Thursday, July 20th, 2023, 0500-1950
Cape Arago, Sunset Bay SP to Bandon
25 miles, Gain 1000′, Loss 1000′, elevation 85′
For some reason, I was wide awake around 4 am, so I just started packing and was walking the trail in the dark. It was nice and quickly I was at the campground. I was surprised to see several Oregon Coast markers at the trailhead. I hadn’t been relying on them much, which was a good thing. I used the bathroom and saw a warning sign about there not being hot water, so I was glad I hadn’t stayed at the hiker biker site. All I’d wanted was the shower…my site in the enchanted forest was way better than being crammed in with a bunch of tents, surrounded by RVs. I walked to the coast and followed a series of trails connecting to all the overlooks and the botanical gardens at Shore Acres. Sadly, the gardens themselves were closed but I could walk through the expanse of coastal forest. I saw more OCT signs, which was funny.
Near the end of the road, I came to several lookouts over Simpson’s Reef, a rock outcropping that the seals and sealions love. I could hear the sealions barking from almost a mile away and it was the first time I’d seen them in Oregon. I wished that I had binoculars because there were supposed to be both California and Steller sealions, along with elephant seals. From the road’s end, I followed a pack trail towards the top of the Cape. The trail showed on my maps, plus I had a track line from Trailcrew, plotting the route he took. I turned onto a spur trail which became a bit overgrown but clearly was an old road…I hiked a lot of these kind of old roads on the PNT. After half a mile or so, it became a regular logging road, which I followed for several more miles out to the Seven Devils road.
I briefly contemplated following a powerline that looked like a nice shortcut, but then thought better of it. I’m so glad I did, because where the powerline rejoined Seven Devils was horrendously overgrown with blackberries, not to mention that I probably would have trespassed over a lot of private property. I learned a thing or 2 about bushwhacking on the PNT as well…as in, don’t do it. Trailcrew had bushwhacked over to an earlier beach so that he didn’t ever even hit Seven Devils road, but it just didn’t seem worth it to me. Overall, it was nice to see the sights along Cape Arago but the alternate route was certainly not shorter or a time-savings. I’d guess that it adds about 3 or 4 miles, but at least there are a few State Parks along the way, plus plenty of opportunities for stealth camping.
I walked the dirt road as fast as I could and only about 3 vehicles passed me. Once again, I was moving fast to hit a feature called Fivemile Point by mid-tide. I made it to the beach and only went a mile before the point. The tide was still out quite far and it was easy to slide by. I enjoyed looking in the tide pools, then took a lunch break. I’d gone about 15 miles and it was only 11 am. The afternoon brought about 4 more miles of very pleasant beach walking. The morning had been foggy then overcast, but the sun slowly came out and the day was glorious. I ran into one NOBO hiker and we chatted very briefly. I asked if he’d seen any other SOBO’s and he said there was a woman camping near him at Bullard’s Beach Hiker Biker last night, so I was about half a day behind her. Besides him, I hadn’t seen any hikers in almost 3 days. I ran into more hikers hiking the Hayduke. I turned off at the beach exit to Bullards Beach Campground, where I loitered at the hiker biker site for awhile. There was no one else there, since it was the middle of the day.
I continued on towards Bandon, crossing the Coquille river on the last of the McCullough bridges (I think). This one had no official sidewalk but did have a raised platform on the edge that I was able to cat-walk along. Good thing too, since the passing cars payed absolutely no mind to the warning about there being a cyclist/pedestrian on the bridge. There’s a button you can push, like at a stoplight crosswalk, that causes lights to flash. Cars are supposed to slow from 45 mph (the usual speed over the bridge) down to 30. I don’t think a single car was going under 60 mph. In fact, a fire truck came screaming by, sirens blaring, while I was in the middle and he must have been pushing 70 mph. I’m glad they are fast to respond to fires but what about pedestrians caught in the cross-fire? I jumped up on the cat-walk and felt secure enough, but was glad to get past quickly. I even jogged a bit in-between vehicles.
The route turned off onto a river drive side-road, which I’m not sure was better than the highway. It had no shoulder and a fair bit of traffic. Worst of all, this was where the house fire was. The road was closed at that point and I was worried that I might have to turn around to go all the way back to the highway. They let me slide by and I waved to my fireman friends that had almost mowed me down on the bridge. But at least it looked like they got the fire out! I headed to a nearby corner store market (Wilsons) and was pleased to find they offered tacos and burritos. I got a burrito (very portable), beer and tea to have at the picnic table outside, along with some staples for the next stretch. I hadn’t been carrying more than one day’s worth of food basically this whole trip.
I took a late afternoon stroll through the charming waterfront town, admiring all the artwork on display along the wharf. There were also some really cool sculptures, made by local artists with reclaimed beach plastic. I’d seen signs and collection bins for this project, Washed Ashore, meant to bring about awareness of the overwhelming plastic problem in our oceans (and around the whole planet). I was really happy to see something like this. I’d stated that my favorite towns had been Manzanita, then Yachats, then Florence, but now Bandon unseated them all. It’s kind of like how I declared every new canyon along the Hayduke as my new favorite canyon.
What Bandon really had going for it was a fantastic collection of sea stacks and offshore islands along its beaches. The series forms the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and was just chocked full of animals that would make a marine biologist swoon. I hit it during the early evening low tide and the place just was magical. I took so many pictures and wondered around all the exposed rocks, peeping into the caves and tide pools. I saw the cutest baby harbor seal laying on some rocks next to a few adults. And just tons of birds. I wanted to stay longer but it was already past 7 pm and I still needed to find a camp spot. Earlier I’d checked the google and was shocked to see some of the hotel prices…everything was around $200 or more. No way. It was several more miles to make it clear of town, so I sniffed out a park that seemed promising, with a dense fortress of trees.
I quickly re-discovered why stealth camping in a town is not a good idea…other ‘stealth campers’ suck. Rather, the tweakers had also seen the woods as a great place to shoot up and wallow in their filth and debris. In following a few paths, they quickly led to some really alarming scenes. I backtracked out of there quick, probably too quick in retrospect as I should have been more careful not to step on needles. I only saw one person but the piles of trash and refuse were very saddening. It’s so weird to find myself in the intersection of such lifestyles. I’d been seeking the same kinds of shelter in the forest but my aim is to never leave any trace and move on early the next morning. It makes me so mad to see these beautiful forests being trashed like this but I don’t know who to be mad at. Governments for the lack of affordable housing? Airbnb for driving up housing prices? Drug Dealers? It’s a very complex problem. It feels awkward to blame the tweakers when I’m the one also looking for a free place to stay. Still, no one has the right to trash public spaces like that, yet it seems to be human nature to do so.
I walked further south through a gorse-infested field and settled on a spot under some low trees. I think I was technically on a mega-church property but I figured they ought to be somewhat charitable. I’d stayed in many church hostels on the AT and CDT, after all. It was almost dark and I planned to leave at dawn, but after seeing the mess others had caused in the forest, I could certainly understand why no one would want someone camping in their backyard. At least I seemed to be out of sight and would cause no trouble to anyone.