Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mile 151.5 to Mile 174.4: Yaquina Bay to Yachats

Notations such as “(Hike 49)” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast. Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

If you are new to the central Oregon coast, repeat after me:

Yah-QUIN-uh. YAH-hots.

Happily there is very little road walking on this stretch; you’ll mostly be on the beach. And no boat-hailing drama: you’ll wade one good-sized creek and cross a big river on a big bridge.

From the south jetty at the mouth of Yaquina Bay, walk the beach south 6.2 miles to the mouth of wadeable Beaver Creek. Someday this will be a great place to stop for the night. What used to be called Ona Beach State Park (a day use area and beach access) has been joined with nearby Beaver Creek State Natural Area and additional acreage to create Brian Booth State Park, where a new campground is being planned (but won’t be completed sooner than 2016—could be 2018 or even later). Continue south on the beach another 1.7 miles. Approaching a basalt cliff near Seal Rock State Wayside (note the rocks offshore), look for the little trail climbing up a ravine to the highway.

Follow the highway shoulder south 1.1 miles to Quail Street and follow it west back to the beach (9.1 miles). After about 3 miles of beach walking, approaching the end of the spit at the mouth of Alsea Bay, look for footsteps leading off the beach at any of several beach access trails squeezed between houses here. Follow neighborhood roads south and east to Bayshore Drive, and follow it north and uphill about 0.8 mile to U.S. 101 near the north end of the Alsea Bay Bridge. Cross the bridge; the town of Waldport (and an interpretive center with water/toilets) lies at the south end of the bridge. Follow the highway or side roads south, returning to the beach at the end of town.

Now you’ve got an uninterrupted six-plus miles of beach walking ahead, but consider stopping for the night at Beachside State Park, 2.6 miles south of Waldport (17.1 miles); look carefully for tents or RVs among the trees and footsteps leading off the beach. It’s squeezed into a narrow corridor between highway and shoreline and isn’t the most special of state parks, but it’s a legal place to sleep.

Or continue south 3.9 miles until the beach ends at a headland topped with houses. Look for a trail running up the sandstone slope; it becomes Yachats 804 Trail (Hike 49). Follow it 0.8 mile to Smelt Sands State Recreation Area. The 804 Trail continues south across a grassy field, through a neighborhood and along Ocean View Drive 1.1 miles to reconnect with U.S. 101 at the south end of the town of Yachats (22.9 miles).   

There is lodging in Waldport and in Yachats, including several motels right off the Yachats 804 Trail. The next campground is just a few miles south of Yachats; see next blog post.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mile 142.8 to Mile 151.5: Beverly Beach State Park (north of Newport) to Yaquina Bay South Jetty (south of Newport)

Notations such as “(Hike 45)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”
Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
This is a short stretch; hike it as a short day or tack it on to the start or end of a longer day. Newport is a fine place for a layover day; it’s an interesting, vibrant coastal town with lots of good places to eat (particularly meaningful when you're walking many miles a day).  

From Beverly Beach State Park, return to the beach and head south for 2 miles. As you approach Yaquina Head, look for a trail leading off the beach near Moolack Shores Motel. Walk along the highway for 1.5 miles to the traffic light at Lighthouse Drive (heading toward Yaquina Lighthouse); Lucky Gap Trail to the beach begins at the bottom of the parking area south of Lighthouse Road and just off the highway (where you should also find a portable toilet).

From Lucky Gap, follow the beach about 3.5 miles to the mouth of Yaquina Bay (passing beach access and water/toilets at Nye Beach). There are cafes and hotels/motels close to the beach at Nye Beach; the charming Sylvia Beach Hotel has (in additional to private hotel rooms that often must be reserved months in advance) dorm rooms where you can get an inexpensive bunk for the night. (I did, but I didn’t find it particularly restful. Might have just been the mix of women who were there that night.)

Approaching the north jetty at Yaquina Bay, look for concrete stairs leading up to the old lighthouse (toilets/water); walk up and out to the highway and over the Yaquina Bay Bridge (7.7 miles). Alternatively, apparently there is now a short trail now (I haven’t walked it yet) that leads under the north end of the bridge from the beach to the bayfront, if you want to get a bite to eat or whatever.) At the south end of the bay bridge, head down the stairs and walk a short distance north to 2nd Avenue; follow it west about 1 mile along the south jetty to return to the beach. Or, about 0.25 before reaching the beach, head south on Old Jetty Trail at South Beach State Park (Hike 45) to walk through the dunes 0.5 mile or so before taking one of three intersecting trails west, to return to the beach, or east to reach the park campground (the hiker-biker camp is at the south end of the campground, near the registration booth).

I’ll end this section description here (at about 9.2 miles); until the campground at Brian Booth State Park is completed and opens in 2016 or later (see next blog post), you won’t reach another state park campground for 17.1 miles.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mile 127.4 to Mile 142.8: Siletz Bay to Beverly Beach State Park

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

There are some small rivers and creeks that can be crossed only by wading at low tide. Then there are bay mouths, such as the mouth of the Siletz, that can only be crossed at high tide. That’s because Siletz Bay is so shallow, there are no boats anywhere on it except for a couple of hours either side of high tide.

From the end of the beach at Lincoln City, you have two options:

Hail a recreational crabber or fisherman in the bay (this fellow at right, for example) to get a quick trip across the bay mouth to the end of Salishan Spit. Again, your timing needs to be right; this can only happen within a couple of hours of high tide. There is no marina on Siletz Bay, so no one to prearrange a ride with. From the tip of Salishan Spit, walk the beach until it ends at Fishing Rock (5.8 miles).
 Alternately, if the tide is low or you are otherwise unable or unwilling to hitch a ride, just follow the edge of the bay inland 0.6 mile to U.S. 101, by the gazebo at Siletz Bay Park. Following the highway south, across Schooner Creek, then Drift Creek, then the Siletz River to the traffic light at Salishan Spa and Golf Resort (mile 3.8). The resort’s nature trail heads west 0.5 mile between the bay and the golf course to the beach, but it’s private resort property, so continue along the highway another 0.8 mile head west 0.25 mile at the sign to Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site, where there are toilets and water. Follow the beach south 2.1 miles south to Fishing Rock. (Highway shoulder route adds about 1.2 miles to the distance between the end of the beach at Siletz Bay and Gleneden Beach).

