OCT | Day 18 | Cape Blanco to Humbug Mountain

Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco is a great place to stay but you have to like the wind. Even though the morning was sunny for us, there was a constant breeze that kept the temperature cool. When I spoke with one of the volunteers at the park, he said that the winds at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse can reach 125 mph in the wintertime. And today they expected gusts as high as 50-60 mph. What a wonderful day to be back on the beach!

Wind warnings notwithstanding, we were ready to get moving. So after breakfast, we loaded up our packs and made our way out of the campground.

The forest trail quickly dumped us onto a beach access road leading south.

Here, we rounded a corner and caught our first look at the clear blue sky and the seemingly calm ocean. What wind? Looks calm to me!

Further along, the road narrowed as it led us down a steep decline to the beach.

With such clear skies, we could easily see Port Orford ahead and Humbug Mountain (our destination that evening) looming in the distance. Plenty of walking today but seeing our goal made it seem a lot closer.

But first, we had to make it across Elk River.

Elk River

As we were leaving the campground, we ran into another PCT fugitive who had been forced on to OCT by snow in the Sierras. He had spent the night on the beach about 4 miles south and had successfully crossed the Elk River earlier that morning. Supposedly, the water was only thigh-deep for him, which we took as good news since he was a relatively short man (compared to me).

The river was less than 2 miles down the beach, so we knew we’d get to test our theory soon.

SIDE NOTE — According to descriptions we read, the Elk River is easy to cross at low tide. Of course, that’s helpful information if you also take the time to figure when low tide occurs on a given day at a given location. I’ll let you guess whether we did that or not.

When we arrived at the mouth of the Elk River, we were at the peak of HIGH tide.

That said, we thought we could still cross. We found what looked like the narrowest section to make an attempt.

Following our normal routine, we took a vote to see who would try to cross and I lost 4-1. Again.

Here, you can see how far I got. What you can’t see is how much deeper my next step would have been. Or what the current was like. I might have made it across (while getting very wet) but everyone else on the team would have needed to swim to follow me.

So I turned around…

This was a disappointing moment, especially since the damage was completely self-inflicted. As a next step, we either had to wait a few hours until the next low tide or track back the way we came. Keep in mind that this was the second time this had happened to us this week (see Day 15). Grrrr….

In the end, Jill wanted to wait it out but the rest of the group voted to head back to camp and regroup. So we shouldered our packs and turned to face the wind.

Yes… the wind. In case you forgot the foreshadowing I did earlier, here’s a little video that Jill took of our walk back up the beach. By this point, the winds were a steady 35 mph with gusts up to 42 mph.

Cape Blanco to Port Orford

Once we were back at the campground and had spit out all the sand we swallowed, no one really wanted to jump on the highway to walk down to Port Orford. So we phoned a friend…Cavalry Jim to the rescue!

Jim drove us down to Port Orford where we grabbed lunch at TJ’s Cafe. Port Orford has several great food options, including the Crazy Norwegian for fish and chips (next time).

From TJ’s, we walked to the end of town and back onto the beach.

Battle Rock

At the south end of Port Orford lies Battle Rock Park. It was named in honor of a conflict back in the 1850’s between the local Qua-to-mah Indian tribe and a small group European settlers who had retreated to the rock to defend themselves.

We didn’t have time to climb across the narrow walkway to the rock but we found plenty of amazing sights further down the beach.

Rocks and caves and arches…. oh my!

This could be an interesting place as the tide rolls in…

From Battle Rock, we continued another 2+ miles down the beach. The tide was low so we didn’t have any of the issues we experienced earlier in the day and walked straight to Rocky Point.

Rocky Point

The approach to Rocky Point is easy to find as the landscape immediately changes from flat sand to a rock field.

At this point, we knew we’d be scrambling, so Rhonda and Jill were happy. What we didn’t realize is how much scrambling we’d end up doing before we’d see sand again at the south end of all this.

Per usual, Rhonda took the lead.

The rocks started out small but grew larger and larger…

In some cases, we could see this trek could be a lot more dangerous if the tide started coming in.

As we navigated around each corner, we expected each time to drop back down to the sand, only to find that someone moved the goalposts further down.

Along the way, we could look up and see the path that cars on the 101 would take.

Then it would be back to climbing from rock to rock.

This is one of my favorite photos from Jill showing the extent of the ascents and descents we were doing.

Eventually… finally… the hard rocks turned to soft sand again and we stumbled into a narrow path that led up the hillside.

We were covered by a green canopy again as we hiked back up to the highway.

