Tag: Oregon

My One-Year OCT Anniversary

My One-Year OCT Anniversary

Today marks one year since my completion of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), a 367-mile journey the entire length of the Oregon coast.

A year ago, I hiked 14 miles from Gearhart to Fort Stevens with my dad to complete my south-to-north journey on the Oregon Coast Trail. A year ago, I stood at the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park with my parents, overlooking the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. A year ago, we had a meaningful yet quiet celebration before I unceremoniously fell asleep on the couch around 8 pm in our hotel room.

OCT Finish
I hiked the final 14 miles of the trail with my dad and my mom met us at the finish. She presented me with a thoughtful gift: This custom-made medal! © Naomi Denekas

A year ago, I felt that I had both completed and begun something. Accordingly, I was hoping that this anniversary would bring a renewed sense of pride and an opportunity to reflect upon a year well-spent.

My feelings on the matter, however, are much more complicated.

I will be bluntly honest: I have cried a lot today and yesterday.

I feel like I wasted the fitness I had built up on the trail. I had originally planned to run a marathon in late 2017, and to backpack a lot. I didn’t.

I feel devastated that I have STILL not found a job, nearly a year after interviewing at a nonprofit that I used to fastidiously volunteer for. It was May 10, 2017. I remember because I had to rush back from long-overdue family time on the coast for an early morning interview slot that they insisted upon. I found out during the interview itself that it wasn’t going to work out. Job hunting since then has been fruitless and discouraging.

Above all, I feel like I should be stronger than this. Wasn’t my time on the trail supposed to be about healing and getting myself ready to face my life again? What is with all this crying and metaphorical paralysis? What will it take to get me to feel functional and capable again?

Some of this speaks to the post-trail blues that many thru-hikers face. Finding a new path, and finding success on it, can be daunting after putting your heart and soul into a singular goal for so long. Then you have to factor in the loss of the daily endorphin boost of hiking several miles with a huge pack – and, in the case of the OCT, no longer hearing the daily exhalations of waves and wind, which were a balm for my seething thoughts.

Tiny House in Seal Rock
My AirBnB in Seal Rock, while on the OCT. This tiny house was simple yet beautiful, and a welcome break from camping in the rain. Aside from wanting to keep hiking and all, I desperately wanted to just live here! I still kind of do… © Jenni Denekas

In contrast, the city is loud, jarring, and not at all like the small towns and secluded campsites of the trail. It also felt so odd to return to a closet bursting with clothes, after spending 45 days with two outfits. Accordingly, I have pared down my possessions and sold or donated a lot of clothing and extraneous items. Similarly, it feels odd to be in a spacious apartment after tents and tiny homes and cheap motel rooms. I am thankful to have my own space, but it feels strange nevertheless.

It has taken me a while to adjust, and honestly I don’t know if I will ever fully reintegrate into city life. Part of me is still on the OCT.

Some of my discontent runs deeper – actually, no, shallower. Definitely shallower.

I have realized that, shamefully, I wish I could keep adding to my metaphorical trophy case. It’s a bit of a let-down to not have a litany of stellar accomplishments from the past year to point to on this anniversary. But what the hell is the point of that?

The whole point of a thru-hike, and the whole point of anything of substance, is not to check a box and say “I did that!” The point is to immerse oneself in the journey and to learn deeply from it. And the biggest learning opportunities are the ones that you don’t plan for.

Perhaps that’s what this past year has been trying to teach me.

Indeed, I didn’t just lose my post-OCT fitness through sloth. I was excitedly running and hiking better than I had in a couple of years… until I sprained my ankle badly last June. I remember that crushing moment, panting from the pain, sitting on a rock next to my boyfriend while I mustered the energy to shuffle the final mile back to the car. In spite of my high pain tolerance, it felt almost unbearable. I was convinced that I must have broken my ankle. It was a relief to discover it was merely a sprain, but it still was a long road back from that injury. And of course, when it finally felt strong again, I sprained the other damn ankle. Just my luck.

I have also been slowed by gastrointestinal issues (which fortunately turned out to NOT be parasites from my trip), headaches, nausea, horrific depression and anxiety, and, most recently, random ovarian pain that forced me to spend a couple of days curled into a ball. It has not been an easy year for me, physically or mentally, and as much as I wish things were different, I consider myself lucky to still be here.

My depression and anxiety were really that bad for a while.

In that context, I feel silly for lamenting my weight gain and my lost fitness – which, of course, are not one and the same, as I explain here. I should focus on being thankful for surviving – and for those who helped me to pull through.

Love is bringing your asthmatic girlfriend a particle mask and chocolate while her favorite place burns
My boyfriend is a wonderfully supportive and kind person, and I feel so much love and gratitude for him. © Jenni Denekas

My wonderful boyfriend in particular has been there through all the ups and downs of this year. He helped me to get through the worst depressive downturns, to take care of me when I was ill, and to smile (a bit) when the Eagle Creek Fire tore through my favorite place on Earth. I feel so lucky to be with someone so caring and kind.

When my health allows, I also have been slowly but surely trying to find a job. I recently had an interview again – my first in nearly a year. I feel a glimmer of hope again.

As a stop-gap, and as part of the fulfillment of a longtime dream, I founded my own greeting card brand in fall 2017, Borderline Cards. It’s been an enjoyable and fulfilling endeavor, not the least because it has gotten me back into the habit of drawing regularly. But it was also somewhat born of my diminishing trust in my ability to ever find a job.

It’s also been a struggle to trust people. And perhaps not many deserve my full trust. Perhaps that has been my mistake before.

Accordingly, I have been paring down my inner circle since I completed the trail. I am done with expending more emotional energy and effort than I get in return. In turn, that gives me more time and energy to dedicate to those who deserve it. I have made a point to focus on the people who bothered to be part of my journey, and who generally give me as much as I give them.

Indeed, on this anniversary, I am reflecting gratefully upon everyone who was part of my journey on the OCT. It took time, effort, some unintended side effects (like trench foot, and the death of a cell phone), planning, caring, and commitment to make that happen, and I am very grateful for all of your contributions. Thank you, Dani, Aaron, Steph, Rosemary, Charissa, Joe, Stacey, Susan, Mom, and Dad.

