Tag: Thru-Hike

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.

Find more Trails & Travels!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trail Data

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

Know Before You Go

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

Hike Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soak in these vast vistas. Savor this moment.

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

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

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

Other Ways to Enjoy this Area

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

How to Get There

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

Driving Directions:

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

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

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.178075, -123.980525

Next up:

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

Backtrack: Gearhart to the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

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

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

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donate to Search and Rescue

Donate to the Fire Crews

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

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

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

OK, that said…

Donate to emergency services at the epicenter of this disaster:

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

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

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

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

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

Support Those Who Helped with Evacuation Efforts

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

Support Restoration Efforts

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

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

Support Our Awesome Gorge Towns

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

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

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

And More Broadly… Fight Climate Change and Climate Change Denial

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

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

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

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

Climate-Change-Fighting Organizations

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

Combat Climate Change in Your Own Life

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

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

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

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

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

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

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

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

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

Trail Data

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

Hike Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get There

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

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

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.436964, -123.950058

Next up: Oceanside to Cape Meares.

Backtrack: Netarts Beach Access.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

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

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

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

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

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

Trail Data

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

Hike Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get There

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

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

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.069391, -123.978417

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

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Cutting Someone Out, Versus Being Cut Up: Healing While Hiking the OCT

Cutting Someone Out, Versus Being Cut Up: Healing While Hiking the OCT

In order to heal, sometimes you need to rip off that bandage.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams, viewed from Lunch Counter. My first attempt resulted in a hole in my leg, and an important lesson (or several). © Jenni Denekas

My first attempt on Mount Adams led to a hole in the back of my leg (long story).

I didn’t let it slow me down; within the next few days, I was out on another backpacking trip. Then another. Then another.

During these trips, I was careful to prevent infection: I kept the wound clean, I kept applying antibacterial ointment, and I kept changing my bandages. Frustratingly, even after a few weeks, it was not healing.

I realized that changing the bandages was actually doing more harm than good. Each time I removed the gauze, it also removed a layer of skin. I realized that I needed to uncover the wound and let it scab over. The sooner I let it out in the open, the sooner it would toughen up and begin to truly heal.

This was a distressing prospect; I have a high pain tolerance, but the hole went clear through my epidermis to the layers beneath. Anytime a branch snapped the back of my leg, I had to work hard to not scream. Showering was awful. It was going to be a painful and fraught healing process. But going through it head-on was the only way I was going to heal.

Indeed, it is often the case that the more difficult, head-on approach is what allows a person to heal.

By the way, I’m not talking about medical issues anymore; I’m talking about emotional pain.

Nearly six years after my fateful attempt on Adams, I was in quite a lot of emotional pain. There was a variety of reasons for this, but foremost was the fact that the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with cheated on me. We ended our relationship, but we were trying to remain friends. I wasn’t ready to let go entirely. In other words, I didn’t want to rip off that bandage.

However, it was killing me. I was stuck in a series of highs and lows that revolved around him. I would feel low until we talked, uplifted while we conversed, then shattered when we said an awkward, halting goodbye. I felt a hole where an “I love you” used to be. I would invariably cry after we hung up.

I held onto a small shred of hope that somehow we could work things out. Then I fought back fiercely against that notion, reminding myself that what he did was a deal-breaker. That I wouldn’t stand for that sort of shit. Back and forth I would go, again and again.

I was not going to heal until I faced the entirety of the pain, until I realized we were truly done, until I realized he didn’t respect me and he wasn’t my friend. Again, I had to rip off that bandage.

I realized this throughout my trek on the Oregon Coast Trail. During my 367-mile journey, I grew stronger, physically and emotionally.

On my hike, I learned a lot about shedding the unnecessary weight I was carrying. I’m not talking about my pack when I say that, nor am I talking about the body weight that my ex apparently thinks I should lose (which was part of what made me cut him out). Rather, I’m talking about focusing on what built me up, brought me peace, and gave me strength. I’m talking about getting rid of what tore me up, brought me anguish, and made me weak. Shedding that weight was the only way I could get through the heavy mileage.

Viewpoint in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Viewpoint in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. © Jenni Denekas

I also realized that there was a much wider world beyond my heartbreak, and I had been missing out on it while sitting alone and sad in my apartment. I realized that I would rather have the rest of the world, rather than the shattered remnants of a relationship.

