It is four hundred miles down the coast of Oregon from the very north to the border of California—a combination of dramatic beauty with a harsh and grueling environment with sweeping winds in an extremely remote landscape. Who would want to spend time in this testing environment?
Apparently not a lot of people because although the beauty is surreal, the hostile environment is just for the diehards. I guess I am a diehard, trying to teach my 12 year old son about patience, commitment, and perseverance. In June 2019, Wexler, my 12 year old son and I walked the entire trail (with some hitchhiking when the road seemed too dangerous).
Resources are often limited along the way so we often carried supplies for two days.
We reminisce of our first day in Portland where we walked 2 miles to the hotel—what seemed a never ending journey. Now 2 miles is insignificant. Our perspective has changed—about a lot of things.
The first couple nights in the tent were not very comfortable. It was cold. Our legs were sore. However, after a short time, I cherished the windless calm of our tent. It was sweet and cozy. I am not sure that Wexler felt as fondly of the tent but he never complained.
We did not walk the beach exclusively. In many areas it is impossible due to private access as well as cliffs that limit accessibility. This creates two challenges: navigation and the necessity to road walk. Forty percent of the trail is road walking. Many people take the bus to avoid these sections. Not us. I am a purist. I wanted Wexler to learn what it felt like to complete something in its entirety (full disclosure—we did hitchhike three different sections; two for safety issues and the other because camping/accommodation was inaccessible for too long of a stretch.)
The road walking was tedious on the mind. It is along Highway 101 which is often remote in some areas with sizable amounts of traffic in others. Luckily, it was still stunningly beautiful with vast open stretches of ocean views and lush green forest.
Our daily routine started around 6:30 am. We packed up the tent, made a quick coffee and breakfast, and set off walking. We navigated a combination of beach, road, and forest paths. Every day or sometimes every other day we found a town to eat and restock our supply. We typically arrived to camp each night between 6 and 8pm. We showered when possible, ate dinner (usually canned chili or noodles), made a fire, and went to sleep. Then repeat. Daily.
We encountered unforeseen obstacles—my favorite kind! There were rivers that we could not cross because the ride was too high. So we waited. One time nearly 4 hours. A raccon got into our bags in the middle of the night and ate all our food—we had just gone for a major re-supply. These are the types of things that slowed us down, that made us stop and be present. It is not always pleasant and I usually resist when life is going according to plan. But these are the things we will remember. We will retell the stories and laugh and know that we not only survived, but came out stronger.
I watched Wexler calm down significantly as the days went on despite his continuous enthusiasm about finishing. He became a semi-vegetarian. He realized that he liked the way his body felt when he exercised and committed to exercise when he returned home. He became a fast, strong, energetic, and enthusiastic hiker.
When we got to the finish line—the border of California and Oregon, Wexler was so happy. He made his own version of Champagne with a bottle of Coke and Mentos. We made videos. He waited for this moment for so long—to be finished. He seemed so happy. I was also happy but for a slightly different reason. I wanted to teach my kid about perseverance and patience. About working hard for something over a long period of time and achieving it. I was proud of us because together we did it!