I realized in my daze and delirium the night before, that I hadn't paid for my sleep spot in the hiker biker site. I packed up quietly, skipping breakfast and headed out on the short walk to the beach access.
I picked my way through a small creek crossing. Creeks start narrow coming into the beach sands, snaking their way down to the shore and then spread themselves out like veins in a leaf as they disperse into the ocean. They pulse water out as if a heart is lying somewhere up the creekhead... you can see it rushing towards your feet as you pick the spots in the sand not submerged by inches of water. I hop and jump and twist. I get my feet a little wet and continue on.
I'm heading towards an area called Smelt Sands, where in my ripped out guide book pages it says you can see the ocean smashing up against rocks and making a display like geysers. Plumes of water flying high into the air.
My mood is morose, I can't place why I feel down but I do.
I'm walking a virgin sanded beach, it's untouched as I walk into it, except for my feet and it feels like I'm being blessed. I cross up and on to a small hillside and on a well worn gravelled trail.
From the look and feel of it, things are about to get pretty urban.
I'm snaking my way around resorts and beach homes. People are day hiking everywhere and I can see the shape of Smelt Sands looming ahead of me.
"Does that tape actually help your knee?" An elderly woman asks me. I haven't had a proper conversation for what feels like a little while, so I stop to entertain her questions about my KT tape, which I had applied that morning. It's striped across my left knee and from my heel on to my calf up on my right foot.
I walk further down the path. A woman in glasses with her husband and dog ask about my trekking poles. I let her touch them. "They're so light," she says to me. She had lost her vision in her right eye and felt really unstable with just a cane, but she still wanted to hike and be able to move around on trails with security and confidence. She wished me luck and we parted ways.
I came to an interesting spot, that seemed to be the climax of Smelt Sands. There are large rock formations you can walk on and look into the crashing waves. I can see families and fathers with their sons walking in amongst the rock formations. The tide is coming in and crashing into the chasms, causing huge bursts of seawater to fly into the air. You can hear them channelling though and... Swoosh! Smack! Sploosh!
I pick my way down on to the platform of rocks to take a video of where the waves are crashing perfectly and ushering these beautiful jets of water. I steady my phone with its camera and just as I do boom! A wave comes though and soaks me wet.
Where I get surprisingly soaked. Right after I took this a worried woman told me to come in off the rocks (it was flat and safe and the water was low, just jumping through a chasm). She then showed me a monument of where two young men died by a sneaker wave about 100 yards away during winter waves. Never turn your back in this ocean, she will consume you.
I am laughing at how very immediately the ocean rose to meet me like that. You wild, rearing, bucking horse you. I had no idea it would arch up and splash me like that.
As I climb up out of the rock formations I am met again with the woman inquiring about my trekking poles. "Come in off those rocks!" She yells at me.
"It was like being at seaworld!" I yell back over the din of the ocean. I manuver my way back up the path. I get the feeling she wasn't too happy about me being down there, despite the other folks down there as well.
"That's such a dangerous place for you to be." She grabs my hands. Her husband is behind her smiling somewhat apologetically at me.
She directs me to a monument where two young men from Eugene had died from a sneaker wave, not to far from where I was at. We walk together for a bit, she's very concerned for me and my hike and offers me a ride into Eugene, to which I very politely decline. She hugs me goodbye very tearfully. I'm touched by this random pouring of emotions from someone I have just met. We hold hands as we say goodbye and I promise to her that I will be safe.
I make my way up and down and through the trail. Into a neighbourhood where I meet another elderly woman who asks about my KT tape. We walk together a bit.
"My children and grandchildren are always so very embarrassed by me, because I ask people questions!"
"Questions are great, they take you somewhere you might not have been before,' I say to her.
"This is my secret poop spot," she says from behind me. I look over my shoulder as she leaves her two dogs poop bags in a trash can. I thought she meant that was where she took poops and I apologized to her for my hiker brain.
There is no room for shame when you through-hike. You're dirty, you're hairy, you stink, you poop in the woods and you make do. Its perfect. I love it.
I'm coming up to my turn onto highway 101, I stop at a public bathroom and notice my KT tape is starting to fall off at one spot. I walk to a bench near the water and a view point to fix it. A man walks up to me.
"Does that tape actually work?" He asks. I'm a little tired of this question by now.
"Yeah, it's really nice. Totally helped out my pissed off knee" I tell him.
"So, what are you doing out here?" He asks. He's slightly shorter than me and my first impression is that he's a deranged bum. He has very blond hair, blond eye brows and, he seems older than he actually is. He has an odd nervous energy about him, like he had just done something wrong. I look at his shoes. Shoes tell me a lot about a person in my experience. They're vegan style Sauconys. Something about him is off putting and I feel the need to not linger very long around him. Is he a surfer bum? I can't tell what his deal is, I think.