There are scramble trails leading up onto Fishing Rock; follow one out to the parking area (portable potty in the summertime, last time I checked) and walk east on Fishing Rock Street to the highway. Cross it and drop down into Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area (toilets/water); follow park roads and trails south across Fogarty Creek and back up to the highway.

Cross the highway and pick up the OCT heading south parallel to the highway. This new section was completed in 2013; it takes OCT hikers off a particularly dangerous stretch of highway. I haven’t hiked it yet myself; I believe it extends about 0.9 mile to Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, though it may continue further, to the edge of the town of Depoe Bay. There are toilets and water at the Whale Watch Center on the Depoe Bay seawall (8.3 miles).

As I understand it, this newly constructed OCT stretch picks up again at the south end of Depoe Bay (exactly where, I’m not sure) and runs through the woods in the right-of-way on the west side of the highway, I believe all the way to where Otter Crest Loop Road meets the highway (2.3 miles from the Whale Watch Center). Pick up Otter Crest Loop (which has little traffic and great views) and follow it south 3 miles to the sign to Devils Punchbowl. at First Street. Walk west on First Street 0.4 mile to the top of the stairs at Devil’s Punchbowl and follow them down the southern cliff face to the beach. Walk the beach about 1.4 miles to Spencer Creek; here, follow footsteps under the highway and into Beverly Beach State Park (15.4 miles).

Beverly Beach is a large and busy state park with a nice hiker-biker camp tucked into the forested hillside above the creekside camping loops.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mile 118.4 to Mile 127.4: Cascade Head to Siletz Bay

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

The route of the OCT from the south side of Cascade Head to Lincoln City is somewhat in play and will change in the next couple of years. There is the ideal route (not possible now, or maybe ever, due to private land management issues), the second-best alternative route (not yet built), and the too-much-highway-walking route (the only current option).

Let’s start with the current reality. Beginning where Three Rocks Road meets U.S. 101 on the south side of Cascade Head, walk south along US 101 for 3.8 miles, crossing the Salmon River, and leave the highway at the north end of Lincoln City on NW 40th Street, following signs west to Chinook Winds Resort and to a beach access site (4.1 miles). Head south on the beach about 2 miles to the mouth of the D River (easy to wade) and continue another 2.7 miles to the mouth of Siletz Bay (8.7 miles). If you plan to camp at Devil's Lake State Park (my least favorite coastal hiker-biker camp; see below), leave the beach at the D River, cross U.S. 101 to NE First Avenue, and pick up the boardwalk trail leading north a short distance into the state park.

If this section and the previous one have just too much highway walking for your taste, consider calling a cab (several taxi companies in Lincoln City) or taking the bus ( from Neskowin to the north end of Lincoln City (four southbound trips a day at this writing).

The Second-Best Future Alternative Route: The U.S. Forest Service, which manages a chunk of land south of the Salmon River, plans to build (in summer 2014) an informational kiosk on the south side of the Salmon River describing the work done to preserve and rehabilitate and study the forest on Cascade Head and the wetlands along the river. From there they hope, in the next few years, to build a trail that will lead up through the forested headland west of here and connect with public land owned by the City of Lincoln City, then to neighborhood roads leading down to beach access in the community of Road’s End, giving hikers more beach time and cutting off 2.8 mile of highway shoulder misery.  But that trail doesn’t yet exist.

The In-My-Dreams Ideal Route: That would be to hitch a ride across the Salmon River from Knight Boat Landing on Three Rocks Road, walk the beach along the river to the ocean, and cut over the headland using existing trails through the Camp Westwind property to link with existing Forest Service trails and, ultimately, beach access at Road’s End. This route, which would completely bypass Highway 101, would be the most expedient, most scenic, most convenient, most beachy, and safest route and would require no new trail construction. But the owners of the Camp Westwind property have, historically, been unwilling to let hikers on their land, especially in summer, while camp is in session. So it’s back to the highway for OCT hikers for the foreseeable future.

Regarding overnighting, Devils Lake State Park is very convenient to the beach, but it's noisy, and the hiker-biker camp is not great (right next to the campground entrance); I camped here but opted for a more expensive but quieter campsite closer to the lake (where I met Radler the dog, pictured at top). There are plenty of hotels and motels in Lincoln City. At the north end of Lincoln City, where you leave US 101 to rejoin the beach, there's a huge shopping mall where you can buy groceries or get a meal. There are more restaurants and cafes clustered around beach access at the D River and at Siletz Bay (in photo), where the beach ends.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Is that safe?" Part II: Thinking About Tsunamis


When my friend Jason Jensen (a.k.a. Pirateboy: “Pillage and plunder every treasure, every grain, every day”) set out to hike the OCT in the early 1990s, a friend gave him a huge (like, 18-inch square) Rice Krispies Treat, the idea being that he could use it as flotation in case of a tsunami or, should no tsunami strike, he could eat it. It was a joke, obviously, but he was a little spooked by the possibility. This was just a few years after scientists first discovered that there have, in fact, been huge tsunamis on the Pacific Northwest coast in the past and there will be again. But exactly when, no one knows.

Tsunamis are an infrequent phenomenon on the Oregon coast but one OCT hikers should be aware of. You will most definitely see signs along the highway indicating that you are entering (or leaving) a tsunami zone or indicating what direction to run, should a tsunami be imminent. Most tsunamis worldwide are triggered by earthquakes on the ocean floor. To understand the risk and how to minimize it, it’s essential to understand the two very different types of tsunamis that occasionally strike the Oregon coast.

A distant tsunami is one caused by a very large earthquake hundreds or thousands of miles away: for instance, off the coast of Japan or Alaska. These tsunamis take hours to cross the ocean to Oregon and, by the time they arrive, typically have diminished greatly. Many towns on the Oregon coast have a system of tsunami warning sirens. If you are not near a town, be aware that arriving tsunamis are preceded by a sudden, significant withdrawal of water at the shore. If you notice the ocean suddenly receding far more than normal—and it will be noticeable—simply move farther up or off the beach. Distant tsunamis large enough to be noticeable and do damage in Oregon rare and typically are only dangerous in bays and harbors or near the waterline on the beach. Other than the tsunami following the 2011 Japan earthquake (which, by the time it reached Oregon, was perceptible only in a few harbors), the last distant tsunami large enough to do any damage here was in 1964 and, prior to that, possibly in 1899, both times caused by earthquakes off Alaska.

