Adventures in Oregon: Cape Lookout
After we explored Cape Kiwanda, we continued up the coast to do some hiking at Cape Lookout State Park. Quite a few other folks seemed to have the same idea, as the parking lot was crowded when we pulled in. There are three main trails to choose from: Cape Trail, South Trail and North Trail. As far as we could tell, the majority of foot traffic seemed to be on the Cape Trail, so we headed down South Trail which zigzags down 1.8 miles to the beach. The descent is pretty sharp, dropping in elevation about 840 feet, so it made for a fairly easy hike down. I’m not sure if Sasha and Annie would agree with that assessment, however. We’ve been working on their leash manners, and that hike was all about the ‘Heel.’ To walk side by side with humans is just one step above taking a nap for Annie and Sasha – those two definitely have a need for speed. But they obeyed and we were very pleased with their walking.
Walking down the trail, you spend the majority of the hike amidst tall trees and dense vegetation that keep you rather in the dark. Every now and then, you’d get the tiniest peak of the beach below but for the most part, you don’t really see it until the trail abruptly empties into the sand and into the light.
When we walked out onto the beach, it seemed as though we walked into another world. Sunshine streamed down from above while a faint misty fog hovered around the cape, casting a dreamlike quality to the water and the land. The quiet and stillness and solitude of the beach all added to the effect. It truly felt like this was our own private little piece of the world.
As the beach curves north into the cape, the sand gives way to smooth, dark rocks before narrowing into nothing.
With the privacy and protection that the beach offered, we decided to let the dogs run free for a little bit. For Sawyer, this was no big deal and nothing new. But for Annie and Sasha – this was a life-changing moment. And I might as well add, it was for me, too.
Having worked at an animal shelter, I’ve seen so many ‘lost’ dogs – dogs that either wandered away from home or got loose from their owners. Annie herself came to the shelter as a stray and who knows how she ended up there. As a result, I am fiercely over-protective of my dogs and very cautious about preventing any possibility of them being separated from us. Case in point: our entire yard (front and back) is fenced in and we have an additional tall metal ex-pen that encircles the gate so the dogs have zero access to a potential exit; chickenwire runs along the bottom of the fence to counter any digging.
Add to my general worry the fact that time and time again, I’ve been told by well-meaning people that ‘you can never have a hound off-leash.’ As a result, I have been incredibly stubborn about giving Sasha and Annie a chance to be off-leash, a chance to put into practice all the things we have taught them.
Andrew has brought up the question plenty of times – when will we decide they’re ready to be trusted …. or will we ever? It is in their nature to follow a scent and explore and run – all these things bring them the utmost happiness. After a great deal of thinking, I realized by denying them the chance to run without me holding them back, I was denying them some of the most joyful aspects of a dog’s life. The truth of the matter is that we have poured a great deal of training into them and they are smart, well-behaved and loyal. They are amazing pets. But they are also dogs – dogs with a spirit that yearns for just a taste of pure freedom.
And so, I realized it was time for Sasha and Annie to have that taste. Their hard work in obedience earned my trust.
First, we dropped the leashes and let them do some exploring by us. Annie’s first order of business was to promptly drop to the ground and roll gleefully in what appeared to be a tangled mass of seaweed but was actually a dead bird. Awesome.
Then, we removed the leashes and let them go. Annie literally jumped up in the air and gave out a yelp of glee. And then she was running. In fact, I think Annie was actually flying – she was moving so fast, I don’t think her paws even hit the ground. I have never seen such sheer joy as I saw on that dog’s face when she was running. She was in absolute heaven. Not to be outdone, Sasha ran like the wind, with swiftness and grace. If you look very closely in the photo below, you can see them running in the distance.
They would run, stop, sniff and repeat, tails wagging fiercely the entire time. I think if Sasha could have done a somersault out of happiness, she would have.
I wish I had taken a video of them running but eventually the worrywart within came tumbling out and I grew anxious at how far they had run. Andrew and I trotted after them, calling them back. Sasha reluctantly stopped running and waited for her dad but Annie was lost in her ‘runner’s high’ and tried to get in a few more sprints before obeying. Her disobedience lasted probably all of 10 seconds but it was enough to give me a mild heart attack. Time to put the leash back on.
She was a bit sulky about the fact that she was the only one on a leash as Sawyer and Sasha strolled along the beach with us, free to wander as they pleased. But those are the breaks, kid – you listen or you’re leashed.
Sasha did her best to be teacher’s pet again and I was very proud of her. She’s definitely one smart cookie (especially when she knows there are cookies as a reward!).
Despite Annie’s few seconds of feigned deafness, the dogs behaved very well. And despite my heart being in my throat during those short seconds, I am so glad to have witnessed the pure joy that seemed to emanate from her as she ran. She was literally grinning like a goofball as she flew over the sand. This dog was born to run. To see her transform from a scared, unhealthy stray wary of everything to this beautiful creature full of vitality and strength and unbridled joy … I have to say, it has just been an absolute privilege to see.
And so we will do more training to ensure that she has that chance to run freely again …. and that she immediately stops in her tracks when we ask her rather than run twenty more yards before reluctantly coming to a stop.
With the light fading fast, we headed back up the (steep!) trail, racing the oncoming darkness. Going back up was no joke – we had to make up all that elevation and do it quickly, before we were in complete darkness. We got quite the workout! We did stop for one final look out as the sun dipped past the horizon. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the view and my photos did a poor job of capturing it.
So, you’ll just have to add a visit here to your bucket list so you can see the beauty in person. (Just take me with you, please!)
Enjoy your weekend! And check back next week for a recap of our visit to impossibly gorgeous Heceta Head!
Catch up on other posts in the series: