I knew today was going to be a long one. I had road, beach and headland to traverse. I didn't dread it, but I knew it was going to be a long and tough day.
I loaded up on my granola whey breakfast and bought a 20oz coffee, knowing I'd need it. I was antsy.
I had to rebottle my stove fuel, because I bought a big can of it when I arrived in Pacific City. The little bottle that came with my soda can stove system always leaked if it was on its side or upside down. I got an 8oz juice bottle, drank it all, rinsed it out and used that as my fuel container.
I moved out on to the road, crossed a bridge and picked up 101. I'd spot the odd cyclist and they'd wave at me. They knew what I was doing, I knew what they were doing. I passed through lush green hills and had lovely views of our coastal range.
I looked out into a field to see to coyotes trotting by. One of them stopped and stared at me, I stopped and stared at them.
Trot trot trot. Stare.
Trot trot trot. Stare.
We did this for about 5 minutes. I was making them nervous and I wondered if I was somehow agitating the wrath of a trickster God.
I keep walking. My feet sore, but feeling much better. I gotta pee, so I duck into some bushes.
Just as I'm about to round a tight shoulder, I see the good ol' OCT blaze. It's nice to see these, it doesn't always happen often.
I cut down the road and off into the beach access. I can hear loud booming music. It's the Christian camp Wi Ne Mah, they're having some kind of church service. This was a camping option for me in my guide book.
On the beach, I look north and see where I was the day before. That's always kinda neat, seeing where you were and where you're about to go - via beach and headland.
The beach here is strange. It's deeply slanted and a thick grain of sand. Even walking in the wet sand, your foot sinks. I slogged like this for a good few miles. In front of me loomed Cascade Head, part of which is an experimental research forest. I had a bushwhack up there, and a trail to follow that wasn't on my gps and vaguely mentioned by my guide book papers. Katelin and John had done it already, so I knew ahead about the trail not being complete.
The beach was thick in some parts of broken and smoothed seashells... Well on their way to becoming sand. They make sound like pottery or glass clinking together when you walk over them, or bush them with your feet. You could hear this sound in the waves too, in a spot thick with broken clams and oyster shells. I stopped for a bit to run the broken shells through my hands and listen to their sound.
The sun was intense. It stays between 65-70 out here, but with the sun and moving, it feels warmer.
I was approaching a large forested rock right off the beach, a creek crossing and a neighborhood I had to cut through and go up in in order to find this unmarked trail.
I was low on water and found an empty beach house with a hose to fill up with. The nozzle shoots off and gets my feet wet. A man is painting the house next door and listening to hair metal. I hope he doesn't tell me to get, as I'm in a "residents only" neighborhood.
"Cascade Head is a beautiful hike. It has a very rare coastal meadow you can walk through!" He yells at me. "Where are you hiking to?"
"Just south of Brookings."
"Well, you be careful out there."
I smile and move on. Always this is the question, "alone?" Yes, alone. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, it's dangerous. But that's part of the deal when you adventure, right?
I cruise through the rich neighborhood of regular homes and vacation homes. People driving by in their fancy cars. It's all uphill, and rather steep too. The views off the Cape are incredible. I can't imagine living up here. I can see some great places to sneak off and stealth camp.
I watch a deer slip between some bushes and walk into a dense patch of short scrubby pine. I watch her form move through the trees, she lays down. I fix my eyes on her, to see a dozen more eyes looking back at me. I found the deer napping place, right in the middle of a neighborhood.
"Have a good sleep ladies," I say as I plod on up the Cape.
Most of the incline is gained in the neighborhood, then I'll find the trail and navigate over one side of the cape to find the other.
I hit a dirt road, I round a corner and see the water tower I'm supposed to see. But I don't see an obvious trail entrance any where or bushes that looks like they'd lead to a trail. A man is walking his dog near me.
"Hi! Excuse me, do you know of a trail that's near here?"
"Yeah, it's around the back of the water tower. Forest Service tried to shut it down, but people still use it from time to time."
Now I see it, the faint foot path around the perimeter of the tower.
It goes up a bit, and rolls through the usual coastal Sitka forest. Mossy, ferny and green.
The trail is soft, nice and narrow. This is the kind of hiking I like. I glide through quickly and quietly. I can hear the ocean down below breaking on the cliff rocks. Patches of sunlight are spilling through the forest and I really wish my camera could pick up the denseness of space, light, darkness... But there's no way. I stop and smell and listen, this is a good place.
Thimbleberries and huckleberries are everywhere. Nurse logs being the perfect fertile ground for new Sitka and shrubs. I see the massive Sitka and wonder how long ago they sprang from a nurse log. How there's lay upon layer of death and life in here.
The trail is getting more narrow now and is muddy. You can see the old maintenance that was done, downed trees being cut to clear the path of the trail.
I dip down into a tiny creek crossing. Balancing on the rocks and my trekking poles.
I round the corner and come upon the biggest huckleberry bush I have ever seen. The size of a small tree and heavy with berries. I pick some and they taste wild, tart and like sunshine.
Eventually the path becomes obscured by neck high vegetation. The trail is down there, but you can't really see it through the brambles and thick ferns.
I hop another tiny creek and move up into slightly more open forest. A lot of large down trees have been cut to make stairs and path ways. I cut through weird deep root tunnels and pockets.
I'm coming through a lush patch of skunk cabbage when I see a beautiful small meadow and the trail picks back up through the forest.
Gradually, it becomes faint enough that I'm not on a trail anymore. But I can see where it stops and where many others have made their own path through the woods. It's very faint, but it's there. The linking trail is just slightly south west of where I'm at. I try to pick my way through the most obvious of paths, but I can see where people have gotten confused, turned around and took another way.
Northwest forests are thick and the ground is often comprised of deadfall, leaves and roots. It can be hard to tell where there's solid ground and and not.
