Day 27 - It All Happens at the Crazy Norwegians

I am awake. My body aches from yesterdays deep sand and miles.

I stumble out from my tent walking towards the laundry room at the campground. I plug in all my devices and consider a shower and then decide against it. I just want a bit of juice before the next unknowable stretch. A guy taps stuff out on his laptop in the corner of the cramped laundry room.

I head back to my camp spot and pack up all my gear and try to eat breakfast. I have no more instant coffee sticks. This distresses me greatly. I know there's a bed and breakfast around the corner from this place. I need coffee right now. 

I ask the guy sitting at his laptop if he knows if the bed and breakfast is close by. 

"Go just up the road and it's right around the corner" he says.

"Do you think they'd sell me a cup of coffee?"

"If they don't, they'd be assholes. You can come back here and I'll make you a cup." He tells me. He's a traveller and windsurfer. We share an unspoken understanding and this comforts me.

"Thank you." I say, while heaving my pack.

I walk down the road and round the corner. There it is. A huge cozy and intimidating house. I knock on the door with trepidation and feeling like an invader of these good folks peace.

A short man answers. He is very, very high.

"Hello, hi. I am a hiker on the Oregon Coast Trail and I'm all out of coffee this morning. Could I give you a couple bucks for a cup?" I ask in a very shy way.

He looks me up and down and sneers a little. He says nothing to me, and then turns to whisper something to his partner. I can see guests in their house. They're having breakfast and I feel like a rude intruder. His partner, equally as high gives me a very warm greeting. "Hey yeah, you don't need to pay. I'll get you a cup. Cream, sugar?"

"Black."

"Would you like to come in?" he asks.

I feel terrible. "No! I'm ok. I'm so dirty. I can sit outside. I don't want to disturb you." 

He hands me the most beautiful oil slicked, creama on the edges cup of french press I've ever seen. I down it quickly but consciously while watching a slug rear like a pony in the middle of their cobble stone steps. The guy who answered the door asks me what I do for a living. I always feel so weird answering this question. 

"I own a small business. We make perfume, soap and bath and body goods from scratch," I say, awkwardly.

We chat about being business owners for a moment. This seems to earn me some respect. He wanders back inside.

I leave a dollar under my cup outside on their table.

I'm back down the beach access I came in on from the night before. I am stressing over walking in that sand again. Fuuuuck, I think. My trail access is just off the beach, not too far. I look and look and see the little blue sign. I turn down a hard to spot beach access down the trail. Eventually when hiking like this, your eyes know where humans have been even if the signs are subtle. The arrows are confusing, the whole area is confusing. None of the trails are on my GPS or maps in my cut up guide book. 

I point my way south and walk and walk. Slowly, I relax. I am on a wooded trail. It's beautiful. I see the remnants of stealth camp sites and mushroom picking. The air is soporific, even in July. I stop to change my clothes. For a moment I am naked on the middle of the trail and amused at the thought of someone finding me like this.

I hike fast into an old air strip. I can see on my GPS that I am on an old jeep road, as it is straight. I come to a four way junction and pee in the middle of the trail with an epic bar in my mouth. I laugh at the sight of myself. The sun shines down brightly and the wind whispers through the scrubby pines and salal. I take a left and hike fast. Eventually I snap out of whatever dazed head space I was in and realize I took a wrong turn and was heading east for a mile. 

I walk back down the trail I came and I can see the half dried spot where I peed. I turn in the right direction this time.

The trail becomes a little more dark and the whole area feels a little special. Like it is unknown and well kept. This is my favorite part of hiking this trail, the wooded spots just off the coast. I move up and down and over muddy spots and I am happy. 

I come to a small clearing of pines, it creates a shelter from the windy tip of the coastal headland called Blacklock Point. Sometimes, in Northwest forests, it feels like you're in a room. A very special room. This is one such room in a forest. Tree trunks as walls, soft duff and moss as beds, nurse logs as pillows. 

