OCT Trail Report, Coos Bay to California
I stepped out from the docks at Charleston on March 9, 2018. Nice walk through Sunset Beach State Park. The unmarked trail at the crest at the south end of the park was easy to find, and quickly met up with the logging roads. Easy walking to Beaver Hill Road. But road-walking continues. The “stealth” route to the beach at Pacific Surf Lane is no longer feasible due to a high gate and security cameras at its entrance. And Agate Lane is heavily signed with “No Public Beach Access” signs. Actually, every feasible connection to the beach from Seven Devils Road is signed “No Trespassing”. Intimidating.
So, road walk from Cape Arago to Seven Devils Recreation Area. Nice stealth camping spot at Seven Devils, but I kept on to Bandon. Long, nice beach walk to Bullard Beach. But more road-walking to Bandon, and the Coquille River bridge is not for the faint of heart, even with the ability to turn on the flashing yellow light. Great stop at Bandon Brewing, then I stayed at a motel close to Coquille Point. My dog and I were tired.
The next day we got up to hike to Floras Lake. I was anticipating a rather easy beach walk. I was pleased when the north mouth of New River was easily waded. But in about 2.5 miles, things got considerably dicey. During the winter, the New River has a second outlet. This outlet was in full flood. I tried to wade it, and my dog and I ended up swimming. We were being swept out to sea as I frantically fought the current and push the dog back to shore. I don’t know how I managed to hang onto my trekking poles, or grab a bag of trail mix as it floated by, and manage to grab a tree root to get back on the shore. So, uncrossable river. Fortunately, this flood left the north-trending fork of the New River low enough to wade, and I ended up on a mud flat. From there, I got up on higher ground and walked through a sheep ranch and reached New Lake Lane. More road walking, first to Highway 101, and then to Langlois Market. By this point, I was done with my weekend adventure. After 44 miles in two days, I was a bit stiff!
I came back in June, camped at Floras Lake and started off early on June 14. Near the southwest corner of Floras Lake, I saw the OCT post, left the beach, and found the sandstone area. As suggested in a trail blog, I bore right at all trail junctions, and it generally worked out. Even when I ended up on the road less traveled, I ended up at Blacklock Point (though I did take one old use trail that ended in brambles). Found the trail down the south side of Blacklock Point and headed to Sixes River. Prepared to be intimidated, it was okay, no worries. Elk River was more troublesome, as the bottom was sucking sand at first. But I got across successfully, and soon I found Paradise Point Road and Port Orford.
South of Port Orford, I wasn’t ready to give up on the beach after less than a mile and proceeded to the north end of Rocky Point. Rocky Point looked feasible from the north, but as I could not see an exit from that vantage, I decided to scramble up to the highway. THAT was a bit dicey. I could see the telephone lines, so knew it wasn’t far. I picked a draw and headed up. Sometimes it was so steep I had to pick up my seventy-pound dog and place him above me. But we made it!
And now some road-walking on 101. It was the right decision, as Rocky Point was not passable, even though it was close to a minus tide. I think it would be a rare set of circumstances that would make it feasible to round Rocky Point. And then you only get a quarter mile more of beach walking. But climbing the cliffs north of Rocky Point is not easy either!
The backroad walk to Humbug Mountain State Park is pleasant enough, and I stayed on the road, skipping the spur trail to the campground. However, when I reached the paved road, I turned left instead of right, ending up at the entrance. Turned around, found the hiker-biker camp, and had a pleasant night.
The next day, I found the entrance to the trail that goes from Humbug campground to the picnic area. Very much in need of maintenance, I was able to follow it all the way to a nice bridge over Bear Trap Creek. However, the trail at the south end of the bridge soon encounters a thick mass of blackberries. Even though I was less than a quarter of a mile from the picnic area, I could not get through the bushes, even on hands and knees dragging my pack behind me. A pity, as it would not take much to recover that 1.2 miles of OCT. I ended up backtracking a bit, fording the creek (more dog-lifting involved), and walked the highway to the picnic area.
Then began a rather dreadful 5-mile road walk to Arizona Beach. Long walk on a narrow shoulder with fast cars. Yuck. At Arizona Beach, it was not feasible to just drop down the west side of the highway, as there are too many blackberries. I continued on the highway over Mussel Creek, and then went west, bushwhacking across the creek and getting the Recreation Site. Mussel Creek was an easy crossing. Pigeon Point was a little troublesome, and I again had to lift up my dog and lower him down onto a rock below me.
Climbing up from Sisters went smoothly, but then more road walking. Found the beach access (Ophir Trail) easily after Euchre Creek and headed south. However, at Nesika, there is conflicting information between the online blog and the guidebook. The trail blog says to leave the beach at the north end of Nesika, and the Dayhiking the Oregon Coast indicates to leave the beach at the south end (pg. 250, “leave beach at south end of town”). Wanted to maximize the beach walk, I went to the south end. There I was met by fences and large no trespassing signs. Not wanting to give back that mile of walking on the beach, I found another draw and headed up the cliff. Fortunately, the top had a dead-end road. Though again, I had to lift my dog up to put him on the road! Walked to Nesika Beach Road and found the OCT trail to Geisel Monument.