And we’re out! With Rocky Point in the rear view, it was time to get to Humbug Mountain.

Humbug Mountain

Fortunately, we had less than a quarter-mile to walk on the 101…

Before we found a sign to Humbug Mountain and turned east.

It had been a while since we’d seen a proper OCT badge, so it was encouraging to see one marking our route up the Old Coast Highway (i.e., an old version of the 101).

I definitely liked this version of the 101 better, especially the lack of cars.

We had plenty of climbing to do on the 2-3 miles to the state park.

The views were spectacular, alternating from coastal landscape….

… to quiet, sheltered paths.

When we arrived at the state park, we found a super-nice location with tons of room to set up our tents. So much room, in fact, that we ended up inviting a group of bikers who were on their own coast journey to share our spot.

As Jill called it, we had our own little “Hiker Biker Party” that night. We made our respective dinners on the big table, built a fire, borrowed some marshmallows from the campers next door and had a great time.

All in all, even with the disappointing start to our day, things turned out pretty well in the end.

Day 18 mileage was 11.3 with 699 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 275.8 miles.

OCT | Day 17 | Bullards to Cape Blanco

Bullards_yurt.jpg

Most of us weren’t feeling all that gung-ho when we woke up in our yurt in Bullards Beach. Jill was ready to hit the road but the rest of us decided to make Day 17 an easy day and see a bit more of Bandon. The good news is that we could do both. Jill could hike down early, explore the beach west of town, then meet us midday. So, she left early and the rest of us lollygagged around a bit before heading out.

Bullards to Bandon

It was a short walk out of the park before we had to cross the Coquille River. The only way to do it is to walk down the 101 and over Bullards Bridge. I learned that the bridge is one of only two vertical-lift bridges on the Oregon Coast, although I believe it hasn’t been operated in a long time.

Once you get on the bridge, the road is a bit narrow. Thankfully, there’s a nifty system to try to keep bikers and pedestrians safe. Hit the button on either side and a set of lights starts flashing to warn motorists to slow down. Funny enough, our taxi driver from the night before told us that hardly anyone pushes the button but we made a point to see it in action.

Once over the bridge, we turned onto Riverside Drive, which is a nice bypass to get us to Old Town Bandon.

On Riverside, the traffic was sparse enough that we felt pretty safe, even with a non-existent shoulder. Safe enough for me to run across the road and take a quick “action shot.”

Proving once again that off-the-beaten paths are often the best, we stumbled across a set of driftwood dinosaurs along the way. Friends remarked later that we should have recreated our dinosaur video from Central America with them but without Joy and Jill Kyle, it wouldn’t have been the same.

Further down the road is the Bandon Marsh Refuge where we stopped to take a few photos.

Here, I tried to grab a nice panoramic shot but the final result didn’t come out as good as it looked in my mind.

Bandon

Once we got to Bandon, we headed straight for the Face Rock Creamery for another round of cheese sampling. We figured they wouldn’t recognize us as we had our packs on this time! We probably should have had a round of beers as well but it was early.

In my mind, you have to hand it to a place that stocks great craft beer next to the RXBARs (see below). At 7 Devils Brewery back in Coos Bay, they seem to make a point to showcase Face Rock cheese in their food so it only makes sense that Face Rock would return the favor.

We ate lunch at Brewed Awakenings, which sounds like a coffee shop but had a nice fish and chips.

McKay’s Market was our next stop where we stocked up on supplies before calling our buddy Jim again. He took us south, picking up Jill along the way before taking us to the game park.

West Coast Game Park

The West Coast Game Park calls itself a “wild animal petting park” with lions, tigers, bobcats, leopards, and several other species for visitors to see and even interact with. Really cool place. Our trail angel Karen told Miranda about it the day before and she really, really wanted to go.

I decided to skip the fun to catch up on my blog but all the girls went inside. There were plenty of photos of their adventures, so I felt like I was there.

Go here to check out Jill’s blog, which has a lot more pictures.

Cape Blanco

After the game park, we called Jim once again and he took us down to Cape Blanco. Originally, we were going to stay at Boice Cope State Park but we’d heard great things about Cape Blanco. We wanted to get a jump on the mileage for the next day too, so we made a switch.

Cape Blanco was interesting because it extends further west than any point of land in the lower 48 states, except for Cape Alava in Washington. What this means in practical terms is that it gets WINDY!

Thankfully, we were reasonably sheltered in the campground, although we had a constant breeze.

When we’d look straight up into the trees, it was clear that we didn’t want to be outside the forest. I captured the video below to remember what we were listening to all night as we laid in our tents.

