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Oregon and California Coastal Trail Adventures - Part 1

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Wow! Snow continued to fall in May and June 2023, in the already snow-and-ice-covered higher elevations of the Pacific Crest Trail. The picture below shows Courtney and friends setting up camp on the frozen ground. Brrr! By the time her group reached the Sierra Section of the PCT, the Pacific Crest Trail Association discouraged hikers without ice hiking expertise from attempting this treacherous section. In addition to the onerous hiking conditions, resupplying would be difficult since many of the trail towns in the Sierras remained evacuated due to road closures from the excessive frozen precipitation.

Ice hiking skills include the ability to dig an ice axe into frozen ground in the unfortunate event a hiker finds himself sliding down the side of a cliff. Initially, that description conjured mental images of someone wilding welding an axe as he tumbled down a steep, icy slope and accidently slashed an arm or a leg. After I became acquainted with the ice axe, I was relieved to find it is unbelievably lightweight and not sharp enough to amputate a limb. However, I have about as much chance of arresting my plummet to a certain death with an ice axe as Wile E Coyote has of catching the Road Runner! But hats off to hikers who possess such skills. You are amazing!

While some of the hikers in her group forged ahead through the Sierras, Courtney wisely opted to ask us to pick her up at Kennedy Meadows, California, for a little visit with us and the opportunity to hike portions of the Oregon and California Coastal Trails. She plans to flip back to the Sierras after she returns to the PCT and hikes to the Washington/Canada border.

My sweet husband drove fourteen hours one way to pick up our adventurous hiker at Kennedy Meadows, California. If he could have driven as the crow flies, it would only have been about an eleven-hour drive. Off the beaten path, it takes effort to find hiker towns. They are not situated in locations easily stumbled upon. The General Store at Kennedy Meadows overflowed with twenty to thirty-something-year-old hikers and made Jay feel his age.

After researching the Oregon Coast Trail, we learned that a significant portion involves the pavement along the Highway 101/Oregon Coast Highway. The Oregon Coastal Trail Authority recommends that hikers arrange rides (for Courtney that meant her dad and I) for the highway portions since much of Highway 101 has no shoulders and many blind curves. Hikers also need to familiarize themselves with the tide charts for the beach sections of the trail. Legal camping sites along the OCT are fewer than on the PCT, so Courtney chose to arrange rides (us) to different points on the Oregon and California Coastal trails each morning and then to be picked up after she hiked 15-20 miles. Why wouldn’t we? We’re retired and have nothing better to do.

After a couple of days of R&R, Texas Time—Courtney’s Trail Name—began her OCT adventure one hundred miles north of our community, just south of Coos Bay, Oregon, and began hiking her way south. Either Jay or I would leave before 7 a.m. and drive her to the location where she ended the day before. After we dropped her off, her driver normally hiked a couple of miles with her and either hung out around the nearest town to shuttle her across the highway stretches or went home and tag teamed the other driver to pick her up. While hiking with only a light backpack, instead of her 30 lb. serious hiking backpack, she had hoped to hike 20 or more miles each day. However, going was slower than expected. She discovered the OCT is not a heavily traveled trail, not well-marked, and not well-maintained.

Over the two weeks she hiked the coastal trail, she never met another through hiker. Although during our early morning transports, we drove past a couple of through hikers walking the highway. On the PCT, she regularly meets 10-25 hikers a day.

After hiking about 90 miles south of Coos Bay, Courtney neared Brookings. Jay dropped her off at Gold Beach early one morning and I picked her up a few hours later at Crook Point, south of Pistol River. I then drove her over Highway 101 to the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. Since this was familiar territory for me, I wanted to hike with her, but I didn’t desire to hike 7 miles and then turn around and hike that same 7 back to my car. So I yo-yo hiked. Starting at Sam Boardman, I hiked thirty-forty minutes with Courtney, yo-yoed back to the car, drove to the next trailhead, hiked toward her until we met, yo-yoed to the trailhead where I had just parked and then repeated. At each new trailhead the yo-yo slowed and I chose to chill in the car a few minutes before heading to meet her.

A heavy mist accompanied us on the days we hiked near Brookings. The moisture on the thick foliage soaked through shoes and socks. Hiking with wet feet is uncomfortable. Due to the high humidity, our shoes failed to dry overnight, which caused us to start the next day with soggy shoes that quickly soaked through to socks and feet. However, since the mist continued that day, our shoes would have gotten wet quickly even if they had started out dry. That night, aided with a trusty blow dryer, we dried the shoes.

To be continued—


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