We take a bus from Portland, Oregon to Warrenton and start walking. It is a dark day and it beings to rain. After about 6 miles, we stick out our thumb and a nice gentleman gives us a ride to the campground. People are incredibly friendly here.
We find out where the hiker/biker area is. But before we set up our tent we need to make our way 4 miles north to the northernmost point of the Oregon coast. A young woman at the campground registration offers to give us a ride. We accept with gratitude.
The sky is filled with clouds in varying shades of grey on a light grey background. The sea is grey. The sand is the same color. We are in a monotone world. It is low tide. Because the difference between high and low tide is so extreme, the beach is a wide open expanse. There is an outcropping of rocks in the ocean, and grassy dunes in the distance.
We walk 4 miles along the beach back to the campground.
I have been to beaches like this before in California and Denmark. What I can remember is that they are cold and windy. I usually stay an hour or two and then leave to get something warm to drink.
But it is different this time. This is my home for the next five weeks.
Wexler, my 12 year old son, and I are walking the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT); a 400+ mile trail from the northernmost coast (Fort Stevens) to the southernmost point (Brookings).
This is not a particularly comfortable environment for me. I do not understand it. Give me a warm beach and I know what to do. Get in the water. That is my thing. I love swimming in natural bodies of water. Not here. Too cold. Too windy.
Give me a desert and I know how to navigate, where to sleep. Here it is a bit trickier. Especially because we are on foot and the Oregon regulations for camping are so limited. It means we need to walk greater distances to get to a place to camp.
Yesterday we woke up at 6am, packed down the tent, and were on the beach walking by 6:30am. We needed to catch low tide to make it past three large rock outcroppings.
I am slowly picking up important nuggets of information. “Make sure you have a tide table,” said one of the articles I read about the OCT. Luckily, I had paid attention to this piece of advice and we easily made it past all three points by 8:30am.
Excellent. But we still had 20 km to walk. And this part was up and over two large hills. I did not get my morning coffee. We were running on crappy food like Oreos and granola bars and in desperate need of real fuel. Sometimes 20 km goes by in a blink. Sometimes it seems to take forever. This felt like the never ending walk—especially since the last bit was on a main road.
We were rewarded with some spectacular views just as we entered Manzanita, the town where we could resupply before heading to the campground. Our feet were pretty sore and we were moving slowly. Wexler was dreaming about getting into a car; how much he disliked walking. His feet hurt; his knee hurt.
Did I make a horrible decision? Should we stop the trip here? Maybe we have taken on too much. Sure, there are towns every 20-25 miles for resupply, but there is nowhere along the way to stop and recharge. This is hard on the mind.
My mind is tired. My body is tired. I temporarily forget my goal. In the morning I remind myself why we are doing this. I want to teach this child about working hard. More specifically, I want to teach him about working hard toward a larger goal. That is what this trip is about.
We got to Manzanita and stop in at the first cafe. The cheapest entree on the menu was $15—our entire daily budget. Luckily there is a children’s menu.
This is another skill I am teaching Wexler. Each day I hand him $15 for food. He can do with it as he pleases. I cannot believe I did not think of this earlier. I do not have to negotiate with him anymore. “Can I have this?” is no longer part of our repertoire. He finds nourishing food all by himself. And treats himself to ice cream at the end of the day. He is even trying to save some of the $15 so he can get a larger treat at the end of the trip. It has become a game for him. Something he can control.
Wexler ordered the buttered noodles on the kids menu. (Asking the server first if it is okay to order off the children’s menu since he is 12 and the menu says 10 and under. He receives clearance). I ordered French fries. We were just so happy to sit down. It was a long 25 mile walk. We took off our shoes and relaxed.
Then we went to the grocery store and stocked up for dinner to eat at the campsite.
When we are walking 20 miles in a day, it is incredible how much fuel the body needs to consume.
Once at the campsite we rested, got a warm shower, met the cyclists at the hiker/biker campground, showered, and went to the beach. As the sun was setting, Wexler made a fire and we listened to the cyclists sing folk music. We ate a simple meal of warmed chili out of a can (opened with a borrowed can opener from a nice gentleman in a very fancy trailer).**
After dinner, we met a woman at the campground, Renee, who walked the OCT three years ago. She showed us where she liked, where she skipped (“I am not a purist” she told us), and places that were tricky. The sand dunes are beautiful, she told us. But they are also very remote—we will need to bring a lot of supplies. Along one particular area there are whales and sea otters. She told us about agite—-some type of pretty rock we could collect.
This is trail is not super rugged. We are able to resupply most days. We have access to running water. But it is tricky negotiating the tides, crossing streams, finding our way on an unmarked route, and walking great distances. Even making a fire is different than in the desert.
And for me, it is difficult to manage the expectations of a 12 year old in the modern world. Pushing the body physically and working hard at something for a long period of time is not familiar. Patience is not a virtue of the modern world. It is uncomfortable.
Our kids are used to a fast pace environment with quick rewards. Walking 400 miles in an unfamiliar environment necessitates patience, endurance, and the ability to be present to the world around us. Novel! I know that this is just a moment in time for him and that he will return to his fast paced world. But for now, we are slowing down time and learning a new environment together.
** (Generally at the campsite, we like to make hamburgers and sausages over the coals of the fire when it is possible. We eat sandwiches, ramen noodles, soup, and I am a sucker for all kinds of deli salads—potato salad, coleslaw, egg salad, chicken salad. Snacking food includes beef jerky, chips, nuts, granola bars, chocolate and oatmeal for breakfast.)