Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jacksonville Forest Park


How did Jacksonville Forest Park ever escape my attention? Why have I never hiked here? The short answer is that I'd never heard of the place. I had heard of the nearby Jacksonville Woodlands trail system which is basically just across Highway 238 from Forest Park but I had never been on those trails either, my preconceived notion being that the Woodlands trails generally lack adequate mileage. But Forest Park has many trails and so many possible routes that are most hike-worthy in terms of both mileage and scenery. Actually, I have no idea if the trails are scenic or not as I have never been on them but based on my first time out, they probably are.

A tree gets a mossy hug

This was not going to be a long hike, thank my hernia very much! I did put together a route involving the Ol' Miner's, Owl Hoot, Atsahu, Arrowhead Pass, Shade Creek, Canyon Falls, Norling, and Rail Trails. It did not escape my attention there is also a Legburner Trail in the park which could be either good or bad, depending on the mood or inclination of a certain hernia. Anyway, like a couple of urban(ish) trail systems I've been on lately, like Cathedral Hills, a good map is essential to make sense of the numerous trail junctions encountered on most any hike in the park. There also are plenty of trail signs to orient hikers unfamiliar with Forest Park who, despite having a map and decades of experience, still managed to get a little misplaced while hiking here. 

Some of that local attraction on the Ol' Miners' Trail

After a short climb through a thick forest of young madrone, the Ol' Miners' Trail entered a hydraulic mining site, which consisted of a grassy area littered with rusting mining machinery. From there, the route continued uphill to a gold mining site that was off limits with an official detour around the site. The trail was probably closed here because quite obviously, a large number of trees had fallen on the trail. It was probably easier to create a detour than remove them all, or maybe there is some other compelling reason for the reroute. However, following the detour is where and how I got myself "misplaced", despite having a good map on hand.

It was this sign's fault!

My plan was to take the Owl Hoot Trail which would be intersecting my current trail from the left. So, when I ran into an unsigned but very clear trail that surely must be Owl Hoot Trail, a left turn was duly executed. Wow, this trail did not even pretend to be nice, heading straight up an exceedingly steep ridge crest forested with hardwood trees of various ilk, some of which were sprawled in fallen profusion across the trail. To make things worse, after nearly a mile of this, the path just ended. Just like that, with no fanfare or any other proclamation of Customer Appreciation Day. After some irritated "Hoot, mon!" utterances (or some salty variations thereof), there was nothing to do but return back to the junction that had originally led me astray.

Tall madrone trees surrounded the trail

Back on the Boulder Trail, in short succession I ran into the resumption of the Ol' Miner's Trail and the real Owl Hoot trail angling to the left. My legs and hernia had given their all on the Buzzard Fart Trail (my name for that Owl Hoot Trail imposter) and they now couldn't give two hoots about the Owl Hoot Trail. So, stay on the Boulder Trail it was, and that was fine for it was a nice and mostly level walk through woods of moss-covered trees interspersed with smooth-trunked madrones.

One of many small cascades on Jackson Creek

The sound of Jackson Creek trickling through the woods became more pervasive near a nexus of several trails intersecting near the rushing stream. After briefly exploring Norling Gulch, I beat a retreat back down to Jackson Creek and began the next phase of this little woodland sortie. The pleasant Canyon Falls Trail followed the creek on down the canyon. The vibe was somewhat canyonish and there were a number of noisy cascades that bordered on waterfall status. I'm not sure if any singular one of these falls were the famed and elusive Canyon Falls or whether the entire collection is referred to as Canyon Falls, but the walk along the bounding creek was my favorite part of the whole hike.

Bridge to nowhere

The loop hike was wrapped up by way of the Rail Trail, which sports an actual railway trestle that abruptly ends halfway across a ravine. Didn't see any pile of rusting train carcasses laying at the bottom of the ravine from which I deduced the missing trestle half probably disappeared long after mining trains last ran here. The hikers' footbridge crossing semi-stagnant Jacksonville Reservoir's outlet and dam looked very much like a trestle but at least it went all the way across, unlike its railroad bridge cousin.

This way to Rattlesnake Gulch

My hiking buddies Glenn and Carol had both given me sagacious advice not to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch, despite that alluring and enticing name. Seems like it's like a Richard Hike with none of the benefits. Well, with an endorsement like that, don't you know I just wanted to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch? Especially since the trail leaving the junction with the Rail Trail didn't look all that tough as it inclined up into the oak-dotted gulch. But for today, I listened to Glenn, Carol, and my hernia and decided to save that one for later, for I will be back to this charming little park.

