Sisters Rock to Paradise Point (actual date Tuesday, 5/27/14)
In my waking dream my father is telling me that when his children are happy it makes him cry. I wonder if he is weeping now.
It rained all night. The tent’s first weather test. A tent that I trust completely since my best friend Kent used the same model as he walked across the USA two years ago. It passed with flying colors. By morning, the sun was out to dry things off. It’s warm enough to break camp in my underwear and private enough to take a birthday-suit birdbath in the ocean. No sooner do I get my clothes back on that a flurry of kayakers come around the Sisters point, waving at me with gusto. Timing often seems to be just right.
After hanging a piece of art, I head out. At Sisters Rock overlook I meet a father and son travel team who are driving the Oregon Coast. Bill from Florida and Will who lives in Australia. Just yesterday they were in Seaside, where I plan to be in three weeks. Bill’s excitement for my adventure is contagious. He asks to take my photo and even offers to email it to me. I want to hug these guys. They are first people in four days who have spoken to me.
I walk along the 101 to Arizona Beach, past the giant, steel brontosaurus and t-rex that loom over the Prehistoric Gardens where I fill up my water bottles and settle in for a long day. I’m in fantastic spirits and attribute it on Will and Bill.
When I reach Humbug Mountain State Park a ranger directs me to the tucked-away trailhead while giving me a sideways glance. “You know, there’s nobody on staff to maintain the trail.” She looks me up and down. “You might want to be careful.” I quietly wonder what she means until I reach the trailhead. I see the post with OCT markings, but I certainly don’t see a trail until I’m right up on it. It’s grown over with stinging nettle and I a wearing shorts. After a quick wardrobe change and a little snack I am plowing through it, laughing at grass taller than me trying to conceal the path. I expected Humbug Mountain to live up to its name. It was a roller coaster, for sure. But more fun than threatening. At the summit the trail put me on the Old Highway 101 that ran far above the current one. So far up that I couldn’t even hear the traffic below. For 6-miles of broken blacktop I imagined families in Edsels and Model T’s stopping on the slim shoulders for a black and white photo from their vacation up the coast. This was a quiet section filled with ghosts.
The trail descended sharply onto the beach. The tide was coming in. I successfully managed to boulder two points en route to Port Orford while knowing I must be off-trail. Even for me, a sure-footed, risk-taking hiker always up for a directional challenge, this section was wildly dangerous. At low-tide it was probably just something to walk around. But once I started on it, I couldn’t stop. Back on the sand, I eventually hit an impassable creek that forced me through a dune field and back to the 101, past Battle Rock and into Port Orford where I refilled my food bag at a Safeway. With my pack in the shopping cart like a giant toddler and my trekking poles jutting out like jousts, I moved slowly through the store looking for refried beans, tortillas, canned fruit and Clif bars. The checker asked me where I was headed and when I told her she said, “Good for you, have a nice day.”
As I repacked the food in my backpack, a fellow stopped me and introduced himself as “Turtle.” He wore a brass amulet of a turtle around his neck. He wore turtle earrings. Had a faded turtle tattoo on his forearm. And his black Kangol hat had a tiny turtle pin front and center. He said, “Dude! Man! I recognize you from Brookings! You walked by me then I saw you from the bus!” It took me a second but I remembered him too. He was the hitchhiker who told me that waiting for a ride was a lesson in patience. He asked me, “You’re walking? Righteous, dude!” Turtle told me he’s been on the road for 7 years and plans to continue his whole life. He then asked everyone in the parking lot for a ride and before long, he was off.
Then a woman approached me with a large pillow in her hand. Her cut-off sweatshirt was shiny with grime and her shorts were held up by a belt that hung down. She squinted as she asked me, “Who are you? I don’t know you yet.” Then she told me she lives in Port Orford because she just got a job. She said, “But I’m fucked. I’m waiting for my ID to come and some fucking bitch is making it all bullshit. The cunt.” I opted not to explore this further and bid her good luck. After a solid high-five she disappeared.
I figured 20 miles was enough for the day, so I found a spot on the beach away from the pedestrian access lots and set up my tent. Today was a good day. My energy was better. I wasn’t so caught up in the doing that I missed the being. I was settling in. Finally.
Thanks to Will and Bill for this photo!
Another art drop at the beach on Sisters Rock
The Old Highway 101 at the top of Humbug Mountain
Another fantastic campsite