July 3-4th, 2023
Miami FL to Portland OR To Manzanita OR
Distance: 2,700 miles (by airplane), 60 by car
Sometimes traveling to a trail can be very stressful and difficult. Fortunately, I’d been blessed with very good luck over the years and I was happy to find that my serendipitous streak persevered through all my logistics and connections again with this trail. In fact, it was one of the most auspicious beginnings yet, leaving me with a sense of awe about how everything came together so perfectly. I owe all of this to my auspicious beginnings/connections on the PCT and the generosity of some long-time trail angels, the Skybird Family.
My travels began with a 7 am flight from Miami to Los Angeles, 5 and a half hours in the air that weren’t that bad, considering. No one was in the middle seat and for once I wasn’t flying one of the (awful) budget airlines, Frontier or Spirit. Thankfully I had some American Airlines miles to use and didn’t even have to worry about my carry on, since it’s still one of the few airlines that doesn’t charge for one. In fact, the flight only cost me a total of $11. As usual, I shipped my tent stakes, trekking poles and other miscellaneous items in a USPS medium flat rate box ahead of time. Easy-peasy. The only items I was slightly concerned about were the 8 mangoes that I was smuggling from Miami…I just needed to make sure they didn’t get smashed in my pack. I made it to LAX just fine, where I sat in a terminal for 4 hours that was like a desolate island in a sea of tarmac. It was one of those small airplane gates that the airport built as an afterthought. I had to ride a bus for a mile just to get there, only to find that there was merely one small convenience store selling outrageously expensive and plain sandwiches. Thank goodness I brought my own food. Still, the terminal was preferable to the logistics of a couple I met coming from West Palm Beach, FL. They had to first fly to Philly, then LAX, then Portland. I flew direct from Miami to Portland for a work conference in 2016, so I wondered why travel there seemed so difficult now. Progress.
Once in the air on my second leg, I was actually pretty glad for the connecting flight. The plane basically traced the path of the PCT, giving me overhead views of the Sierra mountain range, Yosemite Valley, Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake, the Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Hood! Sadly, Lassen and Shasta passed by on the other side of the plane but I’ll take what I can get. It was incredible to see all the remaining snow in the Sierra and even the gushing waterfalls in Yosemite…from something like 35,000′!!! My neck had a pretty significant kink in it after straining to peer out the window for 2 hours.
July in the Sierra and Yosemite Valley…even the waterfalls were visible! Plus Crater Lake. Lots of snow still left!
From landing to out the main door took me about 5 minutes, the Portland airport was that pleasantly small. Even better, a wonderful trail angel from my past was there to pick me up. If interested, readers can go back to my 2018 PCT posts to read about the amazing trail magic originally provided by Skybird’s parents, Shelly and Ray. I met Skybird in Stehekin and we hiked together off and on through Washington. I’d already stayed with her parents for one night in their hotel in Trout Lake and 2 night at their home near Portland. Skybird and I kept in touch over the years, so this was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. Sadly, she was away on travel for the week but planned to visit me on the coast the next week. In the interim, she brokered a deal with her parents, who again showered me with care and love for several days. It was so great to see them after 5 years and I couldn’t believe that they hadn’t changed a bit. We had a lovely night my first evening back in the PNW. I chopped up some of my best mangoes (from my own tree) and they treated me to a delicious and healthy dinner. I was delighted that Shelly was already a huge fan of mangoes and that she loved the ones I brought. Miami mangoes are some of the best, so it was nice to be able to share a fresh specialty from my home stomping grounds. I tried to get over my jet lag that night but mostly failed.
From my first 2018 PCT zero to 2023…minus Skybird, who I have a picture of in future posting! At least we were a color-coordinated group on the coast!
We headed for the coast for the Fourth of July, where Ray and Shelly generously shared their beach house in Manzanita with me. Incredibly, it was practically on the path of the Oregon Coast Trail. In fact, as we were walking down the street to check out the beach, we immediately ran into another OCT hiker! Slowbro was also an experienced thru-hiker, and here is a link to one of his blogs. It was so fun to meet one of my fellow hikers…before I even started the trail. It was also a great opportunity to volunteer poor Shelly and Ray for more Trail Magic. I offered SlowBro a coke, which wasn’t even mine to offer nor did we have any…but cold water and a LaCroix were greatly appreciated. It was shockingly almost 80 degrees by the beach, which is exceedingly rare for the Oregon Coast. We chatted for a bit and he continued on just a few blocks to the nearby hiker/biker campground at the Nehalem state park. We walked the beach for a bit and then the nice state park trails, which took us on a loop to the Nehalem river and back. On the return, we visited SlowBro and 2 new OCT hikers, Angie and Tom, all camping at the site. I chatted with the couple for a long time since I learned that they were rafting guides, who had previously done the Grand Canyon and other awesome rivers in Alaska. The 3 were already days (60 miles) ahead of me, but I really hoped I’d catch up to them.
The neighborhood had a huge 4th of July potluck in the evening, to which we were invited. I ate a bit too well, but all the food was just so delicious, I had to. I always like to bulk up a little before a big hike, anyway. To burn some of it off, Ray and I rode bikes back to the hiker/biker camp to hand out watermelon to the hikers. I love being able to provide trail magic, again even if it really isn’t mine to give. At least Ray seemed to really enjoy talking with a German bikepacker that we met. The Oregon State Park hiker/biker sites are a fixture of the Oregon Coast Trail, providing the vast majority of legal camping options along the route. The sites are available on a first come first serve basis to those on foot or bicycle, and are generally $8 a person, which includes the use of lockers, charging stations, and hot showers. They are a great deal and also a great place to meet cool people. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be utilizing them, but already I really appreciated that they were available.
We bid everyone good luck and returned home, where I tried again to catch up on jet lag, but failed. The 4th of July fireworks were going off for awhile and I was full of nervous energy about starting the trail. Talking with the other hikers had made me so eager, my mind just wouldn’t be still. At least this nervous energy wasn’t the result of having reservations or fears about the trail. On the contrary, I expected a pretty easy-going time. But I so looked forward to a quiet night in my tent…fingers crossed!