonderful friend join me for my first four days on the trail! Thanks, dude!

The OCT: Why I Went and What I Gained

The OCT: Why I Went and What I Gained

Why hike 367 miles, enduring exhaustion, vertical rain, diagonal rain, and even horizontal rain?

There were many factors that reinforced my decision:

  • 2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Beach Bill, the law signed by Governor Tom McCall that expanded protections for Oregon’s public coastline. (This law allows the Oregon Coast Trail to exist.)
  • I have always been intrigued by connecting landmarks on foot.
  • I have always wanted to do a thru-hike.
  • I love Oregon and its beautiful coast.
  • I love land use (the innovative statewide program that, again, makes the OCT possible).
  • I enjoy challenging myself.

Underneath all of these good reasons to go was a much simpler one, however: My heart was broken and I needed to heal.

A lot of challenging events happened in quick succession in the months leading up to my hike:

  • The man who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with cheated on me. I found out three days before Christmas. Bah humbug.
  • I was let go from my favorite job, without an explanation. Not being allowed to say goodbye properly was a cruel twist to an already disappointing and unexpected outcome.
  • Soon after, a significant family emergency happened, and that has been an ongoing saga of awfulness.

The bright side of seemingly everything crashing down around me was that I had a lot of time on my hands. So I defaulted to what I often do when I am hurting: I made plans to escape into nature for a while. It was time to realize a long-standing goal: To complete a thru-hike.

The Oregon Coast Trail, specifically, appealed to me because of the reasons that I listed in the first paragraph of this essay. On top of those reasons, the timing wasn’t quite right for any of the other thru-hikes I otherwise may have considered. In particular, I have always been interested in the Pacific Crest Trail, but I was already anxious to start in February, and this winter was a record-breaking one, yielding a massive snowpack. I heard many PCT hikers were delaying their starts. The OCT, on the other hand, didn’t need to thaw out (well, aside from that snow that fell in Gold Beach a couple weeks before my hike).

Another consideration was that I hadn’t done a real thru-hike before. The most noteworthy point-to-point excursion I’d done prior to the OCT was the Salkantay Trek in Peru, but that doesn’t count as a thru-hike in my opinion, because it was glamping (it was a great experience, though; I do recommend this trip). My longest backpacking trip prior to the OCT was seven days, and my longest solo trip was a weekend overnighter. Granted, I had done those two amounts multiple times, but it still was quite a leap to plan a multi-week solo trek.

I also figured that the 367-mile OCT was a nice, moderate amount of distance and time for a first thru-hike. The frequent proximity to towns and to Highway 101 would also help to ensure that I could get any supplies or assistance that I might need along the way. Bottom line: It seemed like the most reasonable, crazy-impulsive decision I could make.

As it turns out, the OCT was, indeed, a good introduction to thru-hiking. It was both challenging and manageable, and I finished feeling healthy and strong.

And what did I gain? This is an incomplete list, in spite of its length:

  • I saw incredible scenery, experienced many lovely small towns, and met many wonderful people.
  • I learned how to hitch hike (thanks, Dani).
  • I gained new perspective and my problems now feel a lot smaller.
  • I have built a lot of mental and physical strength.
  • The awesome staff at Seven Devils Brewing gave me a rad, warm hat.
  • I found cool rocks and shells.
  • My friend Stacey and I learned that beagles and sea lions sound about the same.
  • I marched for science in Newport.
  • I read some good books (including one I got at the awesome Gold Beach Bookstore).
  • I saw tons of velella velella.
  • I got super sick, recovered, and managed to finish strong.
  • I finally, completely, cut out my ex, which has paved the way to greater healing.
  • I made new friends and strengthened already-existing connections.
  • I gained new levels of appreciation for my wonderful parents, got to hike my final day with my dad, and celebrate with my mom and dad at the finish line.

