Gold Beach Visitor’s Center to Sisters Rock (actual date Monday, 5/26/14)
I woke up to the sound of a marching band playing Yankee Doodle Dandy. Songs celebrating America provided a soundtrack for my new morning ritual consisting of eating a can of pears, painting, and breaking camp. It was Memorial Day and Gold Beach was abuzz by 7:30am. Seems that adjacent to the visitor’s center was a veteran’s memorial garden. Old men and women proudly wore VFW hats as they waved mini flags when they weren’t handing them out to arriving visitors. I watched all this from my secret camp spot. I’m pretty sure nobody saw me as I prepped for day 3. Nor as I hung my second piece of artwork.
The long, paved stretch through Gold Beach led me to the bridge over the first major river, the Rogue. Its art deco style made walking over it more than just functional. Ornate details and funky angles distracted me from the strong gusts that threatened to sweep me away. The trail then turned back to the beach and onto Otter Point. I eventually managed to find the OCT marker leading me off the beach, but it was certainly easy to miss. For some reason I felt like I needed to “stay on trail.” Fact was, as long as I kept the ocean on my left, I’d be fine.
Walking today was an emotional grind. The physical nature of what I was doing wasn’t too far from activity I am used to. Trading running for backpacking isn’t much of a stretch. In fact, I think it’s a lot better for the body in that I am far less sore at the end of a long day. But mentally it’s tough to prepare for 12+ hours walking with minimal external distractions. I was forced to be alone with myself and today I was rebelling against it. I spent much of the day questioning my motives. Three weeks suddenly felt like an eternity. I underwent a series of depressive hours followed by a few minutes of manic. It was far more exhausting than the walking. “Do I really want to do this?” “What do I really enjoy doing?” “What am I trying to prove?” When I reached Neskia Beach after about 8 hours, I was a wreck. Something had to give. I knew what I was battling was bigger than this walk. I undid my pack and sat on a tiny patch of grass overlooking the beach. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I’d like to say I was meditating because that sounds cool. But really I was just trying to regroup. Trying to get my shit together again. Trying to figure out a way to quiet down the voices in my head. My breathing got deeper and I started stretching. Before I knew it I was moving into some seated yoga poses. Then standing poses. I quieted my mind by getting back in touch with the moment. I reconnected with the idea of experiencing what’s happening now rather than preparing for the outcome. As I put my pack back on, I remember saying aloud, “All is fine. All is wonderful.” Then I marched away as if it were a new morning.
At some point I found myself on a canopied single-track trail. The trees were immense and gorgeous and I felt puny by comparison. Then, as if I had slammed into a brick wall, I stopped on a dime and again spoke out loud to nobody. Nobody, that is, except an enormous spruce tree with reaching limbs that had just scraped my shoulder. I said something to the tree like, “Your beauty reflects mine.” And yes, I know this sort of shit sounds hokey, but this needed to happen. I was battling a comfort zone and trying to apply my normal life to an abnormal situation. I needed something to step in and ease my mind. Granted, I know it was actually me who did the easing – but putting it on the tree, apparently, made it more believable. Unloading the expectation I had on myself made me more available to what was happening in the now. This was a turning point, to say the least.
I motored on for a few more hours until the sun began to set. As I reached a hill crest, I saw ahead what looked like a trail back down to the beach and out towards two pinnacles that sat together in the ocean, looming higher than anything else around. Sisters Rock. Sure enough, it was a trail, and led me through a rough, bouldery beach, past piles of Fukushima debris, and eventually to the one and only flat portions of beach that seemed safe from the tide. This campsite trumped the previous two. Sisters Rock was mine for the night. I was back on track after a tough 20 mile day.
Another art drop.
Memorial Day in Gold Beach
Saw this on the road near Neskia Beach.
OK – maybe it wasn’t such a tough day after all