Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hiking the OCT--maybe--in 2020

UPDATED MAY 30, 2020

Oregon is starting to reopen. That means that hiking the Oregon Coast Trail may be possible in summer 2020 after all. Here are some things to think about as you consider your plans.

Most, but not all, coastal state parks are set to open June 9, but HIKER-BIKER SITES WILL NOT BE OPEN INITIALLY. Check Oregon State Parks FAQ page for details; even if a park is listed open, keep reading to see if hiker-biker sites are open. I would not advise undertaking an OCT thru-hike unless all the hiker-biker campsites are open.

Restrooms may be limited. One of the things that's been done to keep Covid-19 from spreading is closing public restrooms. Access to public restrooms is pretty important on the OCT. But in many places, if the restrooms are closed, portapotties have been brought in.

Be prepared to carry water. With many restrooms closed, access to potable water may be more limited than usual, so you may have to stock up more. Unknown when that may change.

Boat shuttles should be happening! This is the key, IMO, to a successful OCT thru-hike. Jetty Fishery at Nehalem Bay has reopened and is shuttling hikers across Nehalem Bay. Garibaldi Marina isn't quite there yet but hopes to be offering ferries across Tillamook Bay by July; it may be just 1 or 2 people at a time per boat, however, to maintain distancing. Winchester Bay Charters is in business and available to shuttle hikers across the Umpqua, and they're still offering to connect hikers with outfitters in Coos Bay for shuttles there. I don't know if they have done that yet (it's something Annalisa said she'd be happy to try at the end of last season), but give her a call: it would beat many miles of highway shoulder and sidwalk through North Bend-Coos Bay.

Grocery stores are open. Plan to wear a face covering into the grocery store. Coastal restaurants are slowly reopening, though many are still takeout-only.

Lodging is reopening in many places. Coastal innkeepers would love to have your business.

Basically it looks like an OCT hike will be doable this summer, particularly if you live nearby and don't have to travel too far to get here (which is still being discouraged). But I would think in terms of starting no sooner than July 1. Make sure Oregon State Parks has reopened all of its coastal campgrounds. It should go without saying that you should stay home if you feel ill or have been exposed to anyone with the virus, but there, I said it. Carry and use hand sanitizer and a face covering when you enter grocery stores or any indoor spaces. And keep your distance from folks. Don't be a spreader, and don't get sick yourself. If people keep following the rules and there are no new outbreaks, it could be a great year for an OCT trek after all.