I can hear the ocean roaring below me, but I cannot see it. I dip down and round a corner and walk up a small path and up onto the open part of the headland. I can see far, far out ahead and into the ocean. I can see the beach I have to walk and, by the looks of it, it is shit sands again. The wind is whipping fiercely. The oceans and waves as they break are muddy and brown due to churned up sand and fierce surging waves. I slowly drop down to the beach via a winding southern trail that somewhat switchbacks the headland.

I am met by thick grey black sand once again and piles of drift logs. Instead of carins, I see sticks strategically placed to mark the way around the logs and rocks. Pockets of tide pools linger and I realize how dangerous this place must be during a high tide. There are wind breaks that people have built out of driftwood here and there. High cliff walls hug me to my left, to my right the angry ocean roars. I feel trapped.

I am trapped, I think.

I have a river crossing ahead of me and in my guide book it says I will either find a very passable sand bar, or it will not be passable at all. Anxiety grips me. What will I find? I don't know. The cliff walls fall away as I walk.

I walk and walk as the wind propels me forward. The sand is thick, just like the shit sand from yesterday. I close my eyes and accept my situation. At least the wind is at my back, I think.

I can see the river forming next to me and a few prints of other hikers maybe, or other people who have walked along it from the same place I came. Who are they? Will I see them?

I walk faster, this unknowable river situation is driving me crazy and the anticipation of knowing what lies ahead drives me forward like a whip.

I relax. The river, known as the Elk River fans out like veins in a leaf into the ocean. I take my shoes off and wade into calf deep sand. It feels good between my toes and cold and I laugh. My tense muscles relax, the sand massages my aching yet numb feet.

I can see a couple beach combing ahead of me. I find a small outcropping of large rocks to sit on and clean my feet. I wrapped KT tape around the balls of my feet, because the inserts in my shoes now have holes in them and the sole of my shoe is pinching my feet causing deep blisters. Only took 100 miles to ruin them. I look into the rock I am sitting on and see bits of jasper and all sorts of colored stones, I shiver and urge the sun to sink into my skin. I eat another packaged bar food, I take a few selfies because in this moment I feel like I conquered something and I feel fresh and beautiful even though I'm tired.

The sand on the beach hardens and I am walking at a wonderful pace. Before me is a lighthouse. I am at Yaquina Head. The cliff walls hug me to my left, the wind whips the sand up. I eventually see the small path leading up into the headland. The wind is so hard and fierce. I come up into rolling meadows, I turn and look back at the beach. The wind takes my hat.

With horror I watch it fly over and into a ditch between two hills. My heart and whole body is struck with the loss.

I CAN'T LOOSE THAT FUCKING HAT. THAT HAT IS EVERYTHING TO ME.

The hat in question is my Black Cobra hat that I bought at a show from the two band members that preform some of the best sludgy doom metal ever in existence. I wade through yarrow, tall grasses and angelica and twist my ankle and then I find it. A small snake slithers though the grass as I snatch at it.

I relax and attach the hat to my chest strap and wind my way back up through the trail. The wind wants to push me over, but I laugh at it. I am suddenly on a road and looking for OCT signs. I find it and can see the most beautiful stretch of meadow on the platue of a high cliff. 

Joy grips me that I am not on a beach, the wind tosses me around and I smile at it and the bright sun. All around me is vetch, yarrow and angelica. I can smell their spice in the aggressive wind. I am hip deep in the stuff. I stop and crouch down. Bees are clinging to the yarrow heads. In this moment I realize, I am the most happy. The most happy all trail on this windy head. I want to curl into the dirt under the sun and stay here forever until I die. I pick a little yarrow and ask them to give me the courage to keep walking into the unknown.

Eventually the trail turns into a wooded area and I snake my way along a state park that I could sleep at. But the hour is still too early to call it quits. I decide to push into Port Orford for my next and last resupply.

I pause in a sun dappled spot in the woods to check my maps. A little garder snake is next to me on trail and I freeze to watch it. He slows down and pauses too. I look at my maps and watch him at the same time. He loops around some duff and low growing plants and rears up in a small patch of sun. I stare, amused. He's frozen in his reared state, looking at my feet. I slow my movements, so as not to startle him. The I turn away and so does he, back to his world and me, to my own.

