It is the middle of the night. I am in the tent at a campground on the Oregon Coast. It is cold and I do not want to get up. But I have to pee. I open the zipper of the tent. There is a flap from the outer cover where it is possible to keep our backpacks while we sleep. Our backpacks are gone.
I step outside into the moonless night. In the distance I see what looks like my pack. As I get closer, I realize that it is open. All of the food has been eaten. Even the sealed peanut butter packets. Everything. All that is left are the wrappers. It is a mess.
I walk around a bit more and find Wexler’s bag in worse condition.
We had an extra large stash of resupply because we knew it would be a long walk into the next town and we might not even make it until the following day.
What kind of creature could drag the bags, open zippers, and ravage our things in this way? I was up for the rest of the night trying to figure it out.
It was definitely not a human because of the way the food was eaten. Was it a monkey?
There are no monkeys here, obviously. Maybe somebody’s pet monkey got out. The mind works funny in the middle of the night.
In the morning I saw a sign on the trash can about raccoons. I am pretty sure this was the culprit.
We survived the next day on two donated cliff bars from our neighbors at the campground. Wexler also had some extra granola bars in his pocket while he was sleeping.
Two nights later I heard some rustling in the night. Again!! I got out of the tent to find Wexler’s backpack dragged out and opened. I saw the raccoon this time.
I yelled out, grabbed the opened pack and brought it into the tent. This time there was no food for them to find.
Tonight will be our last day in a campground for the next bit. We are headed to the dunes which is much more remote; wild camping will be our only choice—and my preference.
Today we are half way on the OCT; we walked 200 of the 400 miles.
We encounter people in towns and campgrounds who are very curious about where we are going. When we say we are walking the OCT from the northernmost to southernmost coast of Oregon, they are impressed. Most people have never heard of the OCT. The state of Oregon has done a very poor job of “packaging” this thru-hike. It is essentially unmarked and has very little infrastructure. It is 40% road, 40% beach, and 20% forest trails.
My guess is that the state is embarrassed about the road walking and is therefore unsure how to promote it. I think that they should just own it. This is the trail for now. It could be changed in the future. But for now it is still really special. If it was marked and there was local knowledge, pride, and support, it would be a completely different thing. The Camino in Spain requires a lot of road walking also. But it is accepted as part of the trail and thousands of people walk it each year.
It is in the season. But we have not met a single person walking the trail. Actually, we have met three people but they are walking the other direction. They were Pacific Crest Trail hikers who moved over to the OCT because of the weather this year.
We have met many cyclists who are cycling down Highway 101, which is where most of the road walking occurs.
Approximately every 20 miles (sometimes sooner) there is a town to resupply. These are charming small towns with mostly local shops—almost always an ice cream/fudge shop.
In between are state run campgrounds in varying sizes with varying facilities. Last night, we had a quiet site in the woods that offered toilet facilities but no shower. Some have WiFi, wood, lockers, hot showers, book swaps, and one even sold ice cream.
So far I Wexler might say that the ice cream and fudge are his favorite. He can have as much as he wants. He is also very good at nourishing his body with good meals because he knows he will need the fuel to walk long and far.
In the beginning of the trip Wexler was suffering mentally and physically. He was not motivated. His knee bothered him. I questioned if I had made the right decision. Maybe he was not up to the task.
But deep in my heart and soul I knew that he could do it.
I knew that I would need to be persistent. Unwavering. I had an internal dialogue that was going something like this: I only see him three times a year. I want him to like me. I do not know if I can tolerate this negativity for a month. What will the other parents think?
I quickly reminded myself that I do not care what the other parents think. I am pretty certain that they think I have lost my mind anyway. Of course I care if my son likes me but not at the expense of being a role model. I do care about teaching him about perseverance, respect, and responsibility—to himself and others.
We are 13 days and 170 miles into our 400 mile journey. We generally walk about 20 miles a day. We have come a long way—not just in distance but also physically and mentally.
He is suddenly proud that we will be walking 400 miles.
Wexler decided that he wants to walk 100 km straight. This would mean walking through the night. We have done this before—in the Arizona desert. I trust myself in the desert. I do not trust myself yet here. It is not remote. The people are very nice here. But I do not trust drunk people at night. It can get wild. I am not up for that.
We compromised. We will pick a day to walk from sunrise (5am) to sunset (9pm). Stay tuned.
He also started talking about returning to the Camino de Santiago in Spain. And other walks.
This is a symbiotic relationship. I am trying to be parental. To be a role model. To teach my son what I value in this short time we are together. He is teaching me too.
I am learning how to have fun. How to laugh. How to take myself less seriously. I am also learning that my 12 year old is much more successful on social media than I am.
A year ago I set up a website, making videos, writing blogs, sending out a newsletter and started to engage on social media. Four months ago I amped it up a bit, posting daily on Instagram. I have approximately 170 followers on Instagram.
Last week Wexler set up an Instagram account (@the_earth_is_changing) and is rapidly approaching 170 followers.
He is a role model for me. I watch him as he reaches out to others and adds followers. He is so free about it.
Wexler is generally a rock star. He walks between 15-25 miles each day. He helps set up the tent, he is responsible with his money, and he keeps up the conversation.
I no longer have the same control in Wexler’s life that I once did.
My child operates in a world that does not make sense to me. In a world where the kids are on their devices at lunch and he has no one to talk to because he does not have a device. So he looks over the shoulder of the kids with the devices.
A world where kids do not play outside together in a group because the world is too dangerous.
But the thing is that Wexler likes his world. He likes school. He likes the predictability that his life provides. While I celebrate unpredictability, he embraces predictability and comfort.
He dreams about being back in his room. In his own bed. He dreams about going to Telluride with his father. I am definitely not the holiday fun mom.
I push Wexler. I push him to his limit. This is what I can offer him. This is what I can give. He can decide later if this resonates with him.
This is something that makes Wexler laugh—a lot!