Day 21 - Enter the Dunes

Mileage: 21.8

During the night I am woke by the light of the moon shining like a spot light on my tent. I left the storm doors rolled up and I can hear a heron croak out into the marshy area just within my view. A low silvery mist looms and the temperature drops. I drift back off into sleep.

I'm awake at 5:30. I do my typical drunk stumble out of my tent. But I have learned how to situate myself in such a way, that I launch myself out of my tent with good momentum and then do my drunk stumble. It's a strange, leaving-my-tent-in-the-morning dance that I do. Behind another windbreak is a familiar yellow MSR tent. It's John and Katelin! The bastards! I didn't even hear them setting up camp. In hiker fashion, I must hike my own hike - as much as I would love to stick around and see them again. I'm packed up and walking towards a coffee shop at 6. I get a 20oz drip and a huge apple fritter. I consume these quickly and my blood stream carries the carb and caffeine laden goodness through my body and I am screaming to hike hike hike!

I had decided to not wait any longer for the package my mother sent me. I'd love to, but I want to get the fuck out of this town. I hit the street and pass over a bridge and out onto Highway 101 for a few road miles. I can see the start of the dunes as I cross over the bridge. Endless sand and beach is all that I can see in my mind.

I put on some Aesop Rock after I pass the bridge. I need distraction from the misery of blasting cars and trucks. 

I find the small road that will take me to the beach access, as I walk I remove layers and switch to my default grey shirt and black shorts. I keep my rain jacket/windshirt tucked in the top strap of my pack. I am learning how to change clothes and walk at the same time. I see an RV park and decided to see if I can use their bathroom. 

RV people are very suspicious of people like me: those of us who are dirty, have a pack and have scrappy clothes. I politely ask the woman behind the counter to use the bathroom. She sneers and says, "I guess you can use the laundry room bathroom, but be quick" she doesn't even make eye contact with me. Oh well.

I'm in and out quickly and back on the road. It winds and curves through scrubby pine and sand. It reminds me a lot of places back east when I lived in the sand hills of North Carolina. Scrubby, sandy, kinda boring.

A few miles in and I've hit the beach access. Thank goodness! No one, and I mean relatively speaking, will fuck with me out here now. I am where I am supposed to be. I am back on trail. I am safe.

A lone red truck sits in the parking lot. It's an odd contrast to the stark white sand and golden green grasses.

I march up the dune. It's big and sandy as one might imagine. The sand eats my feet, up to my ankles. There's nothing to be done about it but trudge through it. My shoes fill with sand and I stand at the top, I take a few pictures and then I get a text from Katelin. I miss them! She tells me they met another hiker who might catch me and they came into camp drunkish last night. Apparently he's doing big miles and has a cool dog. I would love to see another hiker right now, but I get the feeling I won't for a long time.

This is a long and weird stretch. My camping options and water sources are kind of limited and I don't even know where I'm aiming. I'm just going to walk like a beast and see where I end up. I have 1 liter of water on me, snacks within reach, good music and I'm off. 

My mind is running in loops. Always back to Mark and his vile attempt at fucking me. The playing upon my vulnerability, to fuck me. I am seething with anger and rage and it eats at me. I hate it.

At a point I curse him. I curse his liver, his cock, his spine, his voice, his legs, his hands that he uses to work. That he may rot from the inside out. For all the other women he has hurt, may he pay. May he be immobilized. I scream this out to the crashing waves and I know she hears me. I am left satisfied and deeply satiated. I laugh at the release that comes with speaking these words. I feel lighter.

You should know, that a witch is amoral. With my tongue, I can curse or cure. 

I approach a river crossing, the Siltcoos. Doing this always manages to make me so nervous. The sand in these beachy riverbeds will consume you into depths unknown. I walk up and down the river side to choose the most shallow seeming spot. I pause to remove my shoes and attach them to the top of my pack. I don't ford beach side rivers with shoes on because the sand will rip them off my feet. I need my shoes! The sand eats me up to my kneecaps and the water is about crotch deep. I make it to the other side just fine. I trudge through the sand until my feet are dry. I sit on a gooseneck barnacle covered log to clean my feet and put my shoes back on. The strange barnacle creatures squirm under my legs. 