That night was also probably the coldest we’d been at camp over the entire trip.

Fortunately, our fire-building skills had improved since Tahkenitch Campground. Or should I say that our fire-building got dramatically better after I was relieved of duty and Christy put in charge?

Day 17 mileage for the group was 3.6 and 12.5 for Jill with 83 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 264.5 miles.

OCT | Day 16 | Sunset Bay to Bullards

Sunset Bay

Day 16 presented a quandary for us. We needed to get from Sunset Bay to Bullards Beach. The most direct route led south over Cape Arago down to Seven Devils Road but here was no “good” way to follow that path without trespassing on private logging trails. Our other option was to hike three miles back down to Charleston and start at the beginning of Seven Devils Road, adding even more miles. We knew that way would work but were depressed about having to backtrack. Do we roll the dice or play it safe?

Thankfully, we had a trail angel named Karen who came to our rescue and offered a third option.

Trail Angel Karen

We actually met Karen the night before on our way into Sunset Bay. She was out walking her enormous Newfoundland dog in the neighborhood and struck up a conversation with Jill and Christy while we were walking by. Karen confirmed our suspicion that there was no good (i.e, legal) way to get around Cape Arago but she offered to drive us back to Seven Devils Road herself. Score!

Karen met us at our campsite that morning. Not only was she nice enough to chauffeur us around, she even brought fresh bananas for us to eat. Wow. And instead of simply taking us back to the start of Seven Devils Road, she actually took us to a point that was close to where we would have ended up had we taken the “forbidden” route. Karen worried that we’d be upset about missing out on the miles. Not a worry. Considering that that part of Seven Devils Road looked just as dangerous as the road we used to get to Charleston the day before, we were happy to bypass it.

Thank you, Karen! You must come visit us in Phoenix some time. Dinner’s on us!

Seven Devils

Even with the assistance from our trail angel, we still had to bend the rules a bit when we saw the big “Road Closed” sign blocking Seven Devils Road. Karen told us that there was landslide about a mile down that prevented vehicle traffic but hopefully we could get around it on foot. We figured we could.

Fortunately, one nice benefit of a closed road is a lack of cars.

And while we found the road to be definitely impassable by car,

We had no issue climbing over the obstruction.

I learned later that the name “Seven Devils” was used by early travelers to describe the difficulties they faced when crossing the deep ravines along the coast south of Cape Arago (click here for more background). Fortunately, we had a road that made the journey a lot easier for us. For the construction guys cleaning up the landslides, though, the name Seven Devils might still apply.

After 5 miles of ups and downs, we found our way to the Seven Devils State Rec Area.

Fivemile Point

We ate lunch at the rec area, huddling close to the only building we could find (the bathroom) to avoid the wind.

Our next milestone was Fivemile Point but we had a little time to kill before a low tide would allow us to get past the point. We took an extra-long lunch break and meandered a bit when we started heading south.

Back on the beach, we encountered a thin fog that obscure our path for a while.

The fog largely dissipated as we approached Fivemile Point, so we ended up with nice clear views of the rocks.

We hit low tide perfectly and had no issues scrambling around the point.

Bullards Beach

From Fivemile Point, we walked another 5 miles down the beach, crossing Whiskey Run Creek along the way.

Once we reached Bullards Beach State Park, we left the beach and hiked to the campground.

We wandered through the wetlands for much of the trail, so it was extremely helpful to encounter a series of low bridges and platforms along the way.

Eventually, we made it to our home for the night, our last yurt on the coast!

Bandon

Since we arrived at camp relatively early that night, and we had a yurt to stash our gear, we took the opportunity to head into the town of Bandon to get some dinner.

First, we stopped at the Face Rock Creamery for cheese samples, ice cream, and beers.

We then headed to the Bandon Brewery for pizza and local brews.

Here, we stuffed ourselves silly with pizza while enjoying the excellent Camp 7 Coffee Porter and My IPA on tap.

Day 16 mileage was 12 with 255 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 252 miles.

OCT | Day 15 | Oregon Dunes KOA to Sunset Bay

Oregon Dunes KOA

Because of DuneFest, the Oregon Dunes KOA was the busiest campground we’d been to up to that point. We seemed to be the only backpackers there and likely the only ones who went to bed before 10 PM. Trust me —Getting to sleep when your fellow campers are still revving their ATVs, chopping wood and generally carrying on has its challenges. We eventually made it work though.

Our plan for Day 14 was to hike to the beach on one of the dune roads then turn south. In retrospect, we probably should have asked around a bit before executing this plan but we seem to come up with all our good ideas after the fact.

