Help Me Plan My Next Big Adventure!

I don’t feel like writing another bah humbuggish post. To be honest, I don’t feel like writing much of anything. Despite a lingering cold, today I went to dance class (classes, actually), and now I want a nap. But this is day thirty-three of my fifty-day blog challenge, so I want — need — to post something.

How about something fun? Something for me to look forward to?

I know! My next big adventure!

In May, I will be going to Seattle for a weekend with my sisters, and I will be driving through Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, camping and hiking along the way. I’m planning to be out adventuring for approximately a month. (Unless I become subsumed into the camping culture, then who knows how long I will be out wilding in the wilds.)

I’ve been looking at the atlas, and it seems as if it could take years to explore even one of those states (which someday I hope to do). A month will give me only the merest glimpse of the area, and I don’t know much about Oregon or Washington at all.

So . . .

If you have any suggestions of places (or people!) to visit or to stay away from, special campgrounds or dispersed camping spots, great hikes and other delights, please let me know so I can add them to my itinterary.

Thank you!

This photo was taken on my only trip to Oregon, a four or five mile hike along the Oregon Coast outside of Brookings. The impossible dream includes doing the whole coast, but . . .  well, impossible dreams by definition are impossible. Unless you want to come and carry my backpack for me?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Puzzling Through the Impossible Dream

I had lunch with a friend today, and she mentioned wanting to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, which was one of the trails I’d researched during my original research for an epic hike. She said the problem is that the trail is still two decades away from being completed, and by then she’d be too old to have any interest in doing it. Since that was also my reaction to the trail, we talked about how to do the trail anyway, such as taking the Greyhound around unfinished places or possibly Ubering.

One big problem of an epic adventure, assuming of course that the other problems such as being able to carry a pack, go the distance, and various other minor matters, is the necessity of hitchhiking to town to replenish supplies and returning to your starting point when you finish the hike, which is not something I would ever do. But Ubering into town? Along the coast? It might be doable, especially on the more populous parts of the trail where there is no camping.

Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a continuous trail through the three coastal states, there is no real Pacific Coast Trail. There is a California Coastal Trail, which connects various walkways, boardwalks, multiuse trails, and roads all along the coastline (well, except for the places where there is no place to walk) and there is the Oregon Coastal Trail, which as I understand it, is completed. In both cases, tides have to be taken into consideration, because there are many spots that are only traversable during low tide. And the trail is narrow, steep, and rocky in other spots.

I have hiked small parts of both coastal trails (very small) and the beauty is only matched by the difficulty. But still — a wonderful, if impossible dream.

So far, I have not found any map or website for a Washington State Coast Trail for hiking, though there is one for biking. (And you do not want to hear me talk about the problems about walking on cycling trails. Yikes!)

But this gives me something more specific to aim for. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about as many ticks as on other trails (I don’t think I do), and perhaps not as many mosquitoes. Since I am dreaming impossible dreams, starting at the northernmost area and working my way south could be best way of doing it — begin in the summer at the coolest part of the hike, and hike the warmer spots in the fall and winter.

Forgetting for the moment that I lack the necessary physical stamina (which might — might — be offset by frequently Ubering into town for supplies so I don’t have to carry as much), I wonder if I would have the mental stamina to do this. To just throw myself onto the world and see what would happen. (And then, there is the problem of what to do with my car while I’m gone. Unless I park, hike back to where I last parked and then head back to the car? Or walk ahead and Uber back to the car? Or forgot hiking and just drive the coastal road?)

I sometimes (well, all times) think I am foolish for continuing to think of such an epic adventure, and yet, for a person who loves puzzles, this is one of the greatest puzzles I have ever encountered — how to move one sluggish older woman several hundred miles along a trail without destroying her.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Oregon Coastal Adventure

Yesterday I hiked what was supposed to be a four-mile section of the Oregon Coast Trail, but turned out to be only two miles. Apparently, the distance for that particular hike was calculated as round trip rather than one way, but since the description left out that salient point, when I emerged from the woods into the parking lot after only an hour, I was confused. I wasn’t lost, of course, but I felt lost since I didn’t know where I was exactly, and I didn’t seem to have a phone signal to contact my ride in case I had to notify them of a change in plans. So I continued on down the trail, hoping that the next turnout would give me a better idea of where I was.

The sections I hiked were not really difficult except in spots where steps up or down were more than I could handle. (Like stepping up onto or down from a slanting, very narrow backless chair.) Sometimes I could pull myself up with the help of a trailside tree, other times I had to clamber up on my knees.

After I left the little parking lot, the trail became steeper and narrower. The footpath as a whole was narrow — often only about a foot wide — but sometimes this additional trail section was only six inches wide. And there were more parts that were hard for me to climb up or down. Still, I managed to get to where I could see the next parking area though I couldn’t figure out how to get there from where I was. One unmarked trail led to a creek. Another unmarked trail led to a marshy area.

