Morning came, and I scuttled from the bed to the bathroom like a geriatric crab. Everything hurt. A lot. I was particularly worried about my left knee. I had had tendonitis in that knee in the spring, and now it felt dangerously tight and sore. Luckily, a hot bath restored me to a somewhat upright, mobile condition.
I bundled up against the first cold, gray morning of the trip and returned to the Shell station. Resupplied for the day, a brightly-colored bakery looked promising for breakfast, but the sickly sweet smell of the interior turned my stomach. I bought a hot chocolate to be polite, and began a slow slog toward my goal of Depoe Bay. The OCT follows Booten Road and then highway 101 for roughly six miles out of Pacific City before returning to the beach at Camp Wi Ne Ma. I let myself walk. I was missing my family and feeling subdued for the first time on the trip.
Gray Morning Leaving Pacific City
The generous shoulder of the 101 through this stretch kept me well clear of the RVs and semis roaring by, but I still dropped my shoulders in relief when I stepped onto the beach. Walking beside the ocean soothed me. I was beginning to think of it as an old friend (a mercurial, unpredictable friend that would kill you in your sleep, but familiar and companionable nonetheless).
The soreness in my legs had eased, but I felt tired all over. At Proposal Rock, I plopped down on a log for a long break. I just watched the gray ocean roll in and out, while a presumptuous seagull pecked at my shoes. I considered getting a motel in the village of Neskowin and calling it a rest day, but that seemed too risky for my overall goal of finishing in 12 days. I decided that I could stop short of Depoe Bay, but I had to make it another 14 miles to Lincoln City at least.
The OCT leaves the beach at Neskowin and begins a long highway climb on the north side of Cascade Head. Miraculously, I begin to revive. The sun came out, and soon my slow shuffle turned into a fast power hike. I didn’t mind the road miles here as they ascended through a shady forest. Partway up a cyclist crossed the road to say hello. He had already biked across Canada from his home in Quebec and was now en route to the tip of South America. From there he planned to return home along the east coast of both South and North America—a journey that would take years. I was buoyed by this brief conversation with a fellow traveler, even if my trek was tiny by comparison.
Near the top, the OCT turned onto Forest Road 1861. I noticed a Forest Service map that conflicted with the one in the guidebook. I searched for the trail in the spot shown on the posted map, but couldn’t find it. I then followed the guidebook’s instructions, a little unsure. FR 1861 rose in long switchbacks through the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area. In just over a mile, I saw an unnamed trail on the south side of the gravel road where the guidebook said a trail should be. I wished I felt up to bombing down this lovely, loamy path, but I took it easy.
“The Woods Are Lovely, Dark, and Deep …”
The final four miles into Lincoln City were on the 101. I saw a turnoff for McMinnville, where my brother- and sister-in-law and nieces and nephew live. It felt nice to know they were sort of nearby. On the outskirts of Lincoln City, I met a self-identified “lady tramp” also walking the highway. She carried her possessions tied up in a scarf on the end of stick, like the hobos in Depression-era cartoons. We walked together for a bit. She asked me for advice on weight loss. I also passed another OCT hiker backpacking a shorter segment of the trail. The shoulder of the 101 into Lincoln City turned out to be a social place!
The Pleasure of Clean, Dry Socks Would Be Short-Lived
That night I ordered pizza, did laundry, iced my legs and feet, and watched mindless Netflix in the motel. Pretty blissful.