And again, I feel so thankful for the beautiful relationship that my boyfriend and I have built over the past year, which has its roots in the OCT. When Aaron joined me for a weekend on the southern coast, we felt something beginning. We got together shortly after I returned from the trail, and we will be celebrating our first anniversary later this week.

Love
Aaron and I in December 2017 at a friend’s beach birthday bash! © Stephanie Hughson

Aaron has always been a dear friend, and became my rock during the horrible winter that drove me to do the trail in the first place. He joined me on a portion of my journey on the OCT, and stayed in touch with me throughout the rest of my trip. He has always been a calm, consistent, kind, and humorous source of support. (And to be clear, we do have a lot of fun together! I’m not always a crying mess!) I am truly grateful for, and humbled by, his love.

This anniversary of my completion of the OCT marks a year of unexpected events. Many were – and are – ugly and frustrating. But the truly beautiful surprises – including my relationship with the sweetest person I have ever met – are better than anything I could have planned.

And that’s the thing: Life unfolds as it sees fit, and all we can do is embrace the good that it gives us.

I will finish by quoting one of Cheryl Strayed’s many pearls of wisdom from Tiny Beautiful Things:

You don’t have a right to the cards that you think you should have been dealt. You have the obligation to play the hell out of the ones you are holding. And my dear, you and I were granted a mighty generous hand.

Banner Image: Two people who look suspiciously like me and my boyfriend embrace in a burnt forest. Image drawn by yours truly. The Eagle Creek Fire was another devastating loss in the past year, and like everything else we’ve faced together, my boyfriend and I helped one another to stay strong through it.

Eagle Creek Fire: What Now

Eagle Creek Fire: What Now

As of November 30, the Eagle Creek Fire is 100% contained, but the work has only just begun. Read on to find out how to help restore this beloved landscape and support our Gorge towns.

For a comprehensive look at the Eagle Creek Fire’s history: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Eagle Creek Fire
Trail runners watched from the Washington side as the Oregon side of the gorge burned, on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Before the Eagle Creek Fire was contained, it burned 48,861 acres on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The vast majority of trails on the Oregon side of the Gorge remain closed due to fire damage and subsequent landslides.

The destruction of this beloved landscape was, and is, heart-wrenching. I was unable to tear my eyes from the news for weeks after the Eagle Creek Fire exploded. Then I was numb and frozen for months. I feel like only recently I’ve pulled out of this fog of grief and despair.

Indeed, it is easy to feel devastated by what has happened. But as much as we can, we need to keep moving. We need to pitch in by supporting the restoration efforts and the communities who were impacted by the fire, and we need to show our gratitude to those who helped as the Gorge burned.

My best recommendations are listed below. I will keep updating this post. Thank you for doing your part to help.

Support Restoration Efforts

Eagle Creek
Punchbowl Falls along the Eagle Creek Trail, near where the fire began. I hope it can be as verdant again one day. © Jenni Denekas

This will be a long process, but eventually we will restore and rebuild the Gorge’s beautiful forests and trails.

The following four organizations have formed the Gorge Trails Recovery Team, and deserve monetary donations as well as contributions of volunteer hours:

I’ll also give an honorable mention to the Trails Club of Oregon. They have pledged to work to restore the Gorge, too, and they have quite a project ahead of them: Nesika Lodge, which is owned and operated by the Trails Club, was damaged by the fire. Miraculously, it is still standing, but it will need a lot of work in the coming year. Consider a donation, or sign up to volunteer on their website. You can also contribute directly to repairing Nesika Lodge here.

Support Our Awesome Gorge Towns

Thunder Island Brewing
Thunder Island Brewing © Christopher Muhs, Creative Commons

This is a fun task: Help these towns recover economically by patronizing their awesome businesses!

  • I love Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks. They have a great location, great food, great drinks, and they support the iconic PCT Days celebration each summer. On top of it, they opened their doors to fire crews fighting the Eagle Creek Fire, providing them free meals. They deserve our business!
  • Check out the Columbia River Gorge Visitors’ Association website for more awesome businesses to support.
  • Go to PCT Days next year! Located in Cascade Locks, this event is a way to provide both moral and financial support to the small town at the epicenter of the Eagle Creek Fire. This event celebrates the Pacific Crest Trail (which also has been impacted by the fire) and is an opportunity to hang out with PCT thru-hikers and connect with the local outdoor community.

Donate to Search and Rescue

  • Donate to Hood River County Search and Rescue’s Mike Anderson Search and Rescue Fund, named for a recently deceased deputy. This will directly fund SAR efforts. You can donate at any US Bank branch, or deliver or mail donations to: 601 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031. Hood River SAR evacuated the 150-plus hikers who were trapped on the Eagle Creek Trail when the fire began, and they have also been part of myriad rescues in the Gorge and on Mt. Hood throughout the years.
  • Mountain Wave Search and Rescue also helped during the fire. You can donate to them here.

Donate to the Fire Crews

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

It is an understatement to say that these brave folks who put it all on the line for our beloved Gorge are heroes. Show your gratitude by donating to them. The ones in red are, in my opinion, the most worthy of donations. They are fire crews that were battling for their backyards, and/or did something exceptionally heroic. But again, everyone who helped is a hero. They all deserve our support.

  • Albany Fire Department: They contributed some of their fire fighters to battle this blaze, as well as the massive Chetco Bar Fire on the southern Oregon coast. (Two areas close to my heart.)
  • Cascade Locks Fire and EMS. At the bottom of their homepage, there is a “donate” button. Cascade Locks was at the epicenter of this fire, and it is not in a very populous or affluent county. They need and deserve our support.
  • Corbett: Fire District 14: This fire crew was battling for their backyard.
  • Forest Grove Fire and Rescue: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Hillsboro Fire Department: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Gresham Fire and Emergency Services: They were part of the crew that saved the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge from the blaze (and did so through the night, from Sunday, September 4, to Monday, September 5, when the structure was first threatened).
  • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center: They play an integral role in planning fire responses and also make information on fires and air quality available to the public on their awesome website.
  • Oregon Department of Forestry: Their Fire Protection program was an integral part of the fire fighting effort. Since it’s a state agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!
  • Oregon Air National Guard: They assisted in many ways with the fire.
  • Oregon National Guard: They assisted in many ways with the fire.
  • Portland Fire and Rescue: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Skamania County had to contend with the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. Like their neighbors across the river, Skamania County is not very populous or affluent. The county was asking for monetary donations to support their fire and other emergency services, and I’m sure contributions would still be welcome. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • US Forest Service: They assisted in a variety of ways, and are one of several agencies that coordinate the Interagency Hotshots. Some Hotshots helped with the Eagle Creek Fire. Since it’s a federal agency, we can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!

