It was February, 2020, BC (before COVID) when I last visited my friend Amber in Corvallis.
This is where I first heard about a new long-distance trail that crossed the Oregon coastal mountain range to the the Pacific ocean.
Amber was doing trail work for the almost-complete 60-mile Corvallis to Sea trail (C2C) and was putting her saw skills to the test clearing trees from the path. Amber and I met in 2007 when we were both training in a trail crew leader development program at South West Conservation Corps in Durango, Colorado. We spent days learning to use chainsaws and cutting down scores of tall pines in thinning projects for the forest service. It was back-breaking work, but we were young and the work was empowering.
When I heard the C2C had a grand opening in August of this year, I sent Amber a text and asked if she would thru-hike it with me. The only time our schedules aligned was in early November, so we braced ourselves for the short rainy days that are typical in late fall in this part of Oregon.
On a Thursday afternoon I drove over the pass through driving rain to Corvallis. Amber and I spread the contents of our packs across the floor of her living room and proceeded to talk our way through gear choices in what was sure to be a rainy and cold four days.
On further examination of the weather between here and Ona Beach, the temps would be in the 50s and 40s, so not too cold, but with 90-100% chances of precipation, we girded ourselves for constant rain.
Friday morning we set out into the dark-almost light of the day from her front door. Amber only lives 2ish miles from the start of the trail in downtown Corvallis, so why not walk out her front door?
We crossed busy traffic and as the sky lightened we could see color and patches of blue sky. Hmmm, blue was not what we expected, but we’ll take it!
I regailed her with tales of pain, stress, and heat from the month Kirk and I had spent on the John Day River this summer, and we cruised through the urban part of this trail.
Sidewalks and paved bike paths took us through Corvallis and into Philomath. The benefits of urban hiking became apparent when we took an alternate to Sissy’s Donuts. Sissy herself was at the counter, and as she filled our donut order, took curious looks at our packs.
A few minutes later we walked out with a full water supply (it will be a dry camp tonight) and our first trail magic of the trail – two donuts for the road! How wonderful! I told Sissy that she was our first trail angel of the trip, and she positively glowed. Trail community starts with lovely experiences like this!
Then we went next door to the Dizzy Hen Cafe and ordered lattes. Multiple people stopped to hear about our plans as we soaked in the unexpected sunshine, donuts, coffee, and conversation. This is proving be to a most excellent start to the trip.
We walked out of town and turned right onto Old Peak Road. The pavement-to-gravel road wove through a temperate rainforest of dripping mossy trees in shades of neon green.
Next up was a tree-farm part of the route…one of the only sections where you need to get a permit to pass through the private lands of the Starker Tree Farm.
A few gorgeous old-growth trees remained along the road. These mind-bending beauties had trunks so big we just had to stop and take it in. This was a glimpse into a world where the forest had been filled with trees of this size. We would be walking through a visual history 200 years of logging.
The sun was still out. Can you believe it? We had sun the whole day. It was simply incredible and highlighted the golden yellows of fall in the deep green forest. We practically skipped through the forest as if our muffin-tops and legs weren’t sore. These 40ish year old bodies were a bit achy, but also lucky to be walking through the forest on a sunny November afternoon with gifted donuts in our pack. The trail provides.
We made camp off a decommissioned spur road, and watched the last traces of day fade from the blue sky. BLUE SKY!