Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tahkenitch Dunes Loop

I pretty much hike alone these days. There's a pandemic going on of course, so being in a crowd of people is more dangerous than juggling running chainsaws while wearing oven mitts. But besides the virus avoidance reasons, I also use the quiet trail time to converse with myself which kind of keeps me grounded mentally, because there's certainly been enough of life's adversities this year on top of the pandemic. Plus, if I talk to myself in the forest and there is no cat and dog to hear me (like they do at home), I don't have to pet or feed them to assuage their fuzzy-headed fears that their Lord and Master's rubber toy no longer squeaks, metaphorically speaking. But even though hiking alone has its benefits in terms of physical and mental health, you can only spend so much "me time" before you begin to desperately crave human company. That's why, even though I hiked at Tahkenitch Dunes just over a month ago, I accepted an invite to reprise this beautiful coastal hike with Penny, John, Jennifer, and Cleve, because every incredibly handsome lone wolf has to howl with the pack every now and then.

Sublimity on the coast

You couldn't pick a better day for hiking, it was absolutely gorgeous. Nothing but mostly blue sky above with bright sun casting a warm glow over the Oregon coast and into the hearts of hikers. There were some clouds scudding overhead like so many floating fluffy pillows, aesthetically pleasing to both human eye and camera, and blotting out just enough sun to keep temperatures cool and perfect for hiking in. All life should be like such a day on the beach, forest, and dunes!

Don't tread on me!

Before we could get to that sunny beach paradise though, we had to hike up and over a deeply shaded ridge crest. We ran into many other hikers, mostly in the form of rough-skinned newts crawling on the forest floor, each enjoying their own quiet trail time until we picked them up. Their brown coloring made them hard to see on the earthen trail so we stepped carefully and hand-carried amphibian captives off the trail for their own safety. We didn't lick or eat any (their skin is highly toxic), making both hikers and newts grateful. At any rate, I'm glad to report that I did not see any squished newts, which is always a disappointing sight. 

A salmonberry leaf basks in the morning sunlight
As stated, the first part of the hike was on a ridge covered by a forest lush and green. Sunbeams fought through a thick skein of tree branches to reach the forest floor. Where they beamed onto salmonberry and rhododendron bushes, the leaves glowed green, further adding to the emerald-colored ambience of the forest. Moss covered the forest floor and the whole vibe was so pleasant I barely noticed the steep climb up and over the forested ridge between the campground and coast. 

Do not stare directly without putting on dark eyewear first

It's not unusual to see fungus in a coastal forest, given all the decaying biomass on the ground, but what was unusual this day was a veritable Great Barrier Reef of coral fungus populating the forest floor. Most were of the usual coloration, ranging from light beige to a darker brown-orange. However, a significant percentage were colored a bright Chernobyl red, like something you would find in the core of a nuclear reactor in full meltdown. Much photography abounded and no radiation burns were suffered by any of the hikers in our group.

Some of that dense vegetation flanking the trail

The walk to a backpack campsite near Threemile Lake was pleasant, if only for the fact that most of it was downhill once the ridge was crested. At the lake, the forest transitioned to sandy dunes and encroaching deflation plain forest, which is a younger and smaller-treed version of the woods we had just hiked through. I left my little group behind to execute to a side-trip to Threemile Lake's worthy overlook while my companions hied it for the beach for rest and repast. After a look-see at the lake, I rejoined my peeps eating lunch on a large log on the beach.

The charge of the Barefoot Brigade

After a lunch and laze spent eating and watching white clouds birthing into and dying out of existence over a roaring surf, we divided into two groups. Jennifer, John, Penny, and Cleve all formed an impromptu Barefoot Brigade by removing shoes and walking in the cold surf. The rest of us, consisting of just me in lone wolf mode, kept boots on and made faster progress along the beach as a result, despite being slowed up somewhat by the camera.

Jellyfish on a "sand" wich!

After a mile or so of walking at the ocean's edge, kicking up seafoam before a brisk sea breeze carried it away, further progress north was blocked by Tahkenitch Creek running across the beach strand. The creek wasn't all that full, so I could have waded across but instead decided to rejoin the anti-shoers sitting on yet another large log putting on their boots. As a proud pro-booter, I waited patiently for them to shoe themselves. In return, they would soon leave me behind, eating their sandy trail dust.

Mother and child

After crossing tidal flats carved into abstract patterns by the retreating tide at Tahkenitch Creek's mouth, we grabbed the trail back toward the dunes. The deflation plain forest was carpeted with pine needles, the decomposition of which supported a contingent of flapjack sized and shaped mushrooms. The older forest at the end of the trail also supported a healthy population of fungi, moss, and lichen and before long, Penny and I assumed our customary place well at the end of the hiking queue. But hey, we did acquire what seemed like thousands more fungi photos for our respective collections. All in all, it was another fun hike at the coast with good friends. I'll be good for another round of solo hikes now.

Nothing but blue sky (and clouds!) from now on

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. I know this hike was from November, but keep trekking. Especially during these times I think it is important to get out in nature whether alone or with others. Hope to see you in Grants Pass or at Lost Creek Lake this year. We are still hiking as often as we can although I have not been posting anything to our blog.

    1. Thanks guys and banana-eating dog! I fully intend to keep hiking although a hernia surgery will cause a temporary break in the action. We'll see you on the trail someday!