I wind down a horse trail. The tread has been chewed up by hooves, but I get it. And I feel out of place being on a horse trail. I have no idea if I'm on the right path or not. All my GPS and map notes give no info about this area.

Eventually, I wade through thick sand and onto the beach. As I drop down I am met by the most powerful winds. I pause as I am smacked again and again by gusts. I turn and head south, feeling insane. Wind has this habit of getting into your mind and tossing you around. It fucks with you. It sweeps up all the old and dusty corners of your mind, the shit you swept under the carpet. It pulls it back up.

And again I find myself so very angry, angry at everyone and everything. I can't control my mind as I stumble through ankle deep sand. The wind gusts at my back so strongly that it sand blasts the back of my calves. It feels like someone is taking sand paper to my legs. Sand is getting into my eyes even with sunglasses on and my rain hood up. For several moments, I can't see and have to cry the sand out of my eyes. I huddle inside of my rain jacket to peek at my GPS and see if there's a way out of here. There isn't. I am stuck until my beach exit. 

Eventually I find a crack in the high cliff walls. The wind is much more calm, but it swirls in such a way that sand still gets into my eyes. I put on my thermals because at this rate, my legs will be raw by the time I'm off this beach.

I am miserable. 

I walk and walk, deep pain in my legs radiate up my body. I cry a little. I am so infuriated that this won't stop. The beach goes on and on and doesn't seem to end. 

Eventually, I find it: the beach exit. My feet grip onto an old gravel road with joy. 

I stop and collapse into the dirt and grasses. I rip my shoes off, my thermal pants, my rain jacket. I am so hot now. 

I am going to fucking quit. I am fucking done, I think. If this town gives me any shit. I am done.

My feet are tore up because my shoes are awful. But I look on the bright side, I'm off that damned fucking beach. Fuck that beach. Fuck beaches! I think.

I heave my pack and make my way down a paved road that will take me into Port Oreford. I hold my trekking poles in my right hand. 

Suddenly a fat swollen blue healer charges at me snarling and barking. I push and guide him away from me with my poles (god bless these poles). A woman rounds the corner with a pack of yapping angry dogs. 

Fuck! 

"Oh you're fine!" She says. "They're just nervous when they meet new people."

NERVOUS DOGS ARE DOGS THAT USUALLY BITE PEOPLE.

I say nothing and keep walking. I enter 101 and into the small town of Port Oreford. I have 15 minutes till the post office closes and I make it 5 minutes till. 

"Ahh, no package here for Boyd. I'm sorry. You can try again tomorrow," says the mail clerk.

I drop out into the street. I'm fucking done.

Back before I began this hike I had one major destination: The Crazy Norwegian. Which is less than a half mile from me right now. I decide to order food there, and make my decision about continuing this hike. 

I find it, in all its shabby glory. I step in. Sand crusted, red, wind blown. Everyone stops and stares at me. I don't fucking care anymore. I find a small seat in the corner of the restaurant. Across from me is a young man who is looking me over and accessing me and my situation. I am crouched between the tables.

"Are you two together?" The server asks.

"Yeah we are," say the young man. "I mean if you want company while you eat. You look like you're alone, is that ok?" he says to me.

"Yeah sure, company sounds good right now." I flop down into the seat across from him.

I am rubbing sand from my face and apologizing to my new friend. "I'm sorry, I just came in off the beach from hiking. I am so dirty and in a weird head space."

"It's ok. You look like you have a story."

So I tell him everything over fish and chips and key lime pie. I am unapologetic in my ravenous eating. "I think I'm done. I don't know. Everything feels like it's telling me to be done." 

I am confiding in this total stranger named Nico. A young engineering graduate from Ohio. He decided to do a very long road trip until he found the right place to land. He's been on the road for two months. He's interested in water conservation. He wears glasses and has thick curly tousled hair.

"I planned on driving to Portland tonight if you want a ride home," he offers.

A gaggle of older women walk into the restaurant and sit behind us. One of them thinks I have a baby in my pack. Nico and I laugh about this all the way to a nearby bar, where he tells me to make my decision about taking a ride back home to Portland.

