Tag: Oregon Coast

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.

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.

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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

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.

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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!

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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.

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!