Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cape Arago Night Hike 12/2017

Merry Christmas, everybody! Of course, it's late January as I type out this missive so a very, very, very belated "Season's Greetings!" to all my readers (assuming I have any). I suppose I could take the position that I am seasonally greeting far in advance of next Christmas but everybody knows I'm not that organized. Anyway, the reason Christmas came up is that the hike I'm writing about today is my semi-annual Christmas night hike to Shore Acres and Cape Arago. And by "semi-annual", I mean not quite every year, it sort of depends on my mood, the weather, and whether my followers have sufficiently sung enough laudatory praises and accolades. Whining helps, too.

Cape Aragaliens
This year, enough sycophantic-toned requests for this hike rolled in, and it looked like the weather was going to give us a break. Since I was in the mood too, it was a perfect storm of proper hiking conditions and this hike was quickly penciled onto the hiking calendar. Unlike years past, the Roseburg contingent showing up for the hike was sparse, consisting of me, Daweson, Diana, and Brad. However, a like-numbered crew from Coos Bay showed up, bringing our numbers up to a more proper 8 hikers.

The spectacular coast at Cape Arago
Strange though, when we arrived at Sunset Bay at the duly appointed hour, it was just us Roseburgians. Turned out, some of the Coos Bayliens (ha, just made that up!) had parked further up the large parking lot and Rachel, who was parked right next to where we would park, wandered over there to talk to them. While they were all prattling their Coos Bay prattle, we were industriously lacing up our boots and setting out on the trail. Thinking we were running late, our Coos Bay friends waited another half-hour before Rachel took charge and led them on a very fast hike to catch up with us, which they did at Cape Arago. I believe that was the very first time Rachel ever led a hike and she did such a fine job, she earned a spot on the "list" of upcoming hike leaders. Of course, her biggest fear was that we would not be at the cape and she'd have to lead her people back in the inky black of night. 

Phatasmagorical rock formation
My grandson Daweson is a growing lad, so his boots fit too tight and he popped some debilitating blisters. Darn kid needs to stop growing so fast! Because of the blisters, he had to put out at Shore Acres and Diana stayed with him, so it was just me and Brad continuing on to Cape Arago. As we hiked along the rugged coast, the sun was sinking low in the late afternoon and waves lapped up against the shoreline cliffs. Brad made some comment about large waves and I responded with a dismissive "Pssh", explaining to him that this was low tide and he should come back during high tide to see what real waves looked like.

Simpson Beach was a sea lion sick bay
Simpson Beach was under quarantine as a sick sea lion was recuperating on the sand. Apparently there is an outbreak of leptopirosis affecting sea lions all along the Oregon coast. Respecting the wishes of the park, we merely sideswiped a corner of the beach as we continued hiking south to Cape Arago. And by the way, the following Monday I called in sick with leptopirosis and they bought it!

"You go first!"
The weather gods were so very kind to us at Cape Arago. It had been a semi cloudy, semi-sunny day and a raft of clouds hovered overhead, ready and fully prepared to squelch a would-be spectacular sunset. But when the sun slipped below the clouds, the sky and sea turned brilliant orange while appreciative hikers oohed and aahed. I was fully engrossed taking pictures of the sunset show when somebody smacked me in the back of my head and said in a British accent "There you are!" And a "Happy Trails!" to you too, Rachel. 

There is no sunset like an Oregon coastal sunset and we enjoyed the show as we pieced together the events that led us to hike in two separate groups. As the sun dropped behind the horizon, we gathered up our gear and headed back the way we had come. We enjoyed the view of the coast as day morphed into night and finally, I whipped out my puny headlamp and officially commenced the night hike portion of this hike.

Rachel models the proper night hike attire and attitude
Suddenly, behind me, there was a huge blinding light that illuminated virtually all of southern Oregon. In fact, the astronauts in the space lab orbiting the planet reported an unusual "light event" on the west coast of the United States. Jets were scrambled to find the source and Area 51 went to threat level "Bright Light". Well, it was just Brad and his atomic-powered headlamp. I'm not sure how many lumens it was putting out, but it was bright as a miniature sun, overpowering all the headlamps in front of him. Plus, it kept us warm as we hiked through the cold night.

One small piece of the Shore Acres gardens
Besides a spectacular Cape Arago sunset, one other reason for doing this hike at night during Christmas season is to cruise through the Shore Acres gardens. Shore Acres was once the baronial estate of timber magnate Louis J. Simpson. The actual lordly mansion at Shore Acres burned down and no longer exists but the caretaker's cottage is still there, presiding over some stately gardens. And this time of year, the gardens are bedecked with Christmas lights of every color possible within the visible light spectrum. A plethora of kinetic light displays offer up flying pelicans, leaping frogs and splashing orcas while Christmas carolers serenade visitors from a brightly lit pavilion. I was still wearing my headlamp (turned off) and a woman asked me where the cave was. Seriously, that really did happen.

Fierce creatures
After enjoying the lights in the garden it was time to head back. There is a point where you have to cross a road and find a faint path to the main trail but with the assistance of Brad's atomic light, it was unusually easy to find. As we walked through a pitch-black forest I was telling Daweson about how you can often see eyes reflecting back at you when you wear headlamps. And right on cure, four eyes were floating in the forest ahead of us. Upon closer inspection it was a mother deer and her fawn. They disappeared in a puff of smoke when Brad shined his atomic light beam on them.

Daweson models his teenager's angst
Anyway, a good time was had by all, except for maybe Daweson's right foot. We'll have to do that again in a couple of years and Merry Christmas, everyone!

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


  1. I've visited Shore Acres garden in the spring, but looks like a Christmas-time visit is in order! Lovely.

    1. Put it on the list, along with a fall hike on the Upper Rogue