A local tsunami is a far more dangerous but even less common phenomenon, and the warning sign is unmistakable: it is preceded by a huge earthquake. An underwater fault line (called the Cascadia Subduction Zone) runs just off the Pacific Northwest coast from Vancouver Island south to Cape Mendocino, California (south of Eureka), and every few hundred years it generates a very large earthquake that, in turn, triggers a tsunami that strikes the coast in 15 to 30 minutes (quicker on the southern Oregon coast). If you happen to be on the beach when a large earthquake strikes (it will be unmistakable: four to five minutes of severe shaking), as soon as you are able to walk, run to the highest ground you can reach. The last big Cascadia quake occurred in January 1700; the next one could be any day now—or not for hundreds of years. 
I didn’t know much about tsunamis and tsunami risk when I hiked the OCT in 2008 and 2009; I’ve since learned a great deal (my book on the topic, The NextTsunami: Living on a Restless Coast, is due out from Oregon State University Press in spring 2014). I will say that, knowing what I know now, I would still without hesitation hike the OCT, but I might make a point of not camping at the end of a sand spit. I’m willing to risk the very small chance of being on the beach when the Big One hits, but I would prefer to not have to start running in the dark at the end of a 4- to 5-mile-long spit.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Is That Safe?" Part I: Motor Homes, River Mouths, and Other Hazards, Real and Not

“Is that safe?”

I don't know how many times I was asked that or something similar (or simply told it wasn't safe) when I mentioned my plans to hike the Oregon Coast Trail. I’m not sure what most alarmed people. Probably it was mostly about my being alone, and being a woman. And, frankly, I think it is more a reflection of the pampered lives most of us lead: warm, dry, and predictable. Not everyone hears the call of the wild.

But let’s pause for a moment and consider possible hazards on the Oregon Coast Trail, some of which are very real.

#1: Getting hit by a car
This is by far the most dangerous aspect of the OCT, IMO. Even if you manage to hitch rides across most river mouths, you will be doing some walking on the side of US Highway 101 and secondary roads. Accidents of this kind happen to long-distance hikers all the time. Earlier this month, for instance: Joe Bell, the father from Eastern Oregon who took off on a kind of cross-country vision quest in the wake of his bullied 15-year-old gay son’s suicide, killed by a careless driver in Colorado. Fortunately for OCT hikers, Oregon state parks folks continue to create off-road OCT routes where there is no beach, most recently north and south of Depoe Bay. Frankly it’s probably safer to hitchhike in some places—which is what I did rather than walk through the highway tunnel just south of Heceta Head Lighthouse (after watching a motor home creep through, nearly scraping the sides). (Photo: Southbound along US 101 south of Humbug Mountain.)

#2: Getting eaten by a bear (or other wild animal)
Not likely. There are black bears on the Oregon coast, but they’re small (females are 5 to 6 feet long, 125-200 pounds, i.e. my size), shy, and mostly vegetarian; if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one, but probably not. Cougars? I have never heard of cougars being a problem on the coast. Plenty of them in the Coast Range, but not west of US 101. Besides, there has never been a fatal cougar attack in Oregon, according to wildlife officials.

#3: Getting attacked by a crazy person
This is what most people were really thinking about, I suspect, when they asked, “Is that safe?” The marauding rapist, the serial killer on the loose, victimizing solitary women, or anyone. I guess that’s always a possibility, anywhere, anytime, but not likely enough to worry about. I will admit that was part what appealed to me about sleeping in hiker-biker camps: I like solitude by day, but I prefer to not camp alone, particularly on the beach, particularly close to a major highway. But crime statistics do not bear out random violence a serious cause for worry on the Oregon Coast Trail.
#4: Drowning while attempting to cross a river mouth
Not if you plan ahead and time your crossings by foot at low tide. Even if you were to misjudge the depth of water and get swept off your feet, the most likely worst outcome is that all your stuff gets wet. (I plan a collapsible trekking pole or two next time I hike the OCT, as the hiker in the photo crossing the outlet of Sand Lake did.) I did have something of a close call at the mouth of Netarts Bay; I had hitched a ride with some recreational crabbers, who dropped me off where I asked them to, right at the tip of Netarts Spit. Only it wasn’t quite the tip, it turned out; it was a sandbar just off the tip, and the tide was rising and I quickly realized I was actually cut off from the spit. Fortunately the crabbers had kept an eye on me and motored back to get me when I waved my arms, then dropped me off on the real spit. That was just stupid on my part.

#5 Getting caught in a sneaker wave
Sneaker wavesunusually large waves that can catch you unawares and knock you off your feet are a mostly wintertime phenomenon, but the adage applies year-round: Don't turn your back on the ocean, not when you're right alongside it. And don't jump on logs or stumps in the drift line, as the next wave that washes in might lift it, knock you off, and pin you under it.

#6: Tripping on the trail, falling down a cliff, or otherwise injuring yourself
Accidents do happen. You should carry a first aid kit and have the mental wherewithal to deal with this kind of thing. But this isn’t a wilderness area; with a few exceptions (the north side of Cape Sebastian), someone’s going to be along soon to help you out if something untoward happens. Don’t assume you can call 911 on your cell phone; reception is spotty in places (Verizon seems to have the best coast-wide coverage, FYI). (Who knew to worry about dislocating a finger in a minor fall on Neahkahnie Mountain? It didn't really hurt, just looked grotesque.)

#7: Getting epic blisters
You will get blisters on a through-hike, I can almost guarantee it. Something happens to the feet when you start exceeding, say, 10-12 miles a day for days at a time. But there are things you can do to prevent them and deal with them. And they won’t kill you.

#8: Getting poison oak rash
South of about Humbug Mountain there are patches of poison oak along the trail. If you’re not familiar with it, memorize the photo at left (by Franz Xavier). It’s annoying as hell, if you’re sensitive to it; figure two weeks of itching, weeping skin. Again, it won’t kill you.

#9: Getting bit by a poisonous snake
Nope. None. Not here.

#10: Getting swept away by a tsunami
It's highly unlikely and certainly not something that should stop you from hiking the OCT. But hikers should understand a little bit about tsunami science and what to do should the ocean suddenly and alarmingly withdraw, or should a major earthquake rattle the ground for four or five minutes while you happen to be on the beach. I will address the topic of tsunamis in more detail in the next post.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mile 99.9 to Mile 118.4: Pacific City to (and over) Cascade Head

Notations such as “(Hike 33)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.