Unfortunately, I don’t know all the agencies and fire crews that were involved, and I don’t have links to donation pages for all of them (some of the links are just to their websites). Please reach out with any information about donating to these groups who put it all on the line for our beloved Gorge. It is an understatement to say they deserve our support!

Additionally, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office recommended donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.” Donating to this cause has less of a direct link to the Eagle Creek Fire, because there were no (human) fatalities, but honoring fallen heroes is important.

Support Those Who Helped with Evacuation Efforts

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love
  • The Red Cross operated shelters for evacuees in Stevenson, WA and at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. Donate to the Red Cross, specifying either the Cascades division or the Disaster Relief FundThe latter also assisted with all the hurricanes of fall 2017.
  • As previously stated, Skamania County had to fight the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. The county was asking for monetary donations and I’m sure they’d still appreciate any money you can spare. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • According to this post by KGW News, Gone Towing helped to evacuate residents in Level 2 and Level 3 areas, free of charge. They deserve your future business!

And More Broadly… Fight Climate Change

Hurricane Harvey
NASA has been watching Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. © NASA, Creative Commons

NOTE: If you don’t believe the facts, kindly shut up and find a way to help with the Eagle Creek Fire that DOES gel with you. Don’t waste time arguing about reality when so much else needs to be done.

Fall 2017 brought Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and catastrophic fires throughout much of the American West, making it clear that we are starting to reap what we have sown. It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to combat climate change.

First, I’ll list some nonprofits you can donate to. Second, I’ll list some suggestions for reducing your own carbon footprint.

Climate-Change-Fighting Organizations

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a fantastic organization that is taking a multifaceted approach to combating climate change. I’m linking to their Get Involved page so you can access a whole host of ways to contribute. Click on the large Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s how you wish to help.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is also a reputable and awesome group. I recommend checking out their Global Warming Solutions page to learn about various ways to combat climate change. You can also just click on the Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.

Combat Climate Change in Your Own Life

Most of these suggestions are Oregon-specific, or Portland Metro-specific. I’m just speaking to what the majority of my audience will find relevant. For a whole host of ideas on how to combat climate change no matter where you live, I advise checking out NRDC’s Get Involved page and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Change Solutions page, as previously mentioned.

Sherman County Windmills
Windmills amid wheat fields in Sherman County, Oregon. This growing industry not only allows farmers to turn a larger profit on their fields, but also helps contribute to combating climate change. © Sam Beebe, Creative Commons
  • Sign up for renewable energy through PGE. It’s easy and it’s helpful. Do it.
  • Drive less, use transit more: You can even get to outdoor adventure destinations using transit!
    • Check out the Point for getting from Portland to popular destinations on the Oregon north coast, or to travel throughout the state.
    • Check out the Central Oregon Breeze to travel between central Oregon and Portland.
    • Check out the Mt. Hood Express to get from Portland to our lovely local volcano.
    • Once the Gorge is safe to explore again (sigh), check out the Columbia Gorge Express for the Oregon side, and the Gorge WET Bus for the Washington side.
    • Greyhound and Amtrak serve a fair amount of Oregon destinations, too. That’s how I reached the California-Oregon border for my trek on the Oregon Coast Trail.
    • And, of course, you can use the handy Trimet Trip Planner for strategizing transit in the Portland metro area.
  • When you have to drive, carpool! You can even check out rideshares:

I want to remind you that this list is a work in progress. I welcome your input. Please post your (well-researched) ideas in the comments below!

Again: Detailed history of the Eagle Creek Fire is available here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Banner Image: I drew this after visiting the Gorge for the first time, post-fire. A couple that looks suspiciously like my boyfriend and me consoles one another in a burnt forest. © Jenni Denekas

Oregon Coast Trail: Gearhart to Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park

Oregon Coast Trail: Gearhart to Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park

Enjoy a continuous span of smooth sand from the beautiful small town of Gearhart to the picturesque Peter Iredale shipwreck

Peter Iredale Sunset
Sunset over the Peter Iredale Shipwreck in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Serenity abounds on this smooth and scenic span of sand. The easy-to-navigate route and smooth terrain invite a state of calm meditation. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and sea shells, especially in the early miles.

This lovely beach walk concludes at the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park.

Only three miles farther is the south jetty of the Columbia River, and the finish line for northbound hikers on the Oregon Coast Trail. I highly recommend combining these two hikes if possible! Read about the hike from the Peter Iredale to the south jetty.

This nine-mile hike is also a worthy goal in itself, and could be accomplished with a car shuttle or by utilizing transit. Alternatively, you could do a grueling 18-mile out-and-back. The format of your hike doesn’t matter so much as getting out there and enjoying this stunning north coast scenery!

Peter Iredale Panorama
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park, and vistas that extend south to Gearhart and Tillamook Head. © Jenni Denekas

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  9 miles
Elevation Gain: 0 feet
Season: All
Features: Beach, Shipwreck, Historic Site, Wildlife
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: None
Usage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: Build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon State Parks (Del Rey, Sunset Beach, and Fort Stevens)

Know Before You Go

  • Check the Tides: Although this route is by no means impassable during high tide, it is preferable to go during low tide. At low tide, the footing is better, because there is more firm, wet sand exposed. Tons of shells will be exposed at low tide. Also, when the tide is out, you can actually walk up to the Peter Iredale!  Check the tides here.

Hike Description

Gearhart beach and Tillamook Head
Looking south from Gearhart, towards Tillamook Head. © Jenni Denekas

A full day of beautiful scenery awaits. Embark from the beach access road at the end of 10th Street in Gearhart. You will head north from here; the ocean will be on your left.

