Tag: Small Towns

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

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!

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.

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

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!