Monday, June 12, 2017

Game Changer

Sunday, 6/11
I slept in at my reserved lodging in Astoria, got up, showered and headed out. A quick stop at the grocery store for a couple of forgotten items, top off the tank in the Jeep (for storage purposes), and then I headed for the storage facility with the Jeep. Before leaving the facility, I spent a chunk of time repacking my pack (as I'd used some things for the trip out that I was taking on the hike).  Once done, I walked across the street to the local high school and called a cab that would take me to my starting point at the Jetty Observation Tower.

I was dropped off at the tower around 11 am. The butterflies and sense of doubt that I'd had when I woke up that morning were minimal, I felt good, the pack felt pretty good (even at around 40 pounds)... and I was ready. Off I went!

From the tower to the actual beach required a short crossing of some dunes and, depending on where you decided to do it, a decline down the side. I went a bit farther on the dunes for milder descent... but I eventually made it down. Once I got to the flat of the beach and towards the firmer, damp sand, the walking was pretty easy. It was a pretty day - intermittently sunny and cloudy... and a decent tailwind, but not excessive. I enjoyed watching the water and the birds.

While everything felt great at the initial get-go, by about 2.5-3 miles, I was noticing some problems. The hip belt on my pack was giving me grief - I'd repositioned it a couple of time and adjusted the tightness (multiple times). I couldn't seem to get it in what I deemed to be a good spot. So I chalked it up to the fact that I hadn't worn it much, and figured it would get better. My right calf threatened to cramp most of the rest of the second half of the day... and in conjunction with some odd new pain in my left knee (newly rebuilt not quite 2 years ago), the last half of this short stretch wasn't very pleasant. I made the best of it, stopping on occasion to take in the sights and petting others' canine companions who randomly trotted up to say hello.

The very northern part of the trail is funny in terms of where you can overnight. The rule is that you can camp on the beach... IF you're not within State Park property, inside city limits, or within view of residential homes. Fair enough. Except, all of the stretch of hiking between the start to just past Cannon Beach falls into one of these categories. So you have to plan distances accordingly in the beginning.

That said, and since I got a late start, I'd planned to stop at the hiker/biker camp inside Ft. Stevens State Park - approx 5 miles from the start, and 1 mile in from the beach on the park road (6 miles total). I was in rough shape by the time I'd left the beach at the site of the Peter Iredale shipwreck. I headed inland.  I think walking on the road made all my pains worse - by the time I made it to the ranger station to pay for my site, I was having a hard time walking at all due to the calf and knee. I registered and paid, and was so very thankful that the sites were around the corner from the ranger station and that I didn't have to go very far. So grateful!

After setting up my tent and throwing sleeping gear in it, I meant to simply lie down to relax for a couple minutes... but ended up taking a nap for nearly 2 hours instead. When I got up to use the restroom and prepare something for dinner, I couldn't walk - everything had stiffened up. So I just stood a little while, trying to gently stretch while combating the cloud of mosquitoes... and then limp to the bathroom and back.   I saw my hip bones had started to bruise, and my left had a hole worn through the skin... not even sure what caused it.  Frustrated, and unsure how to proceed, I decided to just eat, read for awhile, and go back to sleep for the night.

Monday, 6/12
I was awake in my tent early-ish, but not willing to officially get to it yet - I still felt in pretty rough shape. I thought about ways to improve my situation so I could continue. I couldn't slap tape on my hip bone wound, so I experimented with bandaids... which still ended up bunching up and being worse than going without. I also thought maybe the best thing to do would be to drop some more weight from the pack. I was close enough to where the Jeep was parked (3 miles) that maybe I could walk or get a cab and put some of the extras in there. I left my gear at my site (except for the things I planned to take back with me), and headed up to the ranger station for better cell signal and to see if someone could recommend the shortest route between the campground and my vehicle. I'm glad I did too - it turns out someone who worked at the campground was headed to town and back again to drop her daughter at school... the school, conveniently, was about 1/2 mile from where I was parked... and she offered a ride out and back. Awesome! 

The things I left behind to save weight... a larger Naglene bottle, some extra clothes, the removable top pouch from my backpack... and so very sadly, my camera gear. The camera gear by itself cost me about 4 pounds - I'm guessing I left behind another 6-7 pounds total, bring the pack somewhere in the low-30 pound range. I noticed the difference.

Back at the campground and packed up again, I headed back to the beach. Today would be a mandatory long stretch as demanded by the lodging situation - I was looking at over 15 miles to get to the hostel in Seaside. I still hurt - the knee in particular, and still in a non-fatigue way. The plus side was the cramping calf seemed to have remedied itself, and I hoped it would improve as I got going.

It was rough going. All day. I wasn't making good time. My knee had gotten worse, and now my foot (bunion) was putting it's unwanted protests. I was more concerned with reaching the destination than about enjoying myself. I took very few photos (even with my phone). I stopped often, but not too often for fear of not reaching Seaside at a decent hour.

About 4 pm, my route took me off the beach in Gearhart to route across a river and finish that leg on the roads. When I got out to Highway 101, a lovely older lady took pity on me and gave me a ride for the last couple of miles.

Judging by the way I felt, I figured Tuesday would be a zero day (no hiking)... and I was starting to rethink my plans. This, after 2 days and 22 miles, was kicking my ass in ways other than the expected general soreness/stiffness/fatigue. This was creating some real areas for concern in my knee and foot, and again, I wasn't entirely sure what I should do next. The next leg of the trail climbs Tillamook Head for 7 miles, and the hiker/biker camp at the top isn't near anything - not roads and not immediate help, should I need it. Being alone, I didn't want to push those limits.

My thought was this... to play it one of a few ways: (1) I could try to push on - although I really didn't feel like my body would actually cooperate with this choice, (2) I could give it up entirely and chalk it up to a beautiful failure, or (3) I could rest a day or two, go pick up the Jeep, and still get out and day hike/overnight hike sections of the coast. This would still allow me to hike, to make photos, to enjoy the environment of which I don't see at home... at the sacrifice of the full thru-hike experience.
I'm leaning towards option 3.

The other two would leave me with a feeling of defeat, and that I hadn't accomplished anything. I've certainly already learned that I require more conditioning to make what I did in the last couple of days work... and actually have fun doing it. And I fully intend to get back out and try it again. But for now, it ceased to be fun.

Being all the way out here, having access to the sights that are here... I wouldn't be taking advantage of the situation - good or bad - by leaving. I do want to keep hiking while I'm here. I plan to. In shorter spurts. Day hikes leading into overnights - I have all the equipment with me... and I can travel lighter.

So I think that's the plan.

Here's to glorious mistakes!  Onward!