Route 1341

From the KOA, we walked south on the 101 to Hauser Depot Road where we turned and headed west. Within a half-mile, we turned onto Sandy Road near a set of railroad tracks.

After another half-mile, we found the ATV road that promised to take us to the beach.

From here, the road became very sandy and the walking quite difficult.

The road was well-used by a host of ATVs, Razors, and sandrails that would zoom up on us, often at high speed. Thankfully, we could usually hear them coming so we could jump out of the way.

We learned the drill quickly — Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle through the sand; hear the engine roar; scramble up to the edge of the road; wave at the riders as they passed. Rinse. Repeat.

At a few points, there were water hazards to contend with.

Rhonda was our expert tracker in these cases. She would find the best way around the obstacle and the rest of us would follow. Typically, Christy would yell at me to do X and then I would Y but thankfully my stubbornness didn’t result in any unplanned mud baths for me.

While following the road, I tried to sync our path with the trail map on my phone. This worked well for a time but we eventually started to drift. At first, this wasn’t a concern as we were still on the road. When we walked by a lake that was nowhere near the road on my map, though, we knew we had a problem. We decided it was time to flag down an ATV rider and make sure we were going the right way.

That proved to be an educational conversation.

According to the riders we talked to, we could get to the beach from where we were but we’d have to walk several more miles first. Every other route was blocked by water. I’m guessing we could have learned the same thing had we asked someone at the KOA but it was a little late for that.

Based on flooded roads we’d already encountered and the marshes surrounding us (see below), the warning we received from the riders seemed fair.

Unfortunately, what all this really meant was that we’d just walked the last 2-3 miles for nothing. We had to turn back. After some colorful language, some minor weeping, and gnashing of teeth, we flipped around.

Back at Hauser Road, my Garmin watch displayed 5.4 miles but we’d officially made ZERO progress. Worse yet, we wasted a bunch of time we couldn’t get back. It was “fast-forward” time. We felt like we were cheating but our options were limited at that point. As we waited for a taxi, we figured we could drown our disappointment at the 7 Devils Brewery in Coos Bay.

7 Devils Brewing

7 Devils Brewing was one of my favorite stops along the coast. The restaurant was beautiful and the beers and food were excellent.

After enjoying the excellent Blacklock Porter and Green Fig Stout, all was ok in the world.

Coos Bay to Charleston

After 7 Devils, we walked to a Bi-Mart store in Coos Bay to get some supplies, then it was on to the town of Charleston. We took a shortcut on Libby Lane, which proved to be a bit treacherous at times.

As you can tell, we didn’t have much of a shoulder to use on Libby Lane. When cars would come by, we would often have to dart off the road to let them pass. It was a nerve-wracking walk, to say the least.

After another 8 miles, we finally made it to Charleston.

Walking into town, I snapped a picture of a statue that might only make sense to those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s — Charlie the Tuna!

Charleston to Sunset Bay

Leaving Charleston, we only had 3 more miles to get to Sunset Bay, starting with a nice climb.

We did run into a magnificent hydrangea bush along the way.

And eventually, a much welcome sign announcing the entrance to Sunset Bay State Park.

Walking the Cape Arago Highway to the park, we met a woman named Karen who would soon become a “trail angel” for us. I’ll save that story for tomorrow’s chapter though.

Sunset Bay State Park is very close to Cape Arago, some of which we should have been able to see from the beach. Unfortunately, the fog obscured our view.

Grrr… Perhaps tomorrow.

We made camp in the park, ate dinner and even had a nice fire. The fire was courtesy of the park hosts who were impressed enough by our journey that they gave us a bundle of wood. Even better, we had a neighboring camper donate a burning log as well as his fire-starting skills to get us going. We continued to be blessed with trail magic.

Day 15 mileage was 17.9 with 902 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 240 miles.

OCT | Day 14 | Tahkenitch to Oregon Dunes KOA

Tahkenitch to Gardiner

Leaving Tahkenitch, we had a long day of highway walking to get down to Winchester Bay. Originally, we wanted to walk back to the beach from the Tahkenitch campground and head south but we couldn’t track down a boat to take us across the bay from the Umpqua North Jetty, so we had to get there on the 101.

As we hiked down the road, it became very clear where all the mosquitos in Tahkenitch came from. We were told that southern Oregon had more wetlands but it was plain to see from here.

After leaving the campground, the highway climbed steadily for the first couple miles.

From the top of the hill, we could see Threemile Lake in the distance.

We then descended into the town of Gardiner.

