The last two days I turned on some good music, booted up Google Earth and a few different trail resource pages, and started plotting a route from Washington to California along the Oregon coast. Initially I tried very hard to stay along the ‘true route’ of the trail but found it difficult when the only maps available for it are very low detailed and come complete with sometimes very obscure directions hard to follow when I’m not actually out there hiking it. Ultimately I just started to map out my own route depending on what looked best because the goal isn’t to finish an incomplete trail but to hike along the Oregon Coast from border to border.
So yeah, this is my new 2017 plan since the Kungsleden isn’t happening. I have to say making your own ‘map’ is fun. I love it and it excites me to make my own route entirely when I’m a bit more experienced, for now we’ll just say this is a trial run. Trying to connect the dots and digging through pages of trails trying to find connecting routes from A to B when the terrain is obscured is a very fulfilling puzzle to fill, and sometimes just throwing your hands up in the air and saying “Fuck it I’ll figure it out when I get there” is just as fun as well. All told, if anything goes wrong out there all I have to do is walk up to the 101 (Oregon coast highway) and follow that until I can go back to the coastline, so it’s very cushy in that regard.
What I’ve Learned
- This trail isn’t done often, and there really isn’t a ton of information on it at all. All I knew was that it went along the coast and wasn’t 100% a beach or wilderness experience. What I’ve found out so far is that you spend a good amount of time road walking. Despite my best efforts researching viable routes, sometimes there’s just no good way to get around something obstructing your path along the beach. Sometimes you have to go a pretty decent way walking on paved roads/paths before you get back to either beach or a trail. That’s just how it is.
- The northern section is definitely the busy section. You’re hitting a coast town pretty consistently up there, whereas it dies down a bit as you go south. You’re still probably hitting a town at least once a day probably, but it’s a tad more sparse.
- As I said before: When all else fails, the Oregon Coast Highway is there. The trail is typically within the vicinity of that highway a lot of the time. If you find yourself on a beach in high tide and need to get off, head east and road walk. I’m saying this in a visual sense rather than experiential obviously, maybe that won’t work all the time in practice. I’ll let you know.
- Even though you’re road walking a lot, holy shit it looks beautiful. In all likelihood however, there just aren’t sections of the trail available for online view. I see pictures of trail signs for the OCT on certain state parks all the time with no trail to speak of. As it stands right now, the trail is more like “Walk the Oregon Coast Highway with some trails/beach walking”. When I get out there that may change slightly once I’m able to see these trail signs in person. In short my current planned route is just a placeholder.
- Hiking it from my armchair here at home, as far as I can tell the trail isn’t 425 miles, at least that’s not the length determined to the best of my ability. I have 396 miles. I hope that number is wrong.
Trail marked as red line
What I’m Going to Do
Hike it, obviously. But this presents an opportunity to shed light on a trail that is still relatively obscure. I’m taking my GPS with me and I’m going to record the route I take along the way and put it up online when I finish and make a very rough/small guide to hiking the trail, because while it’s been fun trying to find a way along the coast, I don’t know if it’s the best way to go and I can only find that out once I actually start hiking. The energy I’m putting into that is going to replace the daily blog thing I did when I was on the PCT, but I’m still going to do a video series and hopefully that will give some visual information as well.
Things I’m going to make an effort to mark:
- Beach Access
- Areas where the actual OCT exist, because so far there’s nothing at all
- Areas where road walking is unsafe
- Areas away from public spaces for camping (but not specific campsites as seen in some guides unless it’s a public campground).
Maybe other things too, but that’s good for now. The biggest ones are marking connecting trails and having at least two points of beach access available. Beach access is the huge one because they aren’t marked as designated trails anywhere obviously, and they can be very hard to spot sometimes on google earth or my other mapping software, so I may be passing up stretches of beach that I could otherwise have hiked due to me just not knowing.
If You Want to Look
I’ll upload my ‘route’ so you can check it out if you’re interested. Here’s where I disclaim that you shouldn’t use it for navigation or use it as the backbone of your plan should you want to hike the trail or even sections of it. I have no way of knowing whether or not some portions or even all of my route is safe or viable. It’s merely for you to look at.
I used these maps as my main resource: