Twig Adventures

PCBCRT Day 4: The Tourist Trail

Saturday, July 8th, 2023, 0930-1915
Manzanita to Bayocean Spit
16 miles, Gain 200′, Loss 200′, elevation 30

Not surprisingly, I felt pretty trashed when I woke up. I was sore and just felt like taking it easy. Luckily that’s exactly what I had planned for this day…if you count walking 16 miles on the beach as easy. It certainly was compared to the day before. I had a relaxing morning drinking coffee and doing normal things one does when starting out from their house. I definitely felt like I was on vacation this day. I locked up and bid a temporary farewell to Manzanita…I knew I’d be seeing it again soon…more on that later. I hit the beach under perfect conditions again. All my fellow beachgoers were out doing their respective things: playing fetch with dogs, riding horses, and running. Oregon beaches were great for active people, not for laying around and basking in the sun. The cool temperatures dictated this. But everyone was happy, especially the dogs, which made me so happy.

Only halfway down the block from the house I realized I’d left my water bottle behind. Luckily, I didn’t even need one. I could simply pick up something to drink at the marina in a few miles. After an hour, I came to a water crossing, the Nehalem River, which was the easiest of all on the OCT. The Jetty Marina offered regular rides throughout the day, only charging hikers $10 for a ferry…and I didn’t even have to get my feet wet! It was the most guaranteed and cheapest ferry ride on the trail, so I was happy to give them my business. I also bought a pound of clams and several drinks from the store: Gatorade, soda and a porter. I wanted to buy a fresh-cooked dungeness crab, but knew that it would take me awhile to eat one. I didn’t feel like expending that much effort.

There was a ginormous kitty, Karl, laying on the table outside. I set my pack down next to him and estimated that he was nearly as big as it. I was told he weighed 23 lbs, so he was surely heavier than my pack. He wouldn’t have made a good pack kitty but he was a good friend to share some clams with. He licked each shell as I pulled out the meat. It was a nice break, part of my theme of taking it easy, but alas eventually it was time to move on. I scrambled up onto the south jetty, which afforded a pleasant walk to the beach, as it was filled in with dirt on top (i.e. no need to boulder hop). I watched small fishing boats coming and going in the river.

Back on the beach, I enjoyed more easy strolling past Rockaway beach and all the way to Tillamook bay. There was always something to keep me entertained: dogs chasing balls, kids playing, birds, sand art, skimboarders, and watching Twin Rocks (2 cool offshore islands) getting closer and closer. My advertisement in the personals would read: like to take long walks on the beach…like really long, a whole state if possible. My only gripe about the trail thus far was that I couldn’t just squat to pee anywhere I wanted. The beaches were so long, straight and open, plus this day there always seemed to be someone nearby. Climbing up into the dunes was tedious, if not impossible. Most of the time, I waited to duck behind a big piece of driftwood. In this case, I resorted to walking into Rockaway town to find a public restroom, resisted the urge to buy more treats.

The Twin Rocks slowly disappeared behind me and the afternoon became a little warm for once. I was nearing a major water course again and could see the long jetty of Tillamook bay materializing ahead. I had no choice but to turn inland, walking past the huge and very busy Barview campground…glad I hadn’t counted on staying there. I then intersected the railroad tracks leading from Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi. A very slow moving tourist train was the only thing running the tracks, so apparently most hikers got away with walking on or next to them. I of course chose the tracks (as opposed to highway 101) and enjoyed the easy walk. There were some cool rock outcroppings in the river, complete with another arch. I’d seen so many offshore sea arches and rocks that I was dying to come back with my kayak. At least I’d been able to walk through a few caves and sea arches, plus under the roots of a tree. There were lots of cool features along this coast!

Just as I was distracted by yet another tourist opportunity, the train came by. I got off the tracks at the perfect moment to go visit the old Coast Guard Lifeboat station at the end of a 700′ long dock. It was the longest over-water pier in Oregon, as a matter of fact. The boathouse had some cool relics inside, plus a nesting pair of gulls with chicks on the end dock. It was definitely worth the detour. I was trying to do all the detours on this trail because why not? The OCT might as well be called the Tourist Trail.

