Like I said, the storm lasted through the night but at least it let up in the morning. I ended up dragging everything into the bathroom to pack up there and get ready for the days hike.
The big disappointment was that the used bookstore was closed and there in the window was a paperback I had been looking for the last couple of years.
“I’ll be back,” I told the window, hoping the book would be there for me when I returned.
I hiked south, and as soon as I hit the beach I knew it was going to be a shitty day. The wind was blowing north and the sand south of the Coquille River was a grittier, coarser version of what they had up north. Not only was it harder to walk on, your feet sank in it even near the waters edge, absorbing your energy, but it was also easier for the strong winds to pick up and blast against your legs. Your exposed legs, because who would bring pants on a summer hike?
So I hiked, leaning forward, enduring the bursts of sand carried on the wind. Like nature was trying to strip the paint from my flesh. Several times I had to drop to the ground and turn away from the wind, using my rain jacket to protect my raw flesh.
Then it started raining. More than the mist that hung in the air I was now soaking wet and stuck in the wind. The one place I could go, certainly not the ocean on my right, were the dunes on my left. But they were considered protected habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover. A small bird I had seen on numerous occasions at the oceans edge. There was nothing to do but trudge on. Into the wind, the rain, and the soft sand.
Finally I saw a large rock on the beach, roughly ten miles south of Bandon. It felt like I had been walking forever. There was no sun with which to tell time and I wasn’t about to pull out my cell phone in this weather. I pulled my hood tight and focused on my feet. One foot forward, then the next. We’ll get there. We’ll get out of the wind for a while and rest and maybe this coarse sand is only an anomaly. Maybe after this it stops. Some kind of deposit from the river?
I hiked right up to the rock, until I could feel the break in the wind.
And that’s when the smell hit me.
It wasn’t a rock. It was a beached whale. A grey whale. At least 35 feet long.
I sat there behind it, out of the wind, smelling it, wondering if it was cold enough to do the Empire Strikes back thing and cut it open like a tauntaun and crawl inside to survive the storm.
Then again I already smelled bad enough, and I doubted I could do much cutting with my 1″ Swiss Army knife.
So I sat there, regaining some strength, and forced myself to march on. Further south. In another mile I reached the primitive camp for Oregon Coast Trail hikers only. Even though it was somewhat out of the wind there was no place to hang my tarp. I was already in a bad mood, staying there I would be cold and pissed off all night long.
So I kept hiking. At one point I was simply ready to lay down and sleep. I’d had too much. If I died, then I died. I looked for every way out. Cut left and head towards some housing? There is a waterway blocking your exit which isn’t on the maps. Go back? Back is longer than going forward. Sit here and hope the rain and wind stop? You’re such a little pussy.
I hiked inland, finally, to a campground. I can’t remember the name. No one was around. The single tent that was setup there had no one in it. I tried to dry off in the men’s room, accidentally killing a frog in the door jam trying to escape. Could this be a worse day?
Fuck this, I quit.
I seem to remember that if I follow the road west I’ll get to 101. From there I can walk the seven miles into Port Orford. Screw this rain.
This might be a good time to segway and say that I love rain. I also like to be dry after being in the rain. Out here there was no way for me to be dry.
So I hit the road. Not knowing if I was going to finish the thru hike of the Oregon Coast Trail. And I went the wrong way. I walked right down a dead end road. So I flagged a Range Rover down, not exactly a poor section of Oregon, and asked for directions back to 101. Through their barely open window they told me to turn around and head back out, north, the way I had come and take a right. Out of their neighborhood. I wondered if I’d make it to the 101 before the police showed up.
Back past the campground, almost to the 101 a rental car pulls over. Clean white guy, you know, serial killer clean.
“I saw you walking in the other direction, what happened?”
“I’m just trying to get away from the coast, Port Orford maybe.”
“Hop in,” he says as I look at his clean dry seats.
“I’ll get your leather seats all wet,” I say.
“It’s a rental,” he says.
Fuck it. With the day I’ve had this can go smoothly or I will fight him to the death.