It seems, just from scanning the map, that it should be possible to get a ride across the mouth of the Nestucca River at Pacific City, as at many other river mouths on the coast, and avoid about 6 miles of road walking. Just walk 2.75 miles south to the end of Nestucca Spit and hail a passing fisherman, or stop at the boat landing a short distance down the spit and catch a ride there. The problem lies with the landing on the south side. There is simply no safe place to land a boat near the beach south of the river mouth without risking winding up in the middle of a particularly dangerous bar.

Instead, from “downtown” Pacific City, follow the shoulder of Brooten Road (or take the bus: 2.7 miles to U.S. 101, then follow the highway south another 3.2 miles to Winema Road. Take Winema Road 0.5 mile down to the beach, then walk the beach 3.3 miles to Proposal Rock at the community of Neskowin. Walk alongside Hawk Creek (photo right), which leads to a little trail to the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site wayside (flush toilets and water) alongside U.S. 101 (10 miles).

Next challenge: ascent of Cascade Head. There used to be a very handy 6-mile OCT trail section over Cascade Head that eliminated 4.5 miles of highway walking, but the northern section of that trail is now closed due to extensive storm damage (blowdown) and a large slide. There are no plans to rebuild that portion of trail due to the steep, unstable terrain.

The new route trades 2.75 miles of highway shoulder walking for 4.75 miles of forest road and trail walking, as follows:  

From Neskowin, walk the shoulder of US 101 south 3.75 miles to gravel Road 1861, at the crest of the hill and on your right; follow Road 1861 west about 1.25 miles to where the OCT resumes southbound (Hike 33); hike it 3.5 miles down the headland to the trailhead near the junction of Three Rocks Road and US 101 (18.5 miles).

ALTERNATIVE #1:  An OCT hiker in September 2012 reported that parts of this trail are in poor condition; he suggested continuing on Road 1861 another 2 miles to the trailhead for the very scenic 4-mile trail down Cascade Head to Knight Boat Landing on Three Rocks Road (Hikes 32-33). From here it’s a 2.5-mile walk east on Three Rocks Road to US 101. This route would lengthen your hike by 5 miles, but this trail down Cascade Head provides some of the most awesome vistas on the entire Oregon Coast (see photo; you won't get this view on the official OCT route).

ALTERNATIVE #2: Consider calling a cab or taking that same bus (, four southbound trips a day at this writing) to hop from Neskowin to the north end of Lincoln City. Regardless which route you choose over Cascade Head, you still have 3.75 miles of highway shoulder walking, and probably another 4 to get to Lincoln City (though that may change, as I’ll discuss in the next post.)

There is no camping on Nestucca Spit (Robert W. Straub State Park), which seems a shame, nor is camping allowed almost anywhere on Cascade Head west of Highway 101 (most of which is either part of Cascade Head Scenic Research Area or part of a Nature Conservancy preserve). This stretch of the coast is just a hard place to find a tent site. There is lodging in Neskowin.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mile 86.2 to Mile 99.9: Cape Lookout to Pacific City

Notations such as “(Hike 23)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.
This stretch takes you over two of the three capes in the Three Capes region of the Oregon Coast—cape, from the Latin caput: the head, the chief, the top. A headland, in other words. And these two particular capes couldn’t be more different: Cape Lookout, a finger of basalt pointing west, the remains of a lava delta that flowed here from around the present-day Oregon-Idaho border some 15.5 million years ago, and Cape Kiwanda, made of golden sandstone, continuously re-sculpted by the elements as it slowly erodes. (Photo below: Top of Cape Kiwanda, with Cape Lookout faint in the background.)

Pick up the OCT where it leaves the day use area at the south end of Cape Lookout State Park (not far from the hiker-biker camp) and follow it up 2.3 miles to the trailhead parking area at the top of the cape (Hike 23). From here, pick up the trail heading west toward the tip of the cape. But just 75 yards down that trail you hit a junction; turn left to continue south on the OCT (Hike 24). The trail winds 1.8 miles down through the forest to the beach on the south side of the cape (Hike 24). Continue down the beach 4 miles to the outlet of wide, shallow Sand Lake (8.1 miles).

From my experience and that of others, you can expect the outlet of Sand Lake to be crossable ONLY at low tide, even in late summer. I got there an hour past low tide, in early September, and managed to find a spot about 100 years inland where it was just barely shallow enough to cross without swimming or losing my footing on the soft sand underwater, but crossing would have been impossible in another 20-30 minutes. Trekking poles could be helpful for this crossing. (If you arrive too late to wade the outlet, you could leave the beach at the RV park just north of the outlet and follow Sand Lake Road south; turn right on Roma Avenue at the north end of the community of Tierra del Mar and follow the trail at the end of Roma to the beach.
Continue south 4.4 miles (from Sand Lake outlet) on the beach and up and over the sandy neck of Cape Kiwanda to the beach access parking lot (and Pelican Pub) at the north end of Pacific City. The center of town is another 1.2 miles south by road (13.7 miles). You can find groceries in both places.
There seemed to be an informal surfers’ camp on the beach just south of Cape Lookout when I hiked by;  it’s a good half-mile north of Camp Meriwether, so the Boy Scouts shouldn't be bothered by your presence. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda and Cape Kiwanda RV Resort (for camping) are right across the road from the Pelican Pub, and there are more motels in the town center.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Where to sleep on the Oregon Coast Trail: A meditation, and some advice

Camping on the beach seems like the most obvious option. I mean, the cool thing about Oregon (one of many cool things) is that the beaches are entirely public, not just to the high tide line but to the vegetation line. YOU CANNOT OWN THE BEACH IN OREGON. You can own an oceanfront motel, but you cannot fence off any portion of that sandy beach for the exclusive use of your customers because it’s public.

Which, I think, is awesome.

Which means you can pretty much camp anywhere, right? 


