Saturday, April 3, 2021

Tahkenitch Dunes

Four and a half months and ninety miles ago, I purchased a new pair of boots that had since been servicing my hiking addiction in good stead. But then came a recent eight mile hike on the Elk Creek Trail that was noteworthy because I had forgotten to charge the camera's batteries so no photography ensued, and also because one half of my boots turned the underside of my left foot into confetti. What the heck (on both counts)? When you don't take pictures, then it's like the hike didn't happen but when your foot is blistered into shreds then you wish it didn't happen. This particular boot miscreant had been purchased at REI which, if you are a member, has a generous gear return policy so if my left foot and boot continue their philosophical disagreement about life and hiking, then I may go back and trade the boot duo in for a roomier model.

Off and running (dog) or walking (everybody else)

The Tahkenitch Dunes area is a beachgrass-dotted expanse of sandy dunes situated between coastal forest and an ever encroaching young forest taking root behind the beach foredunes. Accordingly, this erstwhile sandy hike does manage to serve up some quality forest time in addition to the taxing soft sands of the dunes. Naturally, a sublimely lush and green coastal forest was enjoyed when we hiked up and over the heavily wooded ridge crest separating the trailhead from the dunes. Normally, the trail is shared with a healthy population of rough-skinned newts but on this day, we (Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club) were the only rough-skinned users of the trail.

Where forest becomes dune

After about a mile and a half of uphill walking through a verdant forest, the trail crested and then dropped us onto the dunes and we blinked in the bright sunlight like those white grubs that scurry away when you turn over a garden rock. And thus began the muscle-taxing portion of this hike as we followed the soft and sandy track across the dunes and into the new forest lurking between dunes and beach, eventually winding up on the seashore after another mile or so of hiking.

What low tide looks like

The tide was way, way, low; for the ocean had retreated further than the Roman army fleeing Hannibal's forces after the defeat at Cannae. The vast expanse of wet sand glistened in the morning sun like the skin of a silver eel taking a bath, and the beach strand was wide enough for two 747's to land on side by side while holding hands. Tidal flats were exposed by the retreating surf and we mostly walked as close to the water as possible.

Out of its elements

One oddity (besides Lane) we encountered were a number of purple starfish found beached on the beach. Normally, starfish inhabit rocky islands and tide pools so it was a small mystery as to why we found them on wet sand today. Per my Internet research, there are a number of reasons that this could be so, one of them being that just like some humans, they inadvertently get too close to the beach during breeding season and accidently get swept up by tidal currents. There are also other plausible causes such as storms and more than likely, the overall warming of the sea.

Can't get blisters on your feet if you don't have feet

While sandy, at least the wet strand was fairly firm for hiking on but all that changed when we left the beach for a return to dune hiking. Trudge, trudge, trudge all over again, the leg-taxing tedium broken up by the spectacular vista of Threemile Lake on a spring day. Regular readers will recall that generally I refer to Threemile Lake as two Onepointfivemile Lakes because as the water level drops, the lake gets neatly bisected by a sandy isthmus. However, on this day the lake was swollen with collected rainwater and lived up to its three-mile name.

Faster hikers (without blisters) trek through the dunes

The original blister on my left foot had been behaving quite nicely thank you, but chafing from the tape holding the Second Skin pads in place were creating new blisters on the big toe. So, when we first reached the beach, I taped those up and now at the lake, the tape was putting new blisters on the neighboring toe. Talk about your basic domino theory or ripple effect, blisters were spreading like a pandemic across my left foot. Needless to say, it was a slow and painful trudge through the soft sands of Tahkenitch Dunes where I mostly just wished the hike would come to an end. Sad, because normally I don't ever feel that way about a hike.

Threemile Lake was remarkably full

Fortunately, the hike did come to a close and once I removed my boots, my poor toes got some proper relief, assuaged somewhat when John and I stopped for some adobada tacos at my favorite eatery in Reedsport, the rather generically named Mexican Express taco stand. Now, both my lips and foot were seemingly on fire but unlike my foot, the lips and other sensitive mouth parts were quite happy about this.

If I could only be half as elegant as a trillium!

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

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