In short: Was the OCT worth it? Absolutely. I gained a stronger, better version of myself, in addition to regaining my faith in humanity, deepening my relationships with people who actually matter, deepening my relationship to my beautiful home state, and enjoying an awesome adventure.

Was the pain that led me to do the OCT worth it? Sort of. What happened in the months leading up to my trip was unacceptable, and in some cases, unforgivable. But that pain pushed me to do an adventure that has strengthened me and enriched my life. It’s also the only reality I have, and the only life I have. I have chosen to make the most of it.

I encourage you to make the most of it, too, and to get planning your own OCT adventure!

Read all of my OCT-related blog posts, or go to my OCT Journal page.

What is your reason to thru-hike? Share in the comments!

OCT Accommodations: Planning Versus Winging It

OCT Accommodations: Planning Versus Winging It

The Oregon Coast Trail weaves in and out of towns and passes through many Oregon State Park campgrounds. Thru-hikers therefore have the opportunity to enjoy a range of accommodations, but this also presents a dilemma: How much should you plan ahead? More specifically, should you reserve accommodations in advance, or are you comfortable winging it?

I will begin by sharing my own thought process, and then offer you some key questions to ask yourself as you begin planning your trip.

I chose to reserve nearly all of my accommodations in advance. There were a number of reasons that I did so, including:

  • Regulations/Availability: Although the entire Oregon coast is public, it is only legal to camp on the coast in certain areas. I’m admittedly still unclear on some of the rules governing this, but my understanding is that you cannot camp anywhere within sight of homes or the highway. In Oregon State Parks, you can only stay in designated campgrounds, and obviously it is prohibited to stay overnight. Furthermore, places to stay overnight are few and far between on some spans of the coast, for instance, along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This combination of factors inherently reduces lodging options, and I wanted to make sure I had somewhere to stay each night.
  • Timing: My first week on the trail coincided with spring break for most Oregon schools, so I knew people would be flocking to the coast. My hike was slated to end in early May, when the weather would be improving, so I assumed (correctly) that it would be crowded then as well.
  • Risk/Reward: I did not like the idea of completing a long, tiring day of hiking, only to find that where I wanted to stay was already full, and that I would have to continue on. I have heard stories of PCT and AT hikers in this situation, and while you have to do what you have to do, I decided I would prefer to avoid this if possible.
  • Personal Style: I prefer having a well-thought out plan in advance.
  • Safety: It is generally a good idea to leave a detailed plan with a trusted person whenever embarking upon a hike of any length. Since I was hiking 367 miles solo, this was especially important. Having a route and lodging planned in advance would make my whereabouts clear, in case anyone needed to come looking for me.

In many ways, my system worked well for me. The main upsides of reserving in advance, in my opinion, were:

  • Peace of Mind: Why add more uncertainty to an already-challenging hike? Knowing that I had a place to stay each night made me feel more comfortable. Knowing for sure when I would be in certain towns also helped me to plan my resupply strategy and thus feel more secure about my food supply.
  • Motivation: Sometimes the basic necessity of having to push through to get to where I was staying was what kept me going at the end of a hard day.
  • Having a Good Place to Stay: I typically selected my in-town lodging based on reviews, as well as proximity to stores, laundromats, restaurants, and so forth. Doing this research in advance helped my zero days in town to be more restful and productive.
  • Coordinating with Friends and Family: Since I knew where I would be and when, it was easier to coordinate with friends and family who wanted to visit me.

