I woke up feeling queasy. So far, I had escaped the most common distance running issues: stomach upset, blisters, and chafing. The first I credited to training. In the months leading up to the trip, my coach, Sarah Lavender Smith, had encouraged me to run at different times of the day, as well as after meals. I had also practiced fueling runs with all sorts of things, from salami to hard boiled eggs. By the time I got to the OCT, I could shovel in gas station food like a champ. My slower paces out here probably helped, too.
I suited up and stepped out into a cool, misty morning. The boots from the night before were gone; fishermen kept earlier hours than I did. Leaving Newport, the OCT crossed the Yaquina Bay Bridge, the first of five major bridges on the 101 designed by Conde McCullough. McCullough also drafted numerous other, smaller spans used by the OCT, but the larger bridges were truly something.
The Historic Yaquina Bay Bridge
Built as part of a WPA effort to complete the Oregon Coast Highway from 1934-1936, each bridge featured phenomenal Art Deco and Moderne embellishments and Gothic architecture. I’m such a design nerd. The carved flutes, chevron scoring, and tiered Deco obelisks literally made me giddy, as did crossing such a long span on foot.
McCullough also included generous pedestrian walkways, viewing plazas, and Great Gatsby-style staircases spiraling down to parks beneath the landings, where even the bridge supports were beautifully shaped and scored. He must have wanted travelers to enjoy the grand architecture from both above and below. I’m glad, and I did. Like many of McCullough’s bridges, the Yaquina Bay Bridge is listed on the National Historic Register.
The photos below show the Deco details up close. My pics didn’t turn out very well, so some of the images are borrowed from takeoutphoto.blogspot.com, Coast Explorer magazine, and Lincoln County News
From the bridge, the trail follows a road paralleling the south jetty to a wide, lovely beach. I still felt off and just chugged along sucking on Lifesavers. The creek crossings on this stretch were pleasantly shallow. Eventually, I came to a dramatic cove known as Seal Rock. Here the ocean slammed into dark, jagged boulders offshore, sending up clouds of spray. I lingered, loving the wild, explosive crash of the waves.
A little hobbit path led off the beach to a short highway detour around the cliffs of Seal Rock State Recreation Site. Back on the beach, both the tide and fog closed in, making the going tough. I came upon a dead shark that added some excitement. The farther south I went, the thicker the marine layer became. I missed the turn off the beach, and backtracked once I noticed the arch of the Alsea Bay Bridge jutting through the fog.
Hobbit Trail Off the Beach at Seal Rock
I was starting to perk up. A short jog through neighborhoods brought me to a convenience store on the north side of the bridge with the most delicious hand dipped ice cream. Loaded up with ice cream, candy bars, salami, apple juice, and gatorade, I plunked down at a picnic table to devour my pile of calories. I texted a picture of the shark to my family. I had wondered if I would feel lonely on the trip, but I ended up even more connected to family and friends than usual. I had fun sending pictures and loved receiving texts. My cousin, Rob, who is like a big brother and who is an incredible endurance athlete (Ironman, cyclist) texted me encouragement and advice nearly everyday. I loved that. After the ice cream, I felt completely recovered and energetic. Bodies are weird.
The existing Alsea Bay Bridge, built in the 1980s, replaced the original by Conde McCullough. Overall, the new bridge lacked the elegance of it’s predecessor, but a few of the 1930s Deco elements remained. From the bridge, I spied harbor seals lounging on a sandbar in the bay.
Remnants of the Original Bridge
As I was running by a filling station in the small town of Waldport, an older gentleman pumping gas asked if I was hiking the Oregon Coast Trail. He said he and his wife had seen me pass their house earlier and were confused by my small pack. When I told him I was running the trail and trying to set a new record, he shook my hand and wished me luck. That gave me a boost. Overall, I met very few locals who had heard of the OCT, which is a shame. Oregon is the only U.S. state whose entire coastline is public, and the Oregon Coast Trail is one of the few (maybe only) long-distance footpaths in America that can be traversed inn-to-inn. More people should know about it.
Maybe You Should Do the OCT?
From Waldport, the OCT follows the rocky shore of Alsea Bay to a gorgeous beach. The tide had receded, and I settled into a good rhythm on the fast, hard-packed sand at the water’s edge. I found my motel for the night on a small bluff overlooking the ocean. I had arrived earlier than expected, and hung out on the beach for a while basking in the late afternoon sun. I called my family, as I did most days when the kids got home from school. My mom and Brady’s parents were watching the girls—they seemed to be having a great time together—and I enjoyed getting to talk to everyone at once.
My cozy, family-run motel was perfect in every way except one. The closest restaurants and stores were three miles south, and none of them delivered. I tried to bribe the pizza place into driving over a pie. No luck. I checked for Uber or Lyft. I googled taxi companies. I asked the front desk for advice. Nothing. In many ways the Oregon Coast is more remote than you might expect, even in touristy areas. Should I run six miles roundtrip for dinner? Nope. The front desk had a small basket of snacks for sale. I bought Corn Nuts and potato chips and foraged blackberries from a thicket at the edge of the property. Blackberries grow wild along nearly every road on the Oregon Coast, and they were in season. I had munched berries on each highway section of the OCT so far. In Boulder, a small package costs you $3 or $4. By Boulder standards, I had probably eaten a $1,000 worth of blackberries already.
The meager dinner made the trip seem funnier and more adventurous somehow. I went to bed dreaming of the motel’s morning doughnut spread.
The Never Ending Quest for Dry Socks