TRIP REPORT: Oregon Coast 3-Day Backpack
TRIP REPORT: Oregon Coast 3-Day Backpack
It was at least ten degrees cooler on the Oregon Coast than in the Willamette Valley last week.
Next Adventure Outdoor School beat the heat with a 3-Day Backpacking trip to hike a section of the Oregon Coast Trail between Seaside and Cannon Beach in Ecola State Park. Following the footsteps of Lewis & Clark across Tillamook Head, the trail winds from sandy beaches through deep green forests to cliff-top viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean.
We started on the beach with a picnic lunch, and watched the surfers riding the waves. After reviewing how to properly pack a backpack so that it balances around your center of gravity, we started up the trail. Immediately, the big trees, lush green ferns and moss surrounded us. We climbed up the switchbacks to the top of the cliffs, and made our way south from viewpoint to viewpoint, including the famous "Clark's Point of View" (as in Lewis & Clark) that the explorer gushed about when seeking a beached whale over 200 years ago.
Big old Sitka Spruce trees loomed over our campsite at Hiker's Camp. We set up our tents, unrolled our sleeping bags, inflated our sleep pads, and talked about how to best care for camping equipment. Backpack camping gear rental is included with Next Adventure Outdoor School trips: Liz was outfitted with a Mountain Hardwear Tadita backpack, the lightweight-but-roomy Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent, a Ledge Featherlight 20 sleeping bag, and a Wilderness Technology Grand Teton sleep pad. I camped in my Big Agnes Scout UL2 tent.
Tillamook Rock and its lighthouse were visible from the viewpoint a short distance from camp. Dinner was freeze-dried dinners from Backpacker's Pantry. The MSR Reactor stove had the water boiling in no time. Liz enjoyed the Beef Stroganoff dinner, while I savored the good ol' Chili Mac meal. Varied Thrushes sang their lonely song high in the trees, and an owl hooted at us as we talked around the fire after dark.
The second day started off grey and cloudy. After breakfast, coffee, and a visit to the bunker viewpoint, we set out from camp under clearing skies for a day hike to Crescent Beach. The trails were muddy, as should be expected on the Oregon Coast, but there weren't too many people out. Indian beach was crowded, but we were almost alone at the more secluded Crescent Beach at the south end of the park.
Walking barefoot in the sand, we picnicked in the shade of a big rock. Tillamook Rock and the sea stacks jutted up like white teeth from the blue sea. Blue skies and bright sun dominated the rest of the day as we hiked back to our campsite.
We awoke in a fog the third morning. Clouds obscured any hint that Tillamook Rock was out there. In fact, there was no sign that there was a Pacific Ocean; only the sound of the surf crashing on the rocks bore evidence that it was there. An immature bald eagle sailed in and out of the clouds past our viewpoint. We soaked in the scene and hiked back to camp.
We struck camp, re-packed, and then hit the trail out. The fog persisted, but patches of blue sky could be seen overhead, and gleaming sunbeams sliced through the trees.
The key to fun, safe backpacking is to keep in your comfort zone. Adjust layers accordingly, so as to not get too hot or too cool. Drink when you are thirsty. Eat when you are hungry. Hike at your own pace, and take a break whenever you need one. Know your limits and stay in your "Goldilocks Zone." Plan ahead, and be prepared.
Liz had attended the free Map & Compass Clinic at the Grand Store the night before our trip, and we were able to continue the lesson with real field practice on the trail. We went over declination, orienting a map, taking a bearing, and following a bearing. Liz was a good student, and eager to hone her outdoor skills. She has been active hiking, surfing, snowboarding and car-camping for years, but was ready to take her hiking and camping experience to the next level.
Liz T had this to say about the trip:
Looking back at the 'What Topics are Covered' list on the trip description page, everything that was promised was integrated into real-time, hands-on practice on the trail. My concerns/priorities were safety and comfort, the basics of these were not only addressed, but options and tradeoffs were discussed, that I could utilize to adapt to any trip length or personal preference."From the get-go, the schedule of the trip, what to pack, and what I could expect from my guide were communicated in a well organized and straightforward manner. It was really fun to come to the shop and pick out and fit my backpack, chose my sleeping bag, tent and food, and any last minute gear needs with the expert assistance of our guide. In addition to being an expert on backpacking, the gear and the planning involved, on the trail our guide shared with us info on the 'leave no trace' philosophy, the history of the trail, and the plants, flowers, and wildlife we came across. Our guide was professional, receptive to questions, and promptly took care of specific needs as they came up throughout the trip (e.g. backpack adjustments, taking breaks for snacks/water).
Beyond the professional instruction on the nuts-and-bolts of planning and executing a safe and comfortable multiple-day trip, it was obvious that our guide strove to add a personal touch.
"Personally, I was interested in routefinding and learning how to use a compass and map; due to the small group size, we were able to spend time practicing this. The small group size gave us opportunities to learn tips and tricks on the trail and at camp. For example, I know how to set up a tent, but having an expert guide/backpacker offer tips and tricks was a great way to enhance this and future camping experiences. It was cool to learn how to choose/pack items that can be multi-use to maximize pack space (e.g. poncho for rainjacket/packcover/emergency shelter/etc).
"I definitely got what I was looking for out of this trip, and feel that my money was very well spent! At first, I thought $300 sounded like a lot of money, but, once you break it down it really covers a lot- I rented all the gear (off-the-shelf, newest gear), this covered several meals and snacks/water, travel to and from the trip, and expert instruction. I built my confidence and knowledge of the outdoor skills I had, and gained a solid foundation on new skills.
"This was a great experience from start to finish; I'm hoping to take another trip this summer and will definitely be recommending Next Adventure Outdoor School to my family and friends!"
Next Adventure Outdoor School has more fun backpacking and hiking trips scheduled this summer. Join us July 19-20 for a 2-Day trip to Hawk Mountain, July 30- Aug 1 for a 3-Day trip along the Rho Ridge Trail, or August 5-8 for a 4-Day backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail. Our next scheduled day hike will be August 9 along the Clackamas River to Pup Creek Falls.
Plus we've got more free clinics, classes and presentations at the Grand Ave. Store in SE Portland:
On July 15, join us at 7 pm to learn about the spectacular alpine wildflower displays beginning to bloom up on the mountain.
On July 29, learn about "Shorter Thru-hikes for Working Stiffs" with a presentation by Whitney "Allgood" La Ruffa.
And on August 12, learn about camping at higher elevations at our 2nd Tuesday Backpacking Clinic.
Find out more at nextadventure.net/calendar.
Greg Hill is Lead Guide and Program Manager for Next Adventure Outdoor School, Portland, Oregon.
Next Adventure is a fully-insured licensed Outfitter and Guide with the State of Oregon. Next Adventure is an equal opportunity Recreation Provider operating under special use permit on the Mt. Hood National Forest and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, USDA Forest Service.