Thursday, November 29, 2018

Help guide completion of the Oregon Coast Trail

Wouldn't it be nice to route the OCT past Harts Cove, on the north side of Cascade Head (and cut out a bunch of highway walking in the process)? It can happen!

If you're as passionate about the Oregon Coast Trail as I am (well, that's a pretty high bar: let's say if you're interested in helping guide its future development), clear your calendar and attend one of three public open houses Dec. 10 (Coos Bay), Dec. 11 (Tillamook) or Dec. 13 (Portland) designed to gather public input for the Oregon Coast Trail Action Plan, the most robust effort to date to identify and close gaps in the OCT. DETAILS HERE

If you're hiked the Oregon Coast Trail, you know the trail is already complete(ish). Like, there are still places where the trail requires you to walk where people weren't meant to walk (mainly, the shoulder of US 101). There have been several efforts over the years to close these "gaps," which add up to roughly one-eighth of the total trail distance, by my count. Every now and then a little progress has been made (construction of another trail segment to get folks off the highway).

Then in 2017 the Oregon Legislature got serious and passed House Bill 3149, which directs the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to lead an effort to "develop an action plan to complete the Oregon Coast Trail." That effort is now under way, led by the talented Oregon State Parks Senior Parks and Trails Planner Robin Wilcox.

This series of meetings is the first opportunity for the public to see the status of this project and to provide input. I plan to attend the meeting in Portland Dec. 13. (It's the shortest drive from my home in Eugene. And it's not on my birthday.)

Robin has done her homework. She's been out in the field and she's been gathering input from lots of trail users. And she is developing a fine appreciation for the challenges and the opportunities out there to get this trail whipped into shape. I hope you can make it to one of the meetings. At least consider signing up at the project's home page to receive project updates as this effort evolves.

The new edition of my book Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon is out; makes a great gift to parents! I'll be at the Oregon Historical Society's Holiday Cheer book event this Sunday, Dec. 2 from noon to 4; it's free. Stop by and say hi!

I had some great views and met some interesting characters on my long hike along the highway shoulder from Humbug Mountain to Nesika Beach. But I still would have preferred to not be walking on the highway.

Monday, August 20, 2018

A week-long section hike in the Oregon Dunes and beyond

My friends Paula and Mile just spent seven days hiking the OCT from Florence to Floras Lake. They had hiked the northern half (Columbia River to Florence) last October and had intended to pick up the southern half this summer but stopped short due to injury (tendonitis). But up to that point they really enjoyed this week-long walk. If you’re looking for a more remote OCT section hike that includes some undeveloped camping (as well as, in their case, motel and hiker-biker camps), this is a good one.

Four main takeaways for me:
  • ·        Beware of ticks in the marshes along the Oregon Dunes in midsummer.
  • ·        Avoid camping at the RV park in Winchester Bay if you can.
  • ·        Preschedule your cab rides or be prepared to wait.
  • ·        Do your best to hit every coastal river mouth at low tide, because sand volume fluctuates from year to year and even through the season, and you never know which ones will be easy (or hard) to cross.

Oh, and the bus system works well getting to and from (and up and down) the coast.

Here’s a secondhand day-by-day account of their trip:

DAY 1: FLORENCE TO CARTER LAKE. After taking a bus from Eugene to Florence, they walked the highway/road to the beach at the south jetty and headed south down the beach. They were surprised (as I was, hearing about it) how high the Siltcoos River was—nearly waist-deep. Which is a good reminder of how unpredictable the coastal river mouth depths are. Took the trail through the dunes to Carter Lake Campground for the night.

DAY 2: CARTER LAKE TO WINCHESTER BAY. Continued down the beach to the Umpqua South Jetty and got a boat ride across the bay mouth—prearranged—to Winchester Bay. Spent an unpleasant night camping in the RV campground there (other guests were doing Johnny Cash karaoke until late into the night); they tried to get a motel room but the town was booked solid. Presumably they filled extra water bottles here, anticipating a night of camping in the dunes.

DAY 3: WINCHESTER BAY TO TENMILE CREEK. Continued down the beach to the mouth of Tenmile Creek. Here they bushwacked inland into the marsh, looking for a campsite. It was gorgeous, they say, but they couldn’t find a decent place to camp, so they returned to the beach—and found themselves covered with ticks. After picking off the ticks, they settled into a campsite in the dunes about a half-mile south of Tenmile Creek (off the beach, outside of the plover restriction zone).

Camp kitchen in the dunes
DAY 4: TENMILE CREEK TO NORTH BEND. Continued south to Horsfall Beach access. Attempted to get a cab from here to North Bend/Coos Bay, but all the cabs were busy and—long story short—they wound up walking all the way into North Bend, where they got a motel room.

DAY 5: SEVEN DEVILS ROAD TO BULLARDS BEACH STATE PARK. They prearranged a cab for early this morning (8 am); it arrived promptly, and they had the cab drop them off along Seven Devils Road. (So they skipped Charleston/Cape Arago entirely). They walked the road (paved, then gravel, then paved again briefly) back to the beach at Seven Devils State Recreation Site. They timed their start to get around Fivemile Point at mid-low tide. They continued down the beach to Bullards Beach State Park hiker-biker camp, which was full to bursting with both OCT hikers and US 101 cyclists.

HIker-biker camp, Bullards Beach State Park

DAY 6: BULLARD BEACH TO NEW RIVER BIVOUAC CAMPSITE. They walked into Bandon and resumed walking the beach south. They had no trouble crossing New River (only one outlet now, and barely a trickle when they crossed; again, you never know about these coastal rivers) and camped at the BLM bivouac site north of Floras Lake and loved it (using water they carried from Bullards Beach).

DAY 7: NEW RIVER CAMPSITE TO FLORAS LAKE. They continued down the beach to Floras Lake. From here they walked out to the town of Langlois (on US 101) and caught a bus north to Coos Bay, where they spent a night in a motel before catching another bus back to Eugene.

Had they continued, they would have encountered more wild camping opportunities at Blacklock Point and a hiker-biker camp at Cape Blanco. Not until Port Orford is there bus access (via Curry Public Transit).