I'm up to the delightful sound of bird-chatter all around me. In the city this doesn't happen, and I cling to the sound. I slept well and cozy, even though I was right next to a lake and sleeping next to water like that makes me nervous (because animals). I sit up groggily and sip coffee water while I look at my maps. Lots of road today. Actually, mostly road. Actually, all road. Great. But, where there's road there's towns and where there's a town there's probably good food.
I pack out quickly. I'm getting better at breaking everything down and stuffing it away fast as can be. I have to poop, so I decide to use the vault toilets, that just happen to be right next to the camp host. I come out of the wooded trail and out into the pavement. As I walk towards to toilet, the elderly camp host man in his uniform glares at me. I nod and smile at him to break his icy gaze, but he just stares. I walk very quietly and carefully into the bathroom, do my business and swap out some clothes.
And then I haul ass out of the campground and into the road. For ever and ever road. I see no cars. Just litter and the odd engine sounding from ATV folk down a sandy road.
I turn out towards Highway 101. I can see the bridge I've gotta cross a mile or two away.
The tide is out and it smells rotten, but wonderful. The moon is hanging low in the sky and reflecting on the water.
As I make my approach to the bridge a truck full of wildland firefighters pass by me. Leering with their sunglasses, rough hands, tanned skin, dirty beards, tobacco stained lips. My eyes roll to the back of my head when they make their pass and I spit into the road. Reminding me of my horrid days of Tinder hookups, when, for a period of time that was all that I attracted. Men who culled trees and beat fire and dug ditches and seems to find more of their masculinity in the work. I remember their names and our moments together. How enthralled I was and either they would ghost me, or I would ghost them in some kind of sick fuck/love game. I don't do Tinder anymore.
I shake it off. I'm over one bridge and then another. I'm entering North Bend.
The little town is quite cute and quaint. The streets are lined with old beautiful homes with ornate wood work and I wonder about their rent prices and how it compares to Portland. I google a coffee shop. I find a book shop with a coffee shop inside of it, called, not surprisingly, "Fair Grounds"
I'm less than a block away. A man with rotted out teeth, wild eyes, and various pock marks rides a shitty bike past me and stares for far too long. Meth.
I wander into the book store. A young goth girl greets me. Suddenly, in the confined space I realize that I am dirty, smelly and strange looking. But I don't care. I order a lavender honey latte, iced and blended and a breakfast burrito. I hook up to the wifi and pound out a blog post. A group of women are sitting across from me, knitting and complaining about their husbands. The coffee drink I got is too sweet, but I drink it anyway, knowing I'll burn it off on the road.
I gather my things and hit the street. I plan to hitch at some point when I can find the right spot, probably the connecting road to Charleston. I have to walk through part of Coos Bay though and my aim is Sunset Bay State Park. My guide book says to expect a soggy tent site.
I weave my way through the little town. I can smell the meth all around me. I can see some crusty cyclists on the road and they wave at me. I cling to them. Oh cyclists! Who understand and know what I am doing right now! I see a Safeway food store. I stop because I want more magical KT tape and some food. I wander the isles aimlessly. Nothing seems good. I pack out the KT tape and a few chicken tenders which I eat as I walk. A mother and daughter twisted on meth are trying to buy cigarettes at the front counter. I see several burnt out RVs in the parking lot.
This town is so meth, I think. I am on edge and wary.
I pound my way down one road and the next, waiting for the moment where I can hitch with luck. I'm on a long stretch of suburban road and I wonder, can the hive mind of meth infiltrate my own mind?
A rattling Ford Taurus drives past me on the opposite side of the road. "HONEY YOU NEED A RIDE? IT'S THE LAST ONE YOU'LL GET. THE LAST ONE YOU'LL EVER GET!"
I need to get the fuck out of here. Ahead of me is a man, and he's walking with an aggressive swagger. If you know meth, you'll know this walk. I slow myself so that I do not pass him.
I roll into a Grocery Outlet store and fish around for some cardboard. I draw up a sign that says, "CHARLESTON" and I put all my best feelings into it. I vision the person picking me up, they're kind and nice.
I walk a little ways down the road and find the perfect spot. I drop my pack and hang my sign. One car, two cars. I see a women give me a sympathetic face and she pulls over sharply in her new black and fancy Jeep Wrangler and then I am magically flying! She asks me what I'm up to, and I give her my story. She tells me she's an event coordinator and usually works in major cities. She moved to the coast and spends her weekends thrifting and junking. She's a very nice lady.
We roll into Charleston where she drops me off in front of a convenience store. I wander inside feeling like I should want something but nothing seems good. I check my GPS and can see the State Park isn't too far away, so I wander my way onto the road and begin my walk, again.
Eventually I emerge into a small bay of sorts. It seems so hidden and tucked away. It's busy, but it isn't at the same time. The way the cliffs surround it builds a protective swimming spot. It seems special. How have I not heard of this place? I linger for a moment and watch loud families and kids playing around, but I want to find my camp spot.