The walk begins in an area that is often overrun by cars, but the amount of vehicles will diminish briefly after about 0.5 miles. Keep an eye out for sand dollars during low tide in this area, and watch for bald eagles soaring overhead.

As you approach the Del Rey State Recreation Site access road (about 1 mile from Gearhart), the amount of cars and beach-goers will increase again. Keep an eye out in this area; in my experience, drivers and motorcyclists here tend to be reckless and inconsiderate.

Gearhart Beach
En route to the Peter Iredale shipwreck, you will enjoy long spans of solitude on a beautiful, level beach. © Jenni Denekas

Thankfully, once you are past Del Rey, you will enjoy relative solitude for about 3.5 miles. Soak in the quiet expanse of sand and sea as you continue along the level beach. Keep an eye out for sea shells and wildlife in this span. During the summer, elk come down from the mountains to calve in the dunes. Give them a wide berth if you see them, but certainly snap some photos and soak in the views of these majestic creatures.

About 4.5 miles from Gearhart, you will pass another beach access point, this time at Sunset Beach. This area tends to be less busy than Del Rey, but you will likely still see an uptick in cars and people in this area.

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the end of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

Soon, however, you will seemingly leave civilization behind as you commence another long stretch of secluded beach. Here, you have the Oregon National Guard to thank for your solitude: You are walking parallel to Camp Rilea, which limits public access to the coast in this span. NOTE: The coast itself is public, as per the 1967 Beach Bill, so you don’t have to worry about trespassing or anything!

About 4.5 serenely quiet miles past Sunset Beach, you will arrive at the picturesque shipwreck of the Peter Iredale. Ideally, you should plan to arrive at low to mid-tide so that you can walk out to the wreck, but it is visible, and highly photogenic, at any time. Allow plenty of time to enjoy this lovely area before you move on.

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Next, you can either get a ride back to Gearhart, turn south to complete an 18-miler, or press onward to the south jetty of the Columbia River and the finish of the Oregon Coast Trail.

When I completed my northbound trek on the OCT, I went from Gearhart to the south jetty in one day (12 miles). This was completely do-able, and made for a pleasant final day on the trail. I would recommend following suit.

Jump ahead to the hike from the Peter Iredale to the South Jetty Observation Tower.

How to Get There

Save the Planet! Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions:

From Astoria: Take Hwy 101 S towards Seaside. Turn right onto Pacific Way. Turn right onto North Marion Avenue. Right before Gearhart by the Sea and McMenamins Gearhart Hotel & Pub, turn left onto 10th Street. (NOTE: There is NO PARKING at the trailhead, and parking for an extended time on the beach is inadvisable due to the tides. The best place to park would be the lot at Gearhart by the Sea.)

From Seaside: Head north on Hwy 101. Turn left onto Pacific Way. Turn right onto North Marion Avenue. Right before Gearhart by the Sea and McMenamins Gearhart Hotel & Pub, turn left onto 10th Street. (NOTE: There is NO PARKING at the trailhead, and parking for an extended time on the beach is inadvisable due to the tides. The best place to park would be the lot at Gearhart by the Sea.)

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.030928, -123.927881

Next up: Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park.

Backtrack: Gearhart Beach Access (Pacific Way) to the Next Gearhart Beach Access (10th Street).

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Banner Image: Sunset over Tillamook Head, viewed from the beach at Gearhart. © Jenni Denekas

Oregon Coast Trail: Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park

Oregon Coast Trail: Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park

Trek between a picturesque shipwreck and the South Jetty Observation Tower, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the beginning of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

For those hiking northbound on the Oregon Coast Trail, this is the home stretch. If it’s a clear day, the finish line may literally be in sight!

For those hiking southbound, this is a stunning way to begin your OCT journey, with a shipwreck and distant views of Tillamook Head and the Coast Range ahead of you.

This is also a wonderful day hike, showcasing two iconic features of Oregon’s north coast.

Bottom line: No matter what your goal is, this route between the Peter Iredale shipwreck and the South Jetty Observation Tower makes for an incredible excursion.

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  3 miles
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Season: All
Features: Beach, Shipwreck, Historic Site, Jetty, River, Views
Trailhead Amenities: Public restroom (usually clean, and with running water!)
Passes/Permits: NoneUsage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: A map of Fort Stevens State Park is available here, or you can build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon State Parks (Fort Stevens)

Know Before You Go

  • Weather: Even if it’s sunny when you set out, I recommend packing plenty of layers and mentally preparing to fight through some gusts. This exposed section of beach, near the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, is prone to wind, mist, and otherwise variable weather. I’ve experienced northbound and southbound winds – and all wind directions in between – in this area! On a few occasions, I’ve even experienced all wind directions in one outing.
  • Check the Tides: Although this route is not impassable during high tide, it is preferable to go during low tide. At low tide, the footing is better, because there is more firm, wet sand exposed. Also, when the tide is out, you can actually walk up to the Peter Iredale! Check the tides here.

Hike Description

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the beginning of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

This beautiful, easy-to-navigate route begins at the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906. A popular Oregon coast destination in its own right, the Peter Iredale draws flocks of beach-goers in the summer. The shipwreck also is, deservedly, a common subject for local photographers.

If you haven’t been seduced by the idea of a nap in the sand or a game of Frisbee, head north from the shipwreck (keeping the ocean to your left).

Over the next three miles, the crowds will thin and you will enjoy a wide, level beach bordered by tall, verdant dunes. The footing is generally solid, although there are a few shoe-sucking patches here and there.

South Jetty
Heading up the dunes to the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

As I mentioned above, if it is a clear day, your finish line may be in sight the entire walk. But it is more likely that your destination will be shrouded in mist until you are about a half mile away. I can’t decide if it is more difficult to push towards an unseen destination, or to be staring at one’s destination the entire time. Either way, you can distract yourself by looking for shells and pocketing small, rusted, wave-polished fragments of the Peter Iredale.

Continue onward until you reach the protected cove by the South Jetty. Head right (northeast) towards the dunes and follow the narrow, arcing trail through the beach grass for an easier ascent than climbing the riprap.