I came back to a phrase that I conceived a while ago, in a different context: “You have to decide whether it’s more important to remain hurt, or to become whole.”

I don’t mean that you should bury your feelings. It is vital to sort through them in order to truly heal. Rather, I’m talking about not wallowing. Wallowing is a surefire way to remain hurt. It’s like leaving a bandage on a wound when it really needs to be out in the open, and scab and scar over. Wallowing is also a roundabout way of engaging in denial. It’s a state of waiting for someone to step in and help, rather than doing what you need to do to save yourself.

I decided that keeping my ex in my life was only going to continue to hurt me. It was reopening the wound over and over again. It wasn’t allowing me to move forward. It was keeping me stuck. It was a question of whether I should remain cut up, or cut him out.

Then my ex sent me a message that nearly literally made me see red. My decision was already made, but he unwittingly chose the moment I would rip off that bandage. In my fury, I finally told him what I should have said months before.

I was crushed and uplifted. I was pumped. I was exhausted. I was proud. I was liberated.

It was the start of my new life, one in which I did not accept anything less than the treatment that I truly deserved.

In order to get what I truly deserved, I needed to “run as far as I could in the direction of my best and happiest dreams across the bridge built by my own desire to heal,” to paraphrase Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things. I needed to pursue what I wanted and deserved. And the first step was getting rid of anything that ran counter to my best and happiest dreams.

Staying in touch with a liar and a cheater at the expense of my happiness and my wholeness was not worth it. Not at all.

Netarts to Cape Meares
On the hike from Netarts to Cape Meares. I felt much lighter after tearing off that bandage. © Jenni Denekas

When I cut him out, I gave myself license to enjoy the rest of the world. The next day, hiking from Netarts to Cape Meares, I was singing and frolicking. I was pensive at times, too. But I saw more, I relished more. I felt lighter and fuller. I was free.

The final portion of my trek was better due to my decision, and my life since then has been better, too. I am happier, I am more whole, and I have found love again.

All this would not have been possible without that first step of shedding what wasn’t serving me. Doing so took over 200 miles of hiking and thinking and gaining strength. But I got there. I am still moving forward, I am better for it, and I am thankful. And that is what I recommend for you all: Ripping off that bandage, shedding that emotional weight, and pursuing your dreams.

What’s ahead is better than what you’ve left behind. I promise.

Read more reflections in the Moments section.

Check out my Oregon Coast Trail journal.

Rainbow over Coos Bay
Rainbow over Coos Bay. © Jenni Denekas
My Oregon Coast Trail Reading List (Plus a Few More Titles)

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

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

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

The books, in the order I read them:

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

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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

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

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

Love Hurts by Lodro Rinzler

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

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

3. Without a Map, Gary Lark

Without a Map by Gary Lark

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

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

4. Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire at Eden's Gate by Brent Walth

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

Order this from Powell’s or Amazon.

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

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore

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

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

Order this from Powell’s or Amazon.

Dune, Frank Herbert

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

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

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

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

Check out my Recommended Reading page!

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

John Dellenback Dunes
The Oregon Dunes is a surreal place; I can see why it inspired the Dune series! © Jenni Denekas
OCT Journal, Days 24-25: Friends Old and New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jump to the next day’s journal entry.

Check out the previous day’s journal entry.

Read more about the Oregon Coast Trail.

OCT Journal, Day 0: Greyhound Bus Conversations

OCT Journal, Day 0: Greyhound Bus Conversations

Before I even began my hike, I heard some thought-provoking life stories on the Greyhound.

Day 0: Busing from Portland, Oregon to Smith River, California. Will begin hiking tomorrow!

My Big Ol' Pack
My big ol’ pack. 58 pounds according to the scale at the Greyhound Station. © Jenni Denekas

The adventure began before I even walked a mile on the Oregon Coast Trail. Traveling from Portland to the southern terminus of the OCT involved about 14 hours on a Greyhound to Medford, and then a small local bus to Smith River, California. A good friend joined me for the start of my journey, and we passed the time on the first leg of the journey by making strange faces in the background of some unwitting college kids’ selfies, sharing tasty snacks, and, well, napping.

