September 9: Yachats to Florence

Heading to Yachats (Pronounced Ya-Hots) and Breakfast

Heading to Yachats (Pronounced Ya-Hots) and Breakfast

Feeling peckish after my Corn Nuts dinner last night, I hung around the motel’s cozy, wood-paneled lobby until the clerk brought out a platter of complementary doughnuts. I took three and ate two immediately. And so began one of my favorite days of the trip. High on empty carbohydrates, I ran beautiful beach and the 801 trail into Yachats. Here, I wandered through the farmers’ market, admiring plump veggies and handmade soaps until my famished stomach goaded me on to higher calorie shopping. At a grocery store on the way out of town I purchased an enormous egg and bacon burrito and more snacks than I could carry. What I couldn’t cram into my pack, I shared with a trio of fellow travelers lounging outside the store.

Yachats is Pretty

Yachats is Pretty

Beyond Yachats, the OCT climbed through a dark forest on the Amanda Trail. Carpeted with oxalis and primeval-looking ferns, the woods had a sort of verdant gloom—a greenish cast to the small amount of light filtering through the canopy. It wasn’t creepy, just dim and close and very green. In a small clearing, I came upon a sculpture of the trail’s namesake draped with beads, feathers, shells, and other offerings.

I learned that Amanda was one of many Coos, Umpqua, and Alsea people rounded up by the US Calvary in 1864 and force marched to an internment camp. More than a third of the prisoners died.

Throughout the trip I had been listening to the audiobook The Color of Law, which chronicles deliberate racial discrimination in US housing policy during the twentieth century. As a white person, I benefit from the same history, systems, and culture that—often literally—destroys the lives of people of color. I was, right this minute, running on stolen land. I had been turning over ways to make social justice a priority after the OCT, and those thoughts propelled me up the north side of Cape Perpetua.

Trail Up Cape Perpetua

Trail Up Cape Perpetua

I hadn’t seen anyone since Yachats, but when I emerged from the forest at the top of the cape, I found a swarm of folks snapping pictures of the ocean far below (there is a road to the summit). My legs felt strong, and I enjoyed bombing down the south side.

Top of Cape Perpetua

Top of Cape Perpetua

I met a couple on the trail who said they had seen me running in town. We chatted about the OCT. I would meet them again at the base of Cape Perpetua as I wandered around a campground looking for the next segment. Together we searched out the OCT link to the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center.

I spent much of my childhood in West Virginia State Parks, and I still love a good visitors’ center. I took my time perusing this one. My upbringing in the parks also gave me a lifelong appreciation of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) stone masonry. I would find some up ahead on the OCT.

Pretty Bridges Everywhere

Pretty Bridges Everywhere

The OCT continued along single-track trail, highway shoulder, and beaches to the base of Hecta Head. After wading Tenmile Creek, I plunked down on a drift log to dry my feet and eat lunch. I watched a father and son kayaking in the creek’s shallows and a group of twenty-somethings drinking beer on the beach. Both looked fun. (FKT note: Somewhere in this section, I noticed that my GPS watch had gotten paused, probably when I changed layers atop Cape Perpetua. I have a satellite track to verify these miles, and I was able to reconstruct the amount of time/mileage once I looked at the data.)

Looking Back at Hobbit Beach

Looking Back at Hobbit Beach

I loved the beach approach to Hecta Head—mostly deserted with patches of fog and bright sunlight—as well as the beautiful trail up the headland. Near the top, I looked back at the long beach I had just run. I also caught my first glimpse of the historic Hecta Head lighthouse.

Hecta Head Lighthouse

Hecta Head Lighthouse

Opened in 1894 and automated in 1963, the lamp remains the brightest light on the Oregon Coast—visible up to 21 nautical miles offshore! Perched atop a craggy promontory, the neat, whitewashed lighthouse stood out against the surrounding forest and deep blue ocean. Lighthouses fascinate me, and I wondered about the lightkeepers who had lived here more than a century earlier to tend the original oil lamp. The assistant lightkeepers’ duplex is now a bed and breakfast. I filed this information under “ridiculously quaint places to stay when I’m older.”

Lighthouse!

Lighthouse!

I stopped in the gift shop to inquire about the upcoming Hecta tunnel and came out with a Drumstick and lemon soda. Books and blogs described the narrow tunnel as a pedestrian nightmare. Oregon.gov encourages OCT hikers to arrange transportation through the tunnel. How, I’m not sure. I sweated the tunnel, until I got there. While cramped, it was well lit and fairly short. I could see all the way through, and timed my sprint to the other side with a break in traffic.

Inside the Tunnel. Photo by  Adrian Vila

Inside the Tunnel. Photo by Adrian Vila

Then came the next few miles, which were, in fact, really, really dangerous. The OCT rolled with the 101 through blind curves and tight mountain turns. The faint shoulder offered little buffer from barreling RVs. Much of the way, the road pushed up against the hillside; I couldn’t have dodged a vehicle if I’d needed to. I waved my trekking poles as I rounded corners, hoping drivers would see me. The scenario was so frightening that I felt strangely calm. Has that ever happened to you?

I finally reached a pull-out above the last beach section of the day. Maybe I was feeling extra lucky to be alive, but I fell head-over-heels in love with this view—gentle surf lapping a seemingly endless plane of broad, flat beach. I couldn’t wait to get down there.

Back on the Beach. This Is My Favorite Photo I Took on the Trip.

Back on the Beach. This Is My Favorite Photo I Took on the Trip.

The following miles on the beach were glorious. Eventually, I turned inland for what I hoped would be a short jog to my motel in Florence. I still had over six miles to go. The sun went down as I was running Rhododendron Road. I had covered more than 40 miles today, but was surprised to find that I could still run pretty well. The innkeeper called to check on me and even offered to come pick me up. I declined, of course, but appreciated her kindness.

(FKT note: My watch battery died along this stretch. I had a back up in my pack, and after a while, I decided it was worth digging it out. You’ll see all this noted in the GPX files. As always, the satellite track confirms these miles.)

Just after full dark, I pulled into the rambling Lighthouse Inn. The lobby’s knotty pine paneling, 1930s architecture, and overstuffed furniture reminded me of my grandparents’ living room. I felt right at home. Here’s a fun fact from their website:

Why are the shower heads so low?

The hotel was originally built back in 1938, and then another wing was added on in 1952. The 1938 section was refurbished to include en-suite baths, as it originally was set up for shared bath. So, essentially, all the showers were added and redone in the early 1950s when the addition was built. In those days, women spent hours at the beauty parlour getting their hair done. They didn’t wash their hair daily. Although men didn’t frequent the beauty parlour, they didn’t typically wash their hair daily, either. The shower heads in hotels were set to hit about chest height, so one could wash without mussing up that nice coiffure.

I considered walking to Old Town for a local meal, but the Siren song of the Dairy Queen next door snared me. I’m embarrassed to say that this was one of my favorite meals of the trip—double cheeseburger, onion rings, french fries, salad, and a Blizzard. I went to bed full and content.

The Lighthouse Inn (Take the Next Morning)

The Lighthouse Inn (Take the Next Morning)

Lucia Robinson