Your finish line is the South Jetty Observation Tower. This small, wooden structure provides 360-degree views of your stunning surroundings. To the north and east is the mighty Columbia, and the mountains of Washington. The vast expanse of the Pacific extends to the west. To the east is the Coast Range. Southward is the long ribbon of beach that extends to Gearhart and Tillamook Head.

View from the South Jetty Observation Tower
The Coast Range and Tillamook Head, viewed from the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Soak in these vast vistas. Savor this moment.

If you have just finished the Oregon Coast Trail, a host of emotions will sweep over you now and in the coming days. Allow yourself plenty of time to process your experience. And, of course: CONGRATULATIONS!!!

If you are just starting your southbound journey on the OCT, obviously you’ll reverse these directions and begin your hike from the jetty. I encourage you to take a moment to soak in the view from the observation tower before setting off.

If you are on a day hike, either catch a ride back to the Peter Iredale, or turn around and walk the three miles back to your starting point, for a six-mile day.

Other Ways to Enjoy this Area

  • Go for a Run! Race to the Bar is a fundraiser for the Lower Columbia Hospice that occurs annually in early September. The start and finish is the Peter Iredale shipwreck. The 10k (6.2 miles) is an out-and-back to the South Jetty. Better yet, make a weekend of it and camp at Fort Stevens State Park after the race!
  • Want to Chill? You can walk a short distance from the parking lot to the Peter Iredale and enjoy a relaxing beach day. It’s a great spot for beach combing, sand castle building, Frisbee, and other relaxing beach endeavors. NOTE: The shipwreck is down a steep, soft, sandy dune, so it is not universally accessible. But everyone can at least enjoy views of the shipwreck from the parking lot!

How to Get There

Save the Planet! Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions:

From Astoria: Take Hwy 101 S towards Seaside. You’ll cross Youngs Bay as you leave Astoria and head into Warrenton. Turn left onto East Harbor Street in Warrenton, and then take a left onto South Main Avenue. Turn right on SW 9th Street, and then take another right onto NW Ridge Road. After about one mile, turn left into Fort Stevens State Park. Follow the signs to the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. (NOTE: You do not have to pay a day-use fee to visit the shipwreck, but you will have to in order to visit other areas in the park.)

From Seaside: Head north on Hwy 101. Bend left onto OR 104 North, and continue onto NW Ridge Road. After about 2.5 miles, turn left into Fort Stevens State Park. Follow the signs to the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. (NOTE: You do not have to pay a day-use fee to visit the shipwreck, but you will have to in order to visit other areas in the park.)

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.178075, -123.980525

Next up:

  • Explore Fort Stevens State Park!
  • Check out some cool attractions in Astoria!
  • Celebrate!

Backtrack: Gearhart to the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

View from the South Jetty
The Coast Range and Tillamook Head to the south, and the jetty at the Columbia River, viewed from the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. This is a satisfying conclusion to a northbound hike, and an enticing beginning to a southbound trek. © Jenni Denekas

Banner Image: Sunset over the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

*Archive Post! See Eagle Creek Fire: What Now for the most recent updates on the fire and how to support restoration efforts*

As of 7:00 pm on Friday, September 29, the Eagle Creek Fire encompasses an estimated 48,831 acres on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is 46% contained. The Archer Mountain Fire, which was sparked on the Washington side by the Eagle Creek Fire, is still burning, but 100% contained as of September 13.

It’s been raining intermittently since Sunday, September 17, and all evacuation orders have been lifted at this time. However, as they said on InciWeb, “Conditions have significantly reduced fire behavior, though it will continue to smolder or creep within the fire perimeter, producing smoke for some time. Significant growth is not anticipated, but soaking rains will be necessary to fully remove heat from the fire.” With the rain, there is also landslide danger, which is exacerbated by fire damage. We’re not done yet, and the Gorge will still need to be restored. We still have lots of work to do.

NOTE: I’ll try to keep this page updated as much as possible, but for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the Eagle Creek Fire, visit: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Eagle Creek Fire
Trail runners watch from the Washington side as the Oregon side of the gorge burns, on Sunday, Sept. 4. The fire has since spread to the Washington side. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

The destruction of this beloved landscape is heart-wrenching. I have not been able to tear my eyes from the news since the Eagle Creek Fire exploded.

It is easy to feel devastated and helpless in this situation. I’ve been feeling that way since the fire began. But as much as we can, we need to pitch in and support the fire fighting and evacuation efforts – and eventually, the restoration efforts.

My best recommendations so far are listed below. I will keep updating this post. Thank you for doing your part to help as this tragedy unfolds.

Donate to Search and Rescue

Donate to the Fire Crews

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Before I get into specifics, please note: Fire crews have requested that folks STOP bringing donated items to them. In particular, they have enough bottled water – which is awesome, because that need was filled really quickly! Thanks to those who did that.

Also, unless you have to, please do not go to the Gorge. No gawking, no dropping off donations. Do not make the area more crowded – or the situation more complicated – for the first responders. Give them room to do their thing.

OK, that said…

Donate to emergency services at the epicenter of this disaster:

  • Cascade Locks Fire and EMS. At the bottom of their homepage, there is a “donate” button. Cascade Locks is being hit hard by this fire, and it is not in a very populous or affluent county. They need all the help they can get.
  • Skamania County is fighting the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and has been supporting the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. Like their neighbors across the river, Skamania County is not a very populous or affluent county, and they need all the help they can get. The county is asking for monetary donations to support their fire and other emergency services. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.