We drink two IPA's. I discuss the trail and these beaches with him when a guy next to us chimes in, "These are some of the most deadly beaches in Oregon. I grew up here." 

Everything says go home right now. I pull tarot cards on it.

Go home, it says. 

"OK Nico, let's go to Portland," I say. 

We load up into his old Honda Accord. We get Dairy Queen. He smokes weed. I get drowsy. We drive and drive. I am catapulted back into the stink of Portland. He stops in front of my apartment and asks nothing from me which feels like a relief right now. We wish each other safe journeys. 

I walk up to the door of my apartment shaking. Inside is my boyfriend and he has no idea I am coming home. I knock, because the key to my house is at the bottom of my pack. I hear nothing. So I dig into my pack looking for the key, he opens the door. We're so very happy to see each other. I am shaking and feeling strange. I can't smell sea air anymore. I am suddenly enveloped in the smells of him and my apartment. We sit on my bed together. Bits of the coast flash inside of my head. I am not here, I am still there. I don't want to be here. Why did I come back?

He wants my attention and tugs at me, but I space out. The past 24 hours have been so weird and intense and now I am home. It's all over. I slip into my shower, absorbed in a familiar water pressure and soap scents. I am happy, but cannot find a deep contentment in this.

Something is missing. I can hear the roar of the ocean in my ears, still. I gave up.

Everything is different now and it's all over.

Yet, everything has just begun.

Day 26 - Wizard things & shit sands

Mileage: 20.23

I stumble from my tent and towards the food lockers. I think I have a slight hangover. Yes, I have a slight hangover. The magical USB ports in the lockers didn't charge my battery pack overnight for whatever reason. I'll have to stop into town to take care of that.

I'm back in my tent and stuffing my things away when I hear a scratch at my storm doors, "good morning senorita" says the elderly man from the day before. As I fold my tent up and organize my things on the picnic table I can see blood splatters from the night before, when Josh had cut his knee open. 

I head to the bathrooms. A mother and daughter are complaining to each other as I wash my pee rag in the sink and brush my teeth. I'm on the road and headed towards Bandon. I walk my way down back roads and along an estuary, which I can smell. I reach the edge of town and quickly begin searching for a coffee shop. Eventually I find a nice little hole in the wall, bustling with cyclists, construction workers and tourists. I buy a lemon crinkle cookie and a huge black coffee. I charge up all my things while trying to write out a blog post.

It's terribly hard writing blog posts from a phone. I send Carrot, a thruhiking hero of mine a DM via Instagram asking her how the fuck she blogs regularly from the trail. She's been cheering me on and giving me protips. She's hiked the PCT twice, has done the CDT and various other long trails. She wrote a book too, called Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart

"How do I keep up with the blog on trail? HA HA HA HA HA (dark laughter)" She types at me. "The secret is that is SUX and I would much rather be sleeping!"

Yep. I'd rather be sleeping too. There is no secret. I must rethink all strategy. I look at my maps and realize I am getting a very, very late start to my day. I have 20 miles ahead of me and it's approaching noon. I have no idea what the beaches will be like, and this stretch even has a backpackers site in the dunes due to it's remoteness. I feel cocky and find myself in a "don't give a fuck" mood.

Suddenly my phone rings. It's my business partner freaking out over some minor work mishap. I am amused by what he worries about and what I am worried about right now. I help clear the matter up as best I can from the distance I am at. 

"This is REALLY fucking important," me tells me. I am standing in a tight ally watching a daddy long leg crawl across the blue green wall.

"Do you know what else is really fucking important? Me not listening to your pissing and moaning because I have to hike 20 miles, it's noon right now, find a place to sleep before it gets dark and HOPE I can find a place to sleep. I know that you don't understand what any of that means. Have a GREAT day." And I hang up on him. We go way, way back. We were in a relationship together for 7 years and he was verbally and on occasion physically abusive to me. He hates that I am out here, doing my own thing. And I hate him for everything that he has done to me. This is my entry point into my eventual escape from his controlling and manipulative clutches.

I shake it off.

