Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Solving the Camp Rilea Problem: OCT Day 1

UPDATE 4/18/18: I have just had a very constructive dialogue with Col. (Ret.) Todd Farmer, Camp Rilea training site manager,  about the Camp Rilea OCT problem and am updating this post accordingly.

Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center is located adjacent to Clatsop Beach on the northern Oregon coast (adjacent to roughly miles 5.8 to 9.5 of the Oregon Coast Trail). Last summer I learned of a 2015 agreement between the Oregon Military Department and Oregon State Parks that allows the military to close the beach adjacent to Camp Rileameaning, some 3.7 miles of the Oregon Coast Trailwhenever they are conducting live weapons training or for "other military exercises." These closures are not infrequent; they occur several times a month, year-round, sometimes for several days in a row. Turns out Camp Rilea has been doing day-long closures of the beach for many years (the camp's been there since 1927, certainly predating the Oregon Beach Bill); this agreement was an attempt to put some boundaries around that action, requiring the military to provide at least 24 hours advance notice of closures via a website. It also allows vehicles to transit that stretch of beach for 15 minutes at the top of every hour that the beach is closed (not enough time for hikers to walk the 3.7 miles, however). In fact, the agreement doesn't even acknowledge the existence of OCT hikers; it accommodates vehicles (this being one of just two significant stretches of Oregon beach where driving is still allowed) and even agrees to not do live weapons training during clamming tides. But the agreement makes no accommodation of any kind for hikers. Hikers have, in the past, been forced to wait (up to all day, or several days) or to make a long (unnecessarily long) detour.

Camp Rilea does have a website that indicates whether the ranges are in use or are cold. But Camp Rilea has been posting only the current range status, not what is happening in 24 hours. Here is that website:

Frankly I don't understand how these beach closures are even legal under the 1967 Oregon Beach Bill. I appreciate that soldiers need live weapons training, certainly. I just think that this is the wrong place to do it today, for a bunch of reasons. Given the investment other state agencies are making in improving and promoting the Oregon Coast Trail (and the ever-increasing use of the beach by the public), I hope the state agencies that are charged with enforcing public beach access and promoting use of the Oregon Coast Trail restart a dialogue with the agency that is routinely closing the beach to the public.

The agreement between Oregon State Parks and Oregon Military Department accommodates clammers--but not OCT hikers.
However my main interest is in helping OCT thru-hikers deal with this inconvenience, and after a series of emails with Lt. Farmer, I think we have a path forward (literally and metaphorically).

Col. Farmer acknowledged that the range status website is not providing the required advance notice (rather, just current range status); he pledged to correct that. Hopefully you will soon be able to go to that site and not only see if the range is cold NOW but what the status of the range will be in the next 24 hours. Note that the military occasionally closes the beach for other reasons that don't involve live weapons fire. I pointed this out to Col. Farmer; presumably in the future these closures will also be posted on that site. MY RECOMMENDATION: Before you set out, check the website, and if there is no indication the range is or will soon be closed, take a screenshot. Then if you still get stopped, show the screenshot to the soliders and, I suggest, insist in being allowed to continue your hike unimpeded (since the agreed-upon notice was not given).

I mean, it's an option. If there are vehicles stopped on the beach, waiting until the top of the hour when they are allowed to scoot through the closure area, you might as well ask if you can get a ride.

In the past (like, last summer) soldiers stopping OCT hikers were insisting that hikers backtrack 2.1 miles to the Peter Iredale beach access in Fort Stevens State Park and, from there, wind through the park and take surface streets until they were south of Camp Rilea, a pretty horrible detour that robs you of one of the coolest parts of the entire OCT (the long, long Clatsop Beach walk). This is totally unnecessary, as Col Farmer agreed. He told me he will instruct his people to point hikers to the preferred alternative: exiting the beach on Delaura Beach Road, which runs along the north boundary of Camp Rilea. Follow that dirt road to quiet paved roads and out to US 101 briefly before getting onto a very cool trail that follows the southern boundary of Camp Rilea, adding just 2.2 miles to your OCT hike.

DISCLAIMER: I have walked all of this route except the westernmost 0.5 mile of Delaura Beach Road. I was there in March, and my guide/companion told me the muddy potholes might go up to my waist. I was willing to submerge my boots (and did), but figured I'd go back in summer to see how deep those potholes really are in the hiking season. Spring hikers, beware.

Here is a PDF of the preferred Camp Rilea detour map and directions. I suggest you download it to your phone or print it out and have it with you on Day 1, just in case.

If you follow these guidelines but still have any trouble at Camp Rilea, I would be interested in hearing from you about your experience. Hopefully that won't happen. My thanks to Col. Farmer for taking my concerns seriously and for agreeing to make the needed adjustments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Back in Business

Love this suspension bridge on the trail up the north side of Cape Lookout.

Hey folks, I got locked out of the blog for awhile (for technical reasons that are boring) but I'm back in and eager to share a bunch of info. I had hoped to have a detailed mile-by-mile guide to share in time for a couple of April hikers I know of to use, but that's probably not going to happen. But be looking for the following and more, coming soon:

New official interactive map coming. It was supposed to be out in January, or February for sure.  Oregon Coast Visitors Association has taken it on. I haven't seen it yet, and frankly I have some doubts about how thorough.accurate it will be (mainly because they didn't consult with me about it, seriously!), but it has to be better than the old official Oregon State Parks map. As soon as I hear that it has launched, I'll share.

Camp Rilea: This can be a huge problem on Day One of the OCT if you happen to start on the wrong day: National Guard camp at around Mile 7 has begun stopping hikers (at gunpoint) if the military happens to be doing live fire training (or anything else that they think would be more fun/easier if they could clear the beach of people). This has become a huge issue that several of us are working on; not only are state parks and Oregon Military Department not providing the notification they agreed to provide (in a 2015 agreement), but it's clearly a violation of the Oregon Beach Bill. Long term: hoping to get this agreement canned or at least seriously amended. Short term: I plan to post instructions for how to deal with this if it happens to you.

CoastWalk Oregon: I was going to post about this wonderful event again, but it filled up this year in something like two weeks. But keep it in mind for the future if you want a fun three-day intro to the OCT, and for a good cause. CWO will start over at Mile 0 (Columbia River) in 2020 (or maybe 2019). In the future I'll be better about giving advance notice for when registration opens (now that I'm back to blog access).

The big picture: Overall there is a huge surge of interest in the OCT by state agencies in a position to finesse it. Maybe the huge surge in hikers in summer 2017 is one reason, but also it seems like the OCT's time has just arrived. State agencies (more than one) are taking a serious look at gaps that need to be filled and are working on solutions. Certain gaps are getting real attention, finally (like the horror show of highway shoulder walking from Cascade Head to Lincoln City). I'll share as I learn more. Everything takes more time than it should, IMO. But I see real progress on the near horizon, which is great.

England bound! I plan to hike the Coast to Coast Trail in June (St. Bees to Robin Hood's Bay). I mention it only because I think it may provide a good model for how self-guided inn-to-inn hiking (possibly with luggage transfer) could be done on the Oregon Coast as well. I'll share applicable lessons learned.

Mile-by-mile guide (more detailed and easier to use than what's in my book): One of these days I'll get it done (just in time to update it, no doubt). We'll see. In any case, please buy my book (Day Hiking: Oregon Coast), which is about the best thru-hike guide currently available.