I see a flash of yellow orange on the ground. Chanterelles! And a big one too. Too bad I'm not out here picking mushrooms...
I start to get a little worried. It's thick forest and I'm not seeing the trail in front of me. I look at my gps. I know I'm fine, but a tiny panic tingles my spine.
All of a sudden there it is, the trail in front of me. I come down off a long slope and look up at where I came from. Jesus, I think.
I take a tiny detour to see if I can't look out at the point of cascade head. I hear seals barking. The trail is really unmaintained but I come out into a wide open meadow. I turn back to the trail.
I wind my way down the trail and then it's up up up. I feel like it switchbacks for ever and all I want is it to end. My foot, ankle and knees are doing better but I knew this was going to make some body parts mad.
Finally I crest the trail and come into a parking lot. A sign says the trail is close. Who knew?
I move up a road, slightly gaining elevation. My foot and knee are pretty out of it and I don't know how well these next miles are going to be. On top of this, I gotta hitch out on 101 into Lincoln City and I'll be losing light in about 5 hours. I still have another trail to find and I gotta be able to walk to the highway too if I want to make it to the hiker biker camp.
Anxiety mounts. I have no idea if I'll make it to camp tonight.
I find the Cascade Head preserve trail. I get cold easily while I rest for a moment, my body was so warm while hiking. I lean in on my trekking poles to shift weight off my feet. I think about having to possibly stealth camp, and make a mental note to keep an eye on some spots.
I start to head down the trail. I was really looking forward to this area, but the thought of not making it to camp and the growing pain in my knee make it hard for me to enjoy it. I'm worried, not relaxed.
The forest is gorgeous and rolling, carpets of gentle green plants everywhere amongst the trees. I'm sad I'm hiking it under pressure and these conditions, I don't feel I'm appreciating it enough.
I come out to one of the most spectacular views I've seen yet. The clouds swirl just over my head like strange spirits. The grass moves and bends in huge golden waves. I can see sand bars and the movement and shape of the ocean.
A huge open meadow like this isn't something you get to see on the coast, this is a rare and special environment.
You're definitely not allowed to camp here. This would be super illegal, since it's private land someone had graciously opened to the public.
I curve around the head and make me descent. It's very steep and my knee is getting louder in its protest. Every time I swing it forward to step, there's a sharp pain on the outer left side. A tendon?
I have to lock my knee out and kind of swing my leg at the hip to keep the pain from being agonizing. I go on like this for a while.
Much of my frustration over the pain has been burned off, and I'm in a delirious state. Oddly euphoric even, endorphins likely?
I spiral and start to cry a little. I miss my boyfriend like crazy and I'm recessing within myself to all the things that comfort an protect me. I have a lot further to go and I'm approaching 20 miles already. This will definitely be my longest day so far.
Day hikers pass me, they cheerfully say hello. I both envy and dislike them right now, I can hardly muster a smile to them.
I continue to drop down crossing a road and back on the trail, then to a crossroads, where I can turn out to the highway towards 101 and Lincoln City. Getting to town seems like an absolute impossibility at this point. I need to get a ride or I am doing to do some bad damage to myself.
A car slows to let me cross. Fuck it, I think.
I wave them down, a heavily tattooed man and woman peer out the window of their Prius.
"Hi there, I hope this isn't weird. I'm long distance hiking the coast and I just did 20+ miles. I'm kind of injured right now and if you're headed to Lincoln City, could I get a lift? I'll throw you a couple bucks for the trouble."
They whisper between themselves, he shrugs and says "yeah why not," she looks at me. "Yeah ok, we're headed that way anyway."
"Oh my god, thank you so much. You seriously saved me. Hah! This really means a lot to me."
"And I was complaining about hiking 8 miles today," the lady driver says.
The ride is very silent after that. I think they're high. The warmth and propulsion of the car puts me in a daze. I don't care about awkward silence. I don't care. These kind humans are giving me a magical car ride and I am so relived. My trekking poles get dirt on the floor of the car. I feel bad about that. I realize how dirty I am. Part of me cares, part of me gives no shits.
They drop me off at a Safeway parking lot while they run in to buy the mashed potatoes they were craving.
Only two miles to camp! This is OK, you're doing this and you've made it.
I'm craving sugar, carbs, fats... Something. I didn't think about the Safeway. But I see a Starbucks I want a coffee bullshit milkshake thing that I know they make. I need this, I think. I stumble in off the windy street.
I don't know how to order coffee here. How do I do this? The barista woman seems confused as I am about what I want.
I get a 16oz s'mores frappuccino. I am both loathing and amused at myself for buying this.
The shop is empty and I drink it in under 5 minutes. Then I feel like vomiting. I knew this was coming. The barista offers me a free sample of another drink. I die a little inside but accept it graciously. I throw it away when she turns her back to me.
I sit in the bathroom waiting for the sugary milky nausea to pass. When it does, I pack up and ride the sugary high all the way to the hiker biker site.
The town is adorable as I walk through it. People stare at me from their cars. I approach the kiosk of the state park. The woman is sympathetic and understanding and I don't even have to tell her anything, she just gets it.
The hiker biker site is situated on a knoll, next to a neighborhood. It's the weirdest spot, but I don't care. There's tons of cyclists there and I'm kinda glad, they understand the struggle in a way.
A Canadian couple chats me up, "you're hiking this? You're insane." This is the usual response from cyclists.
I pitch in for a beer run, make mac and cheese with intense focus, take the best shower of my life, pop some ibuprofen and pass out in a warm, dry, carb euphoria and pain laden bliss.
My bum ankle had me laid up in a hotel for two days, this unexpected expense put a dent in my budget. Interested in supporting me, buying me a coffee or a burger? You can donate here!