I run upstairs to the bathroom. It is lit incredibly well from the large window. I sit on the toilet and the sea air comes through, mixing with coffee smells and baked goods. I sit and absorb this strange and euphoric moment. I feel so happy. It's probably just the sugar and coffee. I take a selfie while sitting on the toilet. 

I'm back on the road and winding through the town. I'm looking for the Price N Pride I saw on my google maps. I want fruit and potato salad and whatever fried things they have in the hot deli case. 

I wander into the brightly lit store. I have to leave my pack at the front counter. I don't like this, but I oblige and take out my clothing stuff sack to change from my cool morning gear to my threadbare shirt and shorts. I get a pack of blueberries, a pizza stick, a pound of potato salad, three jalapeno poppers, three mac and cheese bites and a bag of chilli cheese fritos. 

I change in the shitty bathroom. I take a picture for Daniel and send it to him. I look ragged, but somehow, my unplucked eyebrows, my hairy legs, my red cheeks... I feel beautiful and most myself while hiking.

I pause outside the grocery store and ready myself. I must walk hard and fast, no stopping until I reach my end point. I feel like a cracked out race pony stuck in the gate. Here we go! I put my headphones in and play early Deerhunter with their ragged twang. And I'm off. 

I drop down into the beach. It's otherworldly. The marine layer is lifting and hovering and moving like ghosts and spirits across the beach. I weave in and out of it. I enrobe myself in the cloud and feel like I am walking in the sky. I laugh as I swish my hand out, touching the ether. 

As usual, I am stopped by rock formations. One rock looks like a wizards hat, another looks like a hard cock jutting up out of the water. How do rocks make me feel lusty?

The beach becomes remote, but ahead of me I see a person with trekking poles. I squint, I cannot see very far because I left my glasses in a bathroom some 100 miles back. I grow excited. Is this a hiker?

"Hello!" 

"Are you a thruhiker?" A small, middle aged squat man says to me.

"I am! Are you also hiking the coast?" I look and look, but I don't see a pack on his back.

"Yes! I am thruhiking it. Been doing 40 mile days for a while now!" 

"...But where's your pack? How are you?..." I ask. I feel like I need to turn him in circles to find his pack. 

"I'm driving and doing it by sections!" He tells me, so excitedly. 

I am instantly annoyed by him. He talks about his suffering and the mileage and how off Bonnie Henderson is with her numbers. "You'll laugh when you hit the New river." He tells me.

This was a concern of mine, crossing this river during high tide could be dangerous. 

"You'll laugh!" He says.

"I'll probably just take off my shoes honestly" I say. I want to leave this conversation. I am tapping my trekking poles impatiently at the sand, hoping he gets the hint I don't want to chat anymore. 

"What? Why? I've been walking through rivers with my boots on for weeks..."

Because you've got a fucking car to go back to you jackass, I think. You aren't thruhiking. You're not carrying a pack. What we are doing is not the same, so don't even try. He rambles at me, and I want to leave. I want to see this laughable river I gotta cross. 

"It was nice talking to you, but I gotta make miles! Good luck to you." I say and walk away.

I set off again and let the marine layer envelope me. I feel like some kind of wizard. 

I can see the waves ahead of me and how they're rolling in. The tide is coming in. They bite in at the sand, they bite my heels and feet. Fuck fuck fuck, I think.

I can see it ahead of me, the New river and her outlet into the sea. Before me, the sand is in waves and wet. If you stand too long, you begin to sink. I take my shoes off. I can see a man fishing and a boat bobbing in the water of the river. Well, there's only one way to know.

You have to take your shoes off, or you'll loose your shoes in this sand. Fuck that guy.

I wade in and the sand eats me up to my knees the water consumes me up to my hips. I can't breathe for a moment. Like when you stick your face out of the car window. Gasp, gasp, gasp. Oh, now I can breathe. I won't be sucked out into the ocean. 

I stop and clean my feet and put my shoes back on, on an old driftlog covered in gooseneck barnacles. I eat some potato salad, fritos and blueberries. I wonder about how far I'll be able to get. Does it matter? I can sleep in the sand. But can I? Snowy plover restrictions say you must stay in only wet sand. Trucks sometimes patrol the area.

