September 2: Boulder to Astoria

I crept out of house well before dawn, while my family slept. Wanting to spare everyone (and by that I mean me) a tearful goodbye, I had booked an early flight. I carried my small running pack and a diminutive duffle. The morning felt unreal. After months of preparation, I couldn’t believe I was finally—or maybe actually—Oregon bound.

Now I am going to admit something embarrassing here. When I fly alone, I like to chat up the person beside me. I know. This isn’t socially acceptable behavior. I get it. I mean, I won’t bug you if you have your earbuds in or you are pretending to be absorbed in your magazine, but if you so much as ask me where I’m headed ... On Southwest flights, I almost always choose a seat next to an older woman; grandmas are usually down for conversation. Today I lucked out with an older couple en route to a riverboat cruise. We chatted the whole two-hour flight. The gentleman suffered from serious medical issues, and his wife couldn’t believe he had insisted on making the trip. In fact, the cruise had been his idea. I admired his pluck and considered it a good omen for my own irrational adventure.

The day felt festive, and I was nearly giddy by the time my brother-in-law, Jordan, and my nieces and nephew Molly, Katie, and Sam picked me up at the airport. They had volunteered to drive me to Astoria and see me off the following day. Did I mention they are the best? Jordan had arranged for us to stay with his childhood friend, Josh, who was renovating a beautiful 1920s home high above the Columbia River.

Once a fur-trading outpost and later a hardworking cannery town, Astoria sits at the mouth of the Columbia River. The Lewis and Clark expedition wintered nearby in 1805-1806. Nearly the entire town burned down in both 1883 and 1922. Completely rebuilt in the 1920s and early 1930s, Astoria is a dream of early-twentieth-century architecture. I swooned. I also loved the steep streets, which rise from the Columbia River to the top of a promontory, much like the streets of San Francisco. And the Goonies was filmed here. What’s not to love? Astoria’s last canneries closed in the 1980s. Now, former cannery buildings house breweries and restaurants. There are arsty cafes and funky bars. I could live here.

From the farmers’ market to the waterfront to flying balsa wood airplanes off the top of the Astor Column, we spent the whole day playing. One of my best friends, Algin, and his partner Megan drove over from Salem for the afternoon, as well. I loved this day. It was simple and fun and full of some of my favorite people. I had expected to feel nervous or possibly restless, but I didn’t.

Later that night, I laid out all of my gear on Josh’s living room floor. After careful consideration, I culled a few items. My apologies to the good people of Oregon—deodorant was one of them. Jordan cut off the handle of my toothbrush for me with one of Josh’s saws. I would feel grateful to him every time I brushed my teeth on the trip.

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The OCT passes through many coastal towns. I planned to stay in motels each night to avoid carrying a tent or stove. I did pack a tiny emergency sleeping bag, but never had to use it. Fully loaded with water and snacks, my running vest weighed about 10 pounds. I had worn this small pack on nearly every run for the past month. Now it hung on the back of a chair loaded with most of the things I would need for the next 13 days.

Here’s what made the cut:

Garmin InReach Mini Tracker, TomTom GPS watch (and a backup watch), iPhone SE, four-plug charger and charging cables, lightweight external battery charger*, earbuds, Rabbit Ninja tights, Bayleaf light compression shorts with an 8” seam, base layer tank top with built-in sports bra from Target, Brooks Running synthetic t-shirt, two long sleeve synthetic shirts, Patagonia Hoodini jacket, Ultimate Direction rain jacket, Ultimate Direction rain pants, REI down vest, two pairs of Feetures Elite Max Cushion quarter length socks, Rabbit arm warmers, Ultra Glam sand gaiters, lightweight mittens, Buff*, Golite hat, Golite visor, Tifosi sunglasses, Sol emergency bivvy sack, blister/med kit (moleskin, duct tape, safety pin, advil, lighter, tincture of iodine, nail clippers) hemp oil, 2 Toms lube, A&D diaper rash cream, safety pins, sunscreen, bug spray, toothpaste, sawed-off toothbrush, small camp knife, mace, Nathan blinker, Petzl emergency headlamp, Katadyn filter*, iodine tablets, credit cards, ID, cash, insurance card, card from my dad’s funeral (I always carry it in my wallet), tiny heart rock from Sarah Jane, hydration bladder and extra mouthpiece, Black Diamond Z poles (don’t judge), Hoka Challenger ATR 3s. I also had a PDF of Bonnie Henderson’s excellent guidebook Day Hiking the Oregon Coast on my phone.