However, there were some definite downsides to making my hike this structured, including:

  • Lack of Flexibility: When I ran into a couple of significant snags, I essentially had to choose whether to divert from my plan (which would necessitate re-doing reservations and returning home later than I intended), to get a ride to make it to my next destination, or to suck it up and shuffle on (which, in a couple of cases, would have likely ended my hike prematurely by exhausting, sickening, or injuring me). All of those options are less than ideal, and having a more flexible schedule would not have forced me to make these choices quite as often.
  • Additional Expense: Reserving online, whether it’s campsites or hotels, typically means transaction fees. Additionally, reservable campsites are typically $17-$21, not including transaction fees (prices subject to change, of course). On the flip side, if you do not reserve in advance, it’s possible you may accrue unexpected expenses due to limited choices. But in my case, there were definitely times I could have saved money by just walking in to the $5 hiker-biker camps.
  • A Lot of Work: Personally, I love both the process of planning trips and also the results: Having detailed itineraries and peace of mind. But it obviously requires a lot of work up-front. For me, it wasn’t a problem, because I had plenty of time to dedicate to planning my trip. But I recognize that not everyone has that luxury, and that not everyone is wired in the same way. For some people, detailed planning could cramp their style.

Indeed, a lot of this has to do with your personality. So now that you understand my thought process, I would suggest asking yourself these questions as you plan your own trip:

  • Personal Travel Style:
  1. Am I more comfortable with having a firm plan and controlling my circumstances, or with being flexible and responsive to changing situations?
  2. Do I want to have a rustic experience, stay in hotels, or a combination?
  • Budget:
  1. How much am I willing to spend on lodging? i.e. Will I focus on staying in the $5 hiker-biker camps (not reservable in advance), do I want to indulge on some nice hotels (reserve in advance), or a combination?
  2. How much money do I want to set aside for unexpected, last-minute changes to my plan?
  • Fitness/Mileage/Goals:
  1. How much mileage do I plan to make each day?
  2. Do I have a defined end-date (i.e. Something I need to return home for) or am I flexible?
  3. Is that realistic for my fitness and for the lodging options available?
  • Legality: Am I more comfortable with staying in purely legal spots (designated campsites and/or motels) or am I comfortable with the idea of “stealth-camping” if need arises? NOTE: This will also, in some areas, influence daily mileage goals. Read more about the legal/practical lodging dilemma, and about specific lodging suggestions throughout the OCT.

Ready to dive further into planning? Get more tips here.

OCT Journal, Days 24-25: Friends Old and New

OCT Journal, Days 24-25: Friends Old and New

So many wonderful people have made my past 36ish hours great! Definitely feeling thankful – and warm!

Day 24: Harbor Vista County Campground to Baker Beach Trailhead, then Heceta Head Lighthouse to Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park.

Day 25: Cummins Creek (southern side of Cape Perpetua) to Beachside State Recreation Area.

Baker Beach Friends
My friends were a lovely bright spot in a stormy day. © Joe Dudman & Charissa Yang

Amidst wet and windy weather that sometimes blotted out the headlands and lighthouse only a few miles in front of me, I trudged through a hike that my guidebook said was 5.5 miles, but was actually 8. I was on my way from a campsite in Florence to the Baker Beach Trailhead. I was not only eager to get out of the rain, but I also was hurrying because I had a planned rendezvous with two friends who were driving back to Portland on Highway 101 – after their wedding!

It was awesome to see them and offer congratulations in person (I had watched their wedding online in Lakeside, Oregon earlier in my trip). They were also kind enough to give me a ride between the end of Hike 1 and the beginning of Hike 2, sparing me from walking a scary stretch of highway which included a tunnel (This is one of the areas that I strongly recommend skipping).

Inside Heceta Head Light
The spiral staircase inside Heceta Head Lighthouse. © Jenni Denekas

Then my friends and I visited Heceta Head Lighthouse together. Constructed from 1892-1893 and lit in 1894, Heceta Head is now owned by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Oregon State Parks volunteers conduct tours of the light on a daily basis.

The volunteer who conducted our tour was curious about my big pack (it is a good conversation starter), and I explained my trip to her. It turned out that she was going to be at the same campground that I was planning on staying that night (Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park). We commented on how it was a small world, but I just left it at, “Cool, hopefully see ya later!”