Cities and towns can prohibit camping on the beach adjacent to city land, and they do. State parks (which  manages the ocean beaches) can prohibit camping adjacent to developed parks, and it does. Only in the most remote parts of the coast can you camp on the beach itself and not risk being rousted out by authorities of one kind or another (never pleasant). The beach immediately south of Cape Lookout seems to be a popular surfer camping site; that seems to work. There are places on the south coast where no one’s going to bother you. Not so the beach between the Columbia River and Gearhart; not only is camping there illegal, but you’re likely to get run over. You can camp on certain sand spits, but not all (Bayocean spit yes; not sure about Salishan Spit, but the nearby homeowners would probably prefer you didn't). The beach at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: no problem, though I recommend camping back in the dunes and not in on the beach per se. So, you see, it’s kind of tricky. Generally the farther south you go, the fewer people, the more remote the beaches, the more likely you can camp on the beach, or near the beach, such as back in the dunes, if it’s public land.

But beach camping is overrated, in my opinion. For one thing, it’s sandy. And it’s not level. If you’re too close to the ocean, you have to worry about high tide; if you’re too high, the dry sand gets into everything. I camped at the mouth of Tenmile Creek (photo below), between Winchester Bay and Coos Bay, and I worried all night about whether I was camped high enough. But you’re not that stupid, right?

Plus, getting real for a moment: where you sleep, you are likely to want to shit. This is not the forest, where you can dig a cat hole, do your thing, fill it back up with dirt, and no one is bothered. This is the beach. Feces don’t decompose in the sand they way they do in the forest. And a lot of people use the beach. It’s better for everyone if you strive to take care of business in an established toilet of some kind—flush toilet, vault toilet, porta-potty, whatever—of which there are many, in parks and waysides and the like.

Which, in a sense, leads to my preferred alternative: Hiker-biker camps in state parks. (Photo: Hiker-biker camp at Bullard Beach State Park, Bandon. Much laundry was done, apparently.) Yes, they’re in developed campgrounds, which may not be your vision for a backpacking trip, especially if you’re a veteran of the AT or PCT, but you didn’t really think this was a wilderness outing, did you? For $6 (in 2013) you get a flat spot to set up your tent, flush toilets and potable water and hot showers (no extra fee), picnic tables (sweet for setting up a stove and cooking dinner), and like-minded people to talk to, which is kind of nice especially if, like many OCT through-hikers, you’re hiking alone. Only don’t expect to run into other hikers; there aren’t many of us. Hiker-biker camps are mainly used by cyclists riding U.S. Highway 101. In addition to hiker-biker camps in coastal state parks, there are several beachfront (or nearly so) Forest Service campgrounds on the central coast: a little more expensive, no showers, but sometimes right on or near the beach.

Motels are another option: obviously more expensive, but really nice after a long day of hiking, especially if the weather has been less than stellar. You do need to reserve ahead in popular areas (Cannon Beach, Manzanita, probably Lincoln City). I stumbled into an inexpensive motel in Pacific City and another (Motel 6, at right) at the south end of the bridge in Gold Beach (where I spent about two hours in the bathtub). I also spent a night in the shared dorm room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel at Nye Beach in Newport; I wouldn’t do that again. (Love the artsy, funky hotel rooms there, but the dorm room was overcrowded and a little strange.) I do want to point out to any out-of-state readers that it is not unusual to find oceanfront lodging (not necessarily fancy, but still oceanfront) n Oregon for $100 or less. Sometimes much less.

Yurts? Only if you want your entire trip to be scheduled in advance. Yurts (small, round, wooden structures with heat, bunks, etc.) in state parks are popular and need to be reserved well in advance. Give yourself more flexibility and just buy an ultralight tent instead. After a few nights not staying in yurts, you may be money ahead.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Mile 68.8 (Garibaldi) to Mile 86.2 (Cape Lookout State Park)

Notations such as “(Hike 17)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.


From Garibaldi  (according to the official Oregon Parks & Recreation Department website), the route of the OCT continues along the shoulder of U.S. 101 and Netarts Highway all the way around Tillamook Bay to the community of Cape Meares.
There is simply no way I would do that. Why walk 20 miles of road shoulder, far from the beach, when it’s easy and shorter and way more fun and scenic to hire or hitch a ride across the mouth of Tillamook Bay to Bayocean Spit and walk down the beach less than 6 miles? OK, it takes either a little planning or a little luck, but an unnecessary highway slog is just not an option for OCT hikers, IMO.

The preferred alternative: Head down to the marina at Garibaldi and ask around among the recreational fishermen messing around in their boats whether someone might give you a ride over to Crab Harbor on Bayocean Spit (see Hike 17). (That’s the best place to get dropped off; the trail up the spit hugs the bay there. Father north you have to bust through dense underbrush to reach the trail.) Or do as other hikers have done and inquire with Garibaldi Marina (503/322-3312) about arranging a ferry for a fee. Such a shuttle may only be possible at mid- to high-tide, so arrange in advance or prepare to wait.

There are a couple of rustic campsites at Crab Harbor (again, see Hike 17), one with a vault toilet (but no water). From here, follow the wide gravel trail (a former road) south about 2.3 miles, depending on exactly where you got dropped off, to the trailhead parking area, then follow the trail west through the dunes 0.4 mile to the beach. It’s about 2.7 miles down the beach, passing the community called Cape Meares (no stores, no motels, but there are several house rentals listed on, to the foot of the headland called Cape Meares (5.4 miles).

You may have to wait for low tide to get to the trail leading up the cape. My book, Day Hiking: Oregon Coast, mentions a High Tide Trail, but landslides have reportedly destroyed it.  Instead, walk the beach to the base of the cliffs and pick up the trail heading uphill. You’ll (presumably still) reach a trail junction with the old High Tide Trail in 0.2 miles; just continue up another 1.5 miles to the top of the cape. Turn left at the trail junction to reach the park road (7.1 miles).

To continue, go left a few steps to reach Cape Meares Loop Road and begin following it to the south, toward Oceanside. If you want to take a break, follow Lighthouse Road west 0.25 mile to the end of the road, where there are flush toilets and potable water and where you can visit old Cape Meares Lookout. To pick up the OCT from here, follow signs 0.6 mile past the Octopus Tree to the trail’s end on Cape Meares Loop Road. Follow the road 2 miles down to the community of Oceanside (10 miles), where you can return to the beach at the state wayside (flush toilets/water). Walk down the beach about 2.4 miles to the community of Netarts. From here:

·         Wave over a fisherman to hitch a ride across the mouth of Netarts Bay, then follow the beach on the ocean side of the spit 5 miles south to the Cape Lookout State Park day use area near the base of the cape (17.4 miles).

