Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hike the OCT in Fall? Two guys' experience

Last September I got an e-mail from a James Viscardi who was planning to hike the OCT inn-to-inn beginning Oct. 8 with his friend Griff Owen. He wondered what I thought about his timing. As I told him, October is iffy: on the Oregon Coast it's a transitional month and can be hot and beautiful, but can just as easily be stormy--the ramp-up to winter.

I'll let James tell you how it went:

"We finished, but the weather was horrible. We walked into the wind the whole way, had 20 of 26 hiking days in the rain, and hiked through that bad storm that swept up from Mexico and destroyed property. As I recall the gusts were up to 60 mph. We had about four days of 20-30 mile winds leading up to the day in hell. The rain swelled those streams and rivers that were otherwise easily fordable. The Sixes River carved out a 4’-5’ deep channel, complete with seals. The inland hikes were slick and a couple of streams needed to be forded because of washed out bridges. The hike up Cape Lookout was an exercise in dead reckoning with about half of the trail washed out. We had three rest days planned but needed two of them to stay on schedule so we only rested in Pacific City. But all in all, it was good fun and a good exercise in problem solving." (Photo: at the wreck of the Peter Iredale, Day 1.)

So a couple of lessons here:

Al LePage of the National Coast Trail Association considers the OCT hiking season to be May 15 to Sept. 15. I would actually suggest not starting before mid-June; by then the rivers are typically at or close to summer-fall levels, which is as important a consideration as the weather itself. September can be good all month, but you're starting to tempt fate the later you go. James didn't realize (and I didn't mention it) that the prevailing north winds of summer end in the fall; in winter, the storm winds tend to blow from the south-southwest, right into your face if you're southbound.

But they finished and are glad they did it, or so it seems. Let me also mention that James (at right) is 67 and Griff 53.

What's your excuse??

Friday, March 20, 2015

You deserve a gold star--at least now you can get an emblem for your hiking stick

The oddest moment of my entire OCT trek came at the end. After 23 long days of hiking south from the Columbia River, I walked out of my campsite at Harris Beach State Park, followed roads through Brookings and back to the beach, crossed the Winchuck River and reached what I estimated was the California state line--woo hoo, the end of the Oregon Coast Trail! Then I walked a few steps back to the welcome center at Crissey Field State Recreation Site to wait for my ride home. I didn't seriously expect a brass band to greet me there, but I did think I might find a register to sign--like the summit register at the top of some mountains--or at least a little souvenir of some kind, like a fabric patch, commemorating my completion of the OCT.

But no one at the beautiful new welcome center there seemed even aware of the existence of the OCT. No register, and no patch, no emblem. Not even a "Hey, congrats!"

Not a BIG disappointment--I mean, truly, the trail is its own reward. But it did seem an odd ending to such a monumental effort, on such a spectacular coastline, given all the effort that has gone into building and maintaining the trail.

Enter James Viscardi, who at age 67 hiked the OCT end-to-end  with a partner last October and lived to tell about it (more on their trek in a future blog post). James apparently felt a little bereft with no badge or emblem or gold star of any kind to commemorate his accomplishment, so he had one made, and you can get one yourself. It's a metal badge to attach to a hiking stick, 1.25 inches by 1.75 inches in brushed silver, gold, and bronze. It was made by a Portland company called Creative Resources Awards & Engraving ( or 503-206-6161). Since he has already paid the set-up charges, he tells me that other hikers could have their own badge made for about $10. He used double-stick tape to attach his, but he says you could talk with Create Resources about adding tabs to tack it in place.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another great source of OCT information

I happened to run into Al LePage in a Eugene, Oregon, post office last week--it seems we are going to be neighbors! Al runs the National Coast Trail Association and is in the process of moving his home and office from Portland to Eugene. Al probably knows more about the Oregon Coast Trail than any living human and is deeply engaged in expanding it and improving it.

More to the point for 2015 OCT through-hikers, his website,, has some good information including--NEWS FLASH--details about arranging rides across Tillamook Bay and the Umpqua River. Visit his Plan Your Hike page ( for details. Now if we can only get someone to start offering a ferry service across Coos Bay!

It's worth perusing Al's site for updates before you set out on a thru-hike on the OCT.