Heceta Head Viewed from Above
Heceta Head Light viewed from the trail uphill. © Jenni Denekas

I bid farewell to my friends and headed up the hillside from Heceta Head Lighthouse. It was a beautiful and steady climb. I was starting to wear out as the day drew to a close, but chewing on a couple of sweets from a Ziplock bag that my friends gave me me yielded a new burst of energy. I smiled thinking about their visit, and continued to trudge on.

Meanwhile, the volunteer from the lighthouse got to camp well before I did. When she arrived, she told all the other volunteers at the camp about me. One of the other volunteers paid for my campsite, and someone else brought wood to my site, and so forth. When I arrived, soaked, cold, and exhausted, I was so pleasantly surprised by this kind welcome. Can anyone say “trail magic?!”

PLEASE NOTE: THIS WAS AN ACT OF KINDNESS AND IS NOT SOMETHING YOU SHOULD EXPECT OR FEEL ENTITLED TO. That is the nature of trail magic; read more thoughts on kindness and entitlement on long hikes.

Cape Perpetua Trail
Sunny, lush forest greeted me on Cape Perpetua the next morning. © Jenni Denekas

I was happy to wake up to sun this morning. I was so tired the night before that I had been a bit lazy about getting my gear dry, even though I was rapidly becoming an expert on drying wet clothes in the backcountry. My gear was soaked, and unfortunately, so was my firewood. It was pouring too hard the night before to light a fire, and keeping the wood under my rain fly didn’t keep it dry enough. I appreciated the gesture, regardless. But at any rate, lollygagging around the shaded campground didn’t seem to offer me much opportunity to dry my gear.

Nevertheless, the sun lifted my spirits. What lifted my spirits even more was that I finally met the woman who paid for my site! I thanked her profusely for her kind gesture. I learned that she recently retired and began volunteering with Oregon State Parks. She asked more about my trip. We exchanged stories for a while.

When I asked her about how big the shoulder was on 101 between the camp and my next trail, she immediately offered me a ride. I gratefully accepted.

While we drove to the Cape Perpetua Trailhead, she told me how happy it makes her to see young women who believe they can do anything, because when she was growing up, there were so few “acceptable” options for women. We talked about how there is still a ways to go, but that the world has changed a lot in the past few decades. It was a good “girl power” moment. I bid my new friend farewell and set out into the sunny, lush forest.

Cape Perpetua
The view from Cape Perpetua is stunning, and I was thankful for a sunny day to enjoy it. © Jenni Denekas

When I arrived at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center on foot, I met this volunteer who had a great story about a friend of his accidentally pooping on a skunk (and that ended about as well as you might imagine). That, of course, reminds me of this awesome page.

While I was eating my lunch at the visitor center, a newly retired couple visiting from Washington started chatting with me (again, my backpack proved itself a great conversation starter). This couple used to backpack a lot and were fun to “talk shop” with.

They ended up offering me a ride to my camp for the night, which was super sweet and a huge help. Though I was reluctant to miss out on the trails on the north side of Cape Perpetua, I was grateful to get into camp early. That provided me the opportunity to string a clothesline and dry out everything that got drenched yesterday. So I’ll be warmer tonight, and more comfortable tomorrow, thanks to their generosity!

My new friends even gave me their card, so I can contact them if I need anything else in the next couple of days before they head back home. I appreciated the thoughtful gesture, but I figure unless I run into significant trouble, I won’t bother them. I am keeping the card, though, because it includes their mailing address. They are getting a thank-you card later! As are the volunteers that live at the state park I stayed at last night!

Then this evening, while at Beachside State Recreation Area, some of my camp neighbors came by and introduced themselves. One of the women said that she noticed that I was camping alone, and invited me to join them for dinner and drinks. I had already cooked up some of my coconut curry and started a fire, but I was glad for the company and went to sit with them.

It turned out that they had caught crabs and bought mussels earlier, and were boiling them all over their fire pit. My eyes got round, as I am always hungry, now that I am hiking every day. I added these succulent treats to my curry, gratefully sipped a beer, and enjoyed listening to their hilarious and adventurous stories. One couple talked about how they had road tripped to 49 states before having a baby (who had just settled down for the night in their yurt). The wife then revealed that she had actually been to that 50th state before, as a kid, and her husband expressed good-natured indignation that she was holding out on him. We all laughed.