I’m still looking for a complete list of the groups that are fighting the Eagle Creek Fire, and links to donate to them. Please comment on this post if you have information! But so far, at least, I know that the following crews are involved:

  • Albany Fire Department: They have contributed some of their fire fighters to battle this blaze, as well as the Chetco Bar Fire on the southern Oregon coast.
  • Corbett: Fire District 14: This fire crew is battling for their backyard.
  • Forest Grove Fire and Rescue: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Hillsboro Fire Department: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Gresham Fire and Emergency Services: They are part of the crew protecting the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge from the blaze (and did so through the night, from Sunday, September 4, to Monday, September 5, when the structure was first threatened).
  • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center: They play an integral role in planning fire responses and also make information on fires and air quality available to the public on their awesome website.
  • Oregon Department of Forestry: Their Fire Protection program is an integral part of the fire fighting effort. Since it’s a state agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!
  • Oregon Air National Guard: They are assisting in many ways with the fire.
  • Oregon National Guard: They are assisting in many ways with the fire.
  • Portland Fire and Rescue: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • US Forest Service: They are assisting in a variety of ways, and are one of several agencies that coordinate the Interagency Hotshots. Some Hotshots are helping with the Eagle Creek Fire. Since it’s a federal agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!

Again, unfortunately, I don’t know all the agencies and fire crews involved, and I don’t have links to donation pages for those in the second bulleted list. Please let me know if you have any information as to how to donate to these groups putting it all on the line for our beloved Gorge. It is an understatement to say they deserve our support!

Additionally, the Multnomah County Sheriff recommended donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.” Donating to this cause has less of a direct impact on efforts to combat the Eagle Creek Fire. However, as I said above, it is an understatement to say that wildland firefighters deserve our support! These brave folks are heroes and honoring the fallen is important.

Support Those Who Helped with Evacuation Efforts

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love
  • The Red Cross operated shelters for evacuees in Stevenson, WA and at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. Donate to the Red Cross, specifying either the Cascades division or the Disaster Relief Fund. The latter also supports those affected by the hurricanes, and more.
  • Skamania County is fighting the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. The county is asking for monetary donations. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • According to this post by KGW News, Gone Towing was helping to evacuate residents in Level 2 and Level 3 areas, free of charge. Call (503) 602-2626 to donate to support their efforts. Any additional funds will be donated to the Red Cross and local fire departments. They also deserve your future business!

Support Restoration Efforts

Eagle Creek
Punchbowl Falls along the Eagle Creek Trail, near where the fire began. I hope it can be as verdant again one day. © Jenni Denekas

This will be part of the long game, but eventually we will restore and rebuild our beautiful Gorge.

Support Our Awesome Gorge Towns

Thunder Island Brewing
Thunder Island Brewing © Christopher Muhs, Creative Commons

Once it is safe to do so, please help these towns recover economically by patronizing their awesome businesses! I’ll also update this section if/when opportunities to donate to evacuees and to rebuilding efforts arise.

  • I love Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks. They have a great location, great food, great drinks, and support the iconic PCT Days celebration each summer. Then on top of it, they opened their doors to fire crews, providing them free meals, at the start of the Eagle Creek Fire. They deserve our business!
  • Check out the Columbia River Gorge Visitors’ Association for more awesome businesses to support!
  • Go to PCT Days next year! Located in Cascade Locks, this event is a way to provide both moral and financial support to the small town at the epicenter of the Eagle Creek Fire. This event celebrates the Pacific Crest Trail (which also has been impacted by the fire) and is an opportunity to hang out with PCT thru-hikers and connect with the local outdoor community.

And More Broadly… Fight Climate Change and Climate Change Denial

Hurricane Harvey
NASA has been watching Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. © NASA, Creative Commons

NOTE: If you don’t believe the facts, please shut up and find a way to help with the Eagle Creek Fire that DOES gel with you. Don’t waste time arguing about reality when so much else needs to be done.

From Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to the catastrophic fires throughout much of the American West, we are starting to reap what we have sown. It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to combat climate change.

First, I’ll list some nonprofits you can donate to. Second, I’ll list some suggestions for reducing your own carbon footprint.

Climate-Change-Fighting Organizations

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a fantastic organization that is taking a multifaceted approach to combating climate change and raising awareness. I’m linking to their Get Involved page so you can access a whole host of ways to contribute. Then just click on the large Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is also a reputable and awesome group. I’m linking her to their Global Warming Solutions page, so that you can read about various ways to help combat climate change. You can also just click on the Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.

Combat Climate Change in Your Own Life

Most of these suggestions are Oregon/Portland Metro-specific. I’m just speaking to what the majority of my audience will find relevant. For a whole host of ideas on how to combat climate change no matter where you live, I advise checking out NRDC’s Get Involved page and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Change Solutions page.

Sherman County Windmills
Windmills amid wheat fields in Sherman County, Oregon. This growing industry not only allows farmers to turn a larger profit on their fields, but also helps contribute to combating climate change. © Sam Beebe, Creative Commons

I want to remind you that this list is a work in progress. I welcome your input. Please post your (well-researched) ideas in the comments below!

Again: Up-to-date and accurate information on the Eagle Creek Fire is available here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Banner Image: The Eagle Creek Fire, viewed from the Washington side of the Gorge on Sunday, Sept. 4. The fire has since spread to the Washington side. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

Connect two small coastal towns by walking a beautiful span of beach

Three Arch Rocks
Three Arch Rocks near Oceanside. © Jenni Denekas

Enjoy a broad array of coastal scenery in a mere 2 miles. This lovely beach walk begins on the northern side of Netarts Bay, which abounds with shellfish, wildlife, and human crabbers and clam diggers. As you continue north along the wide, smooth beach, Oceanside’s iconic sea stacks, known as Three Arch Rocks, swim into view. The final stretch into the quiet town of Oceanside offers abundant tidepools.

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  2 miles
Elevation Gain: 148 feet
Season: All
Features: Bay, Beach, Ocean, Tidepools, Sea Stacks, Small Towns, Wildlife
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: None
Usage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: Build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon Coastal Management Program (State of Oregon)

Hike Description

Netarts Bay
The beginning of the walk from Netarts to Oceanside offers views of Netarts Bay and Cape Lookout to the south. © Jenni Denekas

After utilizing the easy Netarts Beach Access, you will find yourself on a broad span of smooth sand, facing the northern terminus of Netarts Bay. The scenery is immediately stunning, with vistas reaching south to Cape Lookout and north towards the sea stacks by Oceanside. You’ll also likely see people clamming in the shallows in front of you.

Turn right (north) and head up the wide, level beach. Soon the surf will intensify as you leave the sheltered bay. After about 0.75 miles, you will cross Fall Creek. The creekbed is rocky, although the stream itself is not typically very deep.

