Wednesday, March 8, 2017

OCT in 23 days: How long I hiked and where I slept

It begins!
It’s the first week of March, it’s snowing, so naturally many of us are starting to make our plans for summer backpacking. Personally, I’m hoping to complete my last unhiked section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. I recently picked up a great new guidebook apparently written just for me (and all the other Oregon PCT section hikers, who far outnumber thru-hikers): Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon (Mountaineers Books). It’s too heavy to stick in your pack, but it’s just the right weight for spring reading and planning at home in front of the fireplace.

One feature that I love in that book: For every section, the author spells out recommended itineraries for those who wish to hike roughly 10 miles a day, or 15, or 20. I wish I could say my Day Hiking: Oregon Coast offers thru- (or section-) hikers that level of detail, but it doesn’t. (Frankly the much smaller number of hikers on the OCT, compared the PCT, makes publishers shy about producing an equally detailed book about backpacking the OCT.) Also finding campsites is more problematic on the OCT; you can’t just throw down your sleeping bag any old place like you can on the PCT, so 10-mile days aren’t always an option (unless you stay at motels, take the risk of camping illegally, take cabs now and then, etc).

I do want to be helpful. So here I will list, for the first time all in one place (I think), my daily mileage and campsites for my 23 days on the OCT—with some notes about other lodging options in those sections. It’s just what I did—not necessarily recommending all my choices. If you don’t have a relative to crash with in Gearhart at the end of Day 1, for example, you will have to make other arrangements. Mileage is a little rough but should be close, and is rounded off to closest mile. Bear in mind that I was a woman hiking alone—not fearful, but unenthusiastic about camping alone in odd spots and cautious about safety. NEXT BLOG POST: A 28-DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1: Columbia River to north Gearhart (12 miles)
Stayed at my brother’s house. As of this writing, state parks folks allow beach camping from Sunset Beach access to the Gearhart city limits (use the toilet at Sunset Beach or just off the beach at Pacific Way in Gearhart, by the tennis courts). This is also a good stretch to consider paying for a room (at McMenamin’s Sand Trap, for instance).

Day 2: Minus tide at Ecola State Park
Day 2: Gearhart to Cannon Beach (18 miles)
I stayed with a friend in Cannon Beach. Could have cut the day short and camped atop Tillamook Head, or camped at luxe Sea Ranch RV park or hotel in Cannon Beach. Absolutely no camping on the beach in Cannon Beach/Arch Cape.

Day 3: Cannon Beach to Nehalem Bay State Park (23 miles)
Long day, so I walked the highway at Neahkahnie Mountain rather than sticking to the OCT over Neahkahnie (saved about 2.5 miles and 1200 feet elevation gain). There is no legal camping between Cannon Beach and Nehalem Bay SP; I wish there were. There are a couple of inns in Arch Cape. Camping no longer allowed in Oswald West State Park. (Might find a spot to bivouac, but it would be illegal and there aren’t a lot of flat, open spots.)

Day 4: Nehalem Bay SP to Cape Meares (15 miles)
I bivouacked along a trail (that has since been destroyed by landslides) just outside of the community of Cape Meares. Better options: Barview County Park or more primitive camping on Bayocean Spit. Or book an Air BnB room/house in community of Cape Meares (no commercial lodging there).

Day 5: Trail up Cape Meares
Day 5: Cape Meares to Cape Lookout State Park (11 miles)
My favorite hiker-biker camp of the whole trip. This section also has lodging options in Oceanside and Netarts (but no other legal rustic camping).

Day 6: Cape Lookout SP to Pacific City (14 miles)
I treated myself to a motel room in “downtown” Pacific City; didn’t realize Webb County Campground (with uninteresting but convenient and cheap hiker-biker camp) was just east of the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, a mile or so before getting to the center of Pacific City; would have stopped there. Also beach camping is OK (and looks awesome) at north end of beach south of Cape Lookout; this would be a great option if you need to get up early to hit the outlet for Sand Lake at low tide.

Day 7: Pacific City to Devil’s Lake State Park (22 miles; hitched a ride for 6 of those miles)
Devil’s Lake SP has a crummy hiker-biker camp, but I was able to get a regular campsite in better spot. I hitched a ride for part of this day (one of the road portions) and walked another road portion (ick). No camping allowed on Cascade Head (sadly). Could camp at north end of Neskowin Beach, and I see no reason why you couldn’t camp on the beach north of Road’s End (north of Lincoln City), but that would require backtracking. There is lots of lodging in Neskowin and Lincoln City.

Day 8: Beverly Beach SP
Day 8: Devil’s Lake SP to Beverly Beach State Park (19 miles)
Plenty of accommodations in this section, but no legal beach camping. (You could camp on the beach south of Beverly Beach, but not very private.)

