These are my thoughts upon waking in the morning gloam. There's bird chatter in the trees and I'm excited to walk back down the creepy trail to the beach access in morning hours.
Morning hours are precious and virginal. It's when humans seem to not exist. I am not a night person but a person who lives for the predawn-dawn hours. The quietest hour when we are most vulnerable in our dream sleep, the most open to hearing and seeing the unseen.
I eat the usual: green coconut granola, whey, hemp seed and instant coffee. I'm packed and walking. Hobbling really, my feet aren't too happy about the sandy miles I've been logging. My forefeet, or the ball of my feet, are getting deep blisters that I can't really prevent. It's just the friction of miles and miles of rolling on your feet in sand.
I claw my way though the dune with my trekking poles. I see the footprints of people who have recently gone through the area. I wonder if I will see them, but I don't. I off load my pack again to crawl down the super steep beach access. It's a cool morning and salty mist is clinging to me.
The beach is so remote. There isn't a soul out here and the sand is untouched, except for my feet. As I walk my long braids swing back and forth. Tick tock, tick tock, I think.
I'm going to be taking a road out of here and to an unknown sleeping destination. My guide book and sleeping notes doesn't list an option until I move through two towns and back on to the beach. Oh the sleep game.
I find the beach access. A big thick sandy pit tore up by truck tires. Walking into the dirt road I can see little camp spots here and there. Beer cans and bottles, remains of shot off fireworks. It feels sketchy. I push out into the gravel road, my pace is good and somewhat mellow.
There's a high pitched bzzzz in my ear and I feel a sting on my shoulder. I look and there's about 5 mosquitos biting in.
"Oh fucking shit!" I exclaim.
I have to pick up my pace. I'm in my grey tshirt, with no arm protection. They don't really latch on to my legs because they're moving. I have a giant mosquito cloud behind me as I rush down the road at 4mph. I call this my Mosquito March.
They're still biting my shoulder! I keep pace while removing my rain jacket from the top of my pack and manage to fit it over my arms and shoulders. Swarms like this make me feel a little panicky. I can see a cloud of them around my butt. I do a strange swatting walk for a few miles. I don't care how fancy and technical a rain jacket it, they're not breathable. I am pouring sweat while maintaining my Mosquito March pace.
Despicable little fuck-wits, I think.
I move through a boggy area and into forest, eventually a clear cut on an old logging road. I pause for a moment, while reaching into the back of my pack pouch for a Lara bar. Only a few mosquitos hover. I'm OK to chill for a minute, which I need. The saliva in the back of my throat is thick and my mouth is dry. I stuff the bar into my face without thought and sit down in the middle of the dirt road to clean my feet. I could feel the lumps of sand building up under the soles of my shoes. I dump out lots of sand.
I'm upright again and walking. I wind down the old logging road and see the trucks of hunters, they leave me feeling a little sketched out. But I assure myself that they're probably not bad people. Just people looking to hunt their own food.
I snake my way up and up the road and eventually my feet are on Highway 101, once again. Cars, trucks and semis are blasting by. I assess my hitching situation and the feeling is not good. The road is twisting and there's nowhere good for someone to pull over for me. The flying vehicles seem unfriendly towards me. So I turn out onto the road and move south. I peek at my maps as I walk. I'm heading towards two bridge crossings and I'll move through three little towns and to an unknown sleeping destination. My trail guide doesn't mention any spots to sleep in this particular stretch. I try my best to not let this stress me out. I push the thought aside and put on a good road walking face.
I sling my trekking poles over my shoulder and walk, walk, walk. The shoulder narrows significantly. I can hear the tell-tell roar of a logging truck behind me. I look behind me and it's flying with no fucks being given whatsoever. I quickly hop the railing, but my back foot doesn't quite make it and I smash my knee into the wooden post, fall flat on my hands into a pile of dead brambles and bracken. One of my water bottles comes flying out of my side pouch and in some act of survival and Jedi like reflexes, I catch it before it tumbles into the oblivion of the steep slope.
I know I can get a new water bottle in town, but I have a strange attachment to these two mangled dirt bottles for whatever reason. I stand up and look at my hands. They're dirt caked bleeding. My pride is hurt more than anything. I just imagine the trucker laughing at me as he watched me totally biff it over the railing.
I continue my walk. I move through a tiny little town. Beside me are fright trains. I've always been a big fan of train graffiti and I stop to look whenever I can. What I like even more, are the small messages that freight train riding kids leave one another. Their odd graffiti and small drawings that you can only really see on foot. They comfort me, somehow.
I'm approaching the first bridge and I am nervous. Nervous about there being no shoulder. A cyclist flies by me and gives me metal fingers. This boosts my moral significantly. The little things. I near the bridge and sure enough, there's a nice shoulder. I can see beautiful Great Egrets wading in the water below, so intent on their prey. Cocking their heads to the side, just so slightly. Their feathers wave in the wind. Motes of moss roll by me on the ground.
I am off the bridge and approaching the next. A sign signals road construction the bridge ahead.
"Oh motherfuck, I better be able to get across this," I say aloud to the traffic piling up to my left.
I can see the flagger ahead of me.
"WHAT are you even doing right now?" He yells at me over the sound of engines.
"I'm just hiking a little," I say.
"Where'd you come from?"
"South of Astoria," I reply.
"Whaaat! Girl, you better be careful out there. I tell you what, I'm gunna let you cross, but you gotta walk on the left side of the bridge. You be safe out there." He says to me.
