Today would have been my dad’s 81st birthday. I have carried the prayer card from his funeral in my wallet for 13 years, and now have it tucked into my pack. I’m not a very religious person, but the verse on the card is oddly fitting for my trip—Psalm 121, also known as the “Psalm of Ascents:”
I raise my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. God will not allow your foot to slip, your guardian does not sleep.
Before the trip I had studied blogs and interviews of multi-day runners—stage racers, trans-con athletes, fast packers. Everyone said that if you can push through a day or two of pain the first week, your body will begin to adapt to the distance. They were right. Yesterday hurt, but today I felt light and fresh. The pain in my left knee disappeared. I could run again as if the last 130 miles hadn’t happened.
Looking Back on the First Beach Miles of the Day.
I loved this day. The first miles traversed a beautiful beach with the most bizarre, lightweight, black pebbles shot through with perfectly symmetrical holes. A quick Google search turned up a surprising link to the occult. Known in folklore as hag stones, adder stones, or witches stones, some people believe the rocks possess magical properties. With it’s strange stones and mercifully easy river crossing, the beach was plenty magical in my book.
My sister-in-law had told me about a Lincoln City tradition called Finders Keepers, during which local artists hide thousands of decorative glass floats—basically giant marbles—on the beaches. I kept an eye out, but didn’t find one.
At the end of the beach, the OCT followed the edge of Siletz Bay inland through a charming, touristy waterfront—where I stopped for a second breakfast—to the 101. The route then crossed Schooner and Drift creeks and the Siletz River via highway bridges before returning to the beach. I was enjoying myself so much that I didn’t mind the highway miles, and even passed a field of Queen Anne’s lace, my dad’s favorite wildflower (it’s actually a variety of wild carrot). From the end of the next beach section, the OCT darted back and forth across the highway, but kept mostly to lovely, narrow footpaths through the woods or along sea cliffs.
My Dad’s Favorite—Queen Anne’s Lace!
More Pretty Beach Miles, Though in High-Tide Soft Sand
I passed through the village of Depoe Bay, home of the world’s smallest harbor. It’s tiny! A few miles later at Rocky Creek State Viewing Area, I took a long break to sun my feet and watch whales cavorting off the coast. I got such a kick out of seeing whales spouting and breaching. I sat there feeling like the luckiest person alive. From there, the OCT climbed over Cape Foulweather on a one-lane road. Captain James Cook gave the cape it’s catchy name. Yep, that Captain James Cook. Online, I found this excerpt from his journal (dated March 7, 1778):
At the northern extreme the land formed a point which I called Cape Foulweather from the very bad weather we soon after met with.
Fortunately, it’s namesake was mild and sunny today.
Climbing Cape Foulweather
I had been looking forward to sightseeing a geologic curiosity south of Cape Foulweather known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, not to be confused with the horrific Devil’s Punchbowl labor camp in Natchez, Mississippi, where thousands of freed slaves died after the Civil War. When I peered into the rocky cauldron I saw mostly mud and boulders; I had missed the frothing glory of high tide.
What Devil’s Punchbowl Looks Like at High Tide. Photo: Michael Schober
Steep stairs led down to the beach, and I settled in for a beautiful run toward the distant Yaquina Head with it’s statuesque lighthouse. The bright afternoon sun gave way to gray mist.
Can You Find the Lighthouse?
As I neared Newport, my feet began to hurt, and I looked forward to dinner and a motel. The shiny joy of the day was wearing off, and these last few miles seemed interminable. I’ve always credited my dad, who was a landscape photographer and lifelong hiker, skier, and traveler, with instilling my love of the outdoors, but miles like these made me think about my mom. She has approached the hardships in her life with the kind of steely patience and persistent grit (ok, stubbornness) that you need to finish a long endurance run. I’m not a particularly fast or talented to runner, but I do have a knack for staying positive, troubleshooting setbacks, and being relentless that I got from my mom. These qualities got me through the OCT, maybe even more so than physical fitness.
My Aunt Marialice and I have a tradition of eating my dad’s favorite foods on his birthday: fried chicken, watermelon, chocolate cake, and a milkshake. This meal was hard to come by in Newport (I would find the best fried chicken a few days later in North Bend), so I opted for tacos at a sleepy Mexican restaurant instead. Sorry, dad!
When I got to the motel, I took the most wonderful, deep, syrupy nap. I fell asleep shortly before sunset and woke up a few hours later to the lights of ships offshore—Newport is Oregon’s busiest commercial fishing port. I stepped outside for a better look and noticed pairs of rubber fishing boots lined up beside every door but mine. I had reached the Central Coast, where tourism takes a backseat to industry.