Pacific Coast Tour: Day 5
Day 5: Astoria, OR to Cape Lookout State Park, Tillamook, OR
Approximate daily mileage ~ 77 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 425 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 2,700 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 11,900 feet
The Norblad Hostel provided for another dry and warm night, and by this time I almost started to feel somewhat normal other than the most sore leg muscles I have ever experienced. Previously, I had always considered myself somewhat of a multi-sport athlete growing up playing football, basketball, and running distance events in track. Recent training had consisted of riding in a few days of the great annual bike ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI) as well as training I had put in while living in Colorado prior to commencing this trip. I thought this would allow for me to handle this trip with ease. Wow, was I wrong! After riding significant mileage for 4 days straight while carrying all the required gear, the soreness in my legs had set in making it impossible to walk even close to what would be considered "normal". Nevertheless, it was thrilling to already have made it to Oregon with some of the best cycling and experiences yet to come.
Sore legs and all, morning came quickly. The pattern of waking up hungry and ready for a feast continued. Fortunately, there were numerous nearby cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops in Astoria. All of them were tempting. After riding around a few blocks I rode upon the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Café. Their website states they focus on: Strong Community, Organic Food, and Joyful Work. This becomes apparent upon stepping inside and enjoying their ambiance while sipping the delicious coffee and tasting something off their menu of delectable pastries and breakfast dishes. Full of fuel with bright blue and sunny skies it was time to continue south. Having been told by Jim of the greatness of Cape Lookout State Park it seemed like a good goal for the day being close to 80 miles away and situated directly next to a beach.
Riding back through Astoria was again a delight taking in all of the sights of the grand Columbia River. Then I found myself back on Highway 101 except now I was riding over Youngs Bay on Oregon Coast Highway. Right away it became noticeable the difference between riding in Oregon compared to Washington. The two most obvious differences were more bicycle friendly drivers and much better bike lanes with consistently wider shoulders on major roadways. The combination made for one of the most pleasant days of riding thus far. To top it off, today was the day I would be riding through Cannon Beach – a place I had highly anticipated paying a visit!
Riding south through the small towns of Sunset Beach, Gearhart, and Seaside was a great start to the day’s ride. Then the ride continued over relatively flat green and lush land for about 25 miles until exiting Highway 101 for the first stop of the day, Cannon Beach! I had anticipated this stop for some time and was not disappointed in the slightest. Cannon Beach is famous for its picturesque Haystack Rock, and it has the feel of a charming beach town. Riding through on a Sunday there were plenty of people out enjoying the sunny day eating brunch, shopping at local stores, and going to the vast and beautiful beach. Being a beach lover myself I couldn’t help but park and lock up my ride to soak up some sun and sand too. In the setting of the massive rock outcropping in the water named Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach has a supernatural feeling to it with plenty of room for all to enjoy. Walking across the sand in bare feet with my pack on my back I couldn’t help but smile being grateful to be able to do what I love all wrapped in one day along this classic journey.
After plenty of photos, joy, and a skype call to my mom it was time to keep moving south with a lot of miles yet to be pedaled. More of the same good roads continued along the coast through Arch Cape then the route turned somewhat inland past Manzanita and through Nehalem. The 101 then returns to the coast past Nedonna Beach to Rockaway Beach where I had a nice break and snack in the sun on a bench overlooking the beach. A pleasant family took a photo of me and it was time to cruise the last 25 miles of the day. The next town was Garibaldi on the north end of Tillamook Bay. Then the course is on the east side of Tillamook Bay until coming to Tillamook, OR which is famous for its cheese. By this time my legs were again feeling all of the miles in each pedal stroke. The last portion of the ride continued to be pleasant as I turned west onto Highway 131 riding by farmland then more lush green forests toward Netarts Bay and finally Cape Lookout State Park. By this time the temps were dropping a bit and the campground was a definite welcome site.
Cape Lookout State Park is a beautifully maintained park with an equally impressive campground with full amenities for all campers ranging from large deluxe RVs to hikers and bikers like me. A quick ride through the park and I easily found the designated hiker/biker campsite which was set in a grove of tall green trees with the beach off in the distance. It was spectacular with numerous campsites with picnic tables dispersed among the dense forest. I was told by Jim about the hiker/biker campsites of Oregon and how great they are. Now, I could see why. They are a great resource with the beauty of nature all around, fellow kind campers, free hot showers, and all of it costing only 5-6 US dollars! After finding a good campsite I met two brothers, John and Jim, who were cycling the Oregon coast together, and they informed me how to pay and where the showers were located.
The state park camp host was most pleasant, and the free hot shower was wonderful. It was a short trek through the woods between the campsite and the showers which was equally therapeutic for my sore legs and aching feet. After hanging gear up or laying it out on the picnic table in attempt to dry I had a good time visiting with the brothers, and other fellow cyclists, Serena and Pat, who congregated at the brother’s picnic table to eat, share stories, and food. Before long it was pitch dark outside and all that could be heard was a gentle breeze through the trees and the ocean waves crashing in the distance. It was time for another chilly night attempting to sleep in my thin bivy on the ground. The mossy forest ground gave me some hope of getting some rest. Even if I didn’t sleep a wink I was happy with the magnificent day and the most extraordinary accommodations for a night.