I stumble from my tent and towards the food lockers. I think I have a slight hangover. Yes, I have a slight hangover. The magical USB ports in the lockers didn't charge my battery pack overnight for whatever reason. I'll have to stop into town to take care of that.
I'm back in my tent and stuffing my things away when I hear a scratch at my storm doors, "good morning senorita" says the elderly man from the day before. As I fold my tent up and organize my things on the picnic table I can see blood splatters from the night before, when Josh had cut his knee open.
I head to the bathrooms. A mother and daughter are complaining to each other as I wash my pee rag in the sink and brush my teeth. I'm on the road and headed towards Bandon. I walk my way down back roads and along an estuary, which I can smell. I reach the edge of town and quickly begin searching for a coffee shop. Eventually I find a nice little hole in the wall, bustling with cyclists, construction workers and tourists. I buy a lemon crinkle cookie and a huge black coffee. I charge up all my things while trying to write out a blog post.
It's terribly hard writing blog posts from a phone. I send Carrot, a thruhiking hero of mine a DM via Instagram asking her how the fuck she blogs regularly from the trail. She's been cheering me on and giving me protips. She's hiked the PCT twice, has done the CDT and various other long trails. She wrote a book too, called Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart.
"How do I keep up with the blog on trail? HA HA HA HA HA (dark laughter)" She types at me. "The secret is that is SUX and I would much rather be sleeping!"
Yep. I'd rather be sleeping too. There is no secret. I must rethink all strategy. I look at my maps and realize I am getting a very, very late start to my day. I have 20 miles ahead of me and it's approaching noon. I have no idea what the beaches will be like, and this stretch even has a backpackers site in the dunes due to it's remoteness. I feel cocky and find myself in a "don't give a fuck" mood.
Suddenly my phone rings. It's my business partner freaking out over some minor work mishap. I am amused by what he worries about and what I am worried about right now. I help clear the matter up as best I can from the distance I am at.
"This is REALLY fucking important," me tells me. I am standing in a tight ally watching a daddy long leg crawl across the blue green wall.
"Do you know what else is really fucking important? Me not listening to your pissing and moaning because I have to hike 20 miles, it's noon right now, find a place to sleep before it gets dark and HOPE I can find a place to sleep. I know that you don't understand what any of that means. Have a GREAT day." And I hang up on him. We go way, way back. We were in a relationship together for 7 years and he was verbally and on occasion physically abusive to me. He hates that I am out here, doing my own thing. And I hate him for everything that he has done to me. This is my entry point into my eventual escape from his controlling and manipulative clutches.
I shake it off.
I run upstairs to the bathroom. It is lit incredibly well from the large window. I sit on the toilet and the sea air comes through, mixing with coffee smells and baked goods. I sit and absorb this strange and euphoric moment. I feel so happy. It's probably just the sugar and coffee. I take a selfie while sitting on the toilet.
I'm back on the road and winding through the town. I'm looking for the Price N Pride I saw on my google maps. I want fruit and potato salad and whatever fried things they have in the hot deli case.
I wander into the brightly lit store. I have to leave my pack at the front counter. I don't like this, but I oblige and take out my clothing stuff sack to change from my cool morning gear to my threadbare shirt and shorts. I get a pack of blueberries, a pizza stick, a pound of potato salad, three jalapeno poppers, three mac and cheese bites and a bag of chilli cheese fritos.
I change in the shitty bathroom. I take a picture for Daniel and send it to him. I look ragged, but somehow, my unplucked eyebrows, my hairy legs, my red cheeks... I feel beautiful and most myself while hiking.
I pause outside the grocery store and ready myself. I must walk hard and fast, no stopping until I reach my end point. I feel like a cracked out race pony stuck in the gate. Here we go! I put my headphones in and play early Deerhunter with their ragged twang. And I'm off.
I drop down into the beach. It's otherworldly. The marine layer is lifting and hovering and moving like ghosts and spirits across the beach. I weave in and out of it. I enrobe myself in the cloud and feel like I am walking in the sky. I laugh as I swish my hand out, touching the ether.
As usual, I am stopped by rock formations. One rock looks like a wizards hat, another looks like a hard cock jutting up out of the water. How do rocks make me feel lusty?
The beach becomes remote, but ahead of me I see a person with trekking poles. I squint, I cannot see very far because I left my glasses in a bathroom some 100 miles back. I grow excited. Is this a hiker?
"Are you a thruhiker?" A small, middle aged squat man says to me.
"I am! Are you also hiking the coast?" I look and look, but I don't see a pack on his back.
"Yes! I am thruhiking it. Been doing 40 mile days for a while now!"
"...But where's your pack? How are you?..." I ask. I feel like I need to turn him in circles to find his pack.
"I'm driving and doing it by sections!" He tells me, so excitedly.
I am instantly annoyed by him. He talks about his suffering and the mileage and how off Bonnie Henderson is with her numbers. "You'll laugh when you hit the New river." He tells me.
This was a concern of mine, crossing this river during high tide could be dangerous.
"You'll laugh!" He says.
"I'll probably just take off my shoes honestly" I say. I want to leave this conversation. I am tapping my trekking poles impatiently at the sand, hoping he gets the hint I don't want to chat anymore.
"What? Why? I've been walking through rivers with my boots on for weeks..."
