November 5 to 8 2014 Sunset Bay State Park

Current Location: Sunset Bay Oregon: clear skies and 43 degrees F at 7am

I know I promised more on the wedding, but that will just have to wait a bit.  We are camped on the Oregon Coast, and it is time to write about what is happening right now.

When November rolls around, our thoughts often turn to the Oregon Coast.  With an unwritten rule that we get out in the MoHo at least once each month, a trip to the coast is easy.  A quick jaunt over the mountain to visit the cottage in Grants Pass, do a few little cottage chores, and then we are close enough to be at the ocean in a couple of hours.

hiking Cape Arago (32 of 37)This time of year, weather on the Oregon coast can be anything from balmy sunshine to driving rain and wind with everything in between.  About the only thing I didn’t pack for this trip was shorts.  Not long ago I succumbed to Laurie’s (Laurie and Odel from Semi True Tales of our Life on the Road) inspiration and bought a tiny little pink thingy, the Fit Bit.  I have committed to the 10,000 steps a day routine that is supposedly the key to staying reasonably fit.

hiking Cape Arago (1 of 37)Knowing that it could be wet and cold for my daily hikes, I brought an extra bin full of coats and poly fleece stuff that hopefully would keep me warm.  One thing about camping in a motorhome in a lovely state park nowhere near a laundry is the wet stuff draped all around the rig in an attempt to dry it out a bit.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

As long time readers know, our park of choice is often Harris Beach State Park.  It is the closest to Grants Pass, and we love so many things about staying there.  Sometimes driving up the coast we have checked out other parks and thought, “Oh, let’s try this one someday”, but nope…back to Harris Beach we go.  It has cable TV, good wifi and cell phone reception, a gorgeous walking beach, and is just minutes from town and shopping.

However, this time we had to come up with an alternative.  Harris Beach State Park is temporarily closed for a few weeks while they repave the park roads.  We looked at our maps and at last made plans to camp at a park we have long eyed, Humbug Mountain State Park, just south of Port Orford.  We then thought it would be nice to get to the coast a different way, and decided to drive north to Roseburg, travel west along Highway 42 toward Coos Bay, and camp once again at Sunset Bay State Park for a few days before continuing south to Humbug Mountain.

hiking Cape Arago (36 of 37)Neither of us could remember when we camped at Sunset Beach, but we both remembered the scary waves when we kayaked the bay! A quick review of the blog revealed that our last trip here was back in 2009, when I still lived in California.  I traveled north for a visit in July and we spent three days here before traveling east along the Umpqua River for some waterfall hikes.  Definitely a good thing I write the blog or we would have had no clue when we were last here.

I did notice that my blog writing style has definitely shifted.  So many details of that visit were omitted on the previous blog post, including our space number, and all I know for sure is that we had a full hookup site. With a bit of sleuthing, I did find a photo of our site number, A-10.

01_Sunset_Bay-2Sunset Beach lists an RV dump in the brochure amenities, but what they don’t say is that the dump is miles south at Bullard Beach State Park!  In spite of the on site sewer, they also ask that you don’t actually dump in that spot due to possible overflow.  Excuse me?  Why pay for a sewer site if they don’t want you to use it?  Makes no sense to me.

Last Wednesday afternoon, the skies were bright and sunny as we settled into our spot on the A loop.  The park was very nearly empty, and we had our choice of several sites.  I got out the compass and searched for an opening in the southern skies, thinking we had it nailed for the satellite.  We settled in to A-24, hooked up all the goodies and started up the satellite finder.  No go.  With not much else to do on this quiet afternoon, we decided to move a couple of sites down to see if we could get a better signal.

01_Sunset_Bay-5No laughing here!  With three days planned in predicted 100 percent rain, and no internet, TV would be a nice diversion, and was definitely worth the move! Before long we were settled once again, this time in A-28, with a clear view of the southern skies and no trees at that critical 145 degree angle where the satellites hide.  Perfect.

hiking Cape Arago (8 of 37)One of the nicest things about this park are the trails.  There are over 12 miles of developed trails, including portions of the Oregon Coast Trail that lead south toward Shore Acres State park and then beyond toward Cape Arago State Park, both day use areas without camping.

hiking Cape Arago (4 of 37)That afternoon, with the fitbit logging steps, and the GPS app on the phone logging time, Mo and I set off south for a hike toward Shore Acres. The map for the trails is less than optimal, and with no cell signal we had no clue how far we traveled. I kept thinking we should have arrived at the park, but after an hour and a half, we decided to turn around.  It was getting late and with more than my 10,000 steps logged, I decided that the park destination could wait till the next day.

hiking Cape Arago (2 of 37)All night long we were serenaded by heavy rain, just as predicted, and we spent a lovely morning with a full breakfast, coffee, and the news, while I wrote some more on the Vermont visit for the blog.  Mo read and I sewed bindings on quilts for a time and then finally I decided it was time to brave the rain and get in those steps. It is amazing how that little pink thing keeps one motivated.