Mossy tree trunks were a thing on the Canyon Falls Trail

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cut Creek/Bullards Beach Loop


During my usual wintertime pastime of browsing brochures, guidebooks, and websites, I came across a horse-trail map of Bullards Beach State Park. If I began at the Coquille River Lighthouse, I could cobble together a seven to eight mile route through the coastal woods and dunes lurking behind the beach. The allure of this route was that I had never been on the Cut Creek Trail, Northern Loop, and Tsunami Trail before, so all these routes were already pre-permeated with the alluring scent of new trail. Best of all, the terrain was fairly flat for the hernia-impaired and whatever could go wrong?

New camera took a picture of an old rock

Heh heh, a lot apparently, but more on that in a bit. First off, I was really excited about this hike because not only was this a brand new trail for me, but it was both a new trail AND a new camera! I had been having technical problems with my old camera so I ordered my accountant (to whom I'm married) to drop everything immediately and buy me a new camera, stat! That didn't work too well and I had to rephrase and resubmit so it sounded more like a politely worded request, plus I had to actually ask for permission, saying "please" and "thank you" and all that stupid polite stuff. But, after four days of impatient waiting, the camera arrived and it was now time to go play and hike. I think I was so overjoyed that I nearly ran across the dunes and capered through the woods like some of my uninhibited canine friends, hernia notwithstanding.

The mighty Coquille River

At any rate, the hike began near Bullards Beach Campground and I followed the paved trail overlooking the wide Coquille River to the Cut Creek Trailhead. Along the trail, Scotch broom heralded the coming hay fever season with a few desultory but vibrantly-colored yellow flowers. The paved pathway morphed into a soft brown trail comprised of decomposing pine needles flanked by a green coastal jungle and my new camera was immediately put to work.

Yes, this really is the trail

The Cut Creek Trail is primarily a horse trail and accordingly, begins at Bullards Beach Horse Camp. Upon entering the woods right at the start, I had to step around a puddle of water on the trail. The puddle was only an inch or two deep and I could nearly step across it with one manly stride. But that was too good to last. After the first puddle came another, and another, and another, etc. Each puddle was wider and deeper than the preceding puddle. It was kind of like a computer game in that you could brag "Hey, I made it to Puddle Level 14 today!" 

A knee-deep section of trail with a nice reflection

I'm not sure who Jack was but there is a Red Jack Trail and a Black Jack Trail that lead away from Cut Creek Trail to the beach. Both trails are about a quarter-mile long and hiking on either trail was eschewed in favor of the dubious hiking glory that awaited me on several miles of water-covered Cut Creek Trail. The surrounding terrain was heavily wooded and the thick growth made it nigh impossible to bushwhack around these puddles that now bordered on the size of small lakes. To make it worse, years of usage by the horse-riding crowd had turned the trail into an earthen trough and the puddles, just like teenagers the world over, now had a lot of lip. At some point, water began pouring into my erstwhile waterproof boots from above the ankles, making feet wet and cold. My boots were still mad at me over the Threemile Lake expedition and soon became pretty warm with justified ire. However, the icy coldness of the water kept any sweltering of feet to a minimum, but I got the point.

Trail shot (kidding!)

Suddenly, the path exited the woods and traversed a sandy track that was awesomely dry. Heh heh, that was just a joke played on me by trail-makers because the deep puddles soon resumed even if the dense woods did not. This was open marsh and beachgrass country and I found myself merrily splashing past a series of lakes and ponds that fortunately, were not part of the trail. I ran into several people exploring the dunes on horseback and while they seemed nice and all, I couldn't help but notice their steeds wading in water that nearly came up to their bellies, realizing that they were walking on the trail waiting for me in my immediate future. But after steeling my resolve and hoisting the new camera high, I bravely waded across while the riders, who had stopped to watch, applauded either my bravery or foolishness.

Pictures you take when standing in the surf

Well, after nearly three miles, it was nice to get out of all the standing water and on to the relatively dry confines of Bullards Beach. I had given up on the rest of the Northern Loop which, at a trail junction, appeared to have even more water on it than the Cut Creek Trail. Anyway, my loop route would be closed by a less taxing return on Bullards Beach. As I headed south towards the Coquille River, the day gradually changed from sunny to cloudy, and the surf transitioned to high tide. Normally, I'd run from the incoming waves but what the heck, my boots and the feet contained within were already soaking wet so what would be the point. I stayed put, letting the surf wash around my ankles while I photographed the scene. 