When we arrived at the Medford Greyhound station, we had some time to kill before getting on our next bus. After an annoying, unending monologue directed at us by a weird guy who seemed to think he was an expert on hiking, we decided to investigate the library across the street.

We found a nook where we could sit and charge our phones. As we were getting settled in, a young couple pushing a stroller approached us. They were curious about our big packs, and we explained that we were setting out on the OCT. They enthusiastically told us about their own journey on the OCT a couple years prior, and provided some helpful tips. We were smiling from this friendly encounter as we headed back to the Greyhound station to meet our connecting bus.

The friendly driver ushered us onto a small bus emblazoned with a Southwest POINT logo. Inside were comfortable seats, which outnumbered the passengers significantly. We gratefully sprawled out in the back, leaning on our packs.

As the bus trundled out of the Greyhound station, the few passengers riding with us began to ask about our big packs (they are clearly good conversation starters), and we again explained that we were about to begin hiking the OCT.

Hike selfie
My friend and I, bright and early on our first day, ready to set out!

A strong-looking, quiet man with slightly weathered features began telling us about his parallel journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,600-mile route from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border. He was taking a short hiatus from the trail in order to attend to a business matter. He owns his own business, and had left a friend in charge for the duration of his hike. The man explained that he checked his phone calls and emails whenever he came upon towns, and would periodically bus home as needed, and then rejoin the trail where he left off.

This was interesting enough, but then he began to open up further. He explained that he had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and that he was fulfilling a lifelong dream while he could. Again, this man was somewhat quiet and understated about his story, but he seemed to imply that he didn’t have much time left. Nevertheless, he was logging 20-30 miles a day, and living off beef jerky and bars. He explained how he had adjusted to eating on the go, and no longer ate the standard three meals a day that he was accustomed to at home.

My friend and I were left in awe of this man’s quiet strength – mental and physical. He said a lot with few words, sharing a fascinating story that inspired us at challenging moments on the trail in the ensuing days. I’ve often found myself wondering since then if he is alright, and wishing I could remember his name.

A younger man, probably closer to my and my friend’s age, had a very different demeanor, but an equally interesting story.

At first, he simply seemed like a cheerful, happy-go-lucky person. He was alternately singing along to the radio and animatedly chatting with the bus driver. I noticed that his gray t-shirt and gray sweatpants seemed brand-new, not unlike his pristine, white sneakers. That was a slightly odd detail, but I didn’t dwell on it.

Soon he moved towards the back of the bus, and continued to alternate between singing and chatting, this time with the other bus riders. He talked a while with this high school-aged kid who was apparently trying to become a professional surfer. Eventually he began asking my friend and I about our big packs, and he expressed interest in doing a big adventure like that one day, too.

As we approached Cave Junction, the happy-go-lucky guy began describing an amazing jerky shop just up the highway. He hurried to the front of the bus again and asked the driver if we could make a quick stop there. After some negotiation, he finally convinced the driver to give us a few minutes at this shop. A group of us tried a few delectable, free samples, and the cheerful guy ended up paying for everyone’s jerky. He even bought some for the bus driver. We thanked him and returned to the bus.

The final stage of the drive was filled with more chatter and singing from the happy-go-lucky guy, and a bit of nausea and car sickness on my part. I laid out across the back seats of the bus, with my head resting on my pack and my arms over my eyes. I listened to the lively banter, smiling slightly.

As my friend and I neared our stop, we heard the cheerful, gray tracksuit-clad guy tell the high school kid to not make the same mistakes he did. That today was the day he was released from jail, and that he was headed home and going to turn his life around.

No wonder he was so happy!

I don’t know what he did, and I don’t think that I want to know. I just enjoyed his happy-go-lucky demeanor, and was intrigued at the fact that my friend and I encountered him at such an interesting, pivotal moment in his life. Also, I had chosen to do the OCT partly due to an assortment of unbearable challenges in my own life, and this served as a good reminder that I actually have it pretty good – at least in some ways.

Mostly, however, I was just glad to learn about these people’s stories. I have thought about both of these Greyhound bus buddies a fair amount since then, and I hope that they are happy and well.

Jump to the next day’s journal entry.

Read more about the Oregon Coast Trail.

Learn more about Oregon Coast Trail Transportation.