Back on the mainland, I decided it was time to grab some takeaway for dinner. Perfect timing because just then I walked past a food truck plaza. I got 6 huge and fresh-made pot stickers for $5, plus a wrap. I ate the pot stickers and packed the wrap. I then headed over to the marina to do some afternoon fishing…for a boat ride. My initial plan was to just take the bus back to Manzanita (for a hiker reunion the next day), but I figured since I had some time to kill, why not try my luck? Tillamook bay is huge, so if a hiker can’t arrange a boat ride across to Bayocean spit, it’s either a long bus ride, hitch or walk…some extra 12 miles I think. The marina will often ferry hikers, but they charged upwards of $50 per trip (cheaper when split by a group). I asked the marina attendant if they had any trips scheduled, but they did not. He did say that there had been one hiker in the morning.

I of course didn’t want to pay for a solo ferry, not when I could take a bus for $1 or get an easy car ride. Most OCT hikers that forgo the ferry in favor of the road don’t bother to visit the spit, since then it’s like doing 5 extra miles just to walk to a dead-end beach. But I really wanted to see Bayocean spit, a former resort and community from the early 1900s, now deserted. It’s one of the most quiet beaches on the coast and a very pleasant walk. The dispersed camping opportunities were also reported to be very nice and my timing was perfect for spending the night there. So my tactic was to hang out by the boat ramp to see if anyone was leaving for a sunset cruise. It was obviously far better to arrive early in the morning when fishermen were heading out for the day, which was my back-up plan for later.

But maybe I’d get really lucky? I spoke with a lady that was collecting data on catches from all the fishermen. She worked for Oregon State Fish and Wildlife. I told her about my different plans and options and she offered me a ride to Manzanita when she got off work. Sweet, I wouldn’t even have to take the bus! But just then, a truck towing a boat rolled in, preparing to launch. I asked the guys if I could get a quick ride, even offering them $20, and they said “jump in!” Wow, that was stupid easy!

The ride was so quick, I didn’t even get the guys’ names. I didn’t feel bad about inconveniencing them, since one of them was selling the boat to the other 2, so they were just taking it for a test spin. The point was to tool around anyway, and this way they got to test the landing prowess of the boat. I tried to hand a $20 to the owner, but he wouldn’t even take it. He was probably just so happy to be selling his boat…the 2 happiest days of a boater’s career. Just like that, I was standing at the end of Bayocean spit, with miles of beach and dune camping options. There was a nice gravel road on the bay side and gorgeous beach on the other, take your pick. I did both, starting on the road, then cutting across to the beach, then back again. There were many trails and the whole spit was just so beautiful, I wanted to see as much of it as possible.

On the third cross-over trail, I found a lovely campsite in the trees but only a short walk from the beach. There were so many other great campsites in the area, I couldn’t go wrong. There were a couple other groups of campers nearby, but there was tons of room for everyone and the dense trees isolated each site well. This would be a great destination for a weekend camping trip to the beach. I guess since it was a Saturday night, the other 2 groups agreed. For such a beautiful spot and nice weather, I figured it would be packed on a weekend. I guess since people can’t just drive up to a site, this limits a lot.

Unfortunately my sunglasses got ripped off my head by a branch along the middle pass, without me noticing. I didn’t discover their disappearance until setting up camp. I really hated to lose sunglasses when my trip entailed so much beach walking…even though I had the opportunity to get new ones the very next day. So I retraced my steps out to the beach and then back to the bay and second cross-over trail. A couple dozen paces into the trail, I realized the futility of my mission… whatever branch snagged them probably winged them far off to the side into the dense vegetation. Just as I had this thought, I looked down and saw them laying there! Very lucky! Back at camp, I still had the energy to walk to the beach to watch the sunset. It was my first this trail and it was so gorgeous. What an amazing day and journey overall.

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