I approach the booth and a young blond man checks me in. A dark haired man is working on the other side of the booth who has a distractingly deep voice and seems oddly familiar, but I can't place it. "You're hiking the Oregon Coast Trail?" asks the blond man.
"I am, yeah" I reply. I'm shuffling my achy feet, handing him my debit card and leaning on my trekking poles.
The dark haired man turns and recognizes me, "heeyyy!" he says at me.
I then realize why he seemed familiar. "Oh yeah, I know you from Instagram! We talked and stuff, that's right."
"I never work the booth, so this is kinda cool," he says.
"Yeah I had no idea you worked here. It's nice to meet you. What was your name again?"
"Rider." He says. He had reached out to me a few weeks ago when I began my hike.
We nerd for a minute or two and I wander back to my tent site, plucking jam like thimbleberries on the way. Baby crows are everywhere being fed by their parents, sounding like they're being comically choked to death. It's both amusing and annoying. I find a nice site by a small creek I can't see but can hearing it running. I pitch my tent in the dusty dirt and dump all my gear on to the table. Wondering if I should cook dinner or shower first. I want a shower so badly.
I wander into the bathroom and wash my grey shirt and socks. An elderly woman next to me looks at me realizing I'm doing my laundry in the sink and gives me a pitying look. I feel satisfied by this and smile at her, which seems to make her uncomfortable. One luxury I packed myself was Dr. Bronners lavender soap with a bit of well aged patchouli added to it. It smells good and comforting and seems to blend well with hiker smells like BO and sweat. I spread it all out on the table in the bright sun to dry.
I take an inventory of my feet, they're not doing too bad. I have a small blister on my heel and a deep one on the ball of my foot. My shoes are wearing out ridiculously fast and I'm kind of annoyed about it. My arms and cheeks are red and hot feeling, I got a lot of sun yesterday. I see a small bite on my inner thigh and I'm picking at it when Rider comes up behind me, "you chose a good spot," he tells me. He's escaping the oppressive booth work. I feel a little awkward about openly grooming myself like this.
I clip my toenails while while he makes words with his mouth at me and I absorb them. I wonder if that's an inappropriate thing to do during conversation, toenail clipping? He assures me its OK. We learn a little about each other. He's a nature nerd, who went to school for park management and conservation. He works in the park seasonally. We had followed each other randomly on Instagram a few months back. He wears thick black rims and has a commanding but warm and friendly presence about him. He's handsome and because of it I avoid prolonged eye contact.
He offers to help shave off some road miles for me and we agree to meet out front at 7am the next morning.
I gather my things and go for a shower. I walk into the first stall and am confronted by a small and humorous human looking poop in the middle of the floor. I walk my way barefoot into the next stall. It has a detachable shower head, oh yes. I melt under hot water and castile soap. I can't seem to scrub away the dirty spot on my ankles. I wet my hair and stand there for forever until someone knocks at the door, while complaining about the poop in the next stall. I wash my shorts and decide to wear them wet until they dry. I come out feeling amazing, like I have been reborn into a new good smelling human being.
I had bought a few 25 cent therapeutic herbal infused coconut oil packets in Florence and decide to try one of them out. It smells like peppermint and very mildly of chilis. I rub it all over my feet, legs, arms and run some through my hair. I braid my hair, put on my sun dried clothes and feel absolutely amazingly relaxed and glowing. The best I have felt all trail.
I wander my way back on out towards the bay to see if I can pick up a signal on my phone. I encounter Rider again, on his way to clean the shower poop that seems to have caused a ruckus.
"These are the best showers I have used all trail," I tell him as we pass one another.
I find my way down to the beach and watch a group of young teenagers yelling things about 9/11. I am perplexed. They're throwing sand at each others faces.
Were you even alive during 9/11, I wonder. Was I this much of an asshole at your age?
I can't really get signal, so I walk back to my camp sight. An elderly Dutch couple had just arrived and set up next to me. We chat for a bit and cook dinner with each other. I learn that the husband, whose name I cannot remember, was the former city planner of Amsterdam.
"Wow! That had to be a serious big time job!" I tell him, while stuffing tuna mac and cheese into my mouth.
He shrugs, "No, not really. I loved my job. It was wonderful."
He asks about where I'm from and I tell him Portland.
"Portland is not an architecturally beautiful city, but it is still beautiful in it's own unique way. I love the focus on local foods and farms, we don't have much of that back home." He tells me.
I find this surprising. Their tent is strange and European and huge. Night is falling and the blast of carbs puts me into a delirious euphoric state. A coolness has crept into the air and I burrow into my sleeping bag like a critter and crunch around on my sleeping pad until I am comfortable. The park is loud and noisy, but doesn't stop me from falling fast asleep.