Saturday, January 12, 2013

Oregon Dunes

There are certain questions that a wife will ask that a husband will never answer truthfully. We all know about the iconic question "Do these pants make me look fat?" but "How much further are we going to hike?" is another one of those questions guaranteed to lead an otherwise honest husband down the Trail of Untruthful Exaggerations.

Trust me, this hike is easy
Case in point was a recent hike into the Oregon Dunes that Dollie and I did several weekends ago. She had a slightly tweaked back but bravely agreed to go hiking with me. According to the guidebook, the loop trail through the dunes was something around 5 miles.

"Whee!" in dog talk
So off we go, and after a short walk on a paved trail through the woods, we descended down into the dunes. Maggie the Hiking Dog was off and running as the recent rains had created some ponds in the random depressions in the sand. We had been on the dunes for all of two seconds and already there was a dog splashing mindlessly with sheer exuberance in a pond.

This is the proper way to hike on a wet trail
There are no trails in the dunes but the route was easy to follow from marker post to marker post. Besides which, there were lots of footprints forming an ad hoc trail to lead us in the right direction. The last post in the dunes marked the beginning of the forest section of the hike and the first little introduction to marital discord.

I am so in trouble
The sandy path through the forest happened to be under a foot or two of water. Dollie did not appreciate the watery goodness unlike Maggie who thought all the water was more fun than a bag of cats. We spent some time stepping on logs and bushes in a vain attempt to keep feet dry for the Dainty One.  

Could be worse, it could rain
Eventually, we worked our way out of the marshy forest and hit the beach. It was a grey day with a high tide, both earning two more demerits for me. We headed south on the beach and although it was high tide we had plenty of beach to hike on. There were not a lot of logs on the beach but there was plenty of tsunami debris in the form of water bottles and large plastic floats.

(Not) "Almost there!"

After a mile and a half, a sign post atop the grassy beach foredune marked the beach egress and the loop trail back through the dunes. I was feeling good and really wanted to walk further, so the walk down the beach to Tahkenitch Creek and back was suggested. In response to Dollie's query about how much further, I glibly answered something along the lines of "...not far, we are almost there as we speak!"

Soldiering bravely on
To be honest, I didn't deliberately intend to misconstrue the mileage. The guidebook indicated that the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek was a mere mile or so down the beach. The reality, however, is that Tahkenitch Creek had migrated further south, demonstrating a large creek can go wherever it wants to. And a migrating creek meant over 2 more miles of beach walking before reaching the creek's mouth. And math majors such as myself, will note the round trip to the creek it added another 4 miles to our hike.

Oyster shells
Still, there were lots of cool stuff to see as we plodded along in the soft beach sand. The smaller floats entertained Maggie who kicked them along like a soccer ball. Atop a dune, we found an old oyster bed that had been uncovered by high surf. And the overcast sky was wonderfully moody and dramatic, just like a 15 year old daughter who has just been told she can't go with her friends to the movies. Dead jellyfish decayed on the beach, emitting noxious gas bubbles just like my brother does after spaghetti dinner.

Tahkenitch Creek, in sight
As we walked, the clouds gradually turned to blue skies to the north of us. And just as we finally arrived at Tahkenitch Creek, the sun broke out and the creek glinted silver in the sun. We enjoyed a nice little lollygag along the creek as we ate lunch there while the sun restored good humor to tired hikers.

It's a Richard Hike!
After lunch, it was a 2.5 mile walk back to the trail marker and we left the beach on a sandy track. Back in the dunes proper now, the sand was soft as an unused pillow. Shortly after an overlook of Tahkenitch Creek, we hit the sands and were unable to find a trail post marker. Despite there being no trail per se, we somehow had managed to make a wrong turn.

Pain and beauty, but mostly beauty
Our route had taken us into the marshes and ponds and we spent some time working our way through all that before getting onto the more open sands with the magic markers, so to speak.  The last few miles were spent trudging painfully through some of the most beautiful dune scenery around. Pain and beauty, nothing quite sums up a hike like those two words.

Bye, Oregon Dunes
Our hike wound up being 8.6 miles that felt like a lot longer than that, but walking in soft sand will do that. I don't think Dollie will ever ask me again how much further the hike will be, though. 

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

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