Walk to San Francisco Week 2: Portland to Florence

Read about my walk and support Facing Homelessness here.

Day 9

I spent a rest day in Portland with Noelle, during which I got to meet her housemate Shannon and some of her family, and we all shared a lot of homemade food. We visited Powell’s Books and watched weird TV. Then it was time to set off again.

I walked around 32 miles into wine country toward the Oregon coast. At first, as I was leaving Portland, I enjoyed actually climbing a hill through calm, mossy neighborhoods. After leaving the Portland suburbs it was mostly highway, and I saw almost no one but did run a little bit, a mile or two at a time, which was very joyful! It was rural and I could see both rolling hills and mountains, and it didn’t rain all day for the very first time!

Eventually I came to a wine tasting room that was still open at 6pm, and the man at Fox Farms talked to me a lot about the area I’d be walking through and also gave me some wine. It was strange trying to taste wine when I know nothing about it and I was the only one in the shop, but he told me a lot about the geography of the area. He let me sleep behind the shop and wrote a note giving me permission in case anyone gave me trouble.

Day 10

I slept well but woke up very cold in the grass in my bivy sack. After struggling to use my fingers to stuff my tightly packed things, I headed out, cold and sad for a few hours. I passed some military planes outside of a museum and an airport. My day instantly got much better when I had coffee and a huge brunch at a diner in McMinnville.

After that, however, the rest of my 26 mile day was just farmland, closed farmstands and rain. One farmstand was still open, so I picked up some potatoes and carrots to cook for dinner. I tasted some caramels at a small shop.

At one point, a cop car pulled over. He was just worried if I was ok. When I explained what I was doing, he kept offering me snacks and I offered him a Just Say Hello sticker. “Oooo, sure, we can trade.” He gave me a junior deputy sticker.

When I got to my Airbnb, my host Liz was already excited to talk to me as she showed me where to take a bath. She is a retired teacher who now substitutes and who was really kind to me! We made dinner in parallel and ate and talked for a while. Her two dogs and cat are all friends and all hung out around my feet at the table. She talked about the local attitudes toward homelessness and told me about some of the people she’d met who were living outside. I could tell she loved working with kids and we laughed at the bad jokes children make up. I did some yoga in my room.

Day 11

After I left Sheridan, I didn’t really see a lot of great places to stay so I rushed a bit to the coast. I charged my phone behind a vending machine in a gas station during a storm then had a bit of sun as I made my way through a scenic forest corridor. It was dripping and mossy and the ground was soft. I made it 31 miles to Otis with significant effort and ate at a pizza shop where they didn’t have any camping ideas for me.

Once I started walking again, the traffic was scary in the dark, so I just hid near highway 101 under some ferns and went to sleep. I had an irrational fear of someone coming and bothering me, but I knew no one could see me or would have any reason to go there.

Maybe that’s what many people feel like when they first camp by themselves, a lonely shapeless feeling of danger, but I am used to the woods and not highway noises so this was my first time feeling this way. When I woke up in the middle of the night, the sky was clear and full of stars and a big moon.

Day 12

After my cold camp, the short walk to Starbucks through sparkling frosty forest roads was a bit hard, but then I thawed out. And immediately after that– the ocean!

The scenery was suddenly incredible! I finally had one day of sunshine, and everyone, including the man I bought sunscreen from, was happy about it. I gaped at cool coastal rock features and saw some sea lions. I lingered at sandy beaches and dramatic bridges.

I stopped at an over-the-top sweets store and bought caramels for Wade from a woman who also loved solo adventures. She told me about going on a road trip and meditating in the redwood forests I would be getting to eventually in California. There were a lot of beachy touristy stores. I walked another 30-ish mile day to Newport.

That evening, I tried staying with someone who was found for me indirectly through Facebook. Unfortunately, we didn’t get along super well and they were in a bad mood. I went to sleep feeling very awkward.

Day 13

The next day I continued through the beach towns and now very foggy beach views. I crossed a super cool bridge outside of Walport where a charming older volunteer told me the best bridge was yet to come, in Coos Bay! Walking across the bridges would make me laugh out loud every time, because the wind was so fun!

I kept listening to the book I’d been listening to, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. It’s really hard to listen to, so I’ll take it an hour at a time. It discusses this issues by telling true stories, and an especially bleak scene made me cry.

After the lonely and long days, I was getting pretty sore and emotionally tired. After being in a lot of pain and singing power ballads to the stormy sea on an adorable trail section, I was happy to stumble into the motel Wade reserved for us in Yachats. I ate half of a pizza and took a bath, and fell asleep waiting for Wade.

Day 14/15

We spent a leisurely two days seeing the 26 mile stretch between Yachats and Florence, one of the most beautiful parts of the route! Wade would walk with me and then go back and get the car, or I’d walk some alone. I was happy to have someone with me to read about lighthouses on a foggy afternoon, see dramatic beaches in the sun, and play among the rocks.

We did some touristy things I probably wouldn’t have done alone, like driving to the aquarium and visiting the seemingly hokey but wonderful sea lion caves. In a unique natural feature, there were hundreds of sea lions sheltering in one place, piled on top of each other making a deafening and surreal noise. During some of this walk, too, I actually got to walk on mossy trails! We went back to Yachats multiple times for kombucha and board games at the brewery.

After Wade’s visit, my legs and spirit felt refreshed!

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