Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baker Beach

This hike had a couple of little ironies.  First, Lois got a speeding ticket in her haste to begin an activity that takes place at a leisurely 2 miles an hour. The other ironic moment occurred when I stepped in a sinkhole while wading through a marsh, making me the only hiker out of the 21 attendees that experienced a true Richard Hike experience.

What happens when I Google Earth late at night
The genesis for this hike came late one night when perusing Google Earth. Looking at the Alder Dunes area, a faint footpath led from dune to dune, seemingly going all the way to the Baker Beach area. So, a mid-week exploratory scouting trip was penciled in, starting at Dune Lake.

Alder Dunes view
From little Dune Lake, the sandy footpath followed a series of small dunes collectively known as Alder Dunes. On the right side of the trail, the dunes sloped up to where presumably one could have views of lakes Alder, Mussel, and Nott.  Of course, that would involve gaining about 100 feet in steep and soft sand, it was more comfy to stay on the path.

Hiking on what amounts to a game trail

On the satellite photos, the trail passed through seven dunes but it seemed more like four from actual ground level. The trail was always visible but the problem is that the trail braided with other trails and more than once I mentally flipped a coin to decide whether to take the right or left fork. It was more confusing than the federal tax code. I don't think there really was a wrong way or a right way to get from Dune Lake to Baker Beach Campground, but there sure were a bunch of different ways to get there.

Odd little sand formation
Once at Baker Beach Campground, the GPS said I'd been wandering aimlessly in the forest and dunes for a mere 2.8 miles.  Clearly, more miles were required so I added several trail loops that visited Lilly Lake, Berry Creek, Baker Beach, and a massive sand dune that went on for miles; altogether it wound up being a 7.3 mile hike, all of it in soft sand.  My soft sand muscles were softer than the soft sand and this hike felt a lot longer and I was now ready to inflict the same amount of pain on my friends.

Nobody got lost and I like that
Last time I led a Friends of the Umpqua hike, only three friends showed up. Given that backstory, it was shocking to set out on the trail with 20 friends (and one dog) in tow, uttering a silent prayer to the hiking gods to help me arrive with 20 friends (and one dog) at the trailhead at the end of the hike. We cut down our chances of misplacing anybody by using the buddy system and stopping at all trail junctions.

Lake that is small and dry, just like me
In spite of those precautions, Edwin (who was at the front while I manned the rear) managed to lead us in a different direction from my scouting trip and we ended up at a small lake abutting the dunes. No worries, I had been on top of the dune looking down on the lake so we hiked uphill on a sandy path and resumed the proper route.

Reflection at Berry Creek

On the Lilly Lake route (where you really can't get a good look at the lake) we continued on to the banks of Berry Creek.  I walked down to the creek and instructed everyone to put on their wading shoes. Alternatively, I heard cursing, crying, and whining with the phrase "'s a Richard Hike.." sprinkled liberally throughout. Great fun, and I let them know they'd been pranked and then I heard cursing, crying, and whining with the phrase "'s a Richard Hike.." sprinkled liberally throughout.

Lunch time at Berry Creek
We ate lunch at Berry Creek, enjoying the sun while shivering in the cold ocean breeze. The canine portion of our group enjoyed swimming in the creek and retrieving large sticks. After lunch we closed the loop where no hikers took the offered option of heading back for a shorter hike.

Sandy cliff at Berry Creek
So, all 20 companions (plus one dog and one hike leader) went to the beach where several members took off shoes and went for a wade in the ocean while the rest of us shivered in the cold ocean breeze. One wave caught John but he seemed to enjoy being wet and cold, to judge from the grin on his face.

Let's hike through the marshes!
We made a short loop by hiking along the mouth of Berry Creek and then bushwhacking through the dunes and marshes to return to the trail. The marshy portion was short and feet got wet briefly.  So, while everybody continued on back to the campground, I backtracked to retrieve John and his wading crew as they had tarried when they put on their shoes after their ocean wade.

Hikers, walking past a hidden sinkhole
Not wanting to get my feet wet again, I took a loop around the edge of the marsh where it looked like it would be drier.  Looks can be so deceiving. I was shocked when my foot sunk into the grass, and sunk and sunk and sunk. I briefly wondered if I was going to wind up in China before I struck solid ground with the cold marsh water nearly up to my neck. Thrashing wildly, I grabbed on to some branches and hauled my now very wet carcass out of the diabolically disguised sinkhole I had stepped into.

Shadows in the late afternoon
It was a chilly walk through the forest after that and I took no more pictures as unfortunately, the camera had gone swimming with me. Concentrating on keeping a brisk pace to keep warm, the two miles back to Dune Lake seemed to go fairly quickly. I'm glad to report, no hikers (dog or human) were left behind, and we all had a great time, unintended swimming sessions and speeding tickets notwithstanding. On the way back, our car passed Lois who was plodding along exactly at the speed limit. It seems she has a newly found religion about obeying speed limits following her morning encounter with the police.  Oh, the irony!

For more pictures of the two Baker Beach hikes, see the Flickr album.


  1. Nice shots and as always your funny captions and descriptions make it a fun read. I liked the "odd little sand formation" that looked like a whole lot of boat oars had been left on the sand and left those marks!

    1. You didn't see the teats on a pregnant centipide? Because, that's what I saw!

  2. Enjoyable report Richard. You have photos, so your camera must have survived the sinkhole.

    1. I wish! The little adjustment wheel does not work any more so I will either have to buy a new camera or get this one fixed. Still pondering the options. In the meantime I can take pictures but have to use the menu to adjust settings which is very time consuming and altogether irritating.

  3. Wow, what an adventure!! I think you should have taken a selfie picture while in the sinkhole, but Carol says you should start wearing a whistle. I would have to assume that your "pose" picture was taken prior to the sinkhole experience since you appear dry. Good to see you the other day on the OCT - what a small world.

    1. My one and only goal when I was in the sinkhole was to get the heck out! I should have taken a selfie to commemorate the event. P.S. I was chuckling the whole day about our improbable encounter on the trail. It was nice to bump into you and Carol so far from our respective haunts. I was so surprised it didn't even occur to me to have Carol take a synchronized Pose photo. Sigh, another missed opportunity, I must be off my game!