Heights fuck with me, especially on bridges. Put me on the highest mountain, I don't care. I just want my feet on the earth. Not some man-made construction. The shallow current swirls below me. I don't look down again until I'm off the bridge.
I pass a horde of cars and RVs, they all glare at me. I google the nearest grocery store. A Price N Pride pops up. Oh sweet Jesus! I think. Potato salad.
I wander into the little grocery store and buy a pound of potato salad, a corn dog, three chicken tenders and a chocolate whey protein drink. As I pay I realize my hand is filled with dried crusted blood and dirt, from the fall I took earlier. I forgot about the bleeding.
I sit on a small bench inside of the store, I eat everything and save half the potato salad for later. I check my Instagram and texts and get lost a little into the internet and connection with far away people. In a food drunk haze, I pack out and am back on the road again.
I don't have too far to walk, so hitching seems like a waste of time to me. Sitting in the grocery store makes me feel cold outside, so I put on my rain jacket as a light layer.
I'm taking sips of my chocolate drink when I blend over to adjust a popped out shoe lace. My water bottle again flies out and slides down the steep embankment of the highway shoulder. I hop the railing and slide down on my butt in the road dirt to fetch it. Why do I need this bottle so bad, I think. Finally, after some scrambling it's back in my hands and I'm on the road again. The fast paced walking heats me up and I'm dripping sweat. I stop to take my jacket off when a silver Impreza pulls over quickly. I waste no time and approach the car, opening the passenger side door. I sit quickly and shut the door. The young man driving pulls back on to the highway.
"I section hike the PCT a lot, and I knew you were a hiker." He says to me. "I'm stopping in Winchester Bay, hopefully this will help you on your way a bit?"
"Yeah no, this is great, thank you."
I can feel wetness seeping into my shorts. The poweraid he had sitting in the seat had leaked and now my ass smells like some generic berry. I don't care though. I'm flying!
We pull up to a hotel and I can see the post office where my resupply is waiting.
"You smoke?" He asks.
"Yeah. I got a joint. You wanna use my shower? I've got a room for the night." He tells me.
He is clearly more interested in just helping me out.
"You know, I'm good, but thanks. My resupply is right over there," I say pointing to the little store ahead. "Thank you for the ride though."
I wander into the little store. The air is suffocating. I sort my resupply. I have to pee something fierce, but there are no bathrooms here. The clerk tells me to walk a few blocks to the marina where I will find a public bathroom.
I find it and I pee. I sit on a picnic table, listening to the gulls laughing. I need to find a place to sleep. My greatest dilemma, always. I decide to sit in a local restaurant to figure myself out. I order a beer and a cup of clam chowder. On the wall is a huge bull elk. He seems so out of place here and so handsome. I watch and look at him intently, waiting for his ears to flick, for his head to dip and nod, for his muzzle to twitch but he doesn't. I want to pet him and kiss his face. This creature is disgraced by being in here, I think.
I call Daniel. We talk about what happened in Florence. I don't have enough time and energy to tell him about everything that happened and for some reason I feel afraid to. He is mad and feels I was dishonest about how much I drank with him, the predator. Why do I feel beholden to him? Why do I feel like that whole thing was my fault? He tells me over and over again that he isn't mad at me, he is mad at the guy. But I don't feel that way.
I find a possible sleeping area, Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. I can't tell if there's camping or not. So I figure I'll just try.
I leave the restaurant feeling horrible. I need to find a place to sleep. My pack is heavier than I would like right now. I have two liters of water, because my guide book tells me this next stretch will be waterless and to tank up. My pack was feather light before this.
Stupid food. Stupid body needing food. Stupid water. Stupid humans. Stupid feet. My mind loops like this for a while along the highway, while all manner of motorized vehicle flies by me. I despise each and everyone of them.
I round a bend and see a sign for Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, there's a little tent sign beneath it. There's gotta be camping! Eventually I take the road leading up into it. I twist my way up and up.
I wander into a lovely tucked away looking campground where I am immediately met by the camp host.
"Do you have hiker/biker?" I ask.
"We do indeed, it's $5." She tells me.
"Oh my god this is wonderful. I had no idea if there was any camping here or not. My guide book didn't even mention this place."
"A lot of people don't know about this spot, it's kind of strange because we think it's one of the best! You can use the outlets on our RV to charge your devices if you need. Showers are down the hill and to the left."
I can see what she means, it's small and filled with large conifers, it's up on a hill and tucked away. I pay my way in and snake my way down a little trail into the hiker biker site.
There are two Dutch girls on bikes and no one else. The little spot I chose is in the duff and perfect. I find that someone prepared a fire for the next person to arrive at this site, me! This excites me greatly. I get a fire going and cook up mac and cheese with tuna and eat bananas and cream instant oatmeal for desert. I'm happy.
I observe the wild oscillation of my moods out here. One moment I hate the world, the next I wanna give all of humanity a big wet kiss. I wander off for a hot shower.
A Korean guy shows up. He flew all the way out here just to bike the coast. He tells me I'm crazy to be hiking it. I can only imagine the journey he is on, in another country and on bike. He told me he's never done anything like this before. I tell him I've never done anything like this before.
Darkness falls and I tuck myself into my sleeping bag, smelling like lavender patchouli and woodsmoke. My sleeping bag smells like a gerbil cage. I can hear the jetty siren howling off in the distance, where I will be in the morning.
An owl hoots and I am asleep.