The North Loop was even more waterlogged!

So, to summarize, this was one wet-footed endeavor whether on beach or through woods. Sounds like a great hike to me, and don't listen to my boots! For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Cooper Creek Reservoir


Some random notes and observations from a recent round of health stuff: CT scanners resemble giant electronic donuts standing on edge and as they slide you in and out of the hole like so much jelly filling, but it doesn't really seem like much of anything really happens. However, the size of the bill afterward says something large and wondrous definitely happened. Also, the iodine injection associated with the scan gave me hot flashes that made me think this manly specimen was going through manopause. And speaking of manly specimens (besides the urine sample in the paper cup), why is this particular charter member of the male species afflicted with a hernia? Shouldn't it be called a hisnia? Asking for a friend.

Bird's nest fungus adorns a twig on the forest floor

At any rate, I'm not completely banned from hiking before the requisite hernia surgery but I've been instructed not to do any strenuous hikes. There's some wiggle room in that edict in that it is up to me to decide what is strenuous or not, "You know best what a hard hike is and what's not" said the doctor. I see what she did there, she put the onus on me should there be any hernia-related pre-surgery complications. Guess I'll have to keep my hikes mild in the interim, like this one around Cooper Creek Reservoir.

Jeff and Kim were training for their
upcoming Pacific Crest Trail through-hike

Beginning at the reservoir's dam, about fifteen hikers set sail with the first ten or so rapidly disappearing from the last five's sight within minutes. The morning was cool and quiet with low cloud cover fogging up the surrounding forested hills and mountains. The lake was still as a mouse hoping the hawk soaring overhead doesn't see it, and the mirrorlike surface reflected the clouds previously mentioned. Initially, the trail hugged the southern shore and we hiked exclusively on the cold and shady side of the lake.

C'mon in, the water's gross!

The lake's waters were colored an unappealing greenish brown, but then again it is winter and the tributary creeks run muddy this time of year. Later in the year the water will blue up and in the interim, we'll just have to restrain ourselves from drinking the water or jumping in for a quick dip. After several miles of hiking in a forest of young trees with the forest floor carpeted by ferns, red-fronded Oregon grape plants, and small lavender-flowered snow queen, we reached a broad meadowed swale that was the Cooper Creek inlet and the end of the lake.

The good part of the trail

We crossed Cooper Creek via a wide footbridge as we rounded the lake. From here on in, we'd be hiking back in the direction of the dam and trailhead. The trail used to end at a boat ramp and hikers then had the choice of completing the loop around the lake via paved roadway or returning back the way we had come for a longer distance with no loop around the lake. While we ate lunch at a scenic overlook replete with picnic table, Lane walked over to the boat ramp to unleash his inner Cooper Creek, so to speak. As we were gearing up for a return via trail, Lane came back waving his hands and yelling in that cute squeaky voice of his that the trail continued on past the boat ramp. Hey, maybe the circumnavigation of the lake had finally been completed!

The nice new trail begins a disappointing fade into obscurity

Our local mountain biking club has been diligently working on completing the trail around the lake, and initially, the new section of trail was freshly cut into the vegetation and soil but eventually petered out to a faint track covered by numerous fallen trees. Here, most of our group decided to walk uphill to the roadway and return via said roadway. After a brief round of pointless dithering, Michael, Lane, and I decided to continue on the faint path and bushwhack if need be, should the trail tread disappear altogether. Michael's dog Boog had no say-so in the matter.

A hike in need of a trail

Whew, that was work! Most of the last two miles were spent contouring a steep slope and ankles (and paws, too!) were soon fatigued from the constant sidehilling. Some enterprising and kind soul had left a trail of pink ribbon "bread crumbs" for us to follow yet on more than one occasion, we lost the official "unofficial" track in the thick and scratchy brush. Yet, the forest was green and lush, even if scratchy, and the lake was always below, sparkling in the afternoon sun like so many rhinestones on an Elvis impersonator's costume.

