Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cape Arago

This hike was all about the waves. And I'm not talking about the nice waves you find in a movie star's, these waves were tall and powerful, just like me. As Dollie and I crossed placid Big Creek at the start of the hike, a wave entered the creek, heading upstream like a watery sea creature migrating to its spawning grounds in the Sunset Bay campground; that's when we first realized this would be no routine visit to Cape Arago.

Watery sea creature
A winter storm had come to visit the Oregon coast last weekend and Saturday was the wilder day what with lightning, high winds, and a prodigious amount of rainfall.  By comparison, Sunday was milder with just an ordinary rainstorm with a high surf warning. Since I don't like getting electrocuted or having tree parts land on my head, and because a high surf warning is more like a high surf invitation in the O'Neill household: Sunday was the day to go hiking at Cape Arago. And speaking of watery sea creatures, Dollie came along.

Sunset Bay

As mentioned before, normally placid and tranquil Big Creek was having to contend with rude waves forcing their way upstream like a proctologist's probe, not that I know what that's like. Sunset Bay was a bowlful of seething sea with white water and angry waves boiling robustly like a pot of my abuelita's beans. Surfers were taking advantage of the wave action while onlookers gawked from the Sunset Bay parking lot.

A cliff gets a pummeling
Once atop the shoreline bluffs, the sonic booms of waves crashing into the rocks provided a noisy backdrop to the hike. Everywhere we looked, we could see giant explosions of white water bombs cresting higher than the cliffs we were standing on.  Marching inexorably to a noisy demise on the Oregon coast was wave after wave, most cresting 20 feet or higher.

A moron just has to get closer to the action

The real fun started at the ruins of the Shore Acres tennis courts. The waves were crashing into the cliffs with each exploding wave cresting about 20 feet higher than me and remember I was on the cliff which was already about 20 feet above the ocean. Some moron with a death wish clambered onto the rocks closer to the breaking point. Dumb, but on the plus side, he provided a nice human scale for my photographs.

Rain at Shore Acres
It was more of the same when we arrived at Shore Acres in a heavy drizzle. A small crowd braved the elements to ooh and aah at the ocean's display of might. Just past the whale observation building, Dollie turned back at a viewpoint of Simpson Beach with hardly any beach sand that was not covered with white water.

Simpson Reef
At the Simpson Reef overlook, the sea lions were barking indignant as their favorite beach on Shell Island was underwater. They made do by crowding onto all the nearby rocks, rudely pushing and shoving each other out of the way like the O'Neills at a family barbecue.

Road walk on the Pack Trail
For variety's sake, I crossed the Cape Arago Highway and grabbed the Pack Trail. There is a World War II bunker on the trail somewhere but I never saw the bunker, not sure how I missed a large concrete structure in the forest. However, it was a pleasant walk in the woods that satisfied my uphill quota before dropping back down to the cape.

Another beautiful day at the coast

I had the cape all to myself when I arrived, probably that had something do with the rain pouring out of the sky. The forecast had called for showers which implies an on-and-off wetting but it had morphed into non-stop rain while I was happily hiking through the forest.  I was 3.5 miles away from the car and the rain increased in intensity on the way back. I rapidly lost enthusiasm for hiking, totally commensurate with the amount of water my clothing retained.

I love walking in the rain (sarcasm!)
But hey, that's what dry clothes, a car heater, and hot chocolate is for and all were soon available upon arrival at the trailhead. Despite the less than optimum conditions, the wildness of the ocean made this hike worthy. Like I said, it was all about the waves and I was glad to wave bye-bye to the rain as we departed.

No swimming today!
For more pictures of this hike,please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Thanks for the great pictures of those awesome crashing waves! It saved me from getting my boots wet! That is a great hike, I've always done it in nicer weather though.

    1. I would have been happy with just wet boots, it was the water running down my neck and through my soaked jacket that I objected to! But it was worth it, awesome waves and stormy scenery

  2. I have thought about heading to the coast to chase a storm several times this winter, but then I thought that people who do that are crazy. I mean, what can be more enjoyable than facing the wind, rain blowing sideways, and load waves crashing onto the rocks. I definitely need that experience. I need to test my old rain gear.

  3. I probably should have identified myself as jlcummins in case you don't recognize the part of my email address that show here.