We shared stories and chuckles until late, and I excused myself so I could get some rest before the next day’s hike. They wished me luck and I left with a smile.

Now, tucked into my tent with dry clothes, I am reflecting on how so many wonderful people have made my past 36ish hours great! Definitely feeling thankful – and warm!

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OCT Journal, Day 2: A Ride to Whaleshead

OCT Journal, Day 2: A Ride to Whaleshead

We need a lot more of these moments: When we put aside labels, when we remember that we are all human, and when we realize that we have a lot more in common than we think.

Harris Beach State Park to Whaleshead via Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, supposedly 9 miles

At the end of our second day on the Oregon Coast Trail, my friend and I were freezing and exhausted. We had trudged about 11 miles, carrying 50-plus-pound packs through relentless, driving rain. My friend’s feet were starting to suffer the ill effects of constant wet weather. We were about 2 miles away from where we intended to stay that night, and the sun was about to set. We could do it, but it would suck.

OCT Creek Crossing
Our day had involved a whole lot of sideways rain and creek crossings.

We walked into the Whaleshead Viewpoint, partly in order to get a respite from walking along Highway 101, and partly in the hope that we could ask someone watching the sunset if they would give us a ride down the road.

The viewpoint was empty, but soon a large pickup truck pulled in. The truck was driven by a high school-aged girl, and her parents were riding along. I approached the truck, asked them if they would be alright with giving us a ride down the road to Whaleshead, and emphasized that I didn’t want to rush them. If they were there to watch the sunset, my friend and I would wait until they were done. They kindly accepted, and, at my insistence, they did take a short walk down to the beach first.

When they returned, they helped us to load our gear in the back of the truck, and began asking us about our hike. Meanwhile, I was doing the math: There were four seats, and five of us. Before I could ask what the plan was for that, the tiny woman sat on her husband’s lap so my friend and I could both ride in the back seat. They cheerfully joked about how we shouldn’t worry too much, even though their daughter was driving and she just had a learner’s permit. As we drove down the road to Whaleshead, it became obvious that the daughter was a good driver, and we all continued to chat about running and hiking.

The mom expressed interest in the endurance aspect of what we were doing. She is an avid runner, it turns out. Then we learned that her daughter runs track. I asked her what events that she did, and told them that I used to coach and compete, myself. The dad talked about his days backpacking Sky Lakes Wilderness and said he still does some hunting in that area. I expressed that I still really need to spend more time exploring Southern Oregon; it seems beautiful.

Soon we arrived at the Whaleshead RV Resort. (My friend and I were hoping we might be able to rent a cabin there, since all of our gear was drenched and I was worried about my friend’s feet.) The husband kindly helped us unload our packs.

Only then did I notice all of their bumper stickers: “Infidel,” “Proud to be everything liberals hate,” “God bless Trump,” etc.

I am glad that I hadn’t noticed those stickers earlier, and that that therefore wasn’t my first impression of this family. I also felt sad realizing that I would have been really tempted to flip off a truck like that if I was driving past them – but in this case, I would have been rude to a little high school girl and her nice family!

I still stand by my beliefs and my political views. I still do not like Trump. I still have to wonder if this family would have treated my friend and I differently if we weren’t white, or if she and I were a couple. They didn’t say anything like that during our interaction, but given the current administration’s stances on a host of social issues, I have to wonder.

But bottom line: This family helped us out when we needed it, they were pleasant to talk with, and we had a lot of common interests. I am thankful for their help, and I would be happy to hang out with them if we ever crossed paths again.

In this highly polarized political climate, I think we need a lot more of these moments: When we put aside labels, when we remember that we are all human, and when we realize that we have a lot more in common than we think.