Lane, Michael, and Boog reach the boater's picnic area

It was jarring to suddenly leave the lakeside tangle of brush and brambles and stroll out onto a grassy picnic area but hey, after all that, we happily accepted the trail gods' beneficence. Tuned out we were on a boaters' but not a hikers' picnic area and we had one more bushwhack scramble to perform, much to the amusement of our road walker colleagues watching us and loudly pointing out that the only way up to the road was through thorny and skin-raking blackberry brambles. We responded in kind by pointing out that the road walkers were a bunch of namby-pambies at which point Rheo objected. Seems like while Lane, Michael, and I were busy handwringing over what to do, she just lowered her head and charged solo through the brush ahead of us. And here we thought we were such bad-ass trailblazers! At any rate, we conceded her point and granted an honorary membership into the He-Man Hiking Club. Boog was also granted an honorary membership, even if he was carried over fallen trees on occasion.

Thanks, guys!

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Rainie Falls


It's February already, yet this is only my second hike of 2021. At this rate, I'm on pace to wind up with 48 miles on 12 hikes this year. I'd hiked so little recently my knees were oxidizing and in sore need of some life-giving hiking oil. Accordingly, younger brother Don and I set up a hike at Takelma Gorge but snowy weather caused us to postpone that little venture for a later date. The Rogue River was nearby though, and situated below snowy weather elevation, thereby making the Rogue our impromptu Plan B. And because I felt as rusted over as the Tin Man, Rainie Falls was chosen simply because it was not as rigorous as the up-and-down Rogue River Trail on the opposite side of the river from the Rainie Falls Trail.
    
A cold day all around


Despite being shorter though, the Rainie Falls Trail is a lot more rugged. The trail is crudely chiseled into cliff faces above the river and the tread is rough and rocky in a lot of places, rendering both of our inner mountain goats ecstatic. Although we'd get neither snow nor rain on this day, it was frosty cold and was all that was needed for actual snowfall was just some precipitation. The surrounding mountains disappeared into a low cloud cover on a gray day and no doubt the mountains did have snow higher up.

Numerous seasonal creeks ran across the trail

It was readily made apparent that this hike would be all about water. Of course, the rain-swollen Rogue River coursed below the trail and was eminently visible for virtually the entire hike. But weeks of rain and snow created new creeks and runoffs while replenishing and rejuvenating old ones. Don likes to take videos and I like to photograph, so we basically hiked in same style, which consisted of frequent stops to take photos or videos or all of the above.

Not the smoothest trail in the world

There was a duality to this hike in that the time and miles were equally split between trail etched into exposed rocky cliffs and lush forest green and vibrant; one or the other with no in-between. The forest was that odd Siskiyou mix we know and love, being comprised of strange tree-fellows madrone, myrtlewood, cedar, oak, and fir. Don and I crumpled up myrtlewood leaves between our fingers, enjoying the sweet intoxicating aroma emanating from the bruised leaves.

Don hikes through the ferns and Oregon myrtle

A fellow Pacific Northwest nature geek once admonished me "Do NOT call it bay laurel, it is Oregon myrtle!" Yes sir, and I dutifully obeyed so as not to be unfriended or written out of the will. However, if you look up "Oregon myrtle", you will find it also called "California bay laurel" and please don't hit me. All this discussion of laurel vs. myrtlewood is because Don speculated myrtlewood is a true bay laurel endemic to northern California and southern Oregon. That sent me to some online research where I found out: a) it is not a true laurel although the fragrant leaves smell as such and b) the range is the entire California coast and about half of the Oregon coast and c) I am the smarter and better looking brother.

Some madrone orangery among all the greenery

We had a similar discussion about the range of madrone, he thought it was likewise limited to Oregon and northern California. Actually, madrone can be found the world over but our particular madrone species, the Pacific madrone, grows only on the west coast from San Diego to the Vancouver Island area in British Columbia. Good thing Don and I did not discuss any other species of flora or fauna because otherwise I'd still be immersed in this research project, but I spare no effort to prove to my readers that I am always right. 

Good thing the river gods aren't hungry

This time of year, the winter rains and snows fill up the Rogue River and naturally, the river was silty, fast, and wide. The extra water just overwhelms Rainie Falls, making it seem more like a watery speed bump for the rafting and kayaking crowd instead of the feared river obstacle it is. However, the strong and powerful current is still plenty capable of chewing up careless boaters and spitting out the husks like so many used-up sunflower seed hulls. The inherent danger didn't necessarily stop us from standing right at the edge but on the other hand, we both have cool photos and videos of the falls. Maybe neither one of us is the smarter brother.

