Hiking in the Mist

Sweating to Chin Beach
By Brian Payton
  |  Gorp.com

The moment we leave Bear Beach things begin to change. Switchbacks climb steep hills, plunge down and then crawl back up again. We are soaked through with sweat. Despite careful navigation, we both fall in the slick mud. My thigh cramps up and we have to rest every mile or so. When you hike this grueling stretch you spend most of the time looking at exposed roots, the bottom of a water bottle and your partner's muddy heels. Just when I think we should call it a day, we come to the crest of a ridge and collide with a cool ocean breeze. It momentarily replenishes our will.

When we finally touch down on Chin Beach, four and a half miles later, and my boots come off in a hurry. I experience relief, bliss, and unfortunately, blisters. Chin Beach is a rocky, abandoned place—save a lone old man camped at the far end. We make our camp beside a driftwood windbreak left by previous hikers. Dinner consists of a tin of smoked mussels, a"Cajun-inspired" dried rice and bean dish, and "S'more" flavored Pop Tarts. We wash it all down with a newly invented trail-inspired cocktail we call Chin Beach Punch: vodka, Gatorade powder, and creek water. Despite our exhausted condition, after a few drinks we are able to identify and solve the world's problems in the campfire light.

We stretch out in our tent around midnight, but the wind picks up and relentless breakers begin their march headlong onto shore. Curtis-Ray's mind is stuck on waves and he has trouble falling asleep. Although we are clearly ten feet above high tide, he seems convinced that one will turn rouge and smash us into the rocks before flushing us out to sea. My evening anxieties revolve around food, and whether we'll have enough for the rest of the journey. I get up, find some rope, and hang my snack-laden pack in a low tree—the perfect bear piqata.

We've left our watches behind, and guess that it's 8A.M. when we rise. When I see the empty tree where my pack used to be, I'm sure the gang from Bear Beach has finally caught up with us. But the bag sits on the rocks just below; its twine is broken, but is rests upright and unmolested.

As we pack, Curtis-Ray points out two southbound killer whales just off shore. We watch their dorsal fins arc and plunge until they disappear, like everything else along the trail, into the bright mist.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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