Cape Arago Loop (Oregon Coast) 12-Aug-2021

Our third and last hike at the coast involved traversing Cape Arago on a collection of different trails. The Cape Arago Pack Trail is the most obvious of these, with clearly signed trailheads on the Cape Arago Highway. But we’d heard about another trail – “New Trail” or “East Trail” or “East Loop” or “Perimeter Trail” – that connected with the Pack Trail and made for a slightly longer hike. That was our goal for this hike. We left Bandon under overcast skies, which wasn’t a worry since we’d be spending the early part of the hike under the canopy of the coastal forest.

But first, we had to find the right trailhead. The trailhead for the Pack Trail is clearly signed, but it’s not the one we sought. The East Trail (name per Henderson’s Oregon Coast trail guide, 2015 Edition) starts at an unsigned, and barely discernible, trailhead 0.3 miles (0.5 km) north of the Pack Trail trailhead on the Cape Arago Highway, across from a service road and just north of a parking area. If we hadn’t been looking for it, we might not have found it.

Looking north along the Cape Arago Highway, with the East Trail Trailhead (arrow) across from a service road (S)

While obscure at first, this trail quickly blossomed into a solid single-track that took us up and around the east and south edges of Shore Acres State Park. Part of it passes through the scar of a long ago wildfire but most of it is under the forest canopy. There was one short section where the trail was carved through some serious brush, but otherwise it was open, easy walking. Soon after we started, we began hearing the Ork! Ork! Ork! calls from the sea lions and seals hanging out at Simpson Reef. Their melodious 🙄 croaking would be with us off and on for the entire hike.

The trail not far from the highway
Lush vegetation along the trail
Through the burn scar
Back in the unburned forest
Some mushrooms were still around
We found out what was nibbling away at the mushrooms
Through the forest
Red Henbit

After 2 miles (3.2 km) on the East Trail, we came to its unsigned junction with the Pack Trail and went south on that trail, which is a double-track that soon devolves into a single-track. Where the Pack Trail starts downhill, we passed an unsigned junction with a trail that would have taken us south to Arago Peak (and some logging roads) if we were so inclined. We weren’t, and stayed on the Pack Trail. Along in here we passed from Shore Acres State Park to Cape Arago State Park.

(1) East Trail, (2) Cape Arago Pack Trail
Continuing on the Pack Trail
Serious maintenance work long the Pack Trail

We descended the Pack Trail to just short of its end at the end of the Cape Arago Highway. Then, at an unsigned junction, we turned north on a trail that took us over to the parking lot at the Simpson Reef viewpoint.

Simpson Reef
Sea Lions (arrow)

After a snack at the viewpoint, we found the Cape Arago Shoreline Trail and followed it, past several excellent viewpoints, to an old road that took us back to the start of the Pack Trail. From there it was a very short walk along the highway to where we’d parked.

Along the Shoreline Trail
Rocky coast
Rocks, waves, and trees at the bench viewpoint
Breakers

Another short hike (4.6 miles (7.5 km) with 900 feet (274 m) of gain) but a good one given the varied terrain we traversed plus the views from the Shoreline Trail. Plus the cool, clear air. And, of course, the orking sea lions and seals. 😄

(1) East Trail, (2) the part of the Pack Trail we didn’t hike, (3) the part of the Pack Trail we did hike plus the side trail to Simpson Reef, (4) Cape Arago Shoreline Trail, (5) the side trail to Arago Peak, (6) the Cape Arago Pack Trail Trailhead

Thus our brief escape to the sea came to an end and we returned – with more than a little reluctance – to the heat and smoke of interior Oregon. 😥 This time the shift from breathing to gasping was especially jarring. Why that is we’re not sure since this is the sixth year in a row we’ve had a summer plagued by heat and smoke. Maybe because this year is hotter and we’re now well into extreme drought? Maybe because we’re embarrassed for having underestimated the pace of climate change? Can’t say exactly. But these circumstances have prompted us to consider what our options might be if this “new” climate has even more wretchedness in store for Southern Oregon. Just talk for the moment but possibly not indefinitely… 🤔

A smokey sunset at the mouth of the Coquille River
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3 comments

  1. The Shoreline Trail was a particularly nice part of this hike.
    A miracle would probably be needed to alter the climate trajectory we seem to have set ourselves upon. You were fortunate in that there was a place waiting for you in Florida – a place you were already familiar with. For us, such a change would be a launch into the unknown. Hence we’re still at the “talking about our options” stage.

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  2. So pretty, I love that trail from Sunset Campground to Cape Arago and back.

    I’m intrigued to hear more of your thinking about your options. As you know, we never would have sold our home in Ashland were it not for the drought, wildfires and smoke that have worsened over the last decade. And tragically, short of a miracle, I don’t see how things are going to improve.

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