Gardiner to Winchester Bay

From Gardiner, we crossed two bridges to get over Bolon Island then on to the town of Reedsport.

In Reedsport, we ate lunch before stopping in Safeway to get coffee and a lighter for our camp stove. From Reedsport, we had more highway walking to get us down to Winchester Bay.

Winchester Bay

Winchester Bay was a great little bayside town that we decided to make our final destination for the day.

We had 13+ miles of highway walking already behind us and very little appetite to do more that day, so we found a good spot to rest our weary bones and arrange a fast-forward.

The Double D Sports Bar & Grill provided a perfect spot.

Here, I logged my 900th unique beer on Untappd with the Chinook Redd from 7 Devils Brewing. Miranda made me a nice napkin placard to commemorate the occasion.

While at Double D’s, we met another set of thru-hikers, Brett and Shannon, who had been hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) but ran into snow in the Sierras and had to detour to the Oregon coast to keep going. 

From Winchester Bay, we took a taxi south to eliminate 14 miles of monotonous highway walking and get us to camp at the Oregon Dunes KOA where we planned to pitch our tents for the night.

Oregon Dunes KOA

Little did we know but we arrived right at the KOA in the middle of DuneFest 2017. Five seemingly out-of-place backpackers surrounded by a multitude of ATV, Razor and sandrail enthusiasts.

The bonus for us was an ice-cream social that started soon after we pitched our tents. Who knows if it was something special for DuneFest or a regular summertime activity at the KOA but we enjoyed it just the same.

It was a great ending to another fun day in the OCT.

Day 14 mileage was 13.4 with 673 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 222.1 miles

OCT | Day 13 | Florence to Tahkenitch

Florence to South Jetty Road

It was a little harder to get up and going after the long rest day, especially when it seemed like the rains promised the day before simply waited until we were ready to leave. Ah, well! I’m sure we’ll be wishing for weather like this when we get back to Phoenix. 

Walking out of Florence, we crossed over the Siuslaw River on a drawbridge. The wind picked up as we got out over the water, threatening to steal all our hats. Fortunately, my hood was up which kept it in my possession, not the river’s.

Once we were over the river, it was a little over a half-mile to get to South Jetty Road where we “officially” entered the Oregon Dunes.

On South Jetty Road, we had another 2.5 miles west to get to the beach.

As we got closer, it became clearer how different the landscape might be for us over the next 3-4 days. Lots of sand to cross!

Personally, I had very little idea what to expect of the dunes. At one moment, I thought we’d be shuffling like bedouins across a vast desert. Another part of me pictured us huddled under massive dunes while ATVs and sandrails flew over us. Either way, I wasn’t imagining this would be my favorite part of the journey.

Thankfully, one virtue of the rain is that it made the sand tacky and much easier to walk on.

And once we climbed over the dunes onto the beach, we were back to walking on the hard-packed wet sand near the water. The sky was again grey and the air full of mist as we turned toward the south.

South Jetty to Siltcoos

The big adventure today was two river crossings — the Siltcoos River and Tahkenitch Creek. Up to this point, we had crossed every river and creek by walking across a bridge or by hopping across rocks and scattered driftwood. Neither of those options would be available today. To cross the rivers in front of us, we would need to wade across, hopefully without needing to swim.

Before worrying about a river crossing, though, we had 5+ miles of beach walking to take care of.

At mile 6.2 (from Florence), the endless sand of the beach suddenly turned into a great shell field that stretched to the horizon.

On nearly every beach we’d walked over the last two weeks the ocean had washed up shells. In fact, it became a bit of game as we walked along, crunching the shells with our shoes or trying to stab them with our trekking poles. But nothing like this.

At some points, the sand disappeared under a carpet of shells.

Literally millions of shell fragments covering the beach.

Siltcoos River

A few miles later, we found the Siltcoos. At the mouth of the river, the water looked relatively shallow but the crossing was wide. We thought we might have an easier time if we walked upstream. 

Upriver, the crossing was narrower but we couldn’t tell how deep. We took a vote and the result was 4-1 in favor of me figuring out how wet we would actually get by wading here.

Fortunately, while the water was certainly cold, it didn’t extend much above my knees. I made it across successfully to wait for the next victim, Jill, to give it a shot.

She did great as well.

Then, the other lovely ladies of the OCT…

Once across the river, we found a nearby log to put our shoes back on.

Within a minute or two, another hiker in the grasslands behind us started yelling to us that we weren’t supposed to be there. We yelled back, letting him know we were moving on which seemed to satisfy him at first. After only a few minutes, though, he returned to yell that we had to go now! So we immediately picked up our stuff and walked barefoot back to the ocean.

