Although I know there is a semblance of a coastal trail from Mexico to Canada, it doesn't really exist the whole way (although it's been done) but apparently the Oregon section is some of the most completed. We wouldn't really know much about it except that a few years ago in a massive PCT snow year, PCT hikers were flocking like refugees to the OCT to kill some time waiting for the snow to melt. All of a sudden all these dirty hikers were showing up to hike and the local papers picked up on it and there are a few funny articles about it.
We went back and forth about the OCT since there are a few downsides to it but decided it sounded like a fun adventure and another very unique hiking experience. The OCT is about 400 miles border to border and then we've heard the first 120 miles or so into California are really amazing so we plan to do those as well and finish in the giant Redwoods. This should take us a month or so and the perfect amount of time we need to fill before we head back on the Desert Trail.
Now, the OCT isn't just one big 500 mile beach walk. Due to rivers, estuaries, tides and headlands the OCT frequently leaves the beach. The statistic we've seen several times is that 40% is beach, 20% is trail/dirt roads and 40% is paved roads. That gave us pause but the further we read the better it sounded. The paved road gets decently reduced by taking a few ferries (see below) and the 120 miles we will do in California has a much better beach/trail to road ratio. The upsides of the OCT are the moderate temps, the beautiful beaches, the cool headland and state park trails through rainforest and just the overall uniqueness of the hike. It's unlike any hike I've done before. The 4 downsides we considered are:
-Camping is a pain. Because of all the roads and towns and other camping restrictions you have to really plan well to camp. If you have unlimited money you could basically stay in a B&B or park campsite every night. That won't be us. There are a number of hiker/biker campsites in the many state campsites along the way and they are only $ 8 a night but I really hate camping near people and cars. Even these walk in hiker/biker sites sound terrible to me although most people would probably handle it better. I'd like to stealth camp a lot but Heather isn't quite as aggressive with that as I might be so it will probably be a month long point of contention about where we camp. I've see hikers who have stayed in B&B's/park camp sites almost every night and other hikers who pretty much stealth camped the entire way. I guess we'll see but I'm somewhat concerned that noisy camping will ruin the trip for me. One of the greatest things about thru hiking are the 12 hours you set up your tent in the middle of nowhere. The peace and quiet is really one of my favorite things. This won't be the case on the OCT.
-Roadwalking is a pain. Although the more I read the less this seemed like a problem for us. I read many summaries which made it sound like all you do is walk Highway 101 with RV barreling tourists ready to mow you down. But the more we planned the more it seemed like after the ferries there actually wasn't that much Hwy 101 walking. I did a rough estimate and came up with 60-70 miles or so and they generally come in 5 mile or less chunks. That doesn't seem so bad to me. There is a considerable amount of other paved roads walking and given that the coast can be crowded it might still not be amazing but we are willing to risk that and think it will be OK for us. Most hikers seem to hitch most of these road walks, but we never skip or hitch. This was the first time I had considered it but after reading up I think we should be able to connect our steps just fine. That's just what we do. We'll see I guess.
-Ferries and tides are a pain. There are a number (like 10+) places where a river or estuary or headland blocks the way and you basically have to walk around on roads which sucks to interrupt your amazing beach walk. There are a number of these where you can pay for a boat ride or if you time low tide correctly, can walk across. Planning ferries or always looking ahead to low tides is a pain but we've at least got them noted on maps due to some great info from a few past hikers so hopefully this will generally work out with some light planning ahead day to day.
-People are really a pain. Neither of us will like the amount of people on the Oregon Coast in August. Add to that the noisy road walking and possible noisy camping and we will be ready to get back to the quiets of the Desert Trail soon. I guess we could have hiked in the cold and rainy winter to alleviate this so we'll just have to deal with what we've chosen. We both tend to eventually get overwhelmed with too many people.
The OCT is a work in process by the State which provides pretty minimal information. They have a set of 10 maps that cover 400 miles and aren't really that usable. Thankfully a past hiker, Bonnie wrote a very nice guidebook to the OCT. Unfortunately her publisher made her aim it more towards day hikers so it's hard to read but it does link together with a little effort. She also continues to focus on the OCT and on her blog has posted numerous updates and summaries of ferries, camping, etc. which has all been very helpful. Amy and James are a prolific hiking couple that Heather knows and from their past OCT hike they provide a rough GPS track and excel data book which looked like a lot of work and is really great (doingmiles.com). There are 2 other blogs we found where past hikers put in a ton of effort to provide section by section information (cleanshave.org, outontheborder.com). It's so great to see past hikers pay it forward to future hikers.
That's all for now I think. We will travel to the coast on Tuesday and assuming my recent severe ankle sprain holds up will be walking south along the coast that afternoon.