Day 9: Beverly Beach SP to Nye Beach, Newport (7 miles)
I planned this as a quasi-layover day. Stayed at a hotel in Nye Beach.

Day 10: Nye Beach to Beachside State Park (20 miles)
I loved this day, despite road being close. Other sleeping options: South Beach State Park or lodging in Waldport.

Day 11: Yachats 804 Trail
Day 11: Beachside SP to Yachats (5 miles)
Lots of accommodation options in Yachats, or walk about 7.5 miles farther to campground at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. (I did not overnight in Yachats; had to quit here due to injury. I picked back up the following summer on what we’ll call …)

Day 12: Yachats to Carl Washburne State Park (15 miles)
Other options: not the beach in this stretch, but try Rock Creek Campground, or I suppose you could veer off the OCT (a mile or less) and find a spot to bivouc in the forest along Gwynn Creek or Cummins Creek (legal; it’s Forest Service land).

Day 13: Washburne SP to Florence (18 miles)
I stayed at a friend’s place in Florence. I think you could camp at Baker Beach (slight detour inland; now just a day-use area, but looks like people do camp here; has toilet), could camp at Sutton Campground (slightly longer detour inland) or right on the beach in this section. Two other options if you want a shower and a toilet: Harbor Vista County Park, or the RV park right in downtown Florence, where you could walk to a great restaurant meal. J I would so do this.

Day 14: Oregon Dunes NRA
Day 14: Florence to just north of the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek, Oregon Dunes (15 miles)
Can camp on the beach anywhere along here; I went inland slightly to a nice little spot along the creek.

Day 15: Tahkenitch Creek to mouth of Tenmile Creek (20 miles)
Bivouacked on the beach, but this particular site on the beach is now off-limits to camping due to snowy plover restrictions. Plenty of other options, including anywhere on the beach outside of plover restriction zone (such as at the end of Umpqua Spit), grabbing a room in Winchester Bay, or detouring inland slightly to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.

Day 16: Tenmile Creek to Sunset Bay State Park (15 miles)
That’s the mileage I walked; doesn't include my boat ride across Coos Bay to Charleston. Other options in this section: detouring inland from Horsfall Beach Access 0.75 mile to Bluebill campground (quiet, toilets); getting a room in Charleston; camping at Bastendorff Beach County Park (I prefer hiker-biker at Sunset Bay).

Day 17: Fivemile Point
Day 17: Sunset Bay State Park to Bullards Beach State Park (19 miles)
Can camp pretty much anywhere on the beach in this section, north of the state park.

(I actually took a layover day at Bullards Beach, but let’s pretend I didn’t.)

Day 18: Bullards Beach to Boice Cope County Park at Floras Lake (20 miles)
Tough hike on soft sand much of the way. Could opt for motel in Bandon, could bivouac at one identified site along New River north of Floras Lake, could book a room at lovely B&B at Floras Lake.

Day 19: Floras Lake to Humbug Mountain State Park (24 miles)
A beautiful stretch; no need to hike this far in a day! Could bivouac at Blacklock Point, or camp at hiker-biker at Cape Blanco State Park. There is lodging in Port Orford (if you have $$, check out Wildspring Guest Habitat).

Day 20: Sisters Rocks
Day 20: Humbug Mountain SP to Gold Beach (25 miles)
More than 7 miles of road walking this day, starting with the 5 miles south of Humbug (the brief off-road/beach stretch, then more road); next time I’ll try to sweet-talk another camper at Humbug into giving me a ride to Euchre Creek. Grabbed room at the Motel 6 in Gold Beach. You could camp on the beach north of community of Nesika Beach (but too close to the highway for my taste) or north of the mouth of the Rogue (again, not remote). I’m thinking you could also set up your tent at the RV park at the Gold Beach Marina (a short walk to a restaurant meal.)

Day 21: Gold Beach to Pistol River (15 miles)
Camping tough in this section; no good options. Should be able to camp on the beach where you start up Cape Sebastian (remote, far from highway) or maybe just as you hit the beach after hiking over the cape (but it’s closer to the highway). Here’s what I did: at Pistol River, I called a cab in Brookings and spent the night at Harris Beach State Park. Took a cab back the next morning to where I left off.

Day 22: Pistol River to Harris Beach (22 miles)
After a long hike through Boardman State Park, I spent a second night at Harris Beach. Some folks (illegally) bivouc in Boardman State Park. You could rent a cabin at Whaleshead Beach Resort (mostly an RV park; no tent camping). Personally I would try that (but haven’t, so can’t recommend it).

End of the OCT at Crissey Field
Day 23: Harris Beach to the California border/Crissey Field State Recreation Site (9 miles)

Plenty of lodging in towns of Brookings and Harbor. Most of this final day is road walking FYI.

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