Monday, December 14, 2020

Cape Arago

It was a King Tide day and at Sunset Bay State Park, Big Creek was unnaturally full of water being forced upstream by the incoming tide. In between waves, I stood next to the creek and took several photographs of the bay, keeping a wary eye on an incoming wave that just kept coming and coming without any inclination of slowing down any time soon. Bye, gotta go! I took off running and all was well until I dropped my hiking pole. Dammit, that wasn't in my carefully crafted plan for escape! I reached down and picked it up, fumbled the pole pick up, then fumbled it again. Finally, got a firm grasp on the sucker and then I really had to move as the surge roared up Big Creek, covering up where I had been standing just seconds before with about 3 to 4 feet of fast moving water. A King Tide is nothing to mess with, dudes and dudettes.



King Tide is a non-scientific term for an abnormally high tide. Oregon gets them several times a year and Shore Acres State Park is the perfect locale for experiencing the huge waves that sometimes result. The caveat is that a high surf is also required, because it is entirely possible for a King Tide to fail to generate huge waves and it's also possible for huge waves to manifest without benefit of a King Tide. But on this day, it was the perfect storm in that the King Tide was occurring in conjunction with a heavy surf generated by stormy weather. That was all I needed to wake up before dawn and arrive at Sunset Bay bright and early, trusty camera at the ready.    

A wave really would like to smite some hikers

I was more than happy to hike up on the forested bluffs overlooking the wild ocean after my near escape at Sunset Bay. But I shouldn't have felt that secure, for the waves, after surging into the unyielding cliffs, exploded into white-watered mayhem that often rose twenty feet or so higher than the trail, which was already twenty feet or so higher than the ocean. As I hiked through the woods, I could hear the booming surf cannonading in loud blasts up and down the coast, sounding like the most prolific thunderstorm ever.

A seagull rethinks its flight plan

As the route rounded the rocky cove of Norton Gulch, exposed rocky shoals came into view and the waves breaking over them were an awesome sight. A seagull was patrolling the shoreline and was probably questioning its life choices when one large wave enveloped the bird into its watery embrace, somewhat to my amusement. The constant mist from the waves refracted sunlight which is a non-romantic and very scientific way to say there were lots of rainbows.

Fountain in the Shore Acres garden 

As stated before, Shore Acres is the place to be when the big waves put on a show, what with the strategically sited viewpoint and observation area with easy access. Accordingly, throngs of photographers and videographers were gathered there to get their own personal iconic photos and/or videos of the booming waves. Rather than brandish my sharp elbows to rudely jostle for a place in the photography queue, I figured I'd hike to the secluded bluffs south of Simpson Beach and take some photos from there. However, the trail to the beach was gated shut with a dour-faced park ranger standing by, sternly enforcing the trail-closed edict. Seems that last year during a King Tide event, somebody went down to the beach and got themselves into trouble so now the park simply closes the beach trail whenever a King Tide event occurs.

Some of that Shore Acres action

Well, that screwed up my plans and since I wasn't ready to quit hiking yet, I backtracked through the Shore Acres gardens and made my way onto the trail heading up to the World War II bunker, since I'd never been to that landmark. Built as a watch station for Japanese submarines, the ruins of the bunker have long since been swallowed up by the forest and you currently would not be able to see the ocean from the bunker, much less a submarine unless it snuck up from behind, tapped you on the shoulder, and said "Boo, I'm a submarine!"

From defending the country to this

At the bunker ruins, vandals (or graffiti artists, depending on your point of view) had redecorated the old place. To be honest, all the color on the walls in a forested setting was visually interesting and kind of on the cool side. What was not cool were the spray paint cans left behind, along with several painted trees. I think the lack of respect bothers me more than the actual artwork. At any rate, the side trip to the bunker nominally served its purpose in extending the hike's mileage to a reasonable distance.

Large waves boomed up and down the coast

It was just about high tide and the waves would be as large as they were going to get today, so I hiked up the Cape Arago Highway until a resumption of the (open) coast trail presented itself. Wave-generated sonic booms permeated the forest and grassy bluffs, and I made my way to land's end like a concertgoer drawn to the front of the mosh pit. As I was happily doing my camera thing, one wave huger than most gave me a good soaking. It was quite the show and I stayed there for a fair amount of time until it became obvious the tide was receding and the waves were shrinking. While that was disappointing, at least the hike back to Sunset Bay was less eventful than my morning visit there.

Thimbleberry leaf: I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. O'Neill

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


  1. I visited Shore Acres in February, but sadly missed the big wave show...

    1. Linda, it was an amazing show. I'll try to remember to give you a heads up next time a King Tide comes round.

  2. Wow, those waves! Incredible, wonderful capture.

    1. Thanks, they were truly incredible. That was my first time hiking there during a King Tide event, which is kind of surprising when you consider I've been hiking there regularly for like the last twenty years!