Walking to Residency


Next month I am embarking on a point-to-point trek along the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail (OCT).  I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time.  In fact, back in 1996 I gave it a shot but threw in the towel after 4 days.  I simply wasn’t ready.  But now I am.  I think.

I plan to walk the south-north route from Crissey Field State Park at the California border to the bridge to Washington in Astoria.  Most folks walk north-south and capitalize on the prevailing winds but it’s in my nature to do things a little differently.  That, and my amazing Aunt Terry is willing to drive me 5+ hours from Lake County, CA to my starting point at the border.

The OCT consists of approximately 40% single track trail, 40% road, and 20% beach.  The trail is about 75% complete and is (supposedly) marked along the way.  The trail is mostly linear and its twists and turns mirror the coastline.  I will likely be forced to take some alternate routes, especially if I reach any of the river crossings at (impassable) high-tide.  Other crossings are impossible unless I can wave down a fisherman for a ride.  All in all, just keeping the ocean on the left will be good enough for my daily business.

There are plenty of resources along the OCT for refueling and rest.  I expect the biggest challenge will be knocking out the daily mileage without falling apart, mentally or physically.  I’m giving myself 25 days – which is only 16 miles/day.  I like to think of it in terms of an ultramarathon.  16-miles is a short day of training.  But then again, I never wore a 25-pound pack.  And yes, I’d like to finish, but I’ll also be content if I manage to hike every day for three weeks without incident.

Though my goal is to go minimal, I will be wearing a proper backpack.  The sleeping bag and tent alone dictate this need for space.  Additionally, I’ll lug no more than two sets of clothes, some simple cooking gear, a tiny camera, and a few Larry Levis poetry books.  I am not bringing a computer and I don’t own a smartphone.  I’ll be unplugged.

Solid information about the OCT is limited.  I’m essentially piecing together info using PDF maps published by the Oregon Parks and Rec, Day Hiking Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson, and various other anecdotal blogs and Facebook pages.  There’s enough out there to make it all work, it’s just scattered.

If I finish according to plan, I’ll have two days before my next MFA residency starts at Pacific University.  I’ll take a bus to Portland, stuff my face with Voodoo Donuts, and relax at my airbnb cottage in the Northwest District.  I expect that the highlight of this adventure will be wrapping it all up by spending 9 days with my writing peeps in Forest Grove.  Damn, I can’t wait.





  1. Can’t wait to hear all about it, Tom. The first beer is on me.

  2. El Guapo

    You’ll do 16 miles and be done by noon, then sit around wondering what you’re supposed to be doing before knocking out another 10+ miles. Then you’ll do one 40-mile day just to see if you can.

  3. Mom & Dsd

    Hello Tom … thinking about you and hope things are going smoothly … Terry shared that she got your text while you were in COOS Bay … wonderful news … hope the weather has made you ‘comfy’ & & your shoes keep you walking comfortably … We love you Tom …<3 <3

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