Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dellenback Dunes

This was going to be either the last or the next to last hike of 2014, depending on how things went. You see, my New Year's Day resolution had been to hike 500 miles in 2014.  Not much new there, that's always been my goal for a number of years and yet I've always wound up somewhere around 425 miles. Pacific Crest Trail through hikers can do 500 miles in less than three weeks but several impediments called "work", "wife", and "laziness" have always gotten in my way.  But this year, the mystical magical goal of 500 miles was well within sight as I began this hike on Dellenback Dunes with only 8.3 miles to go. 

Sand slide
The Dellenback sandbox is always fun to play in, but I've also hiked in it a bunch of times and was trying to figure out a way to keep things fresh and interesting. So, instead of continuing straight to the beach, a hard right turn was made and wisdom of that move was immediately brought into question. In front of me was a large and tall dune, rising up to the sky like a soft and sandy Mount Rainier. I sensed burning leg muscles in my future.

That was work!
Huff...puff... hands were required on the way up and it was two steps up and one step sliding backwards down the sandy slope. At the top of the "peak" was a trail marker which was somewhat surprising, didn't know people came up here at all.  From the top of the broad sand dune, a nice view was had across the sandy expanse that is Dellenback Dunes.

Dune #2
The dune was oriented in an east-west direction, pointing directly to the beach about a mile and a half away. To the north was a series of equally formidable dunes running parallel to this first dune. So, what does our lucky contestant get in reward for climbing this dune? Why, he gets to do it four more times!

Where alien pod babies come from
In between Dunes 1 and 2 was a deep canyon and growing nearly everywhere at the bottom, were some type of fungal pitchers or vases. They looked all the world like eggs from the nasty creatures in "Alien". I figured they were more likely discarded deer egg casings from the spring hatch.

Dead zone
Dune #3 was noteworthy for a forest of dead trees on top, sparsely crowning the summit like the equally sparse hair on my head. Apparently a forest thrived up here at one point, eventually giving up the whole exercise of staying alive. It had the solemn air of a cemetery and I tiptoed respectfully past in silent homage to the resting spirits.

C'mon sun, you can do it if you try
It couldn't!
On the climb up the face of Dune #4, the sun broke out and bathed the dunes in a soft golden glow. Hey this would be a nice day after all! However, by the time I reached the top of the dune, the sun had disappeared behind incoming rain clouds and would never make another appearance.

Hall Lake
Dune 4 was probably the biggest and baddest of the bunch and I angled across the steep slope instead of making a futile charge straight up the hill. Paddling frantically with my feet just to maintain altitude, I managed the summit, collapsing in a heavily breathing and gasping heap of goo on the sand. There were footprints all over the summit in an indication of a nearby trailhead at Hall Lake.

Bridge over Hall Lake's creek
Hall Lake straddles the border between forest and dunes and I paid a quick visit there. A fellow hiker was out for a walk with his dog and we briefly discussed the movie "Wild", both agreeing that watching a movie about the Pacific Crest Trail for two hours on the big screen has to be pretty awesome.

A rare bona fide trail encountered on this hike
Between Dunes 4 and 5 was a formidable canyon full of thick vegetation and nascent forest but the good news was that there was a trail from Hall Lake leading through the canyon. That simplified the route finding and besides which, the climb out was not too bad either, thanks to the trail. 

Dune #5 was probably the most photogenic due to all yardangs on top. "But Richard, what the heck is a yardang?" you ask. It sounds like my attitude about yard work but it really is a term for sculptures made by the wind. The wind had been busy here lately and all manner of turrets, pyramids, and other sand structures ran along the crest like the dorsal plates on a stegosaurus's spine. Much photography ensued.

Sand swirly
By this time, the hike had covered just over two miles and despite the short distance, I can honestly say it was the toughest hiking I've done all year. Climbing steep slopes of soft sand was nothing but hard work. However, once atop Dune #5 it would be all downhill as I followed the dune down to the plain and forest tucked just behind the beach foredunes. 

...and then the rains came
By this time, dark clouds had dimmed the light from a feeble sun and the temperature was dropping rapidly. A blustery wind blew and rain was in the offing, the only question being how far away from the car I would be when it hit. And of course, the answer is at the farthest point possible from the car. It always happens like that, it must be a weather god rule.

Rain puddle
There were were more puddles on the flats than could be found on a kitchen floor when housetraining a puppy. The terrain was quite marshy and I quickly discarded the notion of wading through the standing water to access the beach. I wandered hither and yon, skirting the larger ponds and puddles, sometimes sinking in quicksand as I beelined towards a prominent tree island in the sandy expanse.

Marshes kept getting in the way
At the tree island, a left turn would take me back to the car and the end of roughly a 7.5 mile hike, leaving me short of my goal of 500 miles. So, for additional mileage I headed south towards Tenmile Creek. Unfortunately, a series of marshy canyons kept turning me east. And with cold rain continuing to fall, I was rapidly losing enthusiasm for hiking.

Marching dunes
So back to the trailhead I go, figuring that even if I was so much as a tenth of a mile short of the magic number of 8.3 miles, I'd be hiking in the rain the next day. However, at the trailhead my GPS read 8.3 miles and my yearly total wound up being 500 miles exactly. Now I'll have to figure out how to top that in 2015!

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

1 comment :

  1. Congratulations on meeting your goal. That's lots of steps in your limited free time!