I did figure out where I was since I was high enough to see that the terrain matched my map. I also figured out that the mileage on the trail description was off. So I headed back up to the first parking area, assured that was my rendezvous point.

Going back up was easy. Or rather easier. (Downhill is much harder for me than uphill. Balance is off; footing is different; and if my left shoe is tied snug enough to keep my foot from sliding forward and squishing my big toe, it pinches a nerve on the the top of my foot.)

I ended up hiking four miles after all. Ended up where I was supposed to meet my friends. Ended up learning something, I am sure, though I don’t know what. Maybe: take things as they come. Perhaps: do whatever necessary to accomplish the next step no matter how awkward or inelegant. Possibly: don’t get so caught up in the doing you forget the being.

Mostly I learned that there is a pub in Oregon with the absolutely best hamburgers ever, made with beef grown and pastured four miles away.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Coastal Trail Adventure

Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, there is not a unified Pacific Coast Trail. There is the Washington Coast Trail, the Oregon Coast Trail, and the California Coastal Trail, all in various stages of completion. But I don’t need the entire trail — a few miles here and there are sufficient to get a taste, and oh, what a taste!

Some of the existing trail isn’t really a trail — just a walk on the beach — but I was given the opportunity to hike a bit of the mountainous, non-beach part of the trail. And it was a hike — every step had to be carefully scouted and placed, and it would have been nigh impossible without a trekking pole. Though in most places the trail was easy to see, long grasses grasped my ankles, tree roots snaked across the path, and moss-covered planks bridged small chasms. In one steep case, I even had to walk down timber stairs.

I only caught a few glimpses of the ocean, but always the sound of the surf kept me company on my solitary hike. I started high at a popular lookout point with a fantastic view of the ocean. Everyone else turned left and took the short, sidewalk-wide path down to the beach. I, of course, turned right. The long trail I took was definitely less traveled, not a journey for the faint of heart. Parts of the trail were eerily gothic, other parts primordial. If Bigfoot were nearby, quietly munching wild blackberries, I would never have seen him/her.

When I finally made it down to the beach, I shot a photo of the densely forested hills I’d just hiked, and tried to imagine myself alone in that distant wildness. My imagination couldn’t stretch that far — it seems impossible I’d been wandering in that mass of trees, unseen, for all those hours. Well, two hours.

I’d never meant to write a travelogue, but so far, I haven’t really learned anything from my awesome but rather tame adventures. Haven’t had any grand insights. Haven’t made any self-discoveries. I certainly haven’t managed to pull back the veneer of life to see what if anything lies beyond the natural beauty. Still, beauty exists in and of itself. Beauty is its own reason for being, and I’ve been privileged to bask in beauty’s aura.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Dreaming of Life on Foot

Once upon a time when I was going through a rough patch in my life, I considered just taking off and walking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail. I figured by the end of the hike, things would be different, or I would.

The rough patch passed, as bad times often do, but I have retained that image of hiking the length of the trail. I don’t remember why I chose the Pacific Crest Trail since I was also enamored with the idea of the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps I was confusing the Pacific Crest Trail with the Pacific Coast Highway, and envisioned a walk along the trailscoastline. Surprising to me now is that although I lived in Colorado, I wasn’t aware of the Continental Divide Trail, or if I was aware of it, perhaps it was too close to home to seem romantic.

And that’s what the idea was — romantic. I know this now. Recently I’ve been on a couple of short hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail (a thrilling taste of that old dream), and I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories, suggestions, cautions from my fellow hikers. For example, my idea of hiking without any sort of preparation, just finding the start of the trail and heading out, is not practical. Through hikers, those who hike the entire trail from top to bottom (or rather, bottom to top — they generally start out at the Mexican border and walk up to the Canadian border) often spend months in preparation, drying foods, mapping water holes, sending ahead care packages to themselves at various places along the trail. They need to be prepared for emergencies, all weather conditions, and whatever might overtake them on the trail. (Apparently, most through hikers make the trek alone, so my idea of walking solo was not too farfetched.)

Someday my current responsibilities — looking after my 97-year-old father and dealing with my perhaps bipolar brother — will end, and then what? What will I do? Who will I become? I’ve been checking out various trails in the US, and if I were so inclined, I could spend the rest of my life on foot. Thirty different trails comprise the National Trails system, and many states seem to have additional trails, such as the Oregon Coast Trail that extends for 400 miles from the Columbia River to the California Border, and the Colorado Trail that runs 486 miles from Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango.

A friend of mine recently bought a motor home, and she plans to live on the road until she finds a place to settle down. That, too, is a romantic idea (also practical), but not for me. I prefer to be less cumbered, to go lightly through life. But so lightly as to live with only that which I can carry or send on ahead? I don’t know. Still, I can’t help wondering. And dreaming . . .

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.