I walk and walk. The beach is fairly remote. On my GPS I see a trail leading inland that may contain water. I intentionally didn't pack out much because I wanted to be light and fast. I climb up a big done and hit a little trail leading through shore pine, scrubby ferns and salal. There are families and folks walking the trail to the beach. Many of them stop and ask me if it's much further, I ask them if there's water at the trail head. They all shrug. 

A group of women ask me how far it is and if they have to cross any big dunes. I sort of shrug and say, "yes? Um, is there any water at the trail head?"

"We think so," they all say. "Is the dune ahead bigger than the one behind us?"

I shudder inside of myself. A fucking big dune ahead? "Um, maybe? I have no idea. But the beach isn't far behind me."

I'm treading through thick sand. A little frustrated and hungry and 15 miles into the day. Why am I so tired already? I crawl up a big dune and hit trail gravel and switchback up to where I see decommissioned campsites, picnic tables and water! Toilets! I pee and gather water. I eat two Epic bars, an almond butter and cookie bar and drink a lot of water. I take my shoes off to clean my feet and socks. They're full of sand, endless amounts of sand I will never be rid of. Stopping like this makes me cold and I shiver in the shade while looking over my maps that are flapping in the wind. I have several camping options. I opt for the one that seems most safe and okay to me, Tahkenitch campground. There's a few other waterless stealth spots listed in my guide.

I thought that I would want pure solitude out here, as a natural introvert. But I crave good people and comradery. I am struggling with this need to be with people and not. A complete confliction of my own self that I know. Who am I? What do I want? And what do I need?

After my rest I pack out the same way I came. Through the thick sand down the high dune. I'm back on the beach.

The sun is eating its way into my skin. I don't burn so bad, but my skin goes a deep brown. I smear on sunscreen just in case. 

My GPS indicates the trail I should take to reach the campground, but I see no obvious way off the beach. Then I see it, a steep sand ledge with a rope attached to a sign. I'm entering Snowy Plover habitat. I see a State Park truck drive by on the beach and I run back to them to ask if this trail is actually open. The shrug and say it's likely OK for me to hike it.

I off load my pack and crawl up the strange trail. I can feel the strength growing in my hamstrings and glutes. Hikers and humans in general have a tendency towards quadricep dominance which can lead to strength imbalances. I make a point to recruit my posterior chain during hiking. It adds a new element to to the push/pull that happens when you're walking up and down hills. 

I wind through more scrubby pines and deep sand, I cross a huge dune and then the trail becomes more forested. Its dry in the forest, a tad creepy. I can only imagine that it is in its height of beauty when the rains are active. I can smell the loam and sun heated pine sap and something fungal. Death creeping around the periphery of life, feeding it and taking it away.

I am descending and feeling lonely. I know there won't be a hiker biker site in this place. I spill out into the campground and paved road. I walk around, scoping out decent places to camp. I chat with a women from Colorado and ask if she's seen the camp host. She hasn't. Eventually I find a spot to cook dinner. I'm so hungry. I make mac and cheese with tuna and a pepper jack cheese wedge. Half way through my cooking I see an elderly woman in a uniform walking from campsite to campsite. Not wanting to be caught without paying I approach her and tell her I have no cash for a site, but I will be lowkey and head out first thing in the morning. 

She looks at me with weepy eyes and seems very sad. "I have a small site right behind my RV, you can camp there. You need to be safe out here." I thank her profusely and gather my things to towards the back end of her RV.

The ground is 3 inches deep gravel and I can't pitch my tent. Mosquitoes are eating me alive while I eat my dinner and her dogs bark at me. I've given up on giving any shits about mosquitoes. She comes back around to the RV after checking up on the small campground. 

"I can't pitch my tent here, the gravel is too thick. Is there anywhere else I can pitch up if that's ok? I can sleep without my tent too." I ask.

She offers me up a site right next to her in soft moss and pine duff. I am so sleepy. I set my tent up. It's still wet from the night before and I let it dry while I wash my face in the bathroom and take a paper towel bath. I realize that the camp host lady is a widow and very likely just recently lost her partner. Usually camp hosts are elderly couples, she seems displaced and more alone than usual. Something is missing from her and I feel sad for her.

I crawl into my tent. Robbins are laughing in the trees around me and their song weaves into the sleep that takes me quickly.