Friday, June 1, 2018

Your 2018 OCT update

Short Sand Beach from Cape Falcon Trail, on the north coast

As in the past, I've collated all the updates I've accumulated (and corrected mistakes, and landscape alterations, and wisdom from other hikers, etc.) and put them together in this document that serves as a supplement to my 2015 Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. Have a great hike, and let me know if you have any intel to share with other hikers! It's a beautiful day in Oregon, and the river levels are nice and low. Should be great hiking now through September.

2018 OCT trail update

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. (Most likely closure days: Friday and Saturday, especially in summer. No days off-limits for beach closures.) 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.