It was cliffy and we liked it

After a nice little lollygag, it was back the way we came and we got to experience the awesome Rogue River Scenery all over again. The ponderous bulk of the greenish-brown river flowed in the bottom of its canyon and we observed many creeks waterfalling down the mountainsides before splashing into or onto the river. This was Don's first visit to the Rogue River and much like all newbies I have brought here in years past, he was reliably awed. Mission accomplished, especially since I didn't hurt any more body parts on the hike, which is something you say when you are the older brother.

Don saw the Rogue River, and
he smiled and said it was good

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Baker Beach and Alder Dunes


Several years ago, I was looking for a new trail out on the Oregon coast, somewhere I'd never been. Such places are a rare find for me because it seems like I've hiked on every trail in southern Oregon that there is to be hiked on. While not necessarily true, my desperate search for a path which had never felt the glorious stomp of an O'Neill boot led me to a late night Google Earth perusal. Whoops, there it was! In the Alder Lake area, was a faint path bisecting a grouping of small dunes collectively known as Alder Dunes. Of course, the sketchy path disappeared from the prying and spying satellite eyes in outer space when it entered dark patches of forest. Maybe I was overly optimistic but it did not escape my attention that what presumably was the same path also exited the forest. 

Berry Creek reaches the end

Later, my friends were dragged onto my new trail and apparently Lane liked that hike (and what's not to like?) and so he penciled a repeat Alder Dunes adventure onto the Friends of the Umpqua's schedule. It was like a Richard Hike without any of the awesome responsibility of well, being responsible, so I went along for the sheer joy of hiking on sketchy trails. Because of the faint trails and network of braiding game paths, Lane insisted everybody hike together instead of our usual laissez-faire approach of everybody hiking at their own speed. Doing that in these conditions greatly increased the likelihood of finishing with the same amount of hikers we started out with, although the head count was complicated by one hiker joining us mid-hike and one other having to leave us due to a flat tire discovered at the trailhead.

Hiking is fun!

Beginning at Dune Lake, which has no dunes nearby, we grabbed the faint path into Alder Dunes, which has no alder growing nearby either. But if we only named places after nearby natural features, then we'd be starting from Lake Lake and hiking through Dunes Dunes, wouldn't we? The smallish expanse of Alder Dunes was bordered by a thick forest and our path immediately faded into the heavy vegetative undergrowth. Even though some hikers were just a few feet in front of me, they too were swallowed up from sight by the dense greenery. At times the way was discerned only by picking out the spot where the scratchy brush was marginally not as thick, like a trail had once been there several decades ago.

Mushrooms surprisingly thrive in the sandy dunes

After a few quick walk-by perusals of some seasonal ponds and lakes, the loose network of horse trails, game tracks, and social paths spit us out onto Baker Beach Dunes. Wide and expansive, just like me, these are real dunes and we enjoyed hiking along the edge thereof in the morning sunlight. It's actually a pretty cool hike to follow the edge of the dunes but we had a different task today, chiefly to hike over to Lilly Lake.  

Berry Creek, with the end in sight

Lilly Lake is a prominent landmark in the Baker Beach area but you can barely see the small lake, for it's well hid by a thick cover of cattails and reeds. Much cooler, vista-wise, is the Berry Creek Loop and after visiting Lilly Lake, we hiked around puddles of water standing on the trail overlooking the wild hinterlands of marshes, swamps, dunes and wide Berry Creek itself. I've stepped over shallow Berry Creek when hiking on nearby Cape Mountain and it's hard to reconcile that diminutive trickle with the near-river arrogantly sashaying through the marshes just before ending its journey on the beach.

Lane demonstrates the proper climbing technique

Back when I took the club on this hike wilder than most, we returned by bushwhacking through the marshes. A hidden sinkhole claimed Edwin and I as victims and the swim killed my camera. In keeping with the adventuresome aspect of this trek, Lane took us up the dunes flanking Berry Creek, but prudently avoided the marshes (and at least one sinkhole!) lurking behind the dunes. The creek had cut the dunes like a giant knife halving sandwiches (dunes...sand...sandwiches, get it?), and it was actually quite the challenge to climb up a sheer cliff made out of soft shifting sand. 

Sadly and truly, this really is the trail

From there it was a short walk atop the dunes crest on small ad hoc paths weaving between hummocks of beachgrass swaying in a light breeze. And after that mild adventure, it was a return, all of us together in one group, through the faint trails in the forest and dunes. It sort of reminded me of kindergarten where we had "If lost..." name tags enumerating our vitals such as school, parents, and our parent's phone numbers. Maybe next time I lead a hike, I'll insist on everybody wearing such tags, but then Mrs. O'Neill might have to claim me.

