Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hall Lake

The rain was just pouring sheets of water early in the morning. Just the kind of morning that causes all good hikers to stow their boots back on the basement shelf and call the hike off. I woke up and readily admitted to Dollie that I really didn't feel like going hiking in the wet and cold weather. But I just knew I'd appear at the library parking lot and three hardcore hikers (actually, I used the term "morons") would show up and I'd have to take them out on the dunes in the crappy weather. And sure enough, waiting for me at the meeting spot lot was Kevin (accompanied by dog Wish) and John, with Rachel later showing up at the trailhead. Yup, three hikers and I called it.

On Planet Arrakis
As it turned out, the weather was not all that bad on the coast. The day was overcast, the temperature cool but not cold, and the wind blustery but about 40 m.p.h below hurricane strength. That would change though, as a nasty storm system was supposed to hit late afternoon so the plan was to keep the hike relatively short and make the great escape back to Roseburg in semi-safe driving conditions.

Must..kill...hiking leader
We had all been on Dellenback Dunes many times before, making the unique challenge posed by Dellenback to keep the dunes interesting for erstwhile jaded hikers. One way to ward off hiking ennui is to vary the route. None of my hiking comrades had ever been to Hall Lake before so a challenging hike to the picturesque lake was just the ticket. Upon entry into the expansive dunes an immediate hard right turn was the move that took three-quarters of our group onto a new and different Dellenback Dunes experience. The hard right turn also sent our little band of merry hikers painfully trudging in soft sand up the tallest mountain of sand within several miles.

More ups and downs in our future
This hike would be less about the mileage and more about walking up tall mountains of sand. Once atop the tall first dune, the view of the sandy expanse of Dellenback Dunes was much appreciated by hikers sporting burning leg muscles after less than 0.5 miles of hiking. The ocean was visible under the dark clouds and off in the distance, Arago Peak rose above Cape Arago. Unfortunately, eminently visible to the north was a successive series of sand alps paralleling the tall sand pile we were currently standing on. Ever the cruel hike leader, I pointed out that we would be hiking up and over each tall dune in due time. I get pretty brave when I'm leading just three hikers. 

Grave marker
Down we go and up we went to the top of the second dune, dotted with hummocks of beach grass. The second dune is pretty cool because there is a ghost forest on top. At some point, a thriving knot of trees grew here but were eventually overwhelmed by the marching sands. All that is left of the forest is a tree cemetery comprised of lifeless snags.

Let the skin exfoliation begin!
The third and fourth dunes were not all that tough to climb up, thanks to the elevation gained climbing the second dune, they were each summarily polished off in short order. However, the fifth dune was a rather imposing wall of sand that was hard work to get to the top of. It was two steps up and one slide down in the soft sand as the wind began to increase in velocity. But hiking stubbornness won out in the end and four persevering hikers and one mindlessly happy dog staggered to the top of the fifth dune.

We're number 5!
We had been photographically commemorating our dune climbs by holding up fingers denoting the cardinal order of the dunes. That is, we held up two fingers for the second dune, three for the third dune, etc. However, on the fifth dune, Rachel was about four fingers short of five, maybe that is how they mark five in England, I don't know. But the good news was that the fifth dune overlooked Hall Lake.

Hall Lake
Hall Lake sits in a bowl where forest and dune meet, the view of the lake from the dune overlook is impressive. The dark waters invited a closer look-see and accordingly we sat down at the water's edge, grateful to get out of the wind. Lunch was eaten there as tree tops swayed in the boisterous breeze.

Because the wind was picking up in advance of the coming storm, an impromptu decision was made to cut the hike short and circle back to the trailhead. So back up to the large dune we went and we were immediately sandblasted by the wind driving fine particulate matter over the dune crest. And to think, people pay thousands of dollars for skin exfoliation and dermabrasion treatments! Walking on top of the dune crest, we were being flayed alive by wind and sand, but at least we no longer had acne. The sand was whipping without mercy at dog level but Wish didn't seem to mind. The route lead downwards, dropping down towards the flat part of the dunes bordering the forest growing behind the beach foredunes. 

Wish takes his human for a walk
From there, it was a series of mild ups and downs before a sandy draw led to the exit point off of the dunes. Later that night, I checked the weather report and 30 foot ocean swells, driven by strong winds, were marching up the Umpqua River at Winchester Bay. Absolutely made the right call in leaving early and we were able to enjoy a nice hike unlike some of our namby-pamby hiking buddies who stayed at home. Plus, we went home with clean and fresh faces, thanks to the wind-supplied skin spa treatments.

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

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