Back at the beach, we found another log to finish putting on our shoes, only to see a U.S. Forest Service truck coming down the beach straight toward us. Christy and Rhonda and I went out to meet them.

Unfortunately, we had inadvertently wandered into an area that was off-limits to hikers. From March to September, a threatened species of bird known as the snowy plover nests on much of the Oregon coast, making the beach a protected area in some places. We had seen barriers along the beach and were careful to stay away from them but that wasn’t enough. The Forest Service let us know that the barriers were merely a “reminder” that people needed to stay out of the ENTIRE beach where the birds nest. That meant everything except for the “wet sand” (hard-packed, underwater at high tide) that was closest to the water. Yikes!

If we had actually entered the beach at this location, we would have seen signs that would have warned us. Since we walked in from the north, we never saw the signs.

After a stern talking-to, and a warning about potential $50,000 fines, we apologized profusely and promised to follow the rules going forward. That seemed to satisfy the Forest Service volunteers and they let us go.

Here’s a picture of one of the little guys that got us into trouble. She might have been yelling at us as I snapped the photo.

Siltcoos River to Tahkenitch Creek

From the Siltcoos, we had another 5+ miles to get to our next crossing at Tahkenitch Creek, ideally with fewer incursions into snowy plover territory.

Along the way, we reached our 200-mile landmark. Miranda etched a magnificent sign into the sand to commemorate the occasion.

Then came the Tahkenitch. We were old river-crossing pros by this point, although this creek was a little deeper. Long legs prevented me from getting wet but you can see that some of the group didn’t enjoy that advantage.

On the other side of Tahkenitch Creek, we had to look around a bit to find the trail inland to our campsite. Around a corner, I spied a place whether others had scrambled up a tall cliff. Thankfully, someone left a rope to aid those who needed to climb. Note the handy loops tied into the rope.

Once at the top, we found one of the signs we missed coming into the snowy plover area earlier.

Sufficiently done with creeks and threatened birds for the day, we headed up the trail.

As the trail meandered its way around, we could see Tahkenitch Creek curving back north.

Heading east, the Tahkenitch trail eventually worked its way back to the dunes.

Where we got a full measure of walking through the powdery sand.

Then back to the forest for our last stretch.

Here, we encountered our first real mosquitos on the coast, which was a bad sign heading into the evening.

After another mile or so, we came out of the forest at Tahkenitch Campground.

Unfortunately, the mosquitos followed us in, which didn’t provide a super fun experience for us trying to get the tents up. Dinner was made and consumed very quickly before we dove into our tents to escape the man-eating insects.

We tried to start a fire but all the wood we could find was wet. You can tell how impressed Rhonda is with my fire-starting abilities!

Day 13 mileage was 19.9 with 899 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 208.7 miles

OCT | Day 12 | Florence 

Florence

Day 12 was a rest and recharge day at the midpoint of our trek. We did laundry, shopped for groceries and got to spend some quality time in the town of Florence.

The Lighthouse Inn was our base of operations. Cute little place, close to Old Town Florence.

We booked the family suite which provided two rooms and an adjoining bathroom. The front of the inn had a big great room where guests could congregate and we could take our Day 12 pictures.

Florence had a nice town-wide shuttle bus called the Rhody Express. $2 to ride all day. We made great use of it. 

We did laundry where Jill and Christy got to model the latest in thrift store fashion.

There were puzzles to do while the laundry spun.

We stocked up on food and ate and drank. Some of our group napped and others did more puzzles. 

We met lots of great people. Many were fascinated by our adventure so we got to tell our story over and over. It was a nice, relaxing day that put some extra fuel in all our tanks.

We expected a terrible storm with high winds today but it materialized. We got some rain but nothing we hadn’t already walked through already that week. The stay in Florence was well-earned regardless. 

Day 12 mileage was ZERO with NO elevation. Total walking to this point — 188.8 miles. 

OCT | Day 11 | Beachside to Florence

Beachside to Yachats

As we left Beachside on Wednesday morning, we were increasingly wary of a big storm predicted for Thursday and Friday. Weather.com indicated a 100% chance of rain and gale force winds on the coast. Not the type of conditions we really wanted to walk or camp in. 

We planned to pitch tents in Washburne State Park that night then continue on to Florence the next day. Florence provided an opportunity to do laundry, shop for groceries, and rest in a nice, warm hotel. With a storm approaching, though, we decided that we might need that oasis sooner so we restructured our plans to get there a day earlier. 

