Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dellenback Dunes

Not sure if anybody noticed or not, but I hike just a tad bit more often than the average bear, and it's sometimes hard to keep track of them all. There are only so much memory cells available in which to store, remember, and cherish all the thousands of miles that have flowed beneath my boots, so most hikes tend to plop on top of the memory pile and eventually get buried underneath the next pailful of hikes. However, this particular hike to Dellenback Dunes will be a notable exception as it was a hike I absolutely enjoyed more than most. The reason for the mental standout was not the great weather or the fantastic scenery, although that was more than enough of reason to up the enjoyment factor. No, the two reasons were grandsons Issiah and Daweson.

Let the big adventure begin
Although it was like herding a flock of twelve-handed monkeys, Dollie and I managed to get the two boys into the car with just enough time to meet the Friends of the Umpua Hiking Club at the Dellenback Dunes Trailhead. At the first glance of the expansive dunes, the boys were suitably awestruck and immediately ran up the sandy hills, keeping pace with our hiking comrades. At each crest, they rolled and somersaulted down the tall hills of sand, much to everybody's amusement. Because the kids felt compelled to repeat the spin cycle over and over again, the club soon left us behind as we progressed across the dunes at boy speed.

Gotta touch every post
Because of the transitory nature of the sands, there are no formal trails or paths across the dunes. Instead, there are a series of marker posts for the navigationally challenged that one can follow across the dunes. Once the boys figured out we were following the posts, then looking for the next post became a grand game. They were a little unclear on the concept of walking in the general direction of the posts, they had to actually touch each wooden marker. Since most of the posts were on a tall hummock, each post offered an opportunity to roll or slide down in the sand.  Needless to say, progress was slow across the dunes despite all the energetic running.

Oasis in the dunes
The weather was absolutely glorious with a cloudless blue sky arcing overhead while a cool breeze counteracted the bright sun...much photography ensued. For the boys, the coolness factor went up a few more notches when I found some quicksand near a small pond in a sandy depression. They just had to get knee deep in the stuff.

A rare dry stretch in the forest
More feet wetting took place when we reached the end of the dunes and grabbed the trail through the deflation plain forest behind the beach foredunes. The forest sits in standing water and a well-constructed boardwalk takes hikers through the worst of it. However, getting to the boardwalk required wading through deep puddles of standing water and I became the Coolest Grandfather Ever with each extended wade.

Off and running
Because we had lollygagged our way across the dunes, I surrendered to the inevitable and let the boys play on the beach, figuring we would return the way we came.  It'd be a short hike but hey, I can always hike a longer one on another day. So the kids frolicked in the surf with all the joyful exuberance of the young.

No one lost an eye

Issiah is somewhat of a pack rat and his pack was soon full of rocks, shells, sand dollars, and various other souvenirs. Each boy acquired a wooden staff and much mock swordplay ensued. A grand time was had by all as we spent about an hour on the beach.

Beach scarecrow
Neither Daweson nor Issiah wanted to go back and both boys were fairly insistent we do the full loop down to Tenmile Creek. Not sure exactly what I was getting myself into, I relented and we headed southward along the beach. Issiah ran his staff through the arms of his sweatshirt and dangled his shoes (he was hiking barefoot) and other accoutrements off the protruding ends. He looked like a baby scarecrow.

Fishhook on Tenmile Creek
Two miles later, we arrived at Tenmile Creek, glistening silver in the afternoon sun. The creek was more like a river, running wide and fast. Boys will be boys, and they just had to scramble up the sandy cliff at the creek's edge instead of walking up the dunes like their sensible and boring grandfather.

I'm the coolest grandfather ever
There is no trail leading away from Tenmile Creek back to Dellenback Dunes, so my young charges will look back at this point in time as their first exposure to that quaint activity known as bushwhacking. But before we could find bushes to whack (and vise versa), we had to negotiate a path through an extensive swamp in the Tenmile Creek estuary. Splish, splash, the boys thought the whole marsh wade added to the magical experience that is hiking. Internally, I compared their delight to some of my hiking companions (some of whom I'm not married to) who loudly complain about wet feet, as if they were going to painfully melt like some Wicked Witch of the West.  Daweson, Issiah, and I became the founders and charter members of the Sons of  the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club, where every hike will be required to have a wade in it.

I claim these dunes for Queen and country!

Once past the marsh, we entered the scrubland between Tenmile Creek and the dunes. A pair of jeans was lying all alone in the sand and we speculated at length as to how those jeans came to be there; all sorts of theories were postulated from forgetfulness to de-pantsing bears. My friends Lane and Dale would probably say we found the pants I famously forgot to bring on our Lost Coast trip. Near the pants was a colorful bandanna which was promptly affixed to Issiah's staff and now we had both a flag and a standard bearer.

After a mile of working our way through the forest and beachgrass hummocks, we came to a nice overlook of Tenmile Creek. We also had a nice view of the vast sandy expanse of Dellenback Dunes, most of which rose well high of our position next to the creek. Can you say "uphill to the car", boys and girls? Beelining for a tree island, we huffed a pretty brisk climb up to the top of a dune crest. The boys now had about 7 miles on their little legs and they were lagging behind their incredibly handsome grandfather on the climb up.

This is how boys rest
"Can we take a break? We're tired" they wailed plaintively. So we dropped our packs and I sat down for a snack and rest stop. The boys rested by running down the dune we had just climbed up, and engaged in more boisterous swordplay. After a few minutes they climbed back up the dune and then rolled down it. Obviously, the two lads were conceptually unclear on the "rest" or "stop" in "rest stop".

End of the 8 mile hike
We had a couple of more uphill pushes to the "Great Dune", a large dune that is the main route into and out of Dellenback Dunes. As promised, we stopped to allow Daweson and Issiah one last opportunity to soak in the magnificent beauty of the dunes by tumbling down them. So in the end, we wound up hiking 8.1 miles with not one word of complaint, something that has never happened before on a Richard Hike.

Mountains on the moon
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. Sounds like a great fun hike with the grandkids. 8.1 miles without a complaint on a Richard Hike??? Guess Carol and I will have to make up for that when we hike with you in a few weeks!!!!!