A Lucky Hitch – Day 90: Siuslaw Campground and Marina to Sunset Bay State Park

July 20

It’s raining when I wake up – I’ve slept in and have finally caught up on sleep. I like waking up to rain, especially when I don’t have anywhere I need to hurry to be. I get up, go pee, grab my notebook and my book and decide to go to breakfast. Dexter is going to shower and Energizer isn’t ready yet, so I head out. The first place only takes cash and I haven’t brought any, so I go to the next one. As I walk, my brother calls. I talk to him for a half hour. Family is hard. It is hard to navigate how to help, what is not helping, what is and is not yours to carry. 
We get off the phone and I go inside the cafe. The server and cook are happy and laughing and it’s a good atmosphere. I write. I want to practice writing free-flow, kind of like morning pages, see if I can find rhythm again. I miss writing poems. I have to get less self conscious, though, practice flowing. Stop drafting and deleting in my head.
At 9:30 I start heading back to the campground. I need to pack my tent (I hope it’s dry) and my pack – we have to catch a bus at 11:20. It’ll take us 50 miles, past big chunks of road walking and dunes. As Energizer Bunny and Dexter finish packing, I walk to a nearby bookstore hoping to find some poetry, but don’t find anything that jumps out at me and I run to catch the bus. We wait and wait and wait for the bus, but it doesn’t come. I call the transportation office and they say the us broke down and won’t be coming until 5 pm. Damn. 
We try to come up with another plan. How much is a taxi? $125. Too much. The bus was $60 for all of us. “Well, if we stay here all day we’ll spend an extra $20 each on food anyway…” Dexter reasons. But we decide to give hitching a try, though we haven’t had much luck sticking our thumbs out. And surprise, after only 15 minutes a man named Al Johnson, who is heavily involved with the trail, stops to pick is up. He takes us all the way to North Bend, where we can catch a bus for $1 to Charleston, which puts us only 3 miles from where we plan to go. 
I sit in the front (as usual) and chat with Al. He tells us some interesting facts about the area, he went to grad school the same place as Dexter, and he and I talk about creative writing – he was an English major.
I am realizing one of the most interesting parts of the trail for me is conversations with people who help us, even without entirely knowing what we’re doing. What makes someone stop for a hitchhiking hiker? Or offer us a ride at a viewpoint? Or share their campfire? I don’t think it’s that these are people who are always generous and altruistic – it seems to be a combination of right time, right place, right mood. They seem to pick is up because it offers them their own bit of adventure right when they need it.
Al drops us off. I peruse Goodwill for poetry but don’t find any, then I grab a burrito. The bus comes and we take it to right outside a deli called Davey Jones’ Locker, which I look at quickly and then hike on. I realize later that I should have looked closer, because I am low on food and 1.5 days away from town. That’ll make things interesting.
It’s a roadwalk to the Sunset Bay Campground. We’d initially planned to drop our packs and hike to and back from Cape Argo, but we decide to do it in the morning instead. 
When I go to pay for my campground I realize I’ve lost my driver’s license. I’m pretty sure I had it in my pocket with some trash and when I threw the the trash away the card went with it. Oops. I’ll have to order a new one. 

In Which I Wet the “Bed” – Day 89: Carl G Washburn Memorial State Park to Siuslaw Campground and Marina 

July 19

I dream that I’m peeing and then wake up to find that I am, indeed, peeing – all over myself. It’s 1:30 am. I crawl out of my tent and clean myself up in the bathroom, rinsing out my sleep pants. Cool, body.
I fall back asleep quickly but morning still comes too quickly and I hit snooze on my alarm several times. We want to get going early because we’ve planned for 15 miles. But as we eat breakfast, Dexter says her knee isn’t feeling good and I say that we haven’t done laundry in a while and also there is a tunnel coming up that the OCT association highly recommends not walking, and we begin to realize we won’t be hiking very far before hitching.
We set out, but the trail we’re supposed to take has a “closed for bridge repair” sign. We’re going to take the road when we realize the sign is from October. Surely it doesn’t take that long to replace a bridge…? I decide we should risk it – at worse we’ll have to turn around and it will have added 2 miles to our day. Instead, we find a perfectly intact bridge except for one board on the railing. 
We get to the light house and then walk down to the beach. Energizer Bunny and Dexter sit down and I start trying to ask for a ride. 

