Monday, December 23, 2019

Cape Arago night hike

Pop! Hissssss... Those are the sounds of a murder. In this case, the helpless and hapless victim was the right rear tire on my Jeep and the perp was a hollow metal tube that impaled itself at right angles to the tire wall, neatly allowing the air contained within to escape in a mere minute. At least I know the tire sensor and dashboard indicator work. At any rate, Coral Rae, Daweson, and I were temporarily stranded in Myrtle Point by the slain tire, wondering if we'd even be able to do our night hike at Cape Arago.

My hiking companions

Bad weather had raised havoc with my plans to formally lead a group on a night hike and eventually the whole project was given up on because there was no way to get a weekend hike in this close to Christmas. The whole point of the night hike was to see the Christmas lights at Shore Acres State Park which is why the hike needed to be done before Christmas. Anyway, the weather eased up briefly on the Monday before Santa's arrival and spurred on by some friends associated with the South Coast Striders, a hiking group based in Coos Bay, I decided to go and secured the attendance of grandchildren Coral Rae and Daweson.

We started out later than intended

However, the Striders were beginning a bit later than I wanted to, so the kids and I left early, fully intending to hike by ourselves, ahead of our Strider friends. But a strategically placed metal tube in a comparatively soft rubber tire put paid to that idea and the end result was that because of time lost by the tire repair, we wound up at the trailhead at the same exact time that buddy Tom and his Strider companions were beginning their hike. It was like it was meant to be!

And so it begins

Starting at the unusual time of 4:00 pm, a half-dozen hikers or so set foot on the trail beginning at Sunset Bay State Park. The afternoon already had that pre-sunset burnished glow about it and despite the sunlight, it was what could charitably be referred to as "chilly". And, after a mile or two of casual hiking, the sun and sky looked more like sunset than afternoon. By the time we arrived at Shore Acres State Park, the Oregon coast was definitely basking in the last hurrah of daylight. The golden glow was perfect for photography and we mingled with the hordes of sunset shutterbugs gathered at the whale watching station, most armed with cameras at the ready with which to capture the sunset.

Christmas lights, courtesy of Mother Nature

Hiking quickly, we dropped onto relatively quiet Simpson Beach, and then walked through some dark woods to reattain the coastal bluffs overlooking the restless ocean. Grabbing a faint path took us atop a secluded rocky point where we all plopped down on grass to ooh and aah at the coming sunset. The day's denouement was mere minutes away so we didn't have to wait very long before day slipped into night to the accompaniment of the roaring surf. The orange sun coloring sky and clouds was Mother Nature's own version of Christmas lights.

Even the lights have lights at Shore Acres

Once the sun was down, it was time for the true "night" portion of this night hike. We whipped out the headlamps and flashlights and backtracked down to Simpson Beach, the waves barely visible in the fading light. And from there, it was just a short walk to the bright lights of Shore Acres State Park, the glow in the inky black forest advertising the Christmas light display from afar like the neon lights of Las Vegas do as you approach on a lonely desert highway.

Shore Acres at its Christmas finest

Shore Acres State Park goes all out for Christmas and the formal gardens were flamboyantly adorned with all manner of lights, colors, and Christmas motifs. The grounds were a fairyland of glowing colors and a choir serenaded visitors from a brightly lit pavilion. Neon frogs jumped from lily pad to lily pad in the reflecting pond and heron statues eternally stalked but never caught a school of koi statues that never swam away. And, as is its wont, the reflecting pond contained a mirror world of light and color living their lives underneath the surface. As far as the kids were concerned though, the highlight of the Shore Acres gardens was free hot cider and a peek at Santa enjoying a bubble bath in the caretaker's cottage.

Excuse me, I'm taking a BATH here!
(How we got on the naughty list)

I've been night-hiking in the Cape Arago area for many years now and often felt like I was the only one adventurous enough to do such a thing. However, in recent years, it has been a more common occurrence to encounter hikers walking from Sunset Bay to Shore Acres, their presence announced in advance by headlights bobbing and weaving like drunk fireflies in the forest. There's a really good reason to night hike, beside the fact that night hiking in general is an awesome experience, and that is because the traffic into Shore Acres is horrendous, often backing up for several miles. But the train of cars were nice enough to us to let us make a left turn out of the parking lot and we felt grateful and maybe a little bit smug at having avoided the long line of vehicles moving slower than we could hike in the dark.

Season's greetings!

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

No comments :

Post a Comment