Thru Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, KEEN Style!

Guest Blog Post, Written by Audrey Jo Mills 

In September 2011, nearing the completion of my 6 month contract with the US Arctic Program in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, I found myself contemplating what life held for me over the next few months. My partner was going to be working as an instructor for an outdoor adventure course in the southwest and the only thing I had firmly been tasked with was dog sitting his puppy, Pepe.

We are the epitome of modern day adventure dirt bags, moving from job to job around the world, traveling between work gigs, spending our money on gear and plane tickets, crashing on our friends’ floors, and living out of our tiny but Mighty Yaris while searching for adventure in the states. We love our life together. Having a few months off was nothing new, but this time it was different. I would be on my own for several months, had no responsibilities besides Pepe, and was looking forward to an independent adventure.

I finally settled on completing a solo thru hike. Real life requirements demanded that the hike be under 500 miles, so that I could still make it to Thanksgiving, and that it was dog friendly, which crossed out anything through a National Park. One day while reading a magazine (Yes, on the toilet! Where else do you find inspiration?) I came across a two sentence blurb on the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), a 400 plus mile trail along one of the most beautiful, scenic, and rugged coastlines in North America, or so I’d heard. The temptation of this hike immediately struck me. I had worked as a Park Ranger at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Eastern Oregon for several summers and though I had spoken with thousands of tourists about the beautiful Oregon coast, I had not had a chance to visit it for myself. This was my opportunity!

Pepe and I loaded up the Yaris with all of our gear, gave our love and kisses to Paul, and left Prescott, AZ on a winding road trip north to the beginning of our journey at Ft. Steven’s State Park and the Clatsop Spit at the convergence of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Pepe and I bonded while we hiked along stunning beaches, through beautiful inland old growth forests, through windswept dunes, along Hwy 101, over large overgrown capes, and scrambled along steep bluffs and around rock outcrops at high tides. We met so many amazing and friendly people, found all the great coffee places and the best microbrews, and even found secret camping spots with stunning sunset views.

Over the course of 33 days we hiked over 400 miles; saw sunshine, rain, hail, snow and gale force winds; walked to all 11 Oregon Coast Lighthouses; collected 22 email addresses; hunted for wild mushrooms; waited out rainstorms in public restrooms; took over 1000 pictures; saw the remaining effects of the tsunami on local fishing communities; encountered baby seals resting on the beach; hitchhiked; “Occupied Hwy 101”; went tidepooling; chased seagulls, collected fossils and completed my first solo thru hike! And I did it all in my KEEN Newport H2’s. They are the perfect footwear for an adventure which includes so much variation in terrain and almost always includes getting wet and muddy. I could go from tidepooling to walking on the beach, to hiking through the brush without even a second thought. I definitely recommend hiking the OCT and I most definitely recommend doing it in KEENs!

Check out my whole adventure in Coast Explorer Magazine, including a 3 part article series, journal entries, and OCT hiking tips:

About the Author:
Audrey Jo, her partner Paul Smotherman, and their neurotic canine Pepe, are the owners and operators of the North Cascades Mountain Hostel in Winthrop, WA which will be opening in Spring 2013. They are currently working their 2nd season in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland with the US Arctic Program and have both worked several years on the opposite end of the world for the US Antarctic program. They work hard and play hard and are always looking for adventure. Between the two of them, they own 12 pairs of KEEN shoes, a drawer full of KEEN socks, and keep everything organized with their KEEN Guilder 15 Commuter bag. Contact Audrey Jo and Paul at or find them on Facebook.