Hike Down Coast Proves Hilarious
By Virginia Muhle
A T-R Feature
Dateline July 1946
It was June 9—day for the realization of several weeks of planning when five McMinnville high school boys set off on the first lap of a proposed 105-mile hike down the Oregon coast. The five, Malcolm March, Jim Hart, Dick Bennette, Joe Jensen and Dick Muhle, planned stops all along the stretch of sand, trees, rain and ocean between Ocean Lake and Reedsport and they intended to make the trek within 10 days.
The trip from McMinnville to Ocean Lake was made by bus and after checking last minute supplies and eating lunch, they started south at about 2:30 p. m. Each boy’s pack weighed about 45 pounds but they grew lighter as supplies were used up and unwanted articles—including shoes and frying pans—–were discarded.
In spite of the rain that started about the time they reached Kernvile, the hikers managed to make 13 miles the first day and stopped at Lincoln beach to sleep. They spread their sleeping bags in a cave, hoping to be out of the rain without having to pitch their tent. During the night, however, they discovered that the cave was not all they had expected as moisture continually dripped from the ceiling.
Routed by Tide
In the morning another surprise was in store and, as they beat a hasty retreat from the approaching tide, Malcolm remonstrated: “I kept asking Joe if the waves were coming close and all he’d say was, “Naw, they’re way out there.” (It turned out that Joe had a facility for talking in his sleep). After the grueling first night, the boys weren’t in very good shape and only made eight miles the second day. On the way they found a navy life raft that had washed high up on the beach.
In contrast to the first camp, their second night was perfect. They located a state park where the water was fresh and they were able to cook on a camp stove. A store across the highway was a source of provisions for continuing the trip.
When it wasn’t raining, studious Jim Hart took advantage of the situation to read a book he had brought along. There were miles of coast line that he missed entirely as he became engrossed in the story. When he completed the book, Dick Muhle started to read it but he never got it finished for Joe, in a moment of ire, threw the book to the fishes and Dick’s frantic efforts to save it were unsuccessful.
Weather Turns “Wet”
Tuesday night found the hikers 15 and a half miles farther down the coast where they made camp on a beautiful slope. But the campsite choice was dubious for, as Jim Hart tells it, “I woke up about four a.m. wrapped around a tree and found it raining again; this didn’t bother me much until I reached up to pull the flap of the sleeping bag over my head and was nearly drowned by the stored-up water in it.”
The five were now just south of Newport. Slogging through the rain, Malcolm said he thought they must have missed the trail and were walking in the ocean, it was so wet.
The next two days brought two experiences which, in looking back, were frightening. The first occurred when they stopped outside the coast guard station at Waldport and “made friends” with a coast guard patrol dog. According to the description, the dog wasn’t the type of pet one likes to have around the house—unless it is on the end of a good, strong chain. Then the five nonchalantly walked across the firing range of the 163rd bombardment group and became aware of the danger only when they had safely reached the other side where a sign saying “Danger, do not enter” greeted them.
One of the big disappointments of the trip was felt by Dick Bennette when he discovered there was no fishing in Cummins creek. For a long time, Dick had heard fisherman’s tales of the fabulous fish in Cummins creek and when he spied the name on the map, plans were laid to do some angling. He carried a fishing pole all the way down the coast but imagine his dismay when lie found Cummins creek to be about three inches wide and three inches deep. Dick has since decided it is some other Cummins creek which has so many fish you calm walk across on their backs.
Alter passing through the sand dune gardens—none of them had cameras—and exploring sea lion caves, the quintet headed for Florence where they planned to spend the night. The town was a good deal farther than expected but they hiked until reaching a good spot to camp. They estimated their stopping place to be just outside of town but in the morning they found, to their horror, that they had stopped in the city park and were surrounded by homes of bewildered Florentines. Of course all of Florence was gazing at them, so they hurriedly broke camp and moved on. It was here that Dick Bennette discarded the frying pan which had been poking his buddies in the ribs and eyes with its handle.
Big “Deer” Seen
On the sixth day, they arrived at Woahink Lake reservation and rested on the plush cushions of the resort there. They noticed that the inhabitants of the pleasure spot were a little cool and distant but didn’t understand until they went outside and found a very dead fish in Dick Bennette’s pack. That night they fought for every inch of their camp with huge mosquitoes. Because of the constant aerial strafing, they could not sleep so they got up at 8 and headed for Gardiner, arriving at midnight. But they continued on to Winchester bay where Dick Bennette’s feet gave out. While they were resting, a cow dashed across the road and was soon followed by three definitely inebriated gentlemen who lurched out of the underbrush, fixed blurry eyes on the boys and declared they had just shot a big deer, huge deer, never seen nothin’ like it!
They camped on the outskirts of Reedsport the last night and ate breakfast in a restaurant—their second restaurant meal on the trip. They covered the entire distance in seven days Instead of 10 and averaged 20 miles a day on the last three days.
Since returning, they have organized a senior scout patrol with a 105-mile hike as one of the requirements for membership. So far there are only five members.