28 May 2009, 9:47pm
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“neahkahnie” means “place of god.” so does “here.”

this week a. and i went on a hastily-planned and totally wonderful short backpacking trip, from cannon beach to manzanita on the oregon coast. i didn’t bring a camera–perhaps so i’d have to actually write about the trip instead of just tossing up some photos and a “look what we did.” of course, there’s plenty of stuff been goin’ on recently that i haven’t written about or taken pictures of, but whatever…

i did tell a. at least a dozen times that i really should have brought my camera. oh well. anyway, if i posted photos and you looked at them and thought you’d seen what beauty there was to see on this hike, you would be mistaken. go. see. get wet in the rain and hot in the sun and fill your bottles in a waterfall and be alone on a huge beach and wait for low tide and scare little snakes away from the path and summit a mountain at the end of a 12- or 13-mile day only to backtrack to the last suitably flat camping spot you found some distance down the mountain and Know What I Mean. i’m getting ahead of myself.

the first day we mostly walked on the beach, miles and miles, past haystack rock and some other rocks and a whole lot of unoccupied vacation homes. we ate jelly beans and it rained and the wind was blowing north right into us and we got very, very wet and made jokes about taking shelter in one of those sad houses. we passed silver point with no problem, but the tide was too high for us to pass at humbug point. we found a pretty little falling-apart abandoned house but didn’t explore too much after we saw swastikas painted on the walls. instead we hung out just north of the point at a little shelter someone had built out of driftwood. they’d even carried a bunch of sand up from the beach to make the rocks comfortable to sit on. we set up our tent to keep out of the rain and played twenty questions and read aloud from catch-22. took off our wet pants to let them dry and ran around the empty beach in our underwear.

in the evening, after four hours or so, the tide was low enough that we could pass. on the other side were sculpted sandstone cliffs and more empty beach. we passed hug point, walking on the old roadway covered in barnacles and shellfish. just south of hug point, a pristine beautiful amazing little freshwater stream flowed in a waterfall over some big rocks and then over the beach into the sea. we filled our water bottles and ate some food and marveled at this beautiful spot. above the waterfall, next to the stream, was a clear grassy area just the right size for a tent. i would want to stay right there for a week… but we had so much energy left, so we walked on, swing dancing on the beach with our packs on. the evening sun shining through and below the clouds (you oregonians know what i mean, that quality of light). whole flocks of birds coming over the headlands.

about two miles later, we left the beach at a little town called arch cape, full of cute houses with welcome signs and abundant gardens. a woman with two dogs waved down at us from the second story of one of them. we walked half a mile to the oregon coast trail, and very shortly in the fading light found a place to camp in the lushest forest i have ever seen. every surface was green and alive. we ate soup with crackers as spoons ’cause we’d left our utensils in the car back in cannon beach. whoops.

in the morning we walked on through the woods. saw slugs and downed trees and trees in all stages of life growing out of and around and over rotten logs and each other. no one else on the trail for most of the day (just us and the trees and some lovely views of the ocean from high above it), until we were almost to oswald west state park, where our guide book thing (backpacking oregon) told us there was a campsite and a nice beach. we were running out of water (we’d passed some streams, but the water was dirty and a.’s “steripen” sterilizer thing wouldn’t work on it, and we didn’t have a pre-filter) and i was sort of worried about it, and there was a mess of paths above the beach. we got a little lost and ran out of water and ended up taking a chance on a shortcut to the beach, which emerged from some trees just above… uhh… steep, sheer rock down to the sand. i tossed my pack down ahead of me and sorta crab-walked. a. managed with his pack somehow. it was exciting.

we walked all the way down the beach to the actual entrance, where i ran to a water fountain that… didn’t work, and then to the bathrooms, crossing my fingers that they were plumbed. i have never been quite so happy to hear a flush. also, next time i am bring more/bigger water bottles.

we drank a lot of water and chilled on the beach for a couple hours. a. took a nap and got a little sunburned. it was a great beach. full of attractive surfers!

turned out the campground was closed, though, ’cause a tree fell on some campsites almost a year ago. we were sorta getting close to wanting to stop for the night (we’d hiked eight or nine miles), but we didn’t want to risk getting fined or something if we were caught at the closed campground or on the beach (there were lots of “camping prohibited” signs). so, on we walked, back into the woods on the oregon coast trail. there wasn’t much in the way of suitable camping, and soon we were climbing neahkahnie mountain.

soon we were also very, very tired, with no sign of any place flat enough to set up our tent (it’s a pretty steep mountain). so we kind of got this idea about sleeping at the summit (2.5 miles up the mountain from where the trail crossed highway 101, four miles or so from the beach). we were in that weird sort of irrational mental place somewhere between determination and exhaustion… so when we finally found a wide flat clearing in the woods, we stopped for only a moment before urging each other on. “at this point we’ll be disappointed if we don’t summit it tonight,” we told one another as we eyed the setting sun.

well, shortly thereafter, we made it. climbed the last bit of trail to the craggy, rocky summit. it was beautiful, but very, very far from being a suitable place to set up our tent. anxious about the light, we admired the view only briefly and then stomped, disappointed, back down the mountain to the clearing we’d found (it wasn’t that far, but oh! what frustration!).

this morning, ooohhh, we were sore! we went down the other side of the mountain slowly and carefully. passed a few dogwalkers going up. arrived back at the highway, the end point of the trip according to our guidebook. we were still a couple miles away from manzanita, which we wanted to get to for the sake of completeness and ’cause we were pretty sure there was a bus from manzanita back to cannon beach and our car. so we walked along the highway for awhile and then cut down to the beach through a residential neighborhood. a woman on the beach pointed us toward the town’s main street, and we walked towards it a little apprehensively, imagining a row of unimaginative seafood grills and cheesy tourist shops like in cannon beach or seaside… instead, we ate a fantastic lunch at a little cafe called bread and ocean (recommended! should you find yourselves in that neck of the woods), spent an hour or more perusing the selection at a bookstore down the street, and then caught the first afternoon bus north. manzanita is a cool little town.

either our bus driver was or we were confused, ’cause we ended up having to walk quite a distance on the beach back to downtown cannon beach where we’d parked, but eventually our tired bodies got us there, and the car (a.’s mom’s–thanks, liz!) had not been towed, and we were homeward bound.

this was actually my first backpacking trip ever (what??). i had a great time and i’m excited to do more of it. however! we sure ate a lot of stuff in wrappers, you know? i want to figure out how to eat more whole foods on trips like this, with less packaging. i am sure there are homemade protein bar recipes online. i am sure people have thought about this problem before.

i am being really active and learning a lot lately, about all kinds of things. life is good and i am making good use of my energy.

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