My raincoat turned out to be less than optimal and it was soaking wet on the inside when I returned, along with my clothes which were soaking wet from the inside.  Geez…all that walking in all that humidity really makes things wet everywhere, inside and out. 

hiking Cape Arago (20 of 37)As the afternoon cleared, Mo and I took off with the car and our camp receipt so that we could park at Shore Acres State Park without paying the $5. fee.  We enjoyed the beautiful gardens on our last visit, but this time we wanted to hike the Oregon Coast Trail from Shore Acres to the viewpoint at Cape Arago. 

hiking Cape Arago (25 of 37)Again, the maps are less than optimal, and the trails are not well marked.  Instead of staying on the main trail, we found ourselves on the Group Site trail, which follows the deep gorges and hills east of the Cape Arago Road.  In addition to the steps, we got a good deal of steep ups and downs before arriving at the nearly empty Cape Arago park. 

hiking Cape Arago (15 of 37)The viewpoint is magnificent, overlooking the ocean and wild surf directly below and views for miles to the north and to the south. 

hiking Cape Arago (14 of 37)The hike home was a bit more simple, since we chose to follow the trail directly adjacent to the road and skipped all the ups and downs of the group trail. I haven’t had any trouble getting in my 10,000 steps per day, and more often than not on this trip, I seem to be going over 15,000 per day.  I plan to keep up the pace, and hopefully the coming winter weather at home won’t stop me. Motion X GPS app on my phone had a hard time finding the signal on the hike, since we didn’t have cell service, but when I arrived tonight in an area with internet, I could see our path on google maps.  Good job, iPhone!cape arago hike

Ready for an early afternoon supper, we decided to return three miles to Charleston and search out a restaurant to have something fishy.  There are several small restaurants in town, including one that we tried on our previous visit that was excellent, and another one that I tried many years ago with another friend.  Wanting something new, we settled on the High Tides Cafe, right on the main road on the west side of South Slough.

hike 4 (1 of 6)While a bit spendy, it was a great choice, with tables overlooking the slough, a delightful waiter who gave excellent service, and very good food.  I had the special Cajun Tuna steaks with some kind of risotto garnished with tomato and avocado. Mo also had tuna, fish and chips, but she had the option to pick a lightly breaded and grilled style rather than the heavy beer battered fish that can sometimes be so greasy.  Both of our meals were perfect, and when our waiter brought out the dessert tray we couldn’t resist the amazing pumpkin nutty pie topped with whipped cream to share with our coffee.  Yum!

hike 4 (5 of 6)Friday morning dawned clear and bright as predicted, not a cloud in the sky.  Even with the clear skies, however,  things were pretty damp, including all my clothes hanging about the rig.

hike 4 (6 of 6)After a relaxing morning, I decided to attempt to find the trail from here to Shore Acres and then to backtrack and find out where Mo and I turned around.  I succeeded in finding the easy trail to Shore Acres, but skipped the long way out on the bluffs and returned via the simple trail to camp.

Day 3 Cape Arago Lighthouse (3 of 16)Later in the afternoon, Mo and I took off walking north toward the Bay, and searched for a trail on the northern bluff that would allow a better view of the Cape Arago Lighthouse.  The trail was very nearly vertical, and darn slippery with all the previous rain, but we managed to get to the top.  Once there, however, the trail leveled off, and the going got a bit crazy, with a jungle of thick salal and other vegetation making the narrow trail a bit difficult to navigate.

Day 3 Cape Arago Lighthouse (4 of 16)Finally emerging from the forest into a large grassy area, we saw the lovely lighthouse against the sky.  The building is on an island, and we could see old bridge abutments below the bluff, where once it may have been possible to get to the island.  In the late afternoon sun, the view was beautiful.

Day 3 Cape Arago Lighthouse (11 of 16)Returning along the grassy area, we discovered a chained off area that contained gravestone, and then another memorial stating that we were in a Native American cemetery.  UhOh.  Then as we returned toward the forest, we discovered the “No Trespassing” sign.  Hmmm.  Remembering that I had read somewhere that this lighthouse was now owned and operated by the local tribes, I realized that we were probably somewhere we were not supposed to be.

Day 3 Cape Arago Lighthouse (5 of 16)As we walked out the main entrance road, we came to a locked gate, and we were on the wrong side!  Ok then…back into the woods, searching through the brush to find a trail and get past the gate, we finally wound our way around to a small trail that led us out to the main highway.

Day 3 Cape Arago Lighthouse (9 of 16)I guess seeing the Cape Arago lighthouse from this viewpoint isn’t something that can be done without some kind of special permission.  Be aware that if you hike up from Sunset Bay through the brush, you will have no way of knowing that you are in a restricted area. Here is a link to the history of this beautiful light on what is called Chiefs Island.

Last night we had supper at our picnic table, enjoying the big hot fire that Mo built with wood we brought from home.  The parks often have firewood available, but it is often not very dry and hard to burn.  Since we didn’t have to enter California on this trip to the coast, we were able to bring our own nicely dried and split firewood.

Today again we have sunshine, and our plans will take us south along the Seven Devils Road toward Bandon, where we plan to camp at Bullard Beach and spend an afternoon searching out delicacies, including Face Rock cheese and little pots of hot drinking chocolate.


Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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