I strike up a conversation with an older couple and they say they’d be happy to take us to Florence in the back of their truck. Awesome! They go explore the beach for a while and when they come back we hop in. 
They drop us off at the post office. Energizer Bunny and Dexter get their packages and then we get Chinese Food and do laundry and go to camp. But I’ve been feeling tired and antisocial. Between being chatty with hitches and the socialization that comes with mostly hiking as a group, I’ve used up a lot of my extroversion. I walk around town by myself and download a book of poems and sit in the gazebo and write. I sit with Energizer Bunny and Dexter and we watch a man flying a remote control plane around – it’s the same man from the couple who gave us a hitch.
Just before dark, I go to the bathroom and start walking toward my tent. But then I notice the sunset over the water and start exploring a little, and I come upon a little sandy area with a gorgeous view and I just sit there and take it in. It is nice to be somewhere beautiful, by myself, with nowhere in particular to be.

A Little Headspace – Day 88: Beachside State Park to Carl G. Washburn State Park

July 18

We get a late start, waiting for Dexter to meet us and then for the ride to lower a bit so we don’t have to walk on wet sand, and then planning the rest of our trip on the OCT. Dexter is hurting and wants to get home for a birthday, Energizer Bunny wants to be finished by the end of the month, and I am feeling eager to get back to the PCT. I miss hiking without thinking much, and being away from town, and also I have checked my bank account and didn’t love what I saw. So we’ve made a plan to skip many roadwalks and even some beach walks that look dull. 

I got a little obsessed with trying to capture a wave splashing in the background

We get walking around 11am. I didn’t eat dinner the night before and it kept me up late and messed with my energy. I stop in Yachats while Dexter and Energizer Bunny go ahead and I buy a sandwich and a bag of pickles, along with a few resupply items. As I walk out of town I buy an ice cream cone. Hungry hungry hungry.
It’s not long before I’m off the road and walking through a forest. I forgot how nice it is to hike alone. It’s refreshing, and I’m looking forward to it on the PCT. I just hope most of the snow is gone.

The Amanda statue, memorializing a blind Native American woman who was forced to walk long distances to where her tribe was being “resettled” – her fate is unknown. Oregon has several informational stands along the coast and in the forests that have been nice background to the history of where we’re hiking 

I get to the top of the climb to where there is a drive-up overlook and text Dexter to see where they are. We’d planned to walk a few more miles and hitch from a scenic viewpoint, but there are some people at this overlook and I’m tempted to hitch here. I strike up a conversation with a couple, Fred and Yvonne, and pet their tiny dog. We chat a little and I tell Fred about the hike and the hitching and he says, well, is you’d like one, we’re happy to give you a ride. So I say yes. They tell me Fred has climbed the high point in almost every state in the US. They’ve been married 52 years. They laugh about Fred’s initial lack of interest in going on a blind date with Yvonne, how handsome Yvonne thought he was. It’s a nice reminder that these people who help us along the way are just as much a part of the trail, that they will be part of what I remember, too, beyond the vistas and trees and miles. When they drop me off they give me their business card and wish me well.
Energizer Bunny and Dexter are already at camp – they’d hitched from the same place I did. The other people in camp are all hikers, which is new – normally we see mostly bikers. I talk to a woman who has hiked big chunks of the PCT and the AT, and has hiked the Colorado Trail. A man named Maestro introduces himself. He is headed to Crater Lake soon to hike north to finish his Triple Crown. Maestro is very nice and talkative, but he is talking in the way that thruhikers do – miles and gear and tough sections – and I listen but I realize these conversations don’t especially appeal to me. I hike all day, I realize. I don’t want to talk about it, too. But it’s hard, because hiking is what we have in common.
We’re finishing up dinner when a camper, Jason and his son Jake stop by to say they’re having a fire soon and we’re welcome to join him. The offer is appealing and once we clean up Dexter and I head over. Maestro is already there, and a Canadian motorcyclist named Tessa. Tessa is talkative and a little brash – she asks about politics and money and age, all the topics you’re supposed to avoid with new people. She seemed to be trying to be diplomatic but didn’t seem especially practiced at it. I find it awkward but also nice, to not be telling the same stories over and over. 
We chat until around 10, and I excuse myself for bed. I fall asleep quickly.

