We walk on the beach and then into Garibaldi. I’d called the night before to arrange a boat and I invite the boys to join us. They don’t seem to care much for planning so they’re happy to lean on our plans. We’re too early so we sit in a coffee shop until 9:30, then walk to the Marina. The people there are incredibly nice and have the funniest big dogs, who are running around the boats and jumping into the water after the lid of a bucket, a low-cost frisbee.
We get to the other side and start to walk the spit. I feel a little romantic over our 6-person group as we move over the sand. A traveling tribe. The guys seem happy to have us around but also like their own little group. This was the kind of grouping I imagined on the PCT – natural, grateful, temporary. And watching everyone walk down the beach, our strange, heavy hobbles, our packs like hunchbacks among the walkers with their bright colors and dogs and hoodies and barefoot feet, my heart feels full and happy.
We’re a little nervous to get to Cape Meares, where there is a trail that is best accessed at low tide, which we will not be reaching it at. When we get there an older local man tells us our options, but warns the trail itself is boggy – “we’ve heard reports of it being waste deep.” Hmm. I appreciate his help but I am also noticing there seems to be a bit of fear about the trails, unwarranted. Someone had told a friend a few weeks ago that the trail “vanished” on Neah-Kah-Nie mountain when it was just a couple of downed trees.
The group huddles and I say, “I want to at least try it” so we cross over some sand stone and rocks and find a rope tied to the wall and some sandy steps and crawl up. And from there, the trail is fine – no bog, and hardly even any mud. The trail leads us to a lookout area where volunteers are set up with spotting scopes and show us birds and sea lions in the distance.
Afterward there’s a stretch of road walking. Energizer Bunny and I detour into Oceanside to see if there are any stores for her to replace her power bank, but there isn’t. We do find a restaurant and sit down but then realize it’s fancy, expensive, and we’re sticking out, so instead we get burgers to go.
Then it’s more beach walking. The wind is blowing hard and the bag of burgers is blowing around in my hand and at one point my hat blows off and I have to run after it, my pack still on, but I catch it.
We’d planned to camp at what our guidebook says is a hiker biker camp near Netarts, but it’s not where we think it is and we realize the book never actually gives it a name and so instead we go to a bar and grill nearby and hang out there until the sun starts to go down and stealth camp on the beach. The problem with stealth camping is that the sun goes down late, after 930, and is up early, which means we have to get going and we don’t get much sleep.
But these small inconveniences and concerns are part of what make the OCT fun. We are in town almost every day, we see beautiful coast line, water is plentiful if usually unplannable. I am not trying to impress anyone here, not measuring how good of a hiker I am, not worried about miles. I am here to see what is beautiful. I want to take that with me when I go back to the PCT. I want to watch the thruhikers fly by me and be okay with that, even the ones I like. I want to take pictures of slugs and spider webs and cool trees, not just vistas.
I want to do what I must to enjoy the beauty of the trail as often as possible, and to keep moving. I have proven to myself that I can suffer, that I can find kindness for myself in that struggle, my initial intention. Now I want to know: Can you breathe? Can you look closely? Is the wilderness moving through you? Will you let it?