Brutality by Choice, A Reoccurring Theme
The final week:
So surreal. I left Cape Blanco, coffee in hand, and reminded myself to soak it all in. The past three weeks came and went so quickly, no need to rush to the finish.
The seven-mile jaunt into Port Orford was relaxing after the craziness of the day before. An empty, gorgeous beach did not hurt either! Two miles in, I arrived at the second to last river crossing; the picturesque Elk River, complete with elk tracks. Supposedly, navigable even between tides given the right conditions. I decided to play it cautious.
Due to a favorable low tide, the crossing was manageable. I encountered shin-high splashes and minimal push from the current. Through text messages, I learned that a fellow hiker caught a higher low tide two days later, for her, the river was dangerous and impassable. Her experience served as a reminder to trust your gut and ability and know tide height. Nothing is a guarantee.
Bay Leaves and Spruce Trees
Elk River beautifully winds parallel to the beach before disappearing behind tall cliffs. The beach narrowed, and packed sand gave way to less favorable gravel. Despite the change, I could not help but enjoy myself! The fog lifted to expose offshore rocks, and agates glimmered in the sunshine.
Just off the beach in Porth Orford an incredible scent engulfed me. Warmed spruce and bay leaves instantaneously created an environment of peace and calm. The sunshine hit my skin, and without hesitation I closed my eyes and basked in the moment. If someone accurately replicates this as a candle, I will pay good money for it.
From the very cute Port Orford Co-op, I packed out beer and snacks. My parents were en route as my ride to camp, so I found shade and enjoyed my snacks. My Mom and Dad have been off on their own South Coast adventures after a resupply trip earlier in the week. I plan to camp with them tonight before taking my third and final zero. Through a series of events, pushing longer miles, I am faster than my ride home. Originally, we targeted the morning of Saturday, July 1st, as my expected finish date. Carl arrives in Brookings sometime on Thursday the 27th, but I may be before that. The third zero came to be to avoid backtracking after reaching the border.
A Moment For The Trail Angels
My parents have been the ultimate trail angels in this journey! They made trips to support and resupply, shuttled Carl to the trail, and watched our three animals when needed. Additionally, after meeting another solo hiker at their campground, they made her breakfast and drove her over the Seven Devils road walk. The impromptu zero allowed me to spend time around a campfire with them.
I am eternally grateful for the patient people in my life. On and off the trail they tolerate my inability to function without moving the equivalent of double-digit miles a day. I cannot thank them all enough! It truly takes a village to thru-hike.
Brutality by Choice, A Reoccurring Theme
On day 25, my parents shuttled me back to Port Orford on their way out of town. I started on the six-mile walk back to Humbug State Park, mentally prepared for a relaxing catch-up afternoon. After yelling, “Hey bear!” the entire way down the old 101 hiking trail, I arrived back at Humbug at 11 AM, not fully satisfied.
Spending two nights at Humbug was more than enough. The campground sits roughly 50 yards off of a busy stretch of Hwy 101. We had to yell at times to hear one another at our campsite. A desperate desire to leave road noise combined with general antsiness prompted yet another millage change. Taking a deep breath, I called Carl.
He picked up quickly, I led with our standard I am safe before diving into my plan of potential chaos.
“So… I am thinking of pushing the 13 miles planned for tomorrow today, making 19 total. That would mean I finish on Thursday when you get into Brookings instead of Friday, so two days early…”
There was a pause on the other end, probably accompanied by an unsurprised eye roll.
“Yep, go for it! Where will you camp though? There’s no beach space.”
“Nope. Um, Nesika RV said I could walk up tomorrow, which would probably still stand tonight. Honestly, I have not thought that through yet. It is all cliffs or private property, dispersed would not be my first choice.”
“Ok. You’ll be in around 6 PM, they may not be open.”
“Um…I will figure it out. I just need to move.”
“Ok then, go for it! Let me know about camping. I’ll see you Thursday!
Hanging up, now slightly worried about time, I started towards the highway. I shot my parents a quick change of plans text.
My mom’s response was pure gold.
“I wondered if you would, you got antsy about 2 PM yesterday.”
Breathe In, Breathe Out
About five miles into the 101 road walk is Arizona Beach, a slight chance of reprieve from the highway. Here the beach is wide enough to walk only at low tide. I arrived 15 minutes past low tide, but still, a reasonable current height, given I did not know the terrain. I took a chance, making it most of the way before the diminishing margin for error made me uneasy. I backtracked to Arizona Beach Acces and picked up my tracks on 101. Defeated, but safe, my risk-taking wasted an entire hour.
From the top of a windy hill, on the other side of a guard rail on Hwy 101, I got the smallest amount of cell service so I called Honey Bear By the Sea RV, which was slightly closer to me than Neskia. The self-inflicted time stress was getting to me and I was not having fun. A plan was necessary. Thankfully, someone answered the phone! I reserved a tent site allowing me to show up after hours.
Relieved to not be camping on private property or a wind-blown rock face I slowed down and took it all in. At a pull-off viewpoint, I met another bike packer traveling from Calgary, Canada to Mexico. We chatted about our adventures and laughed about being a special kind of crazy as we willingly traveled on 101. We asked each other to take our picture in front of the rocks below, knowing as solo travelers, pictures of yourself are few and far between. I wished him well as he coasted towards Gold Beach with a broken spoke hoping for an open bike shop. Instantaneous but fleeting friendships. While the tent site at Honey Bear was more expensive it may have been one of the most beautiful. Far from the RV sites set around a meadow that practically begged to be filled with elk. Sadly no such luck, but gorgeous nonetheless.
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