Saturday, April 2, 2022

Tahkenitch Dunes


John stated he wanted to partake of "King Neptune's Pedicure". I speak John, so I'll translate: He wanted to hike barefoot in the surf. Since he was the designated leader for the Friends of the Umpqua this particular weekend, we were totally at his mercy as to the destination of the hike. Given his proclaimed desire for wet feet, the destination was Tahkenitch Dunes, the loop rendition of this hike serving up a mile or so of beach walking or in John's case, surf hiking.

The clouds would eventually burn off

After the long drive through foggy conditions that had 15 or so hikers wondering if they would ever see the sun on this day, we laced up our boots at the trailhead and set out on the trail, which immediately inclined up through the forest. The constant coastal fog keeps things well watered and accordingly, the forest here is healthy and lush with a vibrant understory of coastal huckleberry, ferns, and rhododendron thriving underneath the spruce trees and Douglas fir. Moss covered all that did not move and fungus, ever nature's recycler, was busy decomposing the ample decaying biomass on the forest floor.

The club emerges from the deep dark woods

The short and wooded trail soon spit us out onto the bright and sandy dunes like so many cave salamanders, our eyes blinking myopically in the comparatively bright light. It wasn't full-on sunny though, as heavy gray clouds still blocked the sun, but blue sky in between hinted at the clouds' eventual dissipation and demise. 

All the soft sand you could ever want to walk on

The trail leading away from Tahkenitch Campground heads straight to the beach but before we could get John his saltwater pedi, a left turn was made onto the dunes trail. Here, it was all sand and beachgrass and too bad John didn't want to partake of Queen Sandy's pedicure instead. At any rate, we hiked among the hummocks of beachgrass while calves complained about hiking in soft sand and despite my usual and customary whining, I actually felt walky and enjoyed both the exertion of the hike and scenery.

Epic view of Threemile Lake

At the intersection with the Threemile Lake Trail, we made another left turn and headed uphill in the shifting sand, beelining toward an overlook of Threemile Lake. The viewpoint serves up an epic vista of the lake, which normally dries itself into two separate bodies of water. On this day though, it was its three-mile-long single self, sited and sighted in a long and slender bowl sunk in a forested basin. Clouds artistically reflected on the mirrorlike surface and we slid down a long sandy hill like so many Jacks and Jills to eat lunch on the lakeshore.

The beach portion of this hike commences

After a lakeside lunch and laze, we hiked over to the beach where the clouds finally melted away and all beach hikes should take place under a blue sky and springtime sun. John took off his shoes and proffered his crusty feet to poor King Neptune. I'm surprised that gagging King Neptune didn't hurl tidal waves in our direction in response to John's effrontery. But he didn't, and everybody happily hiked along, with or without hiking boots and smelly socks.

We went as far north as Tahkenitch Creek, which was mostly roped off to protect the endangered snowy plover. The water flowed across the pristine sand at its delta and we could clearly see the tide forcing itself upstream like a watery proctologist's probe, not that I really know what that is like. Disgusting and gross simile aside, the incoming tide and wide creek was our cue to lace up our boots (in John's case) and grab the sandy trail heading inland.

"Back in the day..."

Tahkenitch Dunes used to be one of my favorite weekend backpack camping places. Here, one could pitch a tent at the edge of the creek and observe creek, beach, and sunset from the campsite. But now, the migrating creek has gobbled up the camping spots and forest service rangers have roped off the creek's banks. Sigh, all I have left are memories. On the plus side, there were some nice views of the creek as we hiked while I bored younger hikers with "Back in the day..."

The loop was closed off by hiking through the same emerald forest we had started on. But now, sunlight filtered through, or tried to filter through, the thick forest cover, infusing the very air with a soft green glow. Palmate leaves of tall rhododendrons spread their leafy fingers out like so many green monkey hands begging for handouts, while salal bushes filled up the spaces underneath, their leaves totally devoid of any anthropomorphic metaphor. This green section of trail was a good way to close off the hike.

It's so hard to be humble!

I was feeling pretty proud of myself at the end, for I had felt energetic and walky throughout. Maybe I was finally able to kick Covid to the curbside, although I don't want to get too cocky about this, I don't really need a viral comeuppance for my conceit. Stay humble, Richard, even though it's so hard, you can do it because you're the best and everybody basks in the glow of your bestness. I think I just failed at being humble. 

They say imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery but in this case, they'd be wrong!

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

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