Twig Adventures

PCBCRT Day 7: A Date with the Tide & Camels

Tuesday, July 11th, 2023, 0930-1700
Netarts to Pacific City
18 miles, Gain 800′, Loss 800′, elevation 30

I said goodbye to Skybird early in the morning. She was going to stay at the beach house for another week, lucky her. I was so grateful to get to see her and wished I could stay with her longer. But alas, I needed to keep somewhat of a hiking pace if I wanted to fit in all I had planned for the summer and fall. Ray was driving back to Portland and was so kind to go out of his way to drop me off where we had met 2 days prior. I thought this would be the last time I saw Skybird and Ray this summer, but surprises were in store for much later. I went straight to the boat ramp, hoping to score a ride across to the spit. It was either this or a 5 mile road walk around Netarts bay. I asked several boats but all were too big and worried about getting stuck in the shoals surrounding the spit. Then a group of young adults showed up, looking like they were a part of a youth camp or college course. Someone had chartered a small boat for them and they were going out in several groups. The first group was even going to the spit but the boat was very full, so I didn’t bother asking. Close but no cigar.

By this time, I’d wasted nearly an hour and needed to start hiking if I was going to make it to the Sand lake crossing at low tide. So very reluctantly, I started walking the road detour. Shortly I bumped into my first NOBO OCT hikers, John and Ben. They were so friendly and excited about the trail that we stood at the road side chatting for quite awhile. It was really neat getting to know them a bit. John had just started following me on Instagram, thus was hoping to bump into me. It was nice to finally see some hikers after a 5 day dry spell, but this set me back on my schedule with the tide even more…and the tide waits for no one.

I finished the road walk, after some annoyingly busy sections with little to no shoulder. It was supposed to be a rather quiet road heading towards Cape Lookout, but I felt like there were a fair amount of cars going pretty fast. At least I was rewarded with a beautiful trail and beach walk the rest of the day. The Cape Lookout State Park was very lovely and I wished that my schedule would have allowed a stay there…the hiker/biker campsite was reported to be one of the best on the Oregon Coast. A really well-maintained trail headed up from the beach, utilizing many switchbacks to gain the top of the cape and then right back down to the beach on the other side. There were many wonderful views of the beaches along the way. At the top, there was a 5 mile RT trail heading to the end of the cape, which jutted out into the ocean like a finger. I really wanted to take the side trip but alas, didn’t have any spare time with the low tide only hours away.

Sand Lake is perhaps the largest OCT water crossing that’s feasible to wade on a low tide. Problem was, this day the low tide was still 2′ high. This was reported to be the maximum tide that one could cross the inlet. I’d hoped to arrive exactly at 1:30 pm to scope out the situation and observe the moment at which there was little to no flow. But because of my dallying, it was already 2:10 pm when I got there. I shuffled my feet as fast as they could go, which was pretty fast on the flat wide sand beach. I remained hopeful, as I noted all the little sand lakes still flowing towards the ocean. I entered an area where dune buggies and ATV’s were allowed on the beach and dunes. This was one of the most distasteful parts of beach I’d seen yet…I felt like I was in a Mad Max movie for a 2 mile spell. Thank goodness I was in such a hurry and got through there quickly.

At the Sand Lake inlet/outlet, I caught up to a SOBO hiker, Slingblade. He had already changed into his water shoes and was ready to cross. I immediately noticed the current coming in, meaning the tide was already rising. No time to waste! I quickly changed into my camp shoes and put my fanny pack with phone inside my pack…that was all the more I did to prepare. In hindsight, I should have made sure some other things were sealed and taken everything out of my shoulder pocket. But this was Slingblade’s 4th time hiking the OCT and he seemed fairly confident about where best to cross and that it wouldn’t be a big deal. So I jumped right in, confident as well.