From Beachside State Park, we had a 4-mile walk on the beach. The ocean was out so there were quite a few tide pools.

 

And more creeks to negotiate.

Att the end of the beach, we could see a rocky headland where we expected to find a trail. As we got closer, though, we weren’t confident we could cross another creek that blocked our path so we found an alternate trail that took us up to the highway.

Highway walking was typically stressful and a little drab but sometimes we’d run into unexpected patches of beauty.

Fortunately, we only had a short stretch on the road before darting into a neighborhood.

As we walked back toward the beach, I was able to snap a picture looking back from the trail that was supposed to lift us off the beach. Looks so easy from this vantage point!

At the end of Salmon Street, we found the Yachats 804 Trail.

We followed the 804 trail south through the Smelt Sands State Rec Area.

Along the path, there were plenty of OCT badges to guide our way.

And more flowers to provide color to the beach.

The 804 trail led us into a neighborhood and around Ocean View Drive to the south side of the town of Yachats.

From here, we walked into town and found Yachats Brewing + Farmstore for lunch. And beers! Yachats featured a lot of interesting saisons that were right up my alley. Too bad we couldn’t stay all afternoon. I had the Barrel-Aged Plum Loyal, which was excellent. 

Just as were getting up to leave the restaurant, we ran into our hiking buddy Tanner from Dallas (graduated Georgetown, going to work at Google). We chatted with him a bit, warned him about the approaching storm, and traded contact info and itineraries before loading up again.

Cape Perpetua

As we walked out of Yachats Brewing, we suddenly realized that we only had 2-3 more hours to get a cab to come up from Florence before the end of the day. We still thought we had time to hike up Cape Perpetua, however, so we hustled down the road to try to get there.

The hike up to Perpetua starts gradually on Amanda’s Trail, which was named to honor a local Coos Indian in rememberance of a dark period in Oregon’s history. It’s worth a quick Google search, if you’re interested in the story.

At the start of the trail, the girls went ahead while I walked down to the highway to get enough phone signal to call the cab company. After booking a ride, I then set off to catch them.

Past Amanda’s Trail, the path eventually gets steep but meanders through some beautiful forest.

At one point, we found an area where the entire forest floor was covered with clover.

Even with all the climbing, we were moving pretty quickly.  The clock kept ticking, though, so I nearly had to run past the summit while taking a picture. 

Once we were at the top, I checked my watch and realized we didn’t have a lot of time left. Worse yet, I wasn’t exactly sure if we were in the right spot to be picked up. I was pretty sure I told the dispatcher to have the driver meet us at the top of Cape Perpetua but I couldn’t remember if I had also mentioned the Visitor Center, which appeared to be further along, if not back down the other side of the mountain.

In a bit of a panic, I left the girls behind and started down the trail, thinking I could get back down to the highway and either meet the driver at the Visitor Center or catch him driving up, whichever came first. Unfortunately, this turned into a near run for me as I raced the clock. God only knows why I didn’t end up in full Superman position at a couple of points. Fortunately, I did make it down to the bottom JUST as the driver was turning off the highway onto the park road. Score!

I’ll be honest and admit that sitting on my butt at that point for the ride to Florence was a pretty nice break, especially as we drove along a bunch of highway that I wasn’t sad to be missing. There were some hikes, like Heceta Head, that we also missed but we’ll just have to come back and tackle those another time. 

Once we got to Florence, we checked into the Lighthouse Inn and headed to find some Mexican food to celebrate another great day on the OCT. Tomorrow, we hide from the storm and take a well-deserved rest. 

Cheers!

Day 11 mileage was 12.8 with 2,051 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 188.8 miles

OCT | Day 10 | South Beach to Beachside

South Beach to Beaver Creek

Day 10 began rainy. By this point, we had plenty of practice walking in the rain but we left a little late to try to avoid being drenched from the start.

Like many of our days, we started out walking out through the woods to exit the state park we stayed at the previous night.

Once we got the beach, we climbed over the dunes and headed for the water’s edge to get to the hard-packed sand.

We had 6+ miles walking along the sand to start, which was obviously monotonous at times but surprisingly interesting at many points.

Whether it was unexpected rock formations, tidal pools or the diverse collection of shells that the waves had washed up, I continued to be impressed by the diversity.

Of course, we had plenty of beach streams to cross as well. Most we could walk through, or simply step over, but some posed a challenging puzzle for us to try to navigate and keep pur feet dry.

For the larger streams, we could sometimes walk upstream to find a natural bridge formed by trees and rocks. Here’s one I climbed over on the way down to Beaver Creek.