Took the Old Coast Highway, long but safe walk to its southern junction with 101. Your blog says to walk south on 101 from the Old Coast Highway. However, after about a quarter of a mile, I realized there was no trail to be found. Turned around and went back to Old Coast Highway/Otter Point Road. Visited a windy Otter Point, and then dropped down to the beach.
Pleasant walk on the beach, then a walk on Wedderburn Loop, short time on 101 across the Rogue, and on into town. Followed Harbor Way, got to the beach, and started heading south. DIdn’t go very far, as I was not sure where to get off for the Pacific Reef Motel. Got off way to0 soon and had to walk the west edge of the airport. Twelve-hour hiking day, and it felt good to arrive at the motel!
The next day, I got up with plans to reach China Creek. But as soon as I got to the beach, my dog stopped and looked at me, refusing to go on! So, I figured he needed a zero day, and we spent the day in Gold Beach. The following morning, the same thing happened, he was done with this hiking thing for now.
I then hitched back to my truck at Floras Lake. It was a dreadful hitch, as I got to the highway around 6:30 in the morning. No one would pick me up. So, around nine I hiked through town to the north end of the Rogue River Bridge. And there I waited until almost 3 PM! Old folks in motor homes wouldn’t pick me up, younger families with little kids wouldn’t pick me up, and 20-something guys wouldn’t pick me up. Which basically describes the demographics of folks driving 101 in southern Oregon! Finally, a woman tourist from Germany stopped and gave me a ride back to Floras!
Given that my dog was unwilling to do a four-day trip from Floras to California, I decided to break the Gold Beach to California trip into three days (instead of two). The first day to Crook Point started easy. Beach walk went well. Found a trail heading up the north side of the Cape Sebastian, and it was a rather easy trail to follow. Went to a waterfall overlook and saw a hiker trying to beach walk around the cape. This does not work out well. The south end of the cape has some impassable areas for a beach walker. Even coming down the cape, that last section down to the beach is a bit steep.
Pistol River looked like it was going to be intimidating, but it turned out to have a large sandbar at its mouth, so it was a dry crossing. Found Sand Creek, scrambled over the driftwood, and moved east through the brush and trees. At the east end of the Lola Lake Loop, I turned north and followed the loop around the lake and camped on the trail just east of the lake. Short day, I was done hiking by 3 PM! And no road walking!
The next day was back to 101 for a road walk. Found the OCT at milepost 343 and walked a bit, back to the highway, and down to Whiskey Creek. I reached an unsigned junction. The route ahead was overgrown, so I opted to head to the “pocket beach” mentioned in the blog. Walked the beach, but then had a steep scramble to regain the highway. Passed Arch Rock and Spruce Island, then continued down to Secret Beach. Pleasant walk overall, and Secret Beach is a very lovely spot.
The trail gets rather confusing at Natural Bridges Viewpoint trailhead. It would really help to have some assurance markers here. Easily rounded the point at China Beach, and climbed back up to the highway, and soon reached the Thomas Creek Bridge.
Very lovely trail to Indian Sands. The Sands is a rather small area, and the OCT south from Indian Sands is not obvious, with many use trails heading east to the parking lot. But I found it and followed a lovely creek up to the highway. Then quickly down to Whaleshead Beach. The south end of Whaleshead Beach was quite difficult to ascend. Almost immediately I was faced with a very steep, loose trail. Helped my dog up, and then I scrambled up it. I was following OCT posts, but it was quite steep. The steep going soon leveled out, and I encountered a trail junction. I have no idea where the trail on the left led, perhaps there is a trail out of Whaleshead prior to the southern end?
At that point, I was on a much better trail, and cruised on to House Rock and Cape Ferrelo. Very lovely trail between the rock and the cape, totally awesome!
After Cape Ferrelo, I tried to stay on trails as long as possible. Ultimately ended up in a housing development and made my way to the highway and on to Harris Beach. Camped at Harris Beach State Park after 22 miles and 9.5 hours on the trail.
The next morning, I soon encountered the road and walked into Brookings. 2.5 hours of road walking, and then down to the beach. I tried to cheat and access the beach early. But it didn’t work out, a little headland sent me back to Ocean View Drive. Finally reached McVay Rock and hit the beach and headed south. No problem rounding the point or crossing Winchuck River. Reached California at 11:30 AM. Not done, I turned around, re-crossed Winchuck and the point, and road-walked north. I reached my motel by 1:30, a very short day.
All in all, it is a mixed experience. Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor is truly exquisite, and very beautiful. But it is mixed with some long and dangerous road walks that temper my enthusiasm for this portion of the OCT.
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Your report illustrates well the rigors of navigating the OCT. Even though it's not in wilderness and almost always close to a major highway, some of the trail sections are hard to decipher let alone the options between trails. PCTers don't have to swim across river mouths (as I did once on the OCT) or try to figure out the correct route between a braiding tangle of rooty, unsigned user trails. It requires some grit, tenacity, and sheer bullheadedness! Well done!