I give him my Oregon Coast hiking spiel.
He tells me about all of these great places I should hit on my way down to Florence. I take note. He tells me he runs a high traffic website and that we should stay in touch. He's living in his van until he can find a cabin in the woods to write. He's getting a phone call as he tells me this.
"Fuck, I gotta take this call... you can email me, mark@(insert very obvious well known .com address here). Good luck out there!"
"Oh, you're that guy," I say as I walk away, a bit surprised.
I'm heading towards the coffee shop he told me about called Green Salmon. Coffee is one of my priorities out here, I wish that it wasn't - because I find a great dependency on it and it can dictate if I have a good day or not.
The little shop is packed full of people. Their menu is impressive and full of special hot chocolates with lavender and rosemary, spices and unique ingredients. I settle for a ginger mocha latte and a regular cup of drip. This will absolutely blast me into hiking oblivion. I charge my devices while I sip the magical gingery, chocolatey coffee elixir.
I change from my button down to my regular grey tshirt in the bathroom. They use peppermint castile in the soap dispenser, it floods the bathroom with its clearing scent and sets off a deeply happy olfactory response in my brain. I walk out sniffing at my hands.
A gentleman stops me outside to talk about cuben packs. This whole town is so chatty, I think.
I hit the road and look out for the hidden OCT signs. I cross a little bridge and can see people tidepooling. My aim is the Cape Perpetua Forest Service campground. I've not yet stayed at a Forest Service site, and I hope that they'll let me in without any problems, or if not... that I can find a good stealth spot.
I'm snaking my way along the OCT route that is hidden up above Highway 101. It feels sneaky being up here, like all the cars down below have no idea there's this little pathway into these beautiful woods. I'm surrounded by the usual thimbleberry, salal and shore pine. I sip the last of my black coffee. I am reeling with a caffeine buzz. "I'm fucking HIGH on caffeine," I say to myself as I stop to pee in the middle of the trail, there's nowhere else to go. I stuff the paper coffee cup into the front pouch of my pack.
I see a small dead shrew and I wonder how it died with no obvious reasons for death.
I'm up! I'm off! I'm flying! Wait...
Why is there a man lying in the middle of the trail?
An obstacle I have yet to ever in my life encounter: a human body I must hike over. A few thoughts cross through my head. I'm not turning around and I'm not going to say, "um, excuse me sir, can you please wake up and move?" The trail is very narrow and I can't really just step over him. I'll have to walk along the left side in the moss and small salal...
I poke his foot with my trekking pole. Out drunk.
One step, two steps. Quietly now. Three steps. Almost there!
"Hnngargfulnuuhh," says the man as I bounce over his head and speed walk my way down the trail.
This I like, I think. Beach walking is cool, but I love the forest more. It hugs you.
I dip and turn over this strange trail section. It crosses a few roads and drops back into the forest. I come to a grassy trail that shoots off to the highway. I gotta pee again, the coffee doing its diuretic duties on my body. I come up to a little sign warning that the monument ahead is under surveillance and if tampered with, you will be issues a fine. The trail I am coming to is called the Amanda Trail.
Reading the story of Amanda puts me into a solemn mood. It makes me angry and sad. Even more so that they had to warn people not to disturb the moment to her. What is wrong with humans?
As I move further down the trail, I see the statue that was made in her honor. I kneel before it for a little while. I breathe deeply and feel the place out. People have left gifts, necklaces, stones, crystals, plants, coins. I dig through my bag of rocks, "tell me which one you like the most," I say to her out loud. I could feel it, the stone I liked the most of course... a small jagged bright green rock. I fish out another, a large egg shaped green rock with little white lines all throughout it. I set these down at her feet. I send a pulse of respect and gratitude through my fingers as I touch the monument and I move back onto the trail. "Thank you," I say. My going is a little sad, as I think about her bleeding feet and the child Julia. A kind of suffering they endured I will never know.
The trail is simply exquisite as I move through it. So green, flashes of bright sun patches pouring through the canopy. Carpets of green. It's not often I feel relaxed or at ease out here, here I do. I see a small Douglas squirrel eating a seed pod, it lets me watch him quite closely. Suddenly he disgaurds the seed and jerks his little body and flicks his tail furiously for my voyeurism. He rips up the tree and peeks out from behind it, scolding me. "You're a fuzzy turd with legs and a cute tail," I say to him and continue on my way up and up. The trail climbs steeper than expected and I'm sweating a lot, but I don't care. I push until it levels out.
