Running, Tide Pools, and River Annoyance
When In Doubt, Run
Still, mentally out of sorts, I left Charleston early for an 18-mile day into Bandon. The day started with a road walk up and over Cape Argo via the Seven Devils Road. To avoid more road walking and stay on the beach, my goal was to reach Fivemile Point by low tide.
Six miles in, I found the beautiful graded gravel stretch of Seven Devils! A dangerous but unsurprising thought crossed my mind, this is runnable. After a brief moment of hesitation, I chose to run downhill until the pavement reappeared.
It was probably my happiest and most freeing moment on trail! Once my feet touched the pavement, a weight lifted, and I inexplicably broke down. Running keeps me sane and has gotten me through a lot in life. Today was no exception.
Finally feeling more like myself, I reached Fivemile Point ahead of the low tide with time to spare! I explored the tide pools, feeling rejuvenated going into a big weekend. My newfound confidence quieted the echoes of doubt that made me question whether I belonged on the trail. I made camp at Bullard Beach St. Park. Rain overnight meant packing a wet tent in the morning, but I did not care. Peaceful pitter-patter amidst crashing waves made for a restful night.
Off To Find A River!
Hikers are strongly encouraged to reach the New River, outside of Bandon, as close to low tide as possible. It is also known for moving north or south and breaching the dunes creating a second or third crossing. Why not add an extra layer of fun? The OCT guidebook, written in 2021, states that the river mouth is 4.7 miles from Bandon. I left the Bandon South Jetty and prayed that the mileage was accurate. My route required a longer water carry, with a dry camp coming up at a designated BLM site in the New River area.
Generally, the first low tides of the day have been between 9 am-11 am and are below 1 foot, some even minus tides. I take the same approach used at Sand Lake Estuary, planning to arrive at least 20 minutes before low tide to prepare.
Tracks In The Sand
Leaving Devil’s Kitchen, my last known water, a State Park 4-wheeler checking Plover nests zoomed down the beach. What a godsend! My footprints were the first of the day in either direction. Alone on a misty beach without a clue what I was walking towards, the 4-wheeler tracks served as confidence markers. Now, I had friends ahead to indicate any approaching deep water.
Creeks and wet patches tested my jumping skills for at least two miles. Each time the 4-wheel tracks continued on to the opposite bank. Preemptively I put on Chacos. Soon I noticed trees and the river flowing east of the dunes. Somehow I am already parallel to it. The few crossings continued to be no more than ankle-deep. Where is the damn river mouth? Finally, I cross a larger shin-deep creek about 15 feet wide.
Wait, was that it? But that was nothing! There is no way, right?!
My internal monologue was conflicted.
The 4-wheeler had not yet reemerged on its return trip. I kept walking, only slightly slowing my pace. Scared from Sand Lake, my anxiety spiked in the morning. Hunting for a mystery river that never appeared did not helped matters.
Out of the fog emerged a sign stating that the BLM campground was only 3 miles away. That meant two things.
- The New River crossing was no longer of concern.
- I would hit my dry camp 13 miles in at 10:30 am.
A dry camp at 10:30am? No, thank you. I pressed onward towards Floras Lake, another 4.2 miles. Floras Lake has a county park with water and camping. Currently, the motivation is simply snack and time to regroup.
On my way, I met a BLM volunteer. They informed me that the New River unexpectedly breached in multiple locations, thus creating lots of small creeks. I felt grateful for the hand I was dealt, while also slightly annoyed to have sprinted down the beach into the unknown for nothing; we are dealing with Mother Nature after all.
I got into Floras Lake around 1 pm. The original plan was to hit the Sixes River (another low tide recommended but not a guarantee) the next day. I found myself reconsidering attempting the Sixes.
The afternoon low tides are currently less forgiving for river crossings. Pressing forward now would put me at the Sixes at a less-than-ideal low tide of 3 feet. What if I arrived at low tide only to find it impossible?
To bus or not to bus?
I came into this trip hoping to bus as little as possible. I cannot tell you why. I have nothing against it, many of the hikers I spent time with included bussing in their plans and it worked great for them. The coastal transportation systems are very affordable, but even still, I didn’t want to bus this section.
Unfortunately, there is no convenient way to walk around the Sixes. Not quite ready to camp at Floras Lake, I made a probably unpopular choice to add on-road miles. This plan allowed me to hike beautiful Blackrock Point. I then would road walk into Cape Blanco to a hiker-biker camp there, more importantly, water.
I text Carl my change of plans. His response was slightly in shock.
“Wait, today? That is another 11 miles.”
“Ok… go for it, you’ve got this”
At 5:30 pm, after some GPS lies and about 30 miles on the day, I got to Cape Blanco State Park! The park ranger kindly told me there were horses in the nearby equestrian camp that night. I assured them I would sleep through just about anything. After drying the tent and dinner I collapsed, my hard day meant sleeping in tomorrow.
I drifted off mentally prepared for the Elk River and an easy cruise into Port Orford.
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