Walking the Oregon Coast Trail, Day 17

Tillamook to Manzanita Beach (actual date Monday 6/9/14)

It was tough to fall asleep worried about bedbugs. But my worries were in vain. I slept hard and needed an alarm to wake up. I was walking by 7:45am and eating toast and oatmeal in a Bay City greasy spoon, Downie’s Cafe, by 9:30. A local came in and ordered a giant stack of pancakes. That sounded good so I ordered one too. I swear, there’s no end to my appetite these days.

I’m moving slower than usual today and mile 8 in Ghirabaldi feels like mile 20. I take a break at a cherry stand but I only want a few. A worker agrees to sell me a handful for $1.00 and we get to talking. She asks where I started and I tell her Brookings – at the border of California and Oregon. She asks me if it’s on the 5 and I say no, the 101. Near Klamath Falls, she asks? No, but I did pass through Klamath, California. Is that near Redding? No, I tell her, Redding’s inland. I started on the beach and walked north. We go back and forth like this for a minute until her sidekick puts his face in his hands. I realize she has no concept of Oregon’s geography so I drop it. I thank her for the delicious cherries and move on.

There’s a giant smokestack in Garibaldi left over from days when its economy was driven by the milling business. Built in 1927-28, it now looms over the city inspiring folks like me to dream of the way things were.

Five more miles and I’m in Rockaway Beach where I load up on provisions. More apples, beans, and tortillas. I know that somewhere ahead is the Jetty Fisheries building where I’ll need to catch a ferry across Nehalem Bay. I give them a call to confirm their whereabouts and they tell me to just look for the yellow VW van. I certainly won’t miss that.

I expect the yellow van to be just ahead but it takes more than an hour to reach it. It’s a welcome sight and not just because I have a thing for vee-dubs. The guys at Jetty Fisheries greet me with a pat on the back and ask if I saw the other dude walking the coast, heading south. I say no. They say good, because he was planning to steal your food. They also tell me to stay off the horse trail once I get across the bay. They say it’s deep, soft sand and will be slow-going. Enough to make me crazy. I pay the $10.00 at the desk and get the password to give a boat driver at the dock. “Who let the dogs out.” I am also advised to tell the driver I know a doctor willing to give him a free vasectomy. Inside joke, I assume. I deliver the password and the message, laugh even though I have no idea why I’m laughing, and no more than 5-minutes later I watch the skiff motor away as I stand alone on the north side of the bay. The tide is out and the water is like a mirror. I take a load off.

I estimate the distance from the bay to the ocean to be about a half-mile and make a few attempts to bushwhack through the tall dunes, overgrown with thick grass and weeds. A trail is difficult to navigate, and it’s even more of a challenge to stay on a linear course. Many dunes meet in a swamp, forcing me to skirt them and add considerable distance to my zig. I can’t see the ocean when I crest the dunes, sucking wind. Eventually I decide I am setting myself up for failure. So I backtrack and start on a new route. I repeat this process twice before I happen upon the horse trail. I remember what the guys at Jetty Fisheries said, but at this point I don’t care if it’s more difficult. At least I’m not wasting time and energy by going in stupid circles.

Earlier I figured I’d find a spot on the beach to camp. But the wind and the swell combined make the beach as loud as a train, and 40-50mph gusts don’t help things. I opt to keep walking and before too long find myself in the quaint town of Manzanita. It reminds me of Laguna Beach with its artsy vibe and colorful houses. I get a sense that it’s pretty high-end too, unlike most of the tired beach towns I’ve passed through.

There is no way in hell I am staying in another hotel but here I am in another town without camping accommodations. Again. I’ve already put in a pretty big day with 20+ miles under my belt. Miles that feel much longer because of the roaring headwinds. Nonetheless, I decide to get on the 101 and keep on truckin’. In less than a mile I find an unpaved construction road that leads upward into the dense forest. I follow it for a quarter mile until it turns into a small clearing. There are no houses and no signs, but it is obvious that someone has camped here before. I throw off my pack and set up. I’ll live here tonight, even though I am a little spooked to be so close to a town and to the highway. I don’t ever want to use my trekking poles for self-defense but I fall asleep with them at my side, just in case.

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