The sand becomes very steadily too thick to walk in as I cover miles. I stumble and hope that at some point it'll be over but it isn't. Every step is a disappointment. I look for hard sand, and I can't find any. The beach slips away so steeply into the crashing ocean. The walking is so, so hard.

I am angry. I am so, so very angry. I stop for a moment to face the ocean. I try very hard to control my thoughts and calm myself but it just doesn't work. She is heaving and angry. In the distance I can see buzzards hovering. I drop my pack in the middle of the desolate beach and, while thinking and knowing that I am loosing time, I wander towards whatever it is they feast upon. I can't see anything.

Then I see it, the long line of a carcass buried under the sand. It looks like fur. But it is the body of an old whale. I find vertebrae the size of big buckets. Massive. I find the jaw bone and I stroke it. My fury hovers below me. I know I need to keep moving, but this? This whale... I wander back to my dropped pack. Sad, alone, a little scared on this highly remote beach. The sky looks like a storm.

How long will this go on?

Eventually I can see the foot marks of other hikers, and the feet of a dog, trekking pole poke marks even. Hikers! I think. I remember Kate telling me about a thruhiker with a dog an I hope I can find them somewhere. 

The light begins to wane. Mama ocean is not friendly today, she roars at me.

Sadly the scale and steepness of this beach cannot be captured.

You cannot see it, but a mist permeates the air. Suddenly I am wet. Everything is wet. I have to tuck away my phone so that it doesn't get soaked. The walking is so hard in ways I can't explain. My feet seek hard ground. I snake my way around the beach. I find good spots and then loose them. I wonder about these feet that have walked before me. I hope that wherever I end up, I can meet them. That they will also know my frustration. 

My ankles are consumed by sand. 

I am treading water. Sand water.

I see the backpackers site sign just off the dune and I wander up to it. I see tennis balls, a rubiks cube and a fire pit. The sign says to expect to walk only 1.7 miles per hour in this sand. Nothing feels good about it and I am low on water. I turn away and decide to find the county park about 7 miles away.

I will do this I think. Fuck it. 1.7 miles per hour? Fuck them and their statistics.

I maintain a pace of 3.2 mph in the ankle deep shit sands. I am walking so hard. I feel it in my hamstrings, my feet become claws that catch the earth and my glutes and hamstring pull me forward. It hurts deeply in a way I've never experienced. 

Eventually, the sand shows the feet of hundreds of other people and I can see a path out of the dunes. I want to cry and eventually, I do cry as I hit hard ground and it feels so foreign to be propelled like this. Like I have a loaded spring in my feet when just seconds earlier it didn't even matter. So efficient now. 

I enter the county park camp grounds. I am frantic feeling, it is dusk and growing dark. 

I find the camp host. She can see my distress and tells me that I can camp next to another woman who has a rather large site with room to share. I thank her profusely. I meet the other woman, who tells me about the peculiarities of her little dog as we walk in the gloam to her camp site. She is up wind of me, "you smell so good!" she says. 

I laugh manically at her. "That isn't me I think! That is something else."

She blinks at me.

I set up my tent in the growing dark. I need someone. I call my boyfriend Daniel while I pitch my tent.

He's drunk and lectures me about how I need to respect the ocean after I complained about it and the sand. It's powerful in ways I can't imagine apparently. Only days before he was laughing at me for being wary of a dangerous incoming tide.

"You know, I've been walking next to this ocean for about 25 days now. You think I don't know it already? You laughed at me when I said it was dangerous." 

I hang up with him, discontent, frustrated and sit in my tent. I realize I am just in a bad mood and that I need to be alone. At least I have this potato salad and blueberries. It's pitch black and my headlamp shines on my meal. I see a huge spider next to me. I can't scoop it out so I kill it and feel terrible. I bed down on my sleep pad. I am so exhausted. Something pops at my head.

A huge grasshopper... and another spider. 

"Where did you all come from? Whatever, just don't fuck with me please?"

I am so tired that I don't care. I can hear the ocean roaring and I am cold and wet. Everything feels like a clam. But soon, sleep takes me.