Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A long trail with a very long history

How the Oregon Coast Trail came into existence is a pretty interesting story. It started as the brainchild of a University of Oregon geography professor back in 1959. But the OCT owes its existence to Oregon's first parks superintendent, who during the Great Depression acquired many of the coast's major headlands for the public, and crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps began building trails over them. And with half the OCT route on beaches, credit for the trail needs to start with Governor Oswald West designating all of Oregon's beaches public highways in 1913.

But wait: people have been walking the Oregon Coast Trail--or something like it--for as long as people have been living on the Oregon Coast, right? Which raises two questions: how long have people been on the Oregon Coast, and how long as the Oregon Coast been, well, the Oregon Coast?

Seem like simple questions, but they turn out to go right to the heart of the biggest mysteries in American archaeology. And the most likely answers have changed radically in the past decade or so.

I have put together a talk exploring all that--the history and prehistory of the OCT--that I'm giving several places around Oregon this winter/spring, and I would love to see friends and meet new hikers there. I'll have copies of Day Hiking: Oregon Coast available to sell, but all these events (except the Cascade Ruck on Feb. 27) are free.

In brief (click here for details):
Eugene Feb. 3
Portland Feb. 10
Astoria Feb. 18
Cascade Locks Feb. 27
Cannon Beach March 17
Tillamook May 15

Saturday, January 23, 2016

All You Can Eat


Last summer I spent a week backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. TONS of thru-hikers on the trail, and as we approached Mount Hood, it seemed all they could talk about was the breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge: strategizing their schedule and pace and campsite locations to put them at Timberline Lodge at breakfast time. Timberline isn’t the only place where you can buy food along the PCT—at Olallie Lake Resort, for instance, just a couple of days south of Mount Hood. But Timberline’s breakfast is a sit-down, all-you-can eat buffet, and that phrase—all you can eat—holds a particular charm for people who have just spent three months walking 20+ miles every day and burning who-knows-how-many calories. (Lifted that photo at Timberline from Tracy at; I hope she doesn't mind!)

I don’t know of any all-you-can-eat places along the Oregon Coast Trail, but part of the charm of the OCT is the accessibility of restaurants, should you want to forego freeze-dry for a night or a morning. Literally without leaving the trail (OK, walking a few steps or blocks), you have access to great and not particularly expensive restaurants. The following is a list of eateries to consider adjacent to the OCT—not an exhaustive list, but places I know and like. Be advised that an OCT thru-hiker of my acquaintance says she actually gained weight hiking the OCT. I spend most of my coastal time up north, where there are more restaurants anyway, so the list is weighted that way. North to south … 

Sand Trap, Gearhart: Just 14 miles from the start of the trail and 0.3 mile off the beach, if you can’t go a single day on the OCT without stopping for a brew. A McMennamin's pub (if that means anything to you).
The Stand, Seaside: The only place on this list that is not actually on the trail, but worth the slight detour. Open weekdays 11-5. Huge portions of great Mexican food, and a favorite spot among Seaside surfers.

OCT backpacker at Cannon Beach--Haystack Rock in the background.
The Bald Eagle (for coffee and homemade soup), The Sleepy Monk (for coffee and morning scones), Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House (burgers): Lots of great places to eat in Cannon Beach; these three are clustered in midtown, near the beach access east and slightly north of Haystack Rock.

Bread and Ocean (fabulous deli) and Buttercup (ice cream and chowder), Manzanita. Haven’t been to Buttercup yet, but it gets great reviews; menu is limited to variations on just those two items.

No idea what’s good in Rockaway or Garibaldi, but there’s no shortage of options.

Roseanna’s Café, Oceanside: I find it a bit tired and higher-priced than most on my list, but it’s right off the beach and may be the only option for some miles.

Pelican Pub, Pacific City

Pelican Pub, Pacific City: Right on the trail/beach, great beer and food. There's also a grocery-deli across the street.

The Café at Hawk Creek, Neskowin: I knew and loved it as the Hawk Creek Café; new incarnation might be a bit more expensive but still gets great reviews. Great breakfasts and brick-oven pizza, among other things.

My favorite place to eat in Lincoln City (lunch and dinner) is Blackfish Cafe, on US 101 0.7 miles south of where you would normally return to the beach at the north end of town; a little higher-end but worth it. As you leave, ask how to get back to the beach southbound. Plenty of other places to eat in the mall you cross to return to the beach at the north end and again near the D River beach access, but tend to be chains or touristy and I can’t make any recommendations.

Side Door Café, Gleneden Beach: Haven’t been there for several years, but I think it’s still good, and it’s maybe two blocks north of the Gleneden Beach beach access.

Depoe Bay: I don’t know what’s good here now, but you will be walking right through town; lots of options.

Rogue Ales, Newport: Right under the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Great local beer, decent pub menu.

The Green Salmon, Yachats: Yummy bagels and lox, amazing variations on hot cocoa.

1285 Restobar, Florence: Reach it via a slight detour into Old Town. If you’re spending the night in Florence you could try its sister restaurant, Waterfront Depot, but better make a reservation in advance (unless there’s room at the bar).

Winchester Bay and Charleston: Plenty of chowder shops and other eateries in these harbor towns, but none I know well enough to recommend.  And I’m not up to date on Bandon food, but you’ll pass through Old Town, with lots of options, on your way to the south jetty.

The Crazy Norwegian’s, Port Orford: I love the vibe and the fish and chips in this small-town café; you’ll walk right by it. I look forward to trying Redfish, a newer and upscale addition to town with an amazing view.

Biscuit Coffeehouse at Gold Beach Books, Gold Beach: I find it hard to pass through Gold Beach without stopping here (for coffee and a muffin, or to browse the books, or both); you might do the same if your route takes you through town rather straight to the beach from the bridge over the Rogue River.