Walking the Oregon Coast Trail, Day 6

Floras Lake to Bullards Beach State Park (actual date Thursday, 5/29/14)

Either my Camelbak leaks or I don’t remember drinking a bunch of water during the night.  Because this morning it was bone dry, leaving me with a mere 2 liters of bottled water for my upcoming 15-mile slog in the sand.  And against a cold wind, no less, that was already howling as I broke down the tent with shivering hands.  I guessed it was about 45 degrees.  Fact that I was tromping around in only my underwear probably didn’t help my situation.  I packed up and hung another piece of art.  As I set out walking, a park ranger approached quickly on an ATV.  He stopped and asked me to hike on the wet sand and stay clear of the snowy plover nesting areas ahead.  He also assured me that the river I’d hit along this stretch, the New River, was “no biggie.”  Said he crosses it in his ATV all the time.

It wasn’t long before I was leaning into 30+ mph headwinds and regularly sidestepping tsunami junk.  Mostly floats and flip-flops, but an occasional large, red lightbulb which turns out to be used for Japanese squid fishing.  It’s crazy to think that this glass bulb made it unbroken across the Pacific.

It took a few hours to reach the New River, and when I did it was high tide.  Damn.  I certainly didn’t want to wait like I did at the Sixes so I did some exploring to see if I could ford it anyhow.  I stripped down and made a couple attempts across without a pack.  And just as I feared, the New River was deep, wide, and its current pulled at my legs.  Not to mention the multitude of large seals that were fishing in the tidal flow less than fifty feet from me who seemed to be curious about what I was, and what I was doing.

If I was going to ford, there was no time to waste.  I rushed out of the water, balanced my pack on my head, returned to the water and started to foolishly ford the New River at exactly high tide.  For some reason, the song “Warning” by (dead) rap artist Biggie Smalls popped into my head.  Nothing about this association could be good.

As the river got deeper, I moved slower, inching my bare feet along the river bottom searching for something solid to afford me another step.  The current was too strong to walk straight across, and the occasional dips in the depth forced me to zig and zag, nearly losing my balance many times.  It was taking forever but I was nearing the other side.  Three quarters the way across, I noticed something big swim by.  A seal.  But not one, many, many seals. Their bobbing heads and saucer-like black eyes were all trained on me.  In a minor freak out moment I was sure they’d attack.  But they were only checking out what I was doing, likely placing bets on when I’d slip, drop my pack and disappear into the ocean forever.  I’ve never heard the seal word for “dumb ass” but I am sure they directed a few such chides my way.

When I stepped into an abyss that drew the water to my beard I knew the added weight of my pack was the only thing keeping me from becoming buoyant.  I stopped singing B.I.G. at this point and started in with a desperate pep talk, “Take it easy, Griffen…Come on…you got this.”  The water got even deeper, my lips touching water.  But after a few more terrifying steps I was finally across and doing a touchdown dance, taunting the seals with my naked body and wearing my backpack as a hat.  They were unimpressed.  When I was done being a spectacle I looked around to make sure no fishermen had seen me.

Two hours later, and after passing a beached grey whale whose skin had turned orange, I made it to Bandon.  The headwinds had increased tremendously in this section and I started worrying about how bad it would be in the upcoming 70-mile dunes section.  I could barely walk with my eyes open.  Not fun.  This, my friends, is why people walk the OCT North to South, not South to North.  Prevailing winds hail from the North 99% of the time.

I planned to make tomorrow a zero-mile day so I stocked up on food in Bandon and marched to Bullards Beach State Park.  Chock full with calorie packed food, my pack must have been 55+ pounds for this final three miles.  I had to call Katie to distract me from the pain in my hips and shoulders.  I lumbered across the pedestrian unfriendly Coquille Bridge (there’s no shoulder) and by 6:00pm I was relaxing in my tent at Bullards Bay State Park.  Another relatively easy day (18) but I am physically wrecked from six days without a break.  I need a break and will get one tomorrow.  Total mileage so far, 114.  Still got a long way to go but settled in and having a ball.

Today’s art

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I literally saw hundreds of these tsunami debris floats today

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More tsunami debris – a Japanese squid fishing lightbulb

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Beach landscape as I neared Bandon

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3 thoughts on “Walking the Oregon Coast Trail, Day 6

  1. OMG I would have been so scared crossing that river, especially when it got up to my neck. I love your art work for the day, and what you hung it on beautiful piece of drift wood.

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  2. Hi there Tom, From all that you have written this far……. I think I would have called this trip “Time to Quit”! This is really scary!!!

    Be careful! God Bless you!!! Love, Gram

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  3. Thanks Tom for taking us on this trip with you. I can visualize every portion of this adventure through your awesome descriptive writing. Thanks for letting us in on your journey! Way to go Bro!

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