 

Just downstream, you can see that the girls elected to take their chances on the rocks instead.

Beaver Creek to Seal Rock

The beach led to the mouth of Beaver Creek where we expected to have to wade across. Thankfully, someone built a bridge we could use instead. According to Bonnie Henderson’s blog, a new campground for Brian Booth State Park was being created here by combining Ona Beach State Park and Beaver Creek State Natural Area. Apparently, they built a nice bridge in the process.

We crossed the creek then headed back out to the beach to walk to Seal Rock.

Along the way, we found a section of beach where the rocks were almost completely covered with bright green moss.

We found one section that looked like a miniature-golf course, so I posed for a picture practicing my putting.

Seal Rock

As we approached Seal Rock State Park, we could see large waves crashing over the rocks in the distance. The beach ended at this point but we walked to they very end to get some photos. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture any big waves but plenty of nice panoramas.

Back up the beach, our exit was a trail up the ravine to the highway.

The road led past the official entrance to the park.

Looking back north from the other side of the cliffs, the rock formation looked to me like a massive seal lying on the beach but I think it’s actually named Elephant Rock.

After a mile on the highway, we returned to the beach at Quail Street.

We then had three more miles of beach walking before the end of the spit at the mouth of Alsea Bay. Here, we took one of the various access trails off the beach into the neighborhood and followed the roads to the Alsea Bay Bridge.

We crossed the bridge to get to the town of Waldport

Underneath the bridge, we saw dozens of seals swimming the shallow waters. Here’s a grainy picture from my camera on maximum zoom.

According to locals we met later, there are times when there are so many seals under the bridge that it looks like a “carpet.” 

Waldport

In Waldport, we stopped at Grand Central Pizza to eat. Here, I had my favorite beer so far in Oregon, the Cavatica Stout from Fort George Brewery. From what I could tell, Fort George only distributes in the Pacific Northwest, so I’ll have to enjoy it while we’re here.


After dinner, the whole group had had enough walking for the day, so we started looking around for alternative options to avoid the three miles of highway walking down to our campsite at Beachside State Park.

Fortunately, Jill managed to talk a couple of the restaurant patrons to help us out, including a very nice guy named Jim.

Finally at camp, we set up our tents and called it a night.

Day 10 mileage was 16.4 with 339 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 176 miles

OCT | Day 9 | Beverly Beach to South Beach

In our original plan, Day 9 was a short stretch, only 10 miles. In the end, we found a few more.

Walking out of Beverly Beach, we met another thru-hiker named Tanner from Dallas. He had just graduated from Georgetown and was taking a month before heading to San Franscisco to work for Google. Originally, he had planned to hike the Washington portion of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) but sections of the trail are still covered by snow. So he came south to do the OCT instead. He was a really nice guy that we would run into again down the trail.

We started out with 2 miles down the beach.

Much of the beach looks exactly the same as other parts but walking down the whole of it really brings out the interesting parts that others might miss.

Personally, I’ve never seen tortoise-shell rocks.

Or grassy “islands” in the middle of the beach.

As Yaquina Head came into view, we took a trail off the beach and walked the highway for a bit.

We were now in Agate Beach, heading toward the town of Newport. We ate lunch at a pizza buffet named Izzy’s then dropped down the Lucky Gap Trail back to the beach.

 

From Lucky Gap, we had 3+ miles along the beach until we could see the north jetty at Yaquina Bay. Here, we found an OCT marker which led us to a long set of concrete stairs that led to the state park.

In the park, we stumbled across a memorial to fisherman who had been lost at sea.

And the old lighthouse, which had only been in service for two years before a bigger one was constructed at Yaquina Head.

Continuing through the park, we turned east and could the see the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Once we walked to the bridge and turned back, we could see both the north and south jetties. Past the south jetty was the campground where we were spending the night.

Before heading to camp, though, it was time for Beer:30 at Rogue Ales’ Bayfront Public House.

Here, we experienced some amazing “trail magic.” While sitting at our table, one of the servers approached us and told us that another table in the restaurant wanted to buy us a flight of beers. Wow! That made our day.

As we were walking out, we got to meet the people who blessed us. It was a couple from the east coast who live on the Appalachian Trail and routinely provide support to hikers there. They were thrilled to have now provided trail magic on both coasts.

After Rogue, we continued down the highway to a convenience store where we bought some groceries. Then, it was on to South Beach State Park where we had reserved a yurt for the night.

Day 9 mileage was 12.5 with 405 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 159.6 miles