They say on dark stormy nights you can hear
her mournful cry "Where is the #$%@ trail!"

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Dellenback Dunes (Hall Lake Route)


At December's commencement, I was well poised to reach my yearly goal of 500 miles but unfortunately, sort of ran out of gas due to weather, sore knees, and life stuff. Still, I wound up with 469 miles hiked in 2020 and that's respectable. But here we are in a brand new year and this was the first hike of the year. Brand new year but still some travails, apparently. On this particular hike at Dellenback Dunes, I felt a sharp pain somewhere "down there" that left me feeling teste, pun intended. After a post-hike round of tests and stuff, turns out I am the proud father-to-be of a brand new baby hernia which would explain the burning pain in my groin. And just to clarify, this particular burning in the groin is the kind you get when you are sixty-four years old and not the cool burning in your groin you get at say, age twenty-four. Anyway, I dispiritedly erased my 2021 goal of 500 miles off of the message board hanging in the kitchen. Hernia surgery and the requisite period of post-surgery recuperation will do that to a mileage goal.

Across the dunes we go!

Dellenback Dunes is one of those places I seem to hit pretty regularly and since I've been hiking eons, I've visited the sandy expanse an eon's worth of times. To keep from getting bored, I try to find a different route to keep the dunes interesting and while I had done the version that connects the John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead with Hall Lake several times, most of the attendees on this Friends of the Umpqua hike had not, allowing me to experience the freshness of the hike by listening to their complaints about the endless mountains of sand we were hiking up and down.

This hike provided lots of quality "Whee!" time

There are basically like five mountain ranges of sand running between trailhead and lake and the first slope is one of the steeper ones. The day was overcast, but we were all soon quite warm from the exertion of hiking up steep slopes of soft sand. On the plus side, the steep drop-off on the other side of the crest was fun to watch as hikers ran down the slopes in ebullient glee like first-graders exiting the classroom for recess. Although, nobody could match the exuberance and joy of canine friend Gus, who ran back up the slope solely for the delirious pleasure of running back down again. Me, I just calmly walked down the sandy slopes because like the day, I too am gray and chill.

Spirits of forests past

Our second "little" hill was through a ghost forest, a highlight of the hike. It's hard to imagine a forest growing in what seems to an entire Arabian peninsula of sand in Oregon. Yet, there they are, the bones of several dozen dead trees half buried in an arborescent graveyard, with the top half of the trees serving as grave marker and headstone. This arboreal necropolis is a reverential place and we stopped to mourn the trees' loss of life and generally just ponder the meaning of it all. I'm not sure how a mini-forest of evergreen trees ever managed to grow tall in the middle of all that sand but you can't argue with the spirits of the dead manifested on the crown of this sandy crest.

Our lunchtime view of Hall Lake

After several more ups and downs on several more tall alps of sand, we arrived at the slope overlooking Hall Lake and stopped to admire the vista for a bit. Hall Lake sits on the dividing line between coastal forest and stark dune and accordingly, the east side of the lake was heavily forested while on the west side, the tall dune we were eating lunch on sloped directly down to the dark waters.     

Not looking at any dang yardangs!

The Hall Lake overlook was the culmination of the 4th climb up a steep slope of sand so several of our party opted to hike return by way of that dune crest while the rest of us tackled Dune Number 5, which was the meanest one out of the whole bunch. But Dune 5 is the coolest, scenery-wise, for the combination of rain and wind had carved the damp sands on the dune crest into all sorts of sculptures (known as yardangs) resembling random pyramids and temples. Those with cameras explored the yardangs while those without lowered their heads and toiled up the steep sandy inclines, oblivious to the splendors of the sandy ramparts and revetments sited just below.

Linda leads the mad charge across the dunes

After the dune descent, we were happy to be hiking along the edge of the behind-the-beach marshes until the main body of our group grabbed the trail to the beach. Linda, Don, and I opted to return directly to the trailhead at this point. Don and I have each recently lost a close family member, so naturally in the middle of this celebration of nature and life, the main subject of our conversation was death and dying. But it was therapeutic and helped mute the increasing pain in my lower side. Stupid hernia, anyway.

A veritable Mount Rainier of sand looms on the horizon

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.