September 4: Cannon Beach to Rockaway

The Oregon Coast is so Freaking Beautiful

The Oregon Coast is so Freaking Beautiful

Looking North to Haystack Rock

Looking North to Haystack Rock

I got a text from my friend Wendy wishing me a happy day two. She would text me each morning for the rest of trip [heart emoji].

I picked up breakfast and snacks at a small organic grocery next to the motel. The OCT resumed on the beach across the street. I walked at first, savoring the misty quiet of early morning and then began a slow jog. The tide was high, and I just managed to sneak between Humbug Point and the distinctive Lion Rock. Cliffs rose to my left, but there was plenty of beach to continue safely.

Humbug Point and Lion Rock

Humbug Point and Lion Rock

Eventually, the beach ended at a bluff—the north side of Hug Point. I wandered about searching for a way around. I tried edging out along a skirt of rock that I felt sure connected to the “high tide rode” carved into the south side of the point, but I lost my nerve when a wave lapped at my feet.

If stymied by high tide, the guidebook recommended retreating to the 101. I could hear the highway above me, and begin walking back along the beach looking for a way up. After years of crazy bushwhacks with Brady Robinson I have a good eye for obscure trails. I spied a faint break in the vegetation. Sure enough, with a little bushwhacking, I gained a steep, narrow path leading up the hillside to the road. A short run along the shoulder brought me to a cute neighborhood tucked on the east side of the highway and the start of the trail over Arch Cape. I wish I had photographed one of the cedar-shingled hobbit cottages for my friend Jenn, who loves small, whimsical dwellings.

Swinging Bridge!

Swinging Bridge!

The Arch Cape trail began with a swinging bridge that made me think of my dad. Suspension bridges delighted him (as did most things), and he probably knew the location of every one in West Virginia, where I grew up. From here, the trail climbed and descended through gorgeous coastal forests up and over Arch Cape, Cape Falcon, and Neahkanie Mountain, the highest point on the OCT. The ocean views from the top of Cape Falcon made me giddy. I texted pictures to my family, but the images failed to capture the dazzling drop to the wild, turquoise sea hundreds of feet below. At the base of Cape Falcon, I filled up water and ate lunch at a picnic area overlooking Short Sand Beach. A few years ago we had brought the kids here to explore tidepools.

From the summit of Neahkanie, I could see all the way to Rockaway Beach—a sweep of sand, ocean, towns, and the impressive Nehalem Bay. Somewhere, at the edge of this great expanse was my hotel for the night. There were a few times on the trip that a viewpoint would show me all the miles I had traveled or had yet to cover for the day.

After Neahkanie Mountain, the OCT follows the 101 and side roads back to the beach north of Manzanita. I had a good tail wind on this beach and ran effortlessly despite the miles and elevation gain on my legs. I dodged a few kite surfers and landboarders also enjoying the wind. As I continued down the beach toward the end of Nehalem Spit, I began to worry that Jetty Fishery might close before I arrived. The fishery ferries thru-hikers across Nehalem Bay for $10 per person as part of the official OCT route. From the tip of the spit, I followed a faint, overgrown trail upstream, scrambling over huge driftwood logs and bushwhacking through shrubbery until I spotted the yellow buildings and boats of Jetty Fishery across the bay.

The guidebook says to wave and someone will fetch you. I began waving like a crazy person. I didn’t see anyone on the dock at first and feared a looooong detour by land. Then two guys emerged from the shack, gave me a wave, and began readying a boat. Relieved, I watched them motor across, riding the swells rolling into the bay. “You ready to get wet?” the skipper asked when they reached me. Hell yeah. Better that than the alternative. I threw on a life jacket and jumped in the boat.

They Were Open!

They Were Open!

Let me just say, I freaking loved Jetty Fishery. They have two massive cauldrons of boiling water and cook up fresh crab and corn on the cob right there beside the dock. I gorged on crab, buttery corn, and a Coke. It was my favorite meal on the whole coast. As I was stuffing candy bars purchased from the little bait shop into my pack, one of the older guys asked me about my trek. When I told him I had left Astoria the day before and was aiming for California, he shook my hand. “You’re really moving,” he said. I had wondered if the run would sound frivolous to a hardworking fisherman, but he seemed genuinely interested. Later, I heard him telling the younger guys on the dock about me. I also chatted with the woman clerking the bait shop. Turns out she had lived in Colorado, not far from me. When I asked what brought her to Oregon, she gestured outside, “I needed to be near the ocean.” I could see her point.

Jetty Fishery

Jetty Fishery

About to be My Favorite Meal

About to be My Favorite Meal

The food perked me up for the final miles to Rockaway. I followed the beautiful south jetty back to the beach, rock hopping a water crossing and clambering over a pile driftwood. The shadows were growing long, and I enjoyed a pleasant evening jog on the beach.

Our family spent two summer vacations at Rockaway when all the kids were little, and I felt nostalgic walking into town. I had a cozy room at an old, comfortable motel on the beach. I could hear the ocean through my screen window. I took a hot bath and went out once more in search of food. The local market was still open, and I loaded up on salami, cheese, crackers, chips, chocolate milk, bean and cheese burritos, and fried potatoes from the hot case. Delicious.

I tried unsuccessfully to dry my socks in front of the heater, but did manage to ice my legs and feet to prevent swelling.