As of July 31st, I finished the TransAmerica Trail, in the very Northwest corner of Oregon, Astoria. Oregon was a very diverse state ecologically, and one I navigated almost entirely solo. I found myself in a pretty zen spot as I wound my way through peak after peak until I finally ran out of mountains, and then trail.
I thought I was done with the desert in Baker City, I was wrong. It turns out I would have to navigate another few hundred miles West until the Cascade mountains. I found myself enjoying having a little more time to savor the arid climes, particularly when I stopped for a night at the climbing mecca of Smith Rock State Park. Oregon’s full of awesome geological formations like that area, and if I had my priorities in line, I may have just stayed an extra day to properly hike around the park.
Oregon was the first state in a while to have some proper hostels, owing to its popularity to backpackers. I found myself hostel hopping from place to place on my last week on the trail. I’m almost always willing to spend a little for the relative luxury of a nice refuge oriented for the unassuming traveler. Spoke’n Hostel in the tiny mountain town of Mitchell gets a shout out for going above and beyond for the cyclists far off the beaten path. The social hubs of hostels were something I really missed on this trip versus walking Appalachia.
Down from the Cascades and to the Coastal range, the environment really does transform. From the desert, the land became a temperate forest in the Willamette Valley, which has mostly been bent towards agriculture. The Coast Range, which were the last mountains for real, were an unexpected barrier to another biome. On the other side is a lush sea of green, a true rainforest.
When I hit the Pacific Ocean for the first time, it was an otherworldly experience. Though I had been getting wracked by the southeasterly winds going up from Eugene, everything changes at the coast. The temperature drops sharply, and the gusts can be fierce and chilly. When I finally saw the powerful waves from up upon Cape Lookout, I was surrounded by evergreen trees that dominate the land all the way up to the beach. I count myself pretty fortunate to camp right adjacent to the beach at the state park that night, where not only did I meet some cyclists riding the coast, but I was able to further commune with this new avenue of nature.
The final day to Astoria was a challenging one. I knew I was committing to an exhausting schedule doing a second 90 mile day in a row, but when the turbo calls, I answer. The Oregon coast is quite hilly, and to make matters worse, highway 101 would be another extremely stressful road to cycle down. There were quite a few moments of pedal and prayer, especially when the road narrowed for bridges and tunnels. Fortunately, the last miles to Astoria were of a lower volume of traffic via back roads.
I entered the city with the final hour of daylight starting to wane and navigated the shoreline. The trail ends along a converted rail line, right at the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Coast Guard station. I would learn much about the area’s history the next day at the museum, and found its industrial vibe curious. By the way, I did a dozen pictures of myself lifting my bike awkwardly at the finish before I figured out the perfect pose.
It feels great to have completed another journey, especially one as uniquely tricky as TransAmerica. Perhaps I’ll start referring to these activities as my feats of strength. Everyone is asking me what I’ll conquer next. I’ll need some time to properly process what this Summer meant to me before I give any answer to that. That will come in a separate article as a synopsis of the trail.
A heat wave has descended on the area, so for now I’m lounging on the temperate coast. I stayed a day in Astoria’s confines to just let my body recover and decompress. In the evening, I ascended to its peak landmark, the Astoria Column. It was so steep I had to walk my bike at times, but staring down on the city and the Columbia River was powerful, and the column itself is an amazing work of art. I’m on my bike again, now in Washington state. I may just take my time here and enjoy this strange, new coastline as far as it goes.