There's so much everywhere, I can't take it all in. Skunk cabbage, strange slime mold and fungus. A large patch of bright sun lights up a curve in the trail and I stand it, my face to the sun. I can see and feel the movement of blood under my eyelids. In my darkest moments, often I recess to the woods and forest... hoping the dirt, loam, layer upon layer of death will hold me and dissolve my existence. Or that I will grow into something else. Likely it is the later. To burst forth into growing, that's the hard part it feels.
I move at a good clip. I love trails like this, where I gotta watch my feet and twist and manuver carefully. It's fun to do with with speed and my feet are feeling up to it. My left knee reminds me occasionally not to be too cocky.
I crest over the other side and spill into a parking lot. A tour bus filled with older folks are milling about listening absentmindedly to a tour guide. I move further down the descending trail and take in the view. It's pretty spectacular. I can see the sand being churned up by the incoming tide.
"Pat, I don't get why people are hiking down this trail? Why are there so many people? What's even to see down there?" A man says to his wife.
I encounter all sorts of people on my way down. Smelly young people, wearing too much deodorant and perfume. A cute family and a sweet elderly couple. My head is down and I am moving fast, I just wanna eat some food I think. Some mac and cheese with tuna and maybe a Lara bar for dessert.
I come out on to a paved road and see the signs leading into the campground. I walk about a mile in to see the information board and fee box. $22 a night. Jesus. I find the camp hosts, an elderly couple sitting in the shade of their RV. They're very nice to me as I explain my situation.
"We have a little spot where we let folks like you stay, it's at the very back of the camp in the group tent area. It isn't booked up tonight so you can stay there free of charge." The woman says.
"Are you sure? That's so nice of you."
"Of course, you can relax and there's a big shelter with a sink and lights. This is a little thing we do for cyclists and hikers that come though. You can leave the light on at night if you want. It's right next to the bathrooms too."
"Wow, thank you so much!" I say. This is wonderful. I walk in a half mile to the site and it's huge. A few big old sitka are out there and a small stream trickles by. I see a picture of a black bear digging through someones garbage that has been stapled on the post of the shelter. This makes me tense a little, but I know it isn't much of a deal.
After I set up and put my clothes in the sun to freshen up, a family in a big white van drives by my spot. They take the camping spot closest to me. I bump into the mother in the bathroom and her two 7 year old twin sons. They're on little bikes and zooming around on the roads.
As I make some dinner and look over my maps, the two boys periodically ride by me with very curious eyes. Stopping to stare sometimes and then race off.
I decide to trek out back to the road to see if I can pick up a signal. As I clean up my dinner mess, the boys are staring at me from their little bikes. We stare at one another for a moment. The boys whisper between themselves.
"Hey!" They yell at me. "Do you like seafood?"
"I love seafood!" I reply.
"OK! Stay where you are! We'll be right back!" They speed off on their bikes. They're so cute.
I walk out of my camp area towards the road and one of the boys is carrying a pot with a rag under it. His mother is behind me and motions me to stop. She mouths the words, "he wants to bring it to you!" I stop in the middle of the parking lot and kneel to meet the pot carrying little boy. He opens it to reveal a whole mess of mussels cooked in broth.
"Oh my goodness! Is this for me?" I ask.
"Yes!" He says to me beaming.
"Can I eat them in your camp?" I ask.
"Um... yeah!" The boys say to me.
I am so tickled by this. And the pot smells incredible. I just ate, but I feel like I could eat forever right now. I sit down with their family. Both the parents give me the kind of endearing look that says, "Thank you for dealing with our insane children."
I devour each and every mussel. They have strange hairs on them, I eat those too. I joke with the boys about peeing off boats and backpacks made of marshmallows and chocolate. Mosquitos are eating us alive, but we don't care. I drink the broth of the mussels. It's so delicious! I thank them profusely for their generosity.
The camp hosts drive by and gift me a whole pile of firewood.
I talk with a woman named Amie who is travelling the coast with her husband. They invite me over for wine while I get a hot roaring fire going.
As I walk towards the road for phone service, a car full of people who somehow got wind of my journey stop me and offer me beer in exchange for stories of my trip.
I am overwhelmed by the generosity, but I know the best thing for me is sleep tonight.
Dusk fills the campground and I can hear the Swainson's thrush whistling it's haunting song though the woods. The high pitched whine of mosquitos buzzes outside my tent. I'm snuggled into my sleeping bag, thankful. Sleeping and full of goodness. I left the light off on the shelter, I've become comfortable with the darkness of the forest.