·         Try to arrange a ride across the bay mouth with Big Spruce RV Park, in the boat basin (503/842-7443) or possibly Netarts Bay RV Park and Marina (503/842-7774) (I haven’t tried them) and walk down the spit to the park as described above.

·         Walk Netarts Bay Drive (becomes Whiskey Creek Road) all the way around the bay to Cape Lookout State Park (the least preferable alternative, but at least it's not busy U.S. 101).

Cape Lookout State Park has a great hiker-biker camp. There is lodging in Oceanside and Netarts, and maybe those RV parks in Netarts would let you pitch a tent if need be.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mile 56.3 (Nehalem Bay State Park) to 68.8 (Garibaldi)

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to mileage in this section only.


One of the best things about hiking the OCT, in my opinion, is catching boat rides across the bay mouths. This first one is the easiest; just wave your arms at the end of Nehalem Spit and, like magic, a boat appears. From Nehalem Bay State Park, head south down the beach 2.5 miles to the end of the sand spit. (There's also a sandy horse trail that leads down the center of the spit, but who wants to walk that? Unless rain is lashing the beach, and then you’re probably still cozy inside your tent on its elevated platform.) From the end of the spit, pick up a rough little trail leading east about 0.5 mile along the north jetty to a little beach; from here, wave your arms to hail a boat from Jetty Fishery, just across the bay mouth (or call them: 503/368-5746); for a small fee ($10 per person in 2013 and for many years before that) they will ferry you across the narrow bay mouth.

From Jetty Fishery, pick your way 0.75 west along the south jetty to return to the beach. It's about 6 miles of beach walking, passing the town of Rockaway Beach, to reach the north jetty at the mouth of Tillamook Bay (9.75 miles). (If you need groceries, Rockaway Beach Market is on the east side of U.S. 101 at S. Second St. and S. Anchor St.; leave the beach halfway to the Tillamook north jetty, just past a little creek entering the beach that might or might not be discernible in summer,  and head east into town to find it.) Leave the beach at the jetty and walk out the Barview County Park road (flush toilets/potable water better in the campground than at the jetty parking area) 1 mile to the railroad tracks or, just past them, U.S. 101. It's a 1.5-mile walk south from here to the Port of Garibaldi; the highway shoulder is very narrow, so I took my chances with another pair of hikers and walked on the railroad tracks (without incident). Approaching the main marina, look for a little paved path leading 0.25 mile off the highway/tracks and toward the boats (12.5 miles). (This photo is not of Rockaway Beach; it's of the beach south of Florence, but I like this wide beach and the clouds and the tiny people way down the beach; they could be you.) 

Overnighting: Consider pitching a tent back at Barview County Park, which has some sweet, woodsy, private campsites, or bivouac at the end of Bayocean Spit (see next post). There are reasonably priced motels in Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mile 32.5 to 56.3: Cannon Beach to Manzanita/Nehalem Bay State Park

Notations such as “(Hike 12)” refer to hikes in my book “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.”

Cumulative mileage figures in parentheses refer to this section only.

I have vivid memories of the morning I walked south from Cannon Beach, past Haystack Rock, on my through-hike. I started early to catch the low tide, and I recall the rising sun glinting off the wet sand as I threaded my way among the tall rocks at Humbug Point. You will want to hike this beach stretch on a low tide to get around Silver and Humbug Points (or you could always hop up to the road/highway if necessary). Hug Point (4.8 miles), the next potential obstacle, has a road cut into the rock a few feet above the sand that stagecoaches, and then cars, used in the last century, when the tide was too high to travel on the beach (see Hike 12), but you still want to aim at hitting it at low to mid tide. There are vault toilets up the beach access trail here. Continue another 1.75 miles. About 100 yards before the beach ends at the foot of Arch Cape, leave the beach on a little trail that leads onto Leech Street. Follow Leech east almost to US 101, turn right on Cannon Street, and follow it south and east under the highway and onto E. Shingle Mill Lane. Walk up Shingle Mill Lane a total of about 0.4 mile from the beach; at the sign for Third Road, turn right on a little gravel road that leads to a suspension bridge over Arch Cape Creek and resumption of the OCT as a forest trail (Hike 13). Walk 0.1 mile, turn right at the trail post, and follow the trail another 1.75 miles up and through the woods over Arch Cape and back to U.S. 101 (8.8 miles).

The trail resumes across the road about 50 yards to the south. Now you're looking at a 6.75-mile hike over Cape Falcon before returning to U.S. 101 at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain. A few landmarks along the way:  2.75 miles after the forest trail resumes, you'll reach an unmarked spur trail leading out to the bald tip of Cape Falcon (scenic spot for a break, where I sketched Neahkahnie Mountain in my notebook; could you bivouac here in a pinch?). In another 2.75 miles you'll reach a lovely picnic spot in Oswald West State Park overlooking Short Sand Beach (approaching this spot, bear right at trail junctions). Unfortunately, Oswald West State Park (formerly a hike-in campground favored by surfers) is now closed to overnight camping. (There are flush toilets and potable water here.) Rangers DO kick out anyone found camping here. The trail resumes at the southeast corner of the picnic area; follow it over Short Sand and Necarney Creeks another 1.25 miles to U.S. 101 (15.6).

The OCT continues across the highway, heading up Neahkahnie Mountain (Hike 15*). I was too beat to hike 4 miles up and over the mountain, with its 1,200-foot elevation gain, despite the awesome summit views. Instead, I opted to walk along the highway instead (1.5 road miles, minimal elevation gain, narrow highway shoulder, still great views). Either way, from the access road leading to the southern Neahkahnie trailhead, walk 1.2 miles south on U.S. 101 and turn right on Nehalem Road (20.8 miles), which winds 0.8 mile down to the beach; follow the beach 0.7 mile south to Laneda Avenue, the main street in Manzanita where most of the shops and restaurants are. (This town as lots of good restaurants and a great coffee shop:  Manzanita News & Espresso.) Alternatively, continue on U.S. 101 past Nehalem Road for 0.3 miles to a little grocery store on the right; walk west a block, then south a block, then continue west down Laneda Avenue to the beach and knocking 0.5 mile off your hike.) Nehalem Bay State Park is 1.5 miles farther down the beach (23.8 miles, or 20.8 with shortcuts I took); watch for footsteps leading east over the dune. The hiker-biker camp here has elevated tent platforms, which are a little odd but probably great in the rain, as long as your tent is a smallish, self-supporting dome tent.
Be aware that since the closure of the campground at Oswald West State Park, there is no legal place to pitch a tent between Cannon Beach and Nehalem Bay State Park (20.6 to 23.6 miles—a long day’s hike). There is lodging (rather high-end) in both Arch Cape and in Manzanita, 13 to 16 trail miles apart.

