Saturday, December 15, 2018

Tahkenitch Dunes and Creek

When the weather is bad and I really don't feel like hiking, yet I'm slated to lead the hike, I tell Mrs. O'Neill "I hope nobody shows up but you just watch, three morons will be there!" Kind of a smart-aleck remark to be sure, but it's happened consistently enough to qualify as a truism. One would assume the weather to be near catastrophic for only less than three hikers to show up. Yet, on this hike to Tahkenitch Creek, Brad was the only hiker brave enough to face the elements with your merry blogster (and moron #2).

An all-around gloomy day at the coast
The weather had been dreadful in the intervening two weeks since the last Friends of the Umpqua hike, what with steady and constant rain soaking the countryside of southern Oregon. But on this morn, while the day was overcast the rain had abated, maybe we'd have a dry hike after all. One can hope, can't we? 

"Wait for it, wait for it..."
The drive to the coast was dry and we decamped at the trailhead, thinking "Wait for it...wait for it...." But we actually started the hike in rainless conditions although the clouds overhead were clearly pregnant with stored water. But hey, we had rain gear in our packs so being dressed with somewhere to go, Brad and I set out onto the Tachkenitch Dunes Trail.

Mushrooms sprout high in a tree
The first mile or so of trail wandered up through a lush coastal forest and progress was painstakingly slow, what with the hike leader (me!) stopping to photograph mushrooms, ferns, moss, trees, trail, and lichen like every two feet or so. But hey, they wouldn't make the trail so pretty if they didn't want people to take photographs of every little thing.

No hiking across Tahkenitch Creek today
After a mile of forest hiking, the trail spit us out onto the dunes which we crossed in short order, returning to a second forest. More photography and exceedingly slow hiking ensued. Brad is a patient guy. After crossing the forest, we hiked up and over the beach foredunes and arrived at the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek.

It was a moody day at Tahkenitch Beach
The intended route for today called for us to wade across the creek, follow the beach north for several miles, return by way of the Oregon Dunes, re-wade the creek, and then close the loop back to the trailhead. However, it had been raining lately, as I had already stated, and Tahkenitch Creek looked a lot like the mighty Mississippi River. Wide and deep, like an overweight philosopher, the creek effectively barred our way north as neither one of us wanted to go swimming across, especially when the sky promised rainfall in the near future.

Path through the woods
Adlibbing it, we backtracked to the intersection with the Tahkenitch Creek Trail and hung a left. I had been on parts of the Tahkenitch Creek Trail but never the whole two'ish miles of it so today was the day. My first impression was "Hey, I should backpack here!" as the forest was thin with sandy or grassy patches between, just perfect for setting up camp. Of course, water would be a problem as there were no creeks or running water easily accessible but that can be resolved easily enough by carrying extra water and/or dry-fooding it.

Tahkenitch Creek was running deep
The trail bobbed and weaved through a couple of miles of peaceful forest before we arrived at a crossing of Tahkenitch Creek further inland. This crossing had been the intended return route on our aborted longer loop hike. Again, the brown creek was running pretty deep, so both of us self-congratulated on the wisdom and sagacity of our decision to cut the hike short.

Fellow slimy hiker out for a stroll
The return on a sandy track through the dunes was fairly uneventful, although the clouds became more foreboding. Slugs were a common slight, leaving their own slimy tracks on the sandy surface. Much photography ensued with me lying down on the sand, staring the slugs in their twin eyes through the viewfinder. I think I said this before, but Brad is a patient guy.

Mushrooms sprout in abundance
The heavens finally did cut loose with a torrential downpour but by that time, we were halfway home, the wipers dutifully keeping the windshield clear. Things could have easily been worse though, we both felt lucky that we got a dry hike in.