Puddle Jumping – Day 87: South Beach State Park to Beachside State Park

July 17

I crawl out of my tent to go eat breakfast with Energizer Bunny and Dexter. They’ve been doing this since the beginning but I had a habit of eating breakfast in my tent before packing up. But I’m starting to like their morning ritual so I’ve been joining them. 
While I cook my oatmeal, Dexter is deep in conversation listening to a woman whose hair is wrapped in a blue towel and is carrying a small purse. I’m unclear whether Dexter is there willingly – she has the kind of stance that suggests she is about to leave, or trying to leave, but has gotten stuck. I wait and watch and she stands exactly the same and eventually I call out, “Hey, your oatmeal is getting cold” (which it is) to give her an out should she want it, but she shoots me a strange smile and continues to talk with the woman for another few minutes before joining us.
“So…” I say when she sits down.
“Hold on, I want to write something she said down.” And proceeds to write on her fuel canister in sharpie. It says, ‘As you give, so you shall receive.’ The woman told her she’d heard Jesus tell her this when she’d died during a medical emergency. I’m a little surprised Dexter took this to heart because she doesn’t seem to be into the God thing. 
The woman keeps coming back to talk to us, and it becomes clear she’s struggling with some mental stuff, that it’s unlikely much of what she’s telling us is true. She’s nice enough, and a good story teller. We start packing up and I give her the book I’ve just finished and she goes and talks to some bikers who are camped a bit away. 
As we leave, my brother calls. I haven’t heard from him in a while. Afterward I call my dad, then my other brother as I walk down the beach. 

When I hang up, I’m glad for some headspace of my own. I think about how scary it is to let yourself want what you want – a long hike, a different job, a life made up of art – and to go after it, to try to take it for yourself. 
The beach miles fly by, the road miles drag. We walk over the bridge and into Waldport, where Dexter gets a package from the post office and then we get spaghetti and pizza. All you can eat spaghetti. I can only eat one serving. 
From there, we keep walking until camp. Dexter stops a few miles before us to stealth camp because her knee is bothering her but Energizer Bunny and I make it to Beachside State Park. I take a quick shower and realize my foot has been bleeding. Long hikes are strange like this – at home a small sore would grab my attention and drag me with it, out here pain is part of the process and you bleed and shrug and move on. I try to call Mark, but mostly he can’t hear me, so we send each other voice text messages, back and forth until we say goodnight. 

The Shortest Post – Day 86: Beverly Beach to South Beach State Park

July 16

Most of the day is beach walking. I am happy, listening to music and watching the waves. We resupply at Fred Meyer. I pick small batches of things out of the bulk food. I have discovered Annie Chung’s Pad Thai and buy a few. 
Energizer Bunny and Dexter want to go to the aquarium but I don’t, so they catch a bus and I walk to the bookstore to buy a new book, and then to the campground. The time to myself is nice. I lay in my tent and read until they get there and we eat dinner. And then it’s time for sleep. 

Whale Watching – Day 85: Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site to Beverly Beach State Park

July 15

Something I am learning about this group: we never leave when we say we will. We say 7, and we really mean we’ll eat breakfast at 7. We’ll leave at 7:30, or 8. But it doesn’t matter much, anyway, because it’s not hot and we don’t go far. So 8 it is. 
I have an awesome time on the beach walk. I listen to a good podcast, then my audiobook, and admire the waves.

We get to a lookout and I ask a stranger about the upcoming town. “Do they have somewhere to buy a hat?” I ask. “Mine blew away.”
“Probably…” she says. “What are you looking for? Just a baseball cap? I have one of those in the car. You can have it if you want it.”
“Seriously??” I say. “That would be amazing!” She pulls out a camo hat that says “Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge.” I thank her again, and we chat a little about how long she’s lived here, and then we keep walking. Not long after that, we enter Depoe Bay, a small community near the ocean and we see a crowd of people at the wall by the sea. What are they looking at? And then I see a plume of water shoot into the air in the distance.
Whales! They’re looking at whales!