 *Day Hiking: Oregon Coast (third edition) mistakenly lists trail distance up the north side of Neahkahnie Mountain as 4.2 miles; it’s more like 2 miles. I’ll correct that in the fourth edition.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mile 19 to 32.5: Seaside to Cannon Beach

References such as “Hike 7” refer to hikes in my book Day Hiking: Oregon Coast.

Cumulative mileage figures are for the section described here.

Many times I have day hiked to the top of Tillamook Head and admired, but not stayed in, the sweet little shelters there for backpackers. Nor did I spend the night there on my through-hike of the OCT (timing didn’t work out; I was too eager to make miles). It almost seems worthwhile, if you’re starting in Seaside, to plan a scant 8-mile day just to spend a night in those shelters.

Picking up the trail in Seaside at 12th Avenue and N. Holladay, cross the river (restrooms and water in city park here) and go west a few blocks to hit the beach at the north end of Seaside’s Promenade.  Walk this busy beach (not so busy in this photo by M.O. Stevens; it's busier further south, near the lifeguard towers) south toward Tillamook Head. Approaching the Lanai Motel, at the spot known among surfers as The Cove (where the beach starts to run out), climb up through the cobbles to Sunset Boulevard and follow it south (passing restrooms at little Seltzer Park, on the east side of the road across from a roadside parking area) for a mile or so until the road ends (3.5 miles) at the trailhead for Tillamook Head (Hike 7). The trail switchbacks, steeply at times, for the first 1.5 miles but then becomes a gentler ascent, eventually rolling gently up and down to a primitive campsite (7.9 miles) with vault toilets, a covered shelter with picnic table, and three three-sided sleeping shelters. (You will want to hang your food here, not from bears but from rodents; since this is a well-established campsite, I understand the critters here have a well-established habit of raiding backpacks.) 

(Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from Tillamook Head, by Randall Henderson.)
When you’re ready to continue—whether it’s that same day or the next morning—continue south on the Tillamook Head trail just 0.2 mile to a junction. The lefthand route (“Clatsop Loop”) follows an old road and thus has a gentler grade (and is 0.1 mile shorter) than the righthand footpath. Both trails end at the parking lot above Indian Beach (9.4 miles). Cross the parking lot and pick up Hike 8 to Ecola Point (10.9), then cross the top of that parking lot to pick up Hike 9 near the restrooms. After 1 mile the trail splits. If the tide is quite low and you don't mind getting a little wet, you could continue down to Crescent Beach (Hike 9) and squeeze between the end of the headland and the nearest offshore rock separating Crescent Beach and Chapman Beach north of Ecola Creek. (Even if the tide is out, deep "crab holes" form here and might require some pretty deep wading.) Otherwise, rather than going right to Crescent Beach, go left 0.1 mile to where the trail meets Ecola Park Road (12 miles). Walk down the road just 0.25 mile to Ash Street (at 8th Avenue), follow Ash south (becomes a steep pedestrian path) to 7th Avenue,  and take 7th Avenue 0.5 mile west to the beach.  Continue down the beach 0.75 mile to the mouth of Ecola Creek (13.5 miles), which you can wade in late summer/fall.  (If you prefer to keep your feet dry, stay on Ecola Park Road to Elm Street, follow it over Ecola Creek, then follow the main road to the beach access at the end of Third Street.)

Don’t think about camping on the beach here—the Cannon Beach Police patrol the beach nightly and will roust you out—but there is plenty of lodging in town, and you could pitch your tent legally, for a fee, at someplace like Sea Ranch (, just east of the bridge over Ecola Creek.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mile 0 to Seaside: Get this party started!


The OCT starts at Parking Area C in Fort Stevens State Park, where Clatsop Spit juts into the mouth of the Columbia River. There’s a tall viewing platform here, great for watching ships crossing the Columbia River bar. But you may be more interested in gazing south, where your first 16 miles of unbroken beach beckon. (If you don’t have a friend who can drop you at the start of the trail, you can take a Greyhound bus from Portland to Astoria, and then hire a cab to get to the trailhead at Fort Stevens. There are two cab companies in Astoria at this writing; one just quoted me $25-$30 for that ride.)

The beach is super wide here, courtesy of the Columbia River transporting sediments from the interior for thousands of years. Tide isn’t really an issue, at least in summer; there is always plenty of beach to walk on. Cars are an issue, however. At Mile 3.75 you’ll pass a rusting iron hulk of a sailing ship—the Peter Iredale, which ran aground here in 1906. (I love this photo I found online of the Peter Iredale, by Matt Conwell). South of the shipwreck, cars are allowed to drive on the beach clear to Gearhart. (North of the Peter Iredale, cars must be off the beach from noon to midnight May 1 to Sept. 15.) Rest assured that this is the last major stretch of Oregon beach where cars are allowed.

It's about 16 miles total to Gearhart. Approaching Gearhart, look for the vehicle beach access road just past a five-story condominium complex. Rather than leave the beach here, walk another 0.5 mile and follow the footsteps in the sand up a path  leading to the end of Pacific Way. My preferred route through Gearhart is to take Pacific Way a few blocks east to the center of town (and Pacific Way Bakery) at Cottage Avenue. Walk south on Cottage Avenue to F Street; jog left, then right, then left onto G Street and follow it east to U.S. Highway 101 (Mile 17.25).

Follow the busy highway shoulder 0.6 mile south. Immediately after crossing Neawanna Creek, veer right onto 24th Avenue. Follow it west and south (becomes N. Holladay Drive) about. 0.8 mile to 12th Avenue. A right turn on 12th Avenue leads past public restrooms (and water) and out to the beach (Mile 19).

