Friday, July 3, 2015

Cape Arago loop

Cape Arago is a great dayhike. The trail is always spectacular, providing cliffy views of the rugged Oregon coast as the path rambles along the rather abrupt edge of Oregon. Periodically, the trail moves away from the cliffs and dips into the lush coastal forest. Given the right time of year, the woods yield plenty of wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, and newts. And no matter the season, the crash of waves upon the rocks is a constant along with the barking of sea lions. Yup, a great hike. But there is one small problem: I've hiked it a million times.

Scenic little cove, below the trail
So what is one erstwhile faded and jaded hiker to do? Why, apply an O'Neill twist to the route, just to keep from getting bored with one of the more scenic hikes on the southern Oregon coast. The latest and greatest change-up was to park the car nearly two miles shy of the customary starting point at Sunset Bay. Hopefully, I'd be able to work my way south to Sunset Bay and in the process, get a good view of the Cape Arago Lighthouse perched on Gregory Point, the point actually being an island. 

Is this a cool trail, or what?
Speaking of goats, you almost have to be one to get down to the beach from the Cape Arago Highway. Yeah, I know, we weren't speaking of goats but that's my segue and I'm sticking to it. A faint and muddy track dropped nearly vertically down to the beach but fortunately, a rope was tied to a tree for us non-goat human beings. Even though I sport no goat genes (that I know of), I still bleated happily on the way down, which either confused or bemused the seagulls.

Rock formations on the beach
Once upon the beach, well, I could hear but not see the lighthouse as a thick boa constrictor of fog strangled the life out of the sunny ocean views. Tortured metaphor aside, visibility was quite limited on the beach and the main attraction (the lighthouse) remained sleeping under the thick foggy blanket. The beach route going south was likewise hidden, so I decided to turn back. No sense hiking down the beach only to find access to Sunset Bay impassable, I'll retry this on a sunnier day where I can better judge the feasibility of the intended route.

So, back to the car I go and going up the rope was not quite as much fun as coming down, I didn't happily bleat like a goat on the way up. Still in the mood to change up the normal route though, I decided to hike from Sunset Bay to Shore Acres and then take the hidden perimeter trail that I had hiked on once before with the South Coast Striders.

Fern tongue

It had been baking hot (I often use a different adjective, also ending in "king", to better describe the run of hot weather) and it was getting to be so not-funny. It seemed inconceivable that anywhere else outside of Roseburg could be anything but a dry sauna; therefore I was clad in shorts and a tank top. Oops. At Cape Arago, the weather was cold and foggy, the air had a liquidity to it that stopped just short of being actual rain, and me without any raincoat or jacket. Oh well, the exertion of navigating the steep ups and downs of the perimeter trail would hopefully be enough to keep me warm.

The tide was well out and the ocean was quiet. There were few hikers encountered on the trail and the mist muffled sound, making for woods peaceful and still. Periodically, the trail ran alongside the Cape Arago Highway and every now and then the odd car slowly passed by, tires hissing on the wet pavement. Ripe salmonberries were there for the picking and the hike was berry nice at times. I have the orange juice stains on my lips to prove it.

Still life with foxglove and aphids
At Shore Acres State Park, I left the coast trail and crossed the Cape Arago Highway. The perimeter trail begins there but you have to know exactly where it is as the trail is unsigned and impossible to see from the road. Displaying the secret South Coast Strider sign, I pushed aside the brush and began hiking uphill on a trail surrounded by blooming rhododendron and foxglove.

Flies waiting...just waiting
A brisk climb took me to the top of the ridge that marks the park boundary and I had basically climbed into the low cloud cover, the woods were now mysteriously misty. In less mysterious fashion, the overhead skein of tree branches sifted the mist and fog, making sure to drip water on one lone hiker improperly attired in shorts and tank top. 

Went down into the ravine and then over the hill...yup

The upper section of the trail has some serious ups and downs as it dropped into and out of several ravines. I got my exercise in and kept plenty warm with the exertion. Whew! On the final pitch downwards, it was really hard to maintain traction on the muddy trail and I had more than a few impromptu ski runs. When I got home, I noticed my boot tread was totally worn, which would explain the slipping and sliding. As an aside, that particular little problem was later remedied on a mid-week excursion to REI, a true Happy Place on Earth.

The Cape Arago Trail provides great views of the coast
On the descent, the trail joined up with the old pack road leading to and from the group day use site and it was nice to not have to worry about sudden and unexpected mud-ski runs. Now at Cape Arago itself, I was back on familiar territory and it was a perfunctory hike back to Sunset Bay as the day darkened. Periodically, I'd work my way to a cliffy viewpoint to see what I could see, which wasn't much.

A bee hugs a sneezeweed flower
Even though I was wet and cold at the end of the hike, I deigned to turn on the car heater. There would be plenty of heat waiting for me in Roseburg and I gladly shivered in the wet air. It felt good to be cold, if even for just one day.

Future blackberry fruit
For more pictures of  the hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Most entertaining blog post today. Great pics on Flickr. Thanks for brightening my day.