Netarts to Oceanside
Rocks, pools, and sea stacks abound in the final push from Netarts to Oceanside. © Jenni Denekas

About 1.5 miles into the hike, on the final stretch to Oceanside, rocks and pools abound. Make sure to slow down in this area and look for sea creatures. Take some time to look up, as well: Just off shore is a cluster of six sea stacks, including Storm Rock, Finley Rock, Shag Rock, and Seal Rock. The three largest formations are known as Three Arch Rocks.

Once you have gotten your fill of stunning coastal views, it’s time to head into Oceanside. There are quite a few trails snaking up the hillside into the small, quiet town.

Consider enjoying a delicious meal at Roseanna’s Cafe (1490 Pacific Ave, Oceanside, OR 97134) before you continue north from Oceanside to Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast Trail.

How to Get There

Thru-Hiking? Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions: From Tillamook, follow OR-131 West about 6.5 miles to the town of Netarts. Turn left onto Crab Avenue West and follow the street until it ends. Follow the stairs at the end of the street down to the beach.

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.436964, -123.950058

Next up: Oceanside to Cape Meares.

Backtrack: Netarts Beach Access.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Embark on a coastal adventure filled with lush forest, stunning scenery and abundant wildlife

Hart's Cove and Chitwood Falls
Hart’s Cove and Chitwood Falls © Jenni Denekas

Cascade Head is one of the most stunning destinations on the Oregon coast – and that is saying something. Although not officially part of the Oregon Coast Trail, you would be missing out if you did not hike here, and I would be remiss for not writing about it.

There are a few different trails snaking up and over Cascade Head, but Hart’s Cove is my personal favorite. On this hike, you will pass under massive old growth Sitka spruce en route to a wildflower-studded promontory overlooking Hart’s Cove and sea stacks. You will enjoy clear views of 75-foot Chitwood Falls as it plunges off a basalt cliff into the cove’s churning waters. Pack binoculars to view sea lions, a host of bird species, and other wildlife.

We have The Nature Conservancy to thank for this beautiful hike – and for preserving a lot of other stunning natural locations. Please consider a donation.

Trail Data

Round Trip:  5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Season: The trail is open from July 15 through December 31
Features: Forest, Old Growth, Views, Ocean Views, Waterfall, Wildlife, Creeks, Wildflowers, Meadows
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: NW Forest Pass advised, and you should also consider a donation to the Nature Conservancy
Usage: Hikers, No Dogs
Maps: USGS: Neskowin, OR
Agency: US Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy

Hike Description

Hart's Cove Trailhead
The trailhead is unmarked, but the trail itself is well-defined. © Jenni Denekas

Set off from the parking lot on the well-defined but unmarked trail. You will descend 0.8 miles of forested switchbacks before the trail levels out and crosses a footbridge over Cliff Creek.

From here you will wind your way through windswept coastal rainforest thick with salal, huckleberries, kinnikinnick, and several fern varieties, and dotted with massive old growth trunks. Listen for sea lions; their loud barks carry remarkably well from the ocean.

In about 0.9 miles you will enter the Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area, an area set aside for the study of ecosystem dynamics. Just past the Research Natural Area sign you will reach a bench overlooking the next headland – and a bit of Hart’s Cove. The view is rather obscured by trees but it is a pleasant spot to relax nevertheless.

Hart's Cove Trail
On the way to the Hart’s Cove viewpoint, you will pass through lush, old-growth, coastal rain forest. © Jenni Denekas

Continue along the trail as it snakes downhill. After about 0.5 miles you will cross Chitwood Creek. The old bridge was washed out when I last hiked this (fall 2011), but there are usually logs or boards placed across the small stream.

You will ascend a gentle incline for about 0.3 miles before you emerge from the trees into a grassy meadow, which is laden with wildflowers in summer. There are many small tracks that arc through this vast landscape, but you should follow the most well-defined trail. This will lead you toward a small stand of Sitka spruce.

In a moment, you will enjoy stunning views of Chitwood Falls as it plummets into the turquoise waters of Hart’s Cove.

Hart's Cove
Hart’s Cove and sea stacks offer a stunning reward at the turnaround point for the hike. © Jenni Denekas

Just to the side of the cove are several sea stacks and a rocky beach—which, upon careful inspection, will reveal hordes of sunning sea lions. Even if you can’t see these brown pinpricks clearly, you will readily hear their loud barks over the crashing waves. Bald eagles and a host of sea birds also can be spotted here.

Once you have thoroughly soaked in the stunning views and wildlife sightings, retrace your steps—and enjoy the final, grueling climb to the trailhead!

How to Get There

Thru-Hiking? Strategize your transportation to this trailhead on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions: Highway 101 North from Newport and Lincoln City: 1. Follow Highway 101 north to the junction of 101 and Highway 18. 2. Continue on Highway 101 for 3.8 miles. 3. Turn left onto an unmarked gravel road (Forest Service Road 1861). 4. Follow the twisting, gravel road 4.1 miles to its terminus at a small parking lot. (3.3 miles in, you will pass the marked trailhead for the Cascade Head Trail; the trailhead for Hart’s Cove is 0.8 miles farther).

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.069391, -123.978417

View another stunning hike on Cascade Head, from OregonHikers.org!

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Building a Positive and Comfortable Community at Oregon Country Fair

Building a Positive and Comfortable Community at Oregon Country Fair

Nestled in the trees, teeming with positive energy, and showcasing stunning local crafts, Oregon Country Fair is an amazing experience. Held annually since 1969 in Veneta, 15 miles east of Eugene, this fun and funky event is an Oregon tradition.

I finally took part in this tradition in summer 2017, spending a long weekend camping near the fair with friends and my boyfriend. OCF far exceeded my expectations, and I highly recommend attending. The best part, to me, was the atmosphere.

Welcoming and Positive

Oregon Country Fair Stilt Walkers
Stilt walkers are a common sight at Oregon Country Fair. © Jenni Denekas

The atmosphere at Oregon Country Fair was consistently welcoming. From the moment my carpool pulled into our camp, we were told, “Welcome home!” When I was introduced to friends of my friends, I was enveloped in hugs. Passers-by greeted each other with, “Happy Fair!”

