Day 4 - Ecola to Elk Flats - Fear and a Night of Firsts

Mileage: 17.55

 

I was awake before bird song. A light rain had began. It pinged off my cuben tent making a neat sound. I felt really happy, I was dry and warm and cozy. I laid there for a while, the rain cycling from good and steady to light drizzle and back again.

I gathered up all my things in my tent. Arranged my clothes, dug around in baggies, put my rain shell on. Stuffed everything in my pack and stiffly walked towards the one of the shelters. Light was barely breaking and I avoided using my head lamp. During the night a few people got up to pee and had shined their lamps into my tent by accident, I had no idea that cuben was so reflective. Also, I wanted to develop my ability of seeing well in the dark.

I went back for my tent and then spread it out to dry a little on the table under one of the shelters. I made a neat breakfast of vanilla whey, a gluten free coconut based granola with greens added to it some how, raw hemp seeds and a packet of instant coffee. I added a little water to this and it was so good! The rain came down harder. I sat for a while, looking at my route for the day. My goal was not to push myself too far and get a tent site at an RV/tent park in the northern most part of Cannon Beach.

Today I was going to try and work with the tide to get around a point. To get around it, it needs to be a negative tide, which I was lucky enough to have happen today. 7:32am will be its lowest.

I hoist my pack and round the pit toilet to the trail. It's still slightly dark and my mind wanders to cougars. I clack my trekking poles together periodically to make myself feel better.

The trail is stunningly gorgeous and it's misting lightly. I round corners with views of the shore line and wind blows and clouds swirl around me. I feel great and I'm wet, but totally happy.

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I see so many neat plants. Most noteworthy was what I think is wild Angelica. Plants in the apiaceae (carrot) family can be tricky to identify and can range from super edible and delicious to deadly poison (poison hemlock for example!). I keep brushing by the big leafy plant and it releases a beautiful sweet and spicy scent. I find one that's gone to seed, and I roll one of the seeds between my fingers and bring it to my nose. It's intoxicating. A few yards down I notice that some of the plants have been cut. Someone was gathering them, so it must have been Angelica.

Wild Angelica? 

Wild Angelica? 

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I pick up speed as I can see the beach I'm about to move on to. I see my first OCT blaze! I drop down to the beach and start heading to the point. There's tidal pools with star fish and sea anemone. Folks with big fancy cameras. I'm leaping over water rushing between pools, then I realize... I went on to the wrong beach! I walk back and find the OCT trail on the other side of a parking lot. I might miss being able to cross the point due to my wrong turn.

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I climb up into the headland on a small narrow trail. Getting views of Cresent Beach and Champmen Point, the spot I was aiming to get around with the low tide.

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I'm taking a selfie for Daniel when Katelin rounds the corner followed by John. We walk and talk for a bit. I learn that she's a massage therapist from the Portland area and John writes and adventures. Apparently we all live just a few blocks from each other in Portland! While refilling water bottles in a parking lot before picking up the trail, I asked for their picture and if I can mention them on my blog, they oblige. John gives me his card (which I would lose by accident later on and they would find it on trail and give me some shit for) and asks if he can mention me in his book. We agree it's a fair exchange. They're cute together. Katelin is bright, snarky and curious. John has a dark and witty sense of humor and knows interesting obscure facts. We exchange numbers to stay in contact. Having them out here is comforting to me and makes me feel less alone.

They hang back to cook some breakfast, while I pick the trail back up. I put in some Cocorosie, their Grey Oceans album. It's suits everything so perfectly. I like beach walking to an extent, but I love the headlands and forest more. The narrow salal choked dirt path with thimbleberries, alder, fire weed, foxglove and some kind of artemisia growing here and there. So rich.

I drop down out of Ecola park on to a road into Oregons most famous coastal town and beach, Cannon Beach. A man and woman pull over in a red suv and ask me a tone that sounds offended, "what's up there? Why is everyone driving up there?" I tell her there's beautiful trails and beach access. They drive off.

I come upon a little family flower and firewood stand on the side of a property. No one was there and you just leave money in a box to take what you want. I'm noticing this is a common system out here. It was really cute and I imagined the family was too.

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I walk through a neighborhood of holiday houses, through a park and over a bridge. I see a sign saying ORGANIC COFFEE. Naturally I stop, needed to regroup and find the RV park. Plus, coffee.

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The staff was great and very curious about my trip, they told me the RV/tent park called the Sea Ranch was just across the street. The place was adorable. I sat with a giant coconut lemon scone and an iced Americano, while I watched a little girl deadhead flowers in front of the cafe.

 

I made my way over to the office of the Sea Ranch and immediately I had a bad vibe. It was packed, and a woman with two badly behaved Great Danes in muzzles were making a ruckus near the office. So many people, very loud. 

I very gently and quietly walked into the office, bells chimed my entrance. A woman sat in an office looking at a computer. She was ignoring me.  

"Hi, I'm hiking the Oregon Coast Trail and I was wondering if you had room for me? I'm very low impact and have a small tent, just for one night?"  I asked.

 "WE HAVE NO ROOM AT ALL GOODBYE."

Well then. My heart sinks a little, now my sleep situation is sketchy again. I decide to wander through Cannon Beach.

"BUT DADDY I DONT WANNA EAT A PUFFIN BABY!"