Because you've got a fucking car to go back to you jackass, I think. You aren't thruhiking. You're not carrying a pack. What we are doing is not the same, so don't even try. He rambles at me, and I want to leave. I want to see this laughable river I gotta cross.
"It was nice talking to you, but I gotta make miles! Good luck to you." I say and walk away.
I set off again and let the marine layer envelope me. I feel like some kind of wizard.
I can see the waves ahead of me and how they're rolling in. The tide is coming in. They bite in at the sand, they bite my heels and feet. Fuck fuck fuck, I think.
I can see it ahead of me, the New river and her outlet into the sea. Before me, the sand is in waves and wet. If you stand too long, you begin to sink. I take my shoes off. I can see a man fishing and a boat bobbing in the water of the river. Well, there's only one way to know.
You have to take your shoes off, or you'll loose your shoes in this sand. Fuck that guy.
I wade in and the sand eats me up to my knees the water consumes me up to my hips. I can't breathe for a moment. Like when you stick your face out of the car window. Gasp, gasp, gasp. Oh, now I can breathe. I won't be sucked out into the ocean.
I stop and clean my feet and put my shoes back on, on an old driftlog covered in gooseneck barnacles. I eat some potato salad, fritos and blueberries. I wonder about how far I'll be able to get. Does it matter? I can sleep in the sand. But can I? Snowy plover restrictions say you must stay in only wet sand. Trucks sometimes patrol the area.
The sand becomes very steadily too thick to walk in as I cover miles. I stumble and hope that at some point it'll be over but it isn't. Every step is a disappointment. I look for hard sand, and I can't find any. The beach slips away so steeply into the crashing ocean. The walking is so, so hard.
I am angry. I am so, so very angry. I stop for a moment to face the ocean. I try very hard to control my thoughts and calm myself but it just doesn't work. She is heaving and angry. In the distance I can see buzzards hovering. I drop my pack in the middle of the desolate beach and, while thinking and knowing that I am loosing time, I wander towards whatever it is they feast upon. I can't see anything.
Then I see it, the long line of a carcass buried under the sand. It looks like fur. But it is the body of an old whale. I find vertebrae the size of big buckets. Massive. I find the jaw bone and I stroke it. My fury hovers below me. I know I need to keep moving, but this? This whale... I wander back to my dropped pack. Sad, alone, a little scared on this highly remote beach. The sky looks like a storm.
How long will this go on?
Eventually I can see the foot marks of other hikers, and the feet of a dog, trekking pole poke marks even. Hikers! I think. I remember Kate telling me about a thruhiker with a dog an I hope I can find them somewhere.
The light begins to wane. Mama ocean is not friendly today, she roars at me.
You cannot see it, but a mist permeates the air. Suddenly I am wet. Everything is wet. I have to tuck away my phone so that it doesn't get soaked. The walking is so hard in ways I can't explain. My feet seek hard ground. I snake my way around the beach. I find good spots and then loose them. I wonder about these feet that have walked before me. I hope that wherever I end up, I can meet them. That they will also know my frustration.
My ankles are consumed by sand.
I am treading water. Sand water.
I see the backpackers site sign just off the dune and I wander up to it. I see tennis balls, a rubiks cube and a fire pit. The sign says to expect to walk only 1.7 miles per hour in this sand. Nothing feels good about it and I am low on water. I turn away and decide to find the county park about 7 miles away.
I will do this I think. Fuck it. 1.7 miles per hour? Fuck them and their statistics.
I maintain a pace of 3.2 mph in the ankle deep shit sands. I am walking so hard. I feel it in my hamstrings, my feet become claws that catch the earth and my glutes and hamstring pull me forward. It hurts deeply in a way I've never experienced.
Eventually, the sand shows the feet of hundreds of other people and I can see a path out of the dunes. I want to cry and eventually, I do cry as I hit hard ground and it feels so foreign to be propelled like this. Like I have a loaded spring in my feet when just seconds earlier it didn't even matter. So efficient now.
I enter the county park camp grounds. I am frantic feeling, it is dusk and growing dark.
I find the camp host. She can see my distress and tells me that I can camp next to another woman who has a rather large site with room to share. I thank her profusely. I meet the other woman, who tells me about the peculiarities of her little dog as we walk in the gloam to her camp site. She is up wind of me, "you smell so good!" she says.
I laugh manically at her. "That isn't me I think! That is something else."
She blinks at me.
I set up my tent in the growing dark. I need someone. I call my boyfriend Daniel while I pitch my tent.
He's drunk and lectures me about how I need to respect the ocean after I complained about it and the sand. It's powerful in ways I can't imagine apparently. Only days before he was laughing at me for being wary of a dangerous incoming tide.
"You know, I've been walking next to this ocean for about 25 days now. You think I don't know it already? You laughed at me when I said it was dangerous."
I hang up with him, discontent, frustrated and sit in my tent. I realize I am just in a bad mood and that I need to be alone. At least I have this potato salad and blueberries. It's pitch black and my headlamp shines on my meal. I see a huge spider next to me. I can't scoop it out so I kill it and feel terrible. I bed down on my sleep pad. I am so exhausted. Something pops at my head.
A huge grasshopper... and another spider.
"Where did you all come from? Whatever, just don't fuck with me please?"
I am so tired that I don't care. I can hear the ocean roaring and I am cold and wet. Everything feels like a clam. But soon, sleep takes me.