The first half wasn’t so bad but I was quickly up to my hips. Then the water was at my waist, then touching my lower ribs. I leaned forward a bit to try to elevate the bottom of my pack out of the water, all the while trying to plow forward on my tippy toes. The sand was very shifty under my feet, with many dips and ridges. I was certain it would soon get shallow again, but it didn’t. Behind me, Slingblade decided it was time to retreat, stating that he was going back to shift his pack to his shoulders and re-evaluate. The other shore was soooo close, I just pressed on. I sometimes operate under the false pretense that if I do things fast enough, I’ll get them over with soon enough, before the going gets too tough. In this case, I made it, but I was pretty close to swimming. All it would have taken was finding one small hole in the sand.

Zoomed out, you can see what a big water crossing Sand Lake inlet was…Slingblade’s about to find out, it gets deep, too!
It’s hard to tell from this zoomed-in picture, but Slingblade was almost up to his neck, with his pack on his shoulders!

I’d heard similar reports of this being a tricky crossing, namely from Buck30 and Steady. They convinced a kayaker to assist in taking their packs across and then had to swim. So at least I had it somewhat better. Once on the shore, I assessed the damage. My MP3 player had gotten splashed but not completely dunked. Everything else was ok. Whew, I got lucky. I had a snack break as I watched poor Slingblade struggle across a second time, at this point with the tide even higher. He seriously looked like he was swimming and just managed to keep his shoulders above water. All I could do was sit and take pictures. When he finally made it, he said it was the hardest crossing he’d ever done. His feet had been sinking in the sand and his pack was pretty soaked. But we both made it, wet but safely across.

We walked the rest of the beach in our water/camp shoes, making it up and over the big sand dune that is Cape Kiwanda. I was using my umbrella this day, enjoying a little sailing action with the wind in my favor. Going over the Cape, it helped pull me up just like all the para-gliders surrounding us. A few were staring at me, so I felt the need to make a funny remark about trying to para-glide with my cheap equipment. So of course one lady called me Mary Poppins. Mostly I was just loving the umbrella for its sun protection on this very sunny day.

We arrived at Pacific City just in time for dinner at the popular Pelican Pub. But first I went to the nearby county campground to use the coin showers. I wanted to take everything out of my pack to make sure nothing got wet and rinse the bottom, plus my salty clothes. As I was doing all this, we heard some crazy noises coming from a nearby stock trailer. Slingblade guessed a sickly horse or bull but I recognized the noises immediately. Just before hiking the Hayduke, I’d watched the movie Tracks, a documentary about an Australian woman that hiked across the Outback with a train of camels and her dog. The thing that struck me the most about the film was that camels made the most wacky noises, which were thus burned into my brain forever. Sure enough, there were two camels in the trailer, which I learned later were to be celebrity guests in a themed wedding. I mean, that sounds like my kind of wedding! Of Course I had to pet the camels, adding one of the most peculiar new animals to my record book! Just to think, in this same year, I’d also been able to pet a 250 lb African tortoise outside of Moab. What a great year for unexpected and unusual pettings!

Fun Fact: camels DO NOT spit, only alpacas and lamas do that. Camels are civilized…except for their grunts and groans. As Slingblade put it well, every noise that came out of them sounded like a giant fart. These 2 camels were very friendly and well trained. The owners took them all over for movie shoots and festivals. I’m such a huge fan of camels now! Maybe I’ll go try to replicate the journey in the movie Tracks. It does seem like it would be fun to hike with camels.

Making first contact with a camel brought instantaneous joy.

Finally we headed over for dinner. I had fish and chips, which were a delight. I hadn’t gone one day yet without having a regular meal and was enjoying my pack without any food weight. We had to wait a bit to be seated, plus took our time stuffing our faces. As such, it was too late for me to enact my bus plan to the next beach, so I settled on staying at the noisy campground. It wasn’t actually the camels, who both went to bed at a reasonable time, but the screaming kids that were running around. I couldn’t blame them for being excited, because in addition to the camels, there were cute bunnies hopping all around the campground…what a crazy random day of events. Fortunately I was tired enough to just pass out, despite some noise. Another fun and eventful day on the OCT!

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