The Oregon Coast Trail
Finally, after travel zeros and a nero, we had a 21-mile day ahead of us. First we returned to the Iredale shipwreck, which was fully exposed due to the low tide. Then we walked south along the hard-packed sand as a light drizzle fell. The beach was full of activity, most of it people searching for clams. Within an hour the drizzle ceased, though the sky remained overcast. A couple hours later, I found the view and walking monotonous.
A dozen miles brought us to the Necanicum River, which was too wide and dangerous to cross. We detoured through Gearhart and then Seaside. I enjoyed the vaguely nautical home architectural styles. In the latter town, we sat on a concrete loading dock to eat lunch. Seaside was cute, my favorite feature was the promenade that paralleled its southern beachfront. The paved walking path had signs about Fort Stevens, the Tillamook Rock lighthouse, and salt making.
The last four miles made the entire day worthwhile. We reconnected to trail in a lush forest full of ferns, moss, and pine trees. Though it felt like terrain where I’d be stalked by a raptor, I actually saw a deer and a giant banana slug. The trail ascended 1,000 feet to the top of Tillamook Head where it hugged the edge of steep coastline and I caught glimpses of ocean through the trees.
On the beach and in town, we hiked as a group. In the forest, I hiked off and on with Sandbag and Pluto. After the trail curved deeper into the forest, we entered a camp consisting of three wooden cabins, a covered picnic table, and a pit toilet. Each cabin had two solid, wooden bunkbeds. Sandbag, Karin, and I slept in one while the guys claimed another. It felt like being on the AT!
We ate dinner at the picnic table. Then we walked a path towards the coast, finding an old bunker covered in vegetation and a magnificent view of the Tillamook Rock lighthouse. It was the last day of spring; we all watched sunset turn the sky pink above a blue ocean.
It was a beautiful sunny morning. The five of us ate an unhurried breakfast before heading into the forest. Sunbeams illuminated the ferns. The coastal views were amazing! The low tide revealed huge swaths of smooth sand and waves broke against rocky islands. At Ecola Point, I saw a backdrop from the iconic film Goonies. Re-entering the forest, a sign warned that the trail was for “experienced hikers only”.
Around lunch time, we hiked into Cannon Beach. The meat eaters (Sandbag, Sky-Hi, & Pluto) got fish & chips while Hobble-it and I got treats at Mariner Market. So far the Oregon coastal towns have had great public restrooms. I washed my underwear discretely in the sink and refilled my water bottles at the drinking fountain.
Our daily mileage on the OCT is based on available camping spots. Today we had 11-ish miles total to cover with less than half left after lunch. While Sky-Hi took the road, the rest of us meandered down the beach until it got un-passable. During our brief road walk, I saw two colorful snakes. Then we reached Hug Point, where we hung out at a couple picnic tables. With a couple hours to sunset, we relocated to the beach and stealth camped above the high tide line.
In the early morning, I got up to pee and saw the big dipper, a faint moon glow, and the tide rolling in. After breakfast, I walked down that same beach with Sky-Hi. My feet left footprints in a vast sheet of untouched sand. At the end of the beach, a snippet of gravel road plus a cute little suspension bridge took me back to the trail. Then it was a choose your own adventure. Sky-Hi hiked Highway 101 to Manzanita, the rest of us took the forest trail.
I started Heroes of Olympus book three because it was due soon. Shortly after taking ibuprofen for a headache, I came across a steep drop-off to an aquamarine bay. To the right I saw shapes swimming in the water. Looking closer, I saw that they were seals and 40-50 more were lounging on the shore! Fun! I caught up to the others and we had lunch in a picnic area. Pluto was really hungry, but tired of most of his food.
Several miles hiking through forest brought me back to Highway 101, which I crossed to ascend Neahkahnie Mountain. The climb covered a couple miles in a little over 1,000 feet, much of it tree-covered. Pluto and Hobble-it arrived while I admired the view. It was stunning: a wave-washed crescent of beach separated Nehalem Bay and the ocean. From the summit, a long descent led to the town of Manzanita. I went straight to the Thai restaurant and ended up chatting with a curious couple as I waited for my friends.
My Thai meal was delicious; spicy eggplant and tofu! As we finished, a PCT hiker named Stray Cat wandered over. She wanted to buy us dinner, however we’d already paid, so she got us dessert and a beer. Stray Cat hiked in 2021, a dry year, and I enjoyed her stories. Then she gave us a ride to the hike & bike campsite.
Trail magic galore! The couple I chatted with earlier generously gave me $40 to buy dinner. Instead I used it to pay Sky-Hi back for covering the campsite fee. The site had many amenities: food storage lockers with charging ports and free, hot showers. I enjoyed a shower and dried off with my tiny camp towel. Sandbag showed us paper maps that she picked up at the visitor center.
Another overcast day! Hobble-it and I walked through the campground to the beach, where we encountered a flock of Snowy Plovers. An hour of beach walking brought us to the Nehalem River. Sandbag caught up as we angled along the river towards a yellow flag marking the Jetty Fishery pickup point. We waited for the guys and watched an adorable seal pod. Over half the pod slid into the water, while the remainder watched us curiously. My favorite was a white one flopped on its side; it waved a flipper as if gesticulating.
I called the Fishery guys and they took us across the river in two motorboats. Their shop was neat, decorated with large Lego sets from all sorts of themes. We hiked the jetty and then a loose sandy path to the beach. Sky-Hi, Sandbag, and I soon got off the beach. He stuck to the Hwy 101 shoulder. Sandbag and I walked railroad track and frontage roads, cut through a camp, took a trail around a lake, and then returned to the tracks. The track had only one touristy, low speed train that whistled far in advance. We encountered it twice and easily got off to the side. In Garibaldi, we caught a $1 bus ride to the Tillamook Creamery.
I grew up eating Tillamook cheese and was super excited to tour the creamery. After getting samples, I did the self tour. Signage explained the cheese making process as I viewed it through glass windows. A machine called the Blue Octopus packaged pepper jack and medium cheddar cheeses with worker oversight. In the dining hall, I got a flight of three ice cream flavors while Sandbag ate grilled cheese with fries.
A couple hours later, our three friends arrived after catching the next bus. I got a second ice cream flight while the guys got food. Then Sky-Hi got a 1.5 quart container of ice cream and I helped him & Sandbag eat it. As we walked to Fred Meyer, I wondered if I had eaten too much ice cream.
Following our resupply, we decided the best option was hitching to a beach to stealth camp. However, as we walked to the road junction, Sandbag spied a grassy picnic area behind a food truck. She inquired and the truck owner kindly loaned us her port-a-potty key. We gratefully pitched four tents near the area’s grassy edge.
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