Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mile 232.3 to Mile 253.5: Winchester Bay to Charleston

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

Directions for this OCT leg: Get back on the beach, start walking south, and just keep walking.

Mouth of Tenmile Creek on a winter day
Slightly more detail: From the marina at Winchester Bay, follow Salmon Harbor Drive west and south as it curves through Windy Cove Park. Take the first opportunity to go west, through the dunes to the beach on the south side of the south jetty. Altogether it's about 2 miles from marina to beach, another 7 miles on beach to the mouth of Tenmile Creek (ATVs allowed in the dunes but not on the beach), and another 7.7 miles to Horsfall Beach Access (ATVs allowed in most of this last section of beach) (16.7 miles). To find Horsfall, look for the ATV closure sign (the Forest Service calls them OHVs, or off-highway vehicles) just past the entrance to Bull Run Sand Road and, just south of that, a wooden observation platform just visible above the top of the foredune. Follow the next little break in the sand to reach the campground (just a big parking lot, with toilets and water).

If don’t plan to get a boat ride across Coos Bay, leave the beach at Horsfall Beach Access, walk out Horsfall Beach Road and Trans Pacific Lane (alternately called TransPacific Parkway) about 5 miles to U.S. 101, then continue south over McCullough Bridge to North Bend and keep walking, following road signs to Charleston, a total of 15 miles of off-beach road walking (alternately, call a cab).

Sand Road leading to North Spit Boat Launch
Otherwise, from Horsfall Beach Access, continue south on the beach another 1 mile to a sign allowing ATVs again, then 2.25 miles more, watching for footsteps leading up to a break in the foredune. (From this point, you should be able to look south and see twin FAA towers jutting out of the foredune in the distance; if you walk to them, you’ve gone 1.25 miles too far.) Climb the foredune here; a (soft) sand road leads east and northeast 0.9 miles to the North Spit trailhead. From the trailhead, walk north on Trans Pacific Lane about 0.3 mile to the North Spit Boat Launch, a.k.a. the "BLM boat launch,” where you’ll find toilets and drinking water (21.2 miles). I pre-arranged a ride from this boat launch to Charleston with Captain Thomas of Vessel Alert; in 2009 he charged $100 minimum for the trip. It appears that he is still in business (though I haven’t confirmed that lately); I reached him at 541-297-8099.  With such a large parking area, North Spit Boat Launch looks like it should be a busy boat launch and, on the right day, it should be easy to talk someone into giving you a ride. The gloomy day I arrived, there was no one around. No one. Until Capt. Thomas arrived by boat to pick me up.

From Charleston things get a bit iffy (see next post); if you call a cab to pick you up north of Coos Bay, you might ask the driver to take you all the way to Seven Devils State Recreation Site, since from Charleston you have more road walking for quite some distance.

WHERE TO SLEEP: The only campgrounds in this stretch are a couple of them catering to dune buggy folks, including Horsfall (just an RV parking lot). Bluebill, a Forest Service campground about a mile inland on Horsfall Beach Road, is a nicer setting. Plenty of primitive (sandy) camping potential, however; I camped on the beach at the mouth of Tenmile Creek, a lovely spot. There are a few motels and RV parks in Charleston and plenty of motels in Coos Bay-North Bend. 

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