The conversations that occurred were generally upbeat. One of my friends kept steering us away from political discussions, reminding us that the fair is a special place, removed from the rest of the world. Focusing on the positive infused our experiences with a joyful, relaxed vibe.

Free expression abounded in various forms. People wore a whole array of unique outfits, adorned their camps with vibrant decorations, and passed their time with silly games. The fact that everyone was accepting and non-judgmental helped to make this possible.

A Supportive Community

Oregon Country Fair sign
Oregon Country Fair is a bit of a maze… an amazing one! © Jenni Denekas

A lot of people chose to use recreational drugs, but no one was ostracized for indulging – or for abstaining. I do not use drugs at all, and felt a lot more accepted and a lot less judged than I was expecting. As someone said, in reference to my energetic demeanor, “I take drugs to feel as good as you seem to feel naturally!” Essentially, as long as you were friendly and having fun, you fit in just fine.

Even when someone was having a hard time, they were supported. Indeed, the community atmosphere of OCF was apparent when folks helped those who were having a tough “trip.” More relevant to my personal experience, folks were also quick to help if you got lost in the labyrinthine fair.

I also saw the community spirit of OCF in action on our final morning at camp. One of my friends shouted out that it was my boyfriend’s birthday, and everyone sang to him. Afterwards, one guy gave my boyfriend the “key to his new age.” Later in the day, my boyfriend and I re-visited one of our favorite stalls. The man running the booth presented my boyfriend with a birthday grapefruit. This was apparently one of the “best grapefruits in the world,” no less.

Indeed, impromptu giving was common at OCF, and the atmosphere was welcoming and respectful. I sincerely hope this was the case for everyone in attendance.

But I want to note that, as a white woman, my appearance may have influenced how I was treated and therefore what my experience felt like. In other words, it’s time to talk about privilege, race, and cultural appropriation.

Race and Cultural Appropriation

I could see how a person of color may feel less comfortable than I did at OCF. Cultural appropriation abounded, including some people who shouldn’t have been wearing feather headdresses. (Alas, they were.) Some booths showcased traditional crafts made by people who were not part of that culture. On the plus side, there was a display about local tribes, their culture, and the genocide rained upon them in the 1800s by white settlers. I’m not trying to excuse the appropriation that I noticed, but I am glad that there was some acknowledgement of the tribes and their history, at least.

My boyfriend and I also noticed that there were not many POC at the fair. Obviously, Oregon is not the most diverse state, but the attendance at OCF still did not seem to reflect the state’s population – and I have to wonder why. Perhaps cultural appropriation makes it unappealing. Perhaps the referral system for campgrounds (which I will delve further into in a moment) means that long-time white attendees invite their white friends, thus creating a cycle. Perhaps something else is at play. On the plus side, I did see a “Black Lives Matter” poster in the fair, and my boyfriend (who is half Japanese) said he felt comfortable and welcome at OCF. Again, I’m not trying to excuse the problems I noted; I’m just pointing out some positives.

A Comfortable Space for Women

A moss peace sign near the Community Village in Oregon Country Fair.  © Jenni Denekas

On the other hand, it was really comfortable to attend the fair as a woman. This especially struck me when I went to the large bonfire/drum circle, and was dancing in a crowd of joyful hippies. I realized OCF was the one and only time in my adult life that I have danced in a crowded place and not been groped. Although that is a sad commentary on our society as a whole, it is a positive commentary on what OCF is like – at least, in my experience.

Of course, I can’t speak to everyone’s experience – and if anyone has something to share, I would be happy to help bring it to light. I did notice flyers by some of the restrooms about reducing the rate of assaults at OCF, which implies that that does happen. And of course, once is far too many times for that to occur.

However, what I experienced and witnessed suggests that it was a relatively safe space for women.

For instance, I was pleasantly surprised that I never saw any of the many topless women being catcalled, mocked for not having a “perfect” body (whatever that means), or otherwise treated any differently than anyone else. Folks seemed to maintain eye contact and treat these topless women with just as much respect as anyone else. I also was glad to see diverse body types baring it all. It seems that body positivity is alive and well at OCF.

There also was an awesome area set aside specifically for women at the fair. This space is the Moon Lodge, a magical den among lush vine maples draped with diaphanous fabric. Filled with comfortable nooks, this space provides a welcome escape from the bustle of the fair. Visitors can read feminist books, draw, chat with other awesome women, test out various tinctures, listen to a talk, or participate in a ceremony. The Moon Lodge also offered information on sexual assault and domestic violence, and free tampons and pads. It is an all-around great resource for women and girls. I was also glad that I didn’t feel the need to retreat into this haven due to anyone’s bad behavior; it was simply somewhere that I visited voluntarily, and enjoyed a lot.

Referral System for Camps

Camp at Oregon Country Fair
Home sweet home in the trees, at a camp near Oregon Country Fair. © Jenni Denekas

So how does this great atmosphere come about? I think the safe and welcoming vibes at OCF stem from the fact that the camps require referrals. For instance, to stay at our camp, one had to be invited by someone who has camped there before. Then each guest still has to fill out an application in order to be approved. Additionally, at our camp, they would throw out troublemakers and whoever invited them. By relying on networking and on strict consequences, the camps help facilitate a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.

However, as I previously mentioned, I wonder if the referral system perpetuates a lack of racial diversity at the fair. I recently heard of some discouraging statistics that indicate that 75% of white people in the United States do not have any close friends who are people of color (link here; get ready to be sad). If that is the case, then the white people who already camp near OCF will invite their white friends, and the demographics of this event will not change. Referrals will not fix this situation, obviously, so it seems necessary to implement new strategies to address the lack of diversity.

Though there are some potential areas of improvement, I was overall impressed with the atmosphere at Oregon Country Fair. Indeed, the vibe was the best part of the entire experience. I can understand why a lot of people consider it a home-away-from-home, and keep coming back.

Ready to plan your visit? Check out my Oregon Country Fair page, or visit the OCF official website.

Have you been before? Share your OCF experience in the comments!

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.