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’ve been blessed with very good luck over the years (which actually makes me worried that I’ll be due for some bad luck at some point). At least 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 always comes together so spectacularly. And I owe this to my auspicious beginnings 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. On one of my most recent flights from Las Vegas to Denver, the Frontier gate agents tried to charge me $100 for carrying my trekking umbrella as a separate item. My backpack fit just fine into the “personal item” sizer but of course the brella wouldn’t. I’d just been singing its praises as I trekked through the Grand Canyon but wasn’t about to pay such a ridiculous and hefty fine for the privilege of bringing it on the plane. I argued that it weighs nothing and takes up zero space in either the overhead or under a seat, in fact it can sit completely unnoticed with me in my seat…but the greedy gate people were out for blood. I’ve never had any push-back about bringing the umbrella on countless flights before, so I couldn’t believe this…I blame it on Las Vegas. Lucky for me, a passenger behind me offered to carry it on as her ‘personal item’ and the gate people had to just shut up. She handed it back to me as soon as we entered the plane. How silly. To avoid any further issues on my next flight, I simply shoved it down my tights as I went through the gate…yeah that’s right, I smuggled my umbrella onto the plane.
Thankfully I had some American Airlines miles to use for my flights to Portland 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. Umbrella, mangoes and I all made it to LAX just fine, where we 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 but 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.
From landing to out the main door took me about 5 minutes, the Portland airport is 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 PCT posts to read about the amazing trail magic originally offered by Skybird’s parents, Shelly and Ray. I met Skybird in 2018 in Stehekin and we hiked together off and on through Washington. I’d already stayed with her parents for one night in their hotel and 2 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 were to again shower me with care and love for several days. How blessed am I? 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 gave them my best mango offerings and they treated me to a delicious and healthy dinner. I tried to get over my jet lag that night but mostly failed.
We headed for the coast for the Fourth of July, where more serendipity was revealed. Ray and Shelly have a beach house in Manzanita, which is practically on the path of the Oregon Coast Trail. In fact, as we were walking down their street to check out the beach, we immediately ran into an OCT hiker! Slowbro is also an experienced 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 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 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.
The neighborhood had a huge 4th of July potluck in the evening, to which we were invited. I ate (too) well. To burn some of it off, Ray and I rode bikes back to the hiker/biker camp to hand out watermelon. I love being able to provide trail magic, again even if it really isn’t mine to give, plus 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 but even better, they are a great place to meet cool people. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be utilizing them but already I appreciated that they were available.
We bid everyone good luck and returned home, where I tried again to catch up on sleep 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. I so looked forward to a quiet night in my tent…fingers crossed!