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a midnight visitation

I’m up and away early to avoid early morning dog walkers – the worst scourge of the demi-urban wild camper.

Today, I have an evening destination in mind and it is about sixty miles (100 kilometres) away which is, in theory, an easier day than the previous three or four. I want to camp at the Cape Lookout State Park campground. Oregon has a sweet deal for bikers and walk-in campers, with a fee of a mere $4 for each camper. That is a price I’m certainly willing to pay for the luxury of access to hot showers and not having to worry about early morning dog walkers.

I ride briskly for 40 miles before turning off Highway 101 onto the road leading to Cape Lookout. I have a copy of the Oregon Coast Bike Route map so I am forewarned that the gradients are steep but I am always happy to leave the major roads behind me.

The road to Cape Lookout.

On the highway.

The road is steep in places but nothing desperate and I arrive at Cape Lookout in the late afternoon with enough time to walk on the beach, set up camp and cook before dark. The extensive hiker/biker camp, which is hidden among trees close to the beach, is practically deserted. There is one rather unsociable biker already there when I arrive and another young cyclist, who I met previously at a campground a few days before in Washington, turns up as I am returning from the beach. We greet each other but both retire early.

I wake in the night to furtive scurryings. I would like to ignore them but as I roll over another rustle drags my unwilling attention out of the realms of sleep. The boy who arrived in the camp after me had mentioned that the ranger had warned him to hang his food. I sit up, fumble for my torch and struggle out of the tent.

A circle of glowing red eyes reflects my torch-light back to me. My food pannier is lying on the ground amongst a circle of racoons, who continue eating unabashed by my presence. Plastic bags are torn open and what is left of my food is scattered on the ground. I approach and they retreat unwillingly. I falter, slightly nonplussed by the sheer quantity of them – I am definitely out-numbered – and brazenly, they advance. I stamp my foot. They hesitate.

Racoon - this is not, in fact, one of the culprits involved in the raid on my pannier but one I encountered at another campsite. I was too beleagured to take a photo of the racoon mob at Cape Lookout.

Racoon - this is not, in fact, one of the culprits involved in the raid on my pannier but one I encountered at another campsite. I was too beleagured to take a photo of the racoon mob at Cape Lookout.

I decide the creatures are small enough to not pose a real threat and rush into the middle of the chaos. The only thing the animals haven’t eaten is my coffee and my spices. Everything else – oats, pasta, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit – has been devoured.

I pick up the tattered shreds of plastic that is all that remains of my food supply and tie it into a bundle, simultaneously cursing and thanking my lucky stars that this didn’t happen in one of the more remote areas I passed through. I check the pannier anxiously but it seems to be intact; thankfully, the racoons have managed to pull everything out without damaging it. Rather too late in the evening, I find the rope that I carry for the purpose and hang my food pannier, along with the bundle of plastic still containing odd scraps of food, from a branch out of reach, I hope, of renewed assault. I return to my tent.

In the morning, I get up and, given my circumstances, decide to go for a walk on the beach without breakfasting.

Sun rise is also disorientating for an east coast girl on the west coast.

Sunrise is also disorientating for an east coast girl on the west coast.

Soothing views to help me recover from the racoon incident.

Soothing views to help me recover from the racoon incident.

I love the Pacific Ocean.

I love the Pacific Ocean.

When I return the young cyclist I spoke to yesterday is preparing his breakfast. I go to tell him of my midnight visitors and, generously, he cuts his cinnamon role in half and offers it to me. He also provides me with half a red grapefruit and an apple which I gratefully accept.

A chipmunk capitalising on the event.

A chipmunk cleaning up the remnants of my oats in the morning.

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