Saturday, March 14, 2015

Oregon Dunes

Generally, trails are like my children: I love them all but unlike children, I don't necessarily love all my trails equally. Come to think of it, though, there are a couple I don't care for at all and relax kids, I'm referring to certain trails and not my children. But now that I think about it, though...kidding! Anyway, an empirical measure of how much a hike was enjoyed can be found in the amount of pictures taken on a particular outing. Generally, I take about 150 photographs per hike but on a hike that is better than average, I've been known to snap off over 400 shots. So, consider a recent outing to the Oregon Dunes where my camera shutter was tripped a mere 25 instances: yes, the hike was awful.

Sure, we're smiling now before the hike starts!
The abject human misery inflicted on the 6 hikers (including brave first-timer Barbara) who followed their fearless leader (me!) into the sands is not the fault of the beautiful Oregon Dunes. Blame must instead lie at the wet feet of a storm system that had blown in to visit, about as welcome as a bout of diarrhea. The weather forecast had called for a 98% chance of rain and those optimistic hikers who parsed the weather report saw the 2% chance of nice weather and went with those odds. Also, the rainfall was predicted to be less than a tenth of an inch per hour, so at least if it did rain, it would be a light and tolerable rain.

The suave and urbane Mr.Malone
Wrong on so many levels. I think by the time we reached Reedsport on the drive to the coast, the odds had increased quintuple-fold to 490% and the tenth inch of rain was now measured in half-minutes instead of hours. On the plus side (sarcasm!), the wind was whipping the rain at just the right angle to sneak fat raindrops under hat brims and umbrellas.

Tahkenitch Creek in the rain
One interesting geographical feature of the dunes is that no trees grow upon the sands so we caught the full brunt of the storm. Normally, we are pretty chatty bunch on the trail but I don't think even one word was uttered as we got soaked on the open dunes; each hiker was intently focused instead on their own little wet watery world of woe. After a mile or so on wet sand, we arrived at the beach. The original plan had been to do a 9 mile hike to Tahkenitch Creek and back but it literally went without saying that we were not going to do that. I suggested we hike a mile up the beach for an even 5 miles and all I got were glazed looks which I mistakenly took to be non-verbal assents.

"Can we go back now?"
Yikes! The dunes, as stated before, were open but at least they were sort of humpy, kind of like a grandmother. On the other hand, the beach was flat and totally exposed to the winds blowing off the sea. With eyes pointed down towards our feet, we trudged into the wind, holding on to hats with one hand. After a whopping quarter-mile, I turned around to monitor the progress of my charges and found out that except for Consuelo, they had all pretty much stopped walking. And Consuelo asked me in a plaintive voice if we could turn back. After careful and deliberate consideration of the options, I concurred that heading back would probably be the most gracious thing to do.

Rain, wind, and bushwhacking
So back we go and once on the dunes, we arrived at a trail junction. I had never been on the left fork before so with a "why not?" we made the left turn and hiked on the trail paralleling the foredunes between us and the beach. Oops, again. The trail dead-ended at a roped off area that was set aside as a nesting area for the snowy plover. Not wanting to backtrack back to the junction, we bushwhacked a bit alongside the nesting area before John read the fine print. The signs hanging off the ropes and posts stated the area was closed commencing March 15th. Since this was the 14th, we were legally free to trespass and besides which, it didn't look like the plovers were using it much yet. So we hopped the rope and walked along the edge of the cleared-off nesting area. 

Newt rescue
A short bushwack once the nesting area ended took us to the trail leading back to the trailhead. It was a pretty sodden bunch piling into cars but spirits were restored on a curative visit to Los Amigos Burrito in Florence. Nothing like tongue tacos to combat the bad memories of what was truly an awful hike.

Perfect weather for slugs
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.  Hot chocolate is recommended while looking at the pictures.

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