We’d passed one of the “best spots” for whale watching earlier in the trail and the rangers said they hadn’t seen any whales in weeks, so we’d given up hope. But there they were, at least two, putting on a show. I live streamed it on Instagram (poorly, because I was watching in real life, not through my screen) and one of the grey whales came close close close to the wall. There were several tourist boats getting close the whales, too, which made me wonder if the companies have some kind of device to let them know where the whales are in the water. 
Once the whales moved on, we were hungry and so went to a restaurant and then continued on. We were lucky enough to see more whales as we walked, their spouts of water and backs rising above the waves. 

It’s been a pretty epic and beautiful day, and as we’re walking the last stretch toward Beverly Beach State Park, my brain starts having a conversation with itself.
Hey, it says. Remember how you’ve been trying to figure out what to do when you go home? And you’d thought of some things you can do while you’re waiting for the next thing to happen? Work at a bookstore? REI? Freelance? Wait until you have a good opportunity to move?
And then my body goes a little haywire. No! No! No! Red alert!
I try to untangle what’s happening. And I get a little clarity:
We (when I talk about myself in these moments I tend to use we, like me, the conscious plan-making feet-on-the ground human and me, the more woo-woo body-knowledge gut-tug entity) can’t live in Phoenix anymore. We’ve waited too long. Arizona is a black hole, now, and we have to spend too much time running against its gravity.
We need to rearrange our priorities. No more thinking “job first” – life first. The job is what you use to make money. It is not your life. 
Write. Write write write write. 
I feel like a bit of an idiot saying these things, privileged, navel-gazing, self obsessed. And still the tangle in my gut is loud and cares little for the eye-rolling my head is doing. 
Head: People don’t get to just make those decisions. You could royally fuck your life up. Everyone will watch you fail.
And still, my gut: Yes. Maybe. We have to try.

The Hiker’s New Clothes – Day 84: Lincoln City to Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site

July 14

Dexter is slow to leave camp but gets ahead of us because we have errands. I’m crossing a crosswalk in town and looking at directions on my phone and I see a woman trying to turn right look at me and shake her head, disgusted. I realize she’s probably mad because she thinks I’m homeless and have an iPhone. 
On the way out of town Energizer Bunny and I stop at a grocery store. I get some things for snacks and a few meals and fresh fruit and we sit outside arranging our packs when a woman walks up and tries to hand Energizer Bunny a dollar. “Huh?” Energizer Bunny says.
“Oh! That’s very sweet of you. But we’re not homeless,” I say. “We’re hikers.”
“Oh! I felt so bad,” the woman says. 
This is new. On the PCT everyone seemed to know that we were hikers and we didn’t have these kinds of encounters. Here, I am noticing people seem a little surprised by my eye contact, my friendliness, my willingness to engage. I am noticing people avoid looking at me. Weird. I am not sure how to feel. I’m not offended. I am a little sad, to see how different it feels to have people think they know you right away. And I feel a little bad, looking like I’m in a different position than is accurate, like I’m dressing up when I don’t mean to. My clothes are too big, because to be on trail is to accidentally starve and be permanently dirty from 800 miles of walking. 
We go the AT&T store and the woman there wants to hike the PCT and knows exactly what I am and I get a phone case, since mine is letting sand in. We’re going to leave town, these errands have taken too long, when Energizer Bunny spots an outlet mall that has outdoor retailers – Under Armor, North Face, Columbia. I nearly jump for joy. I power shop and get myself a new bra (I’d had the bra I was wearing for a year before trail, and a month ago one underwire popped out, then the other, and in the mirror I see the sad state of my chest and wonder why I was bothering to wear a bra at all) and new shirt and pants and damn if I don’t feel like a new woman.
Maybe it’ll help with the hitching, too, I think.

Harbor seals!

Then we have a long road walk. But as hard as it is, I have an awesome new audiobook that makes it pleasant enough. I’m enjoying the book when a truck drives by and creates a huge gust of wind that blows my hat and my PCT 2017 bandana clear off my head. I turn around but there nowhere to be seen. I set my pack down and try to find the telltale red. Nothing. They’re gone.
I am not particularly sentimental. I did really like that hat. Mostly I think: oh man, my poor nose is going to buuuurn. I smother my face in with screen and cover my head with my buff. 
I catch up with Energizer Bunny and Dexter and we decide to camp a few miles before where we had originally intended. It’s a nice spot to stealth camp. And we’re tired. And what’s the hurry?