The Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) is a long-distance hiking route along the Pacific coast of Oregon in the United States. It follows the coast of Oregon from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border south of Brookings. The trail was envisioned in 1959 by Samuel N. Dicken, a University of Oregon geography professor, approved in 1971 by the Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council and developed and managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as part of the state park system of Oregon. The walking length of the trail varies depending on choice of passage across or around estuaries and rivers along the route. If a ferry is not arranged or available, an alternate route around the estuary must be taken; if traveling on foot, this means road walking. The length of the trail, using the Google Maps pedometer tool to measure route mileage, is about 425 miles (680 km) if no ferries are used, though the official coastal guide gives a length of 382 miles (615 km). If no ferries are used, about 39 percent of the route is on the beach, 41 percent is on paved road, and 20 percent is on trail and dirt roads. -wikipedia
Inspired by Robin and Ali's fantastic run of the OCT last year, I plan to attempt the self-supported FKT in September 2018. I am also using the run to raise $10K for immigrant families in the Pacific Northwest. Funds will go directly to the Immigration Counseling and Advocacy Program (ICAP) in Yamhill County, Oregon. Many of ICAP’s staff and volunteers are immigrants or refugees themselves, and the whole organization is working overtime these days to keep immigrant families safe and together by providing legal representation and other community services. Folks can follow along with the FKT attempt or donate at luciarobinson.com.
I'll be traveling southbound from the Columbia River and adhering to the standard route as much as tides allow. Thanks Peter, Buzz, and Jeff for building this community!
I finished the Oregon Coast Trail this past Sunday self-supported in a time of 13 days, 00 hours, 15 minutes. I started on September 3, 2018 at 10:13am PT (11:13am MT) and finished on September 16, 2018 at 10:28am PT (11:28am MT). (Side note: My GPX files appear to be in Pacific Time and my satellite tracker in Mountain Time.) Total mileage was 428 miles with over 40,000 feet of elevation gain. More importantly, the run helped raise more than $6,500 for immigrant rights in Oregon and was an absolute blast.
When I started the Oregon Coast Trail, I had no idea if I could finish it. On paper my chances didn’t look too good: middle-aged mom (check), minimal ultra distance experience (check), missed the peak week of training due to work (check). But the well worn quote from Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber is true: “You are tougher than you know and you can do more than you think you can.” I toughed out painful shin splints the last hundred miles; I feel proud of that.
The OCT is a considered a "described route" versus a contiguous trail, like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. The OCT strings together beaches, existing trails, side roads, ferries, and sections of Highway 101. The route is still evolving as the State of Oregon and advocacy groups work to replace highway segments with trails or ferries. Additionally, thru-runners and hikers will inevitably encounter high tides and seasonal conditions that make some rivers, beaches, and points impassable. For runners trying to move fast and put in high-mileage days, this means occasionally detouring inland to skirt obstacles (versus waiting out the tide for hours at a time). I used Natalie Larson's excellent FKT report/blog on the California Coast Trail as a precedent for how to navigate tide-related impasses. Natalie notes that she often took an alternative route to bypass unfordable rivers and tide-dependent beaches. There are times I had to do the same. I relied on Day Hiking the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson, which includes thru-hiking notes, as well as Oregon.gov and the Oregon & Northern California Coast 8th Edition map for route information. There are a few spots where Henderson and/or Oregon.gov recommend short boat trips (under 10 minutes each) to keep the OCT along the shoreline and off of the highway. These boat trips do not shorten the route, but they do make it safer and more scenic. I took advantage of them at the Nehalem River, Garibaldi Marina, and Netarts Bay. Otherwise, I either forded bodies of water or detoured inland to bridges when water levels were too high. While I tried to adhere to the official route as closely as possible, part of the fun of the OCT is the navigation and creative problem solving. FKT purists may be uncomfortable with the variability of the OCT, but variability seems inherent in both "described" routes and coastal trails. Interestingly, even though the route I took deviated in spots from the one used by Ali Gieser and Robin Maslowski—due to tides, seasonal river flows, and being self-support (e.g. needing to hit towns for supplies and lodging)—our mileage was almost exactly the same: roughly 425 for them and 428 for me. We both traversed the entire Oregon Coast from North to South, even if every step wasn't exactly the same. Future runners will find their own way from the Columbia River to the California border and experience the wild, diverse topography of the Oregon Coast along the way. Hopefully someday soon somebody will do it in a truly blazing time. With bigger mileage days and less sleep, an experienced runner could knock off a lot of time from this FKT.
As a self-supported runner, I carried all of my own gear and purchased food and lodging along the way. If you are willing to put in 30 to 40+-mile days, it is possible to stay in relatively cheap motels every night. Water was available in towns, parks, and some waysides. I did not accept any outside aid, and I ran alone until the last night. My husband joined me for the final hours, which was such a special way to end the trip. I ran out of food while we were together, but I didn't take any from him (he felt bad and hid to eat). As Ali mentions in her report from last year, the end of the trail is not actually marked. The guidebooks says a post past the visitors' center in Crissey Fields State Recreation area is the official end of the trail. I went to the first big post, turned off my tracker and watch and took pictures. Then we checked the GPS and realized the California border was still .25 miles South. I turned the tracker and watch back on and ran to a different, equally nondescript post that was actually on the border. Turned everything off and took the same pictures again. Heehee. The park does have a register for OCT thru-hikers in the visitor center now, and they give you poster and take your picture of the local paper. The staff was very sweet.
Below is a download link to my verification package, which includes time-stamped photos (you can see the time data if you open them in Photoshop or other photo-editing software), Garmin InReach Satellite Tracker data, the GPX files from my TomTom GPS watch, and rough notes that I took each day. If this link is expired in the future, feel free to email me at email@example.com. You can also login to see my tracker data (note: I set the track interval to 10 mins to balance verification with battery life):
Verification Package Download
I will also be developing a full trip report with detailed entries and route descriptions on my blog: https://www.luciarobinson.com/blog/.