If a nearly 20-mile first day is too much, consider starting your hike at Sunset Beach or Del Ray Beach state recreation sites. Beach camping is allowed between Sunset Beach access and the 10th Avenue beach access in Gearhart, south of which cars are not allowed. And the Gearhart McMenamins hotel is a short walk off the beach at 10th Avenue. There is also a cute old motor court at Cottage Avenue and Pacific Way and lots of lodging in Seaside.

One fine option is Seaside International Hostel, on the river at N. Holladay and 10th Avenue (just two blocks south of 12th Ave.). Proprietor Trung caters to backpackers from around the world with inexpensive accommodations (in bunk or private rooms) on the river. She is an avid kayaker and has canoes and kayaks available for rent; try the Vietnamese coffee at the espresso bar.

Monday, September 2, 2013

OCT: The Basics

In September 2008 I made a through-hike of the northern half of the Oregon Coast Trail, backpacking from the Columbia River to Yachats. In July 2009 I completed the trail, backpacking from Yachats to the California border.  In 2009 OregonState Parks' OCT website went live, but I find it lacks a level of detail hikers need, and it directs hikers around bays (which ruins an OCT hike, as far as I’m concerned) rather than giving tips for getting rides across river/bay mouths. While I work on the next edition of the book, I’ll be blogging about the trail in greater detail, including updates that I and other hikers (you?) have sent me and continue to send. If you use this guide to hike the OCT and you find any changes or discrepancies with your experience, please post a comment or e-mail me via my website ( (UPDATE: The third (2015) edition of my guideook Day Hiking: Oregon Coast is out and includes pretty much everything in this blog and more, up to when it went to press!)

The OCT is far from a wilderness experience, but that's part of its charm; it takes in the coast's small towns, where you can stock up on groceries or eat in cafes, as well as the state park campgrounds and waysides arrayed along the shore, and motels are frequent enough to allow "inn-to-inn" hiking in most places. But walking it for more than a day is still an adventure. Creeks and bay mouths must be crossed by wading or by catching a boat ride (to avoid a long detour by road). Campgrounds or other suitable camping spots are widely spaced in places. The trail route is not well marked everywhere. And there are long stretches on the south coast with few services.

Here are some OCT basics before launching into trail descriptions/updates on forthcoming blog posts.

PERMITS: No permits are required to walk any portion of the Oregon Coast Trail, though some trailheads charge day use fees for parking.

WEATHER: The Oregon coast gets an average of at least 60 inches of rain a year (up to 100 inches on the north coast), but only 10 percent of it falls June through September, when river and creek levels are also at their lowest. August and September are probably the best months to hike this trail, though hot weather in the inland valleys can draw fog and strong winds to the beach, usually for just a day or two. Summer's prevailing winds are from the north, so most people hike north-to-south.

CLOTHING AND GEAR: It’s nearly always breezy; I wore lightweight hiking pants every day of both of my through-hikes. I wore high-quality trail running shoes (above, at end of hike) as I do backpacking everywhere. Some people wear gaiters on soft-sand sections like the New River area (south coast), but it’s not really necessary. Rain gear is essential, just in case.

WATER: No need for a water filter on the north coast; there are plenty of parks and waysides where you can fill up (and I really wouldn’t want to drink from a creek here). Carry two 1-liter bottles and you'll be fine. On the south coast, however, there are very long stretches with no publicly accessible tap water. Consider carrying a filter or purification tablets. (I actually made do mostly by carrying two extra 1-liter bottles, filling them when necessary).

CAMPING: Camping on the beach is permitted most parts of the Oregon coast. Exceptions: It's not allowed adjacent to state parks, nor to many towns. Obviously you need to be cognizant of how high the tide is likely to rise if you camp on the beach. Forest camping is possible in a number of spots; there is a lovely backpacker camp at the top of Tillamook Head with snug log shelters (nothing like this anywhere else on the trail). Camping has been outlawed at Oswald West State Park, on the north coast, which does problems for through-hikers; more on that in a future post. One great option (that I mostly used) is to camp at state parks. All coastal park campgrounds are open year-round and have designated hiker-biker camps, used primarily by cyclists. For $6 (2013) you get a campsite in an area shared with like-minded folks, along with restrooms and showers (no extra fee). They are spaced widely enough, however, to require fairly long days of hiking from one to the next, and some are more attractive than others. There are also some Forest Service campgrounds along the coast (such as at Cape Perpetua); some are open year-round and some only May-September.

LODGING: An inn-to-inn hike is doable on the more populated northern coast (but trickier to pull off on the south coast due to long distances between lodgings in places). A trip built around availability of lodging results in a more constrained itinerary than that of a backpacker (resulting in some long days), requires more planning, and costs a lot more, but you enjoy the pleasure of a lighter pack as well as a bed and dry room at night. In the fall, when there are fewer tourists, it may be possible to walk inn-to-inn without advance reservations on the more developed north coast. Likewise, you could investigate reserving yurts at state parks (you would still need to carry everything but a tent, however).

TIDES: Some points (smaller headlands) may be rounded only at mid- to low tide. Some creeks and smaller rivers can be waded only at low tide (like the mouth of Sand Lake, below). And many beaches are much easier to walk at low tide than at high tide, when only the softer, steeper portion is dry. A good online source for Oregon tide tables is Hatfield Marine Science Center.

RIVER/BAY MOUTH CROSSINGS: In a number of spots, especially on the north coast, you need to get a boat ride across the larger, deeper river mouths to avoid making a long road detour around a bay to reach a bridge. Obviously, a ride is preferable, because it allows you to stay on the beach (and anyway, it's more fun). In most cases I was able to hail rides from recreational boaters, without any prearrangement. In future posts I will provide names of marinas and outfitters known to offer ferry service to hikers for a fee.

GROCERIES/RESUPPLY: Towns are spaced closely enough to allow you to buy groceries (and even restaurant meals if you like) fairly often; no need to send food boxes ahead, as on the Pacific Crest Trail.

TOILETS: With a little planning, you should be able to take care of major bathroom needs by using restrooms in state and city parks and waysides (along with the occasional pit stop to pee on the beach), except in some wilder stretches of the south coast. Carry a trowel to bury wastes well away from water.
DISTANCES: I averaged 17 miles of hiking a day (ranged from 12 to 23); you can hike shorter distances, but through hikers often need to go 15-20 miles to get from one state park to the next (or, if you're hiking inn to inn, one motel to the next).

 Success! July 19, 2009