So. Many. People. Kids, families, foreigners! And very obvious Portlanders. I wait outside Bills Tavern, until they open. I'm going to mull this over a beer. There's a few beach spots I need to scope out. Katelin and John say they plan to round Hug Point before or around 7:30pm and that they're aiming for stealth camping in Oswald West. It's been closed off to campers for years now. I loosely plan to try and meet up with them

I down two beers and a cup of clam chowder. The server notices I've used the ice from my water to rub on my ankle, she kindly brings me a bread bag of ice and a towel. It's mildly inflamed, just needs a little cooling action. A random guy who I can tell is a little buzzed asks about my trip and invites me to stay with his kids and another man at the RV park. I politely decline.

I buy some sun screen and hit the beach. I'm fuzzy from the beer and feel awkward. I decide not to drink and hike ever again. I sit on the hard packed sand and empty my shoes of sand and clean my feet. Entering a beach means lots of sand in your shoes, there's no way around it. I stand and hoist my pack, continuing down the beach.

I need music to drown out all the humans, so I reach for my phone in my right hip pocket and... ITS NOT THERE. My life line, my blogging device, my communication tool! Trying not to panic I jog down the beach, looking for it. I see two teenaged boys hovering over it's bright orange case, I shoo them away like some kind of holiday scavenger children. SAFE, I think to myself.

I weave and dodge through people to Grimes. Feeling fuzzy still and like I'm lacking the B part in my point A to B. Beach or going stealth in Oswsld?  To stealth camp, means you're hiding basically and that normally you shouldn't be there in the first place, aka: it's illegal.

The sun is warm and heats you up, but the air is cool. More and more I think of the beach as desert. No drinkable water, highly exposed, can be deadly, sandy.  Today I'm not very excited about it. For some reason I feel kinda down.

I reach a few of the suggested sleeping spots. It's still 4th of July weekend. People are everywhere and drinking. A high tide will peak at about 1am. The beaches here are shorter, many with high cliff walls. I don't know how far up the water will come and I feel very uneasy about the beach. 

I nap in the cliff shade several yards from Hug point. In the late 19th century a road was chipped out of this point, so that stagecoaches could round it at low tide. I hope to spot Katelin and John, it's later in the afternoon and I figured they'd be around soon. Mostly, I didn't want to camp alone that night.

Hug Point

Hug Point

5:30 approaches and I'm getting antsy. I see two backpackers far down the beach, but it doesn't look like them. They're staring at me pretty hard so I wave. I realize its Jenny and Yaffa, two backpackers I met the night before, they're on the last leg of their 3 day OCT hike. They approach me and ask about where I'm staying.

"Either down the beach a little ways or I'm heading to Oswald West. Right now I'm hoping to run into Katelin and John."

They decide the stay on the beach in a dangerous looking cove. Some friendly surfers offered the three of us a spot on their deck not too far away if the tide came up too high. I didn't like the sound of any of it so I decided to haul into Oswald alone. Either I missed them, or they found another place to stay. I felt a little lonely and slightly stressed about it all. 

I walked fast down towards Arch Cape, cut through a beach access, through a neighborhood and back on the OCT. A suspension bridge was the entrance. Dusk was falling and I was looking for one thing only: a spot to sleep. But the woods here creeped me out, it was steep, too close to the neighborhood and full of blowdown trees.

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No spot seemed OK. I hiked deeper and deeper. It was a steep trail. I crossed highway 101, tension was mounting. All I could think about was drunk people wandering in off the road and fucking with me, like that second night on the beach I had a day prior... Only in the woods, these creepy dark woods I shouldn't sleep in. I texted Daniel my distress, a few delivered and then I lost service. Great. 

I found three possible spots, none of which I could pitch my tent. Maybe one. The road was about 50 yards away and the trail was easily accessible from one end. It was the entrance trail to Cape Falcon. I was highly distressed, especially with no service - which I'd had no issues with till now. I've never stealth camped, I've never cowboy camped. My green thruhiker fears and inexperience taking me over. I walked back and forth over an area about three times, my stress not letting me think clearly. 

I stopped. It was getting dark and I was in a fold of the forest that got little light to begin with. Mosquitos were out. I thumbed through my mini tarot cards I brought for a moment such as this. "What do I do? Where do I sleep? I need clarity right now. 

The Knight of Pentacles. Don't move, stay where you are and get on the dirt. OK. I can do this, I can do that.

I go back to a spot down at a level point of the side of a gentle slope. It's mossy and I need to move some deadfall, I'm trembling slightly in the growing dark and I feel foolish, stupid, incapable and like a giant wuss. I think about what could get me out here. I lay down my ground sheet, the cuben detachable floor of my tent next to a log, my sleeping bag and pad, headlamp and knife. I slide into my bag and the moment I lay back I am stiff as a board. I feel like a rabbit in the bushes. Frozen.  

As cars pass on the highway it sends an apocalyptic feeling long cast of light through the whole forest. It moves and is so strange. I hear fireworks. Silence. Twig snap. Woosh of the wind in the canopy above. More car lights and hissing tires. Mosquito in my ear. I put my trucker hat over my face. The mesh letting me see and breath but not get bit.

Somehow in all of this and looking up into the sky between the trees, listening to the air move through the woods. Hearing the huckleberry bush brush my pack. The scent of loam and moss, rotting red cedar... I begin to relax. To my surprise, I fall fast asleep. Cradled in the arms of the rich forest floor.


The unforeseen expense of having to stay in a hotel for two days due to a stressed and injured ankle has me running low on funds for my trip. If you would like to support me, if you like my writing and would like to help support running this website, I gladly accept donations! Your support is very deeply appreciated.

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