Saturday, November 12, 2016

Oregon Dunes 11/2016

It's been a wet November. The constant rain really tests one's resolve to get some regular trail time in. So much nicer to slap the alarm clock into submissive silence, roll over and go back to sleep to the soothing accompaniment of rain striking the roof outside the bedroom window. However, on November 12th I actually dragged my droopy self out of bed and slithered into the car, coffee cup in hand. Before the coffee molecules in my blood stream could take effect, I was halfway to Reedsport. And when the coffee molecules finally began working their perky magic, the first thing I noticed were the windshield wipers working valiantly to keep the prodigious rainfall off of the windshield, and not entirely successfully, either.

But there's no "paved" in hiking!
Fortunately, the rain abated pretty much when I parked the car at the Oregon Dunes day use area. It was a fortuitous omen and things looked good for taking a longer hike. The basic plan was to hike across the dunes to the beach, follow the beach and wade across Tahkenitch Creek and return by way of the Tahkenitch Creek Trail (with another wade across) back to the Oregon Dunes Overlook. And with lofty route in mind, I set out on the paved trail from the parking lot.

I'm late, I'm late, it's getting late!
The clocks had been set back a week prior and it was obvious that certain coastal denizens hadn't made the adjustment quite yet. The trail was literally crawling with rough-skinned newts, all on their way to work an hour early, thanks to the time change. The newts blended in with the forest duff on the trail and were rather hard to spot. My hiking pace was fairly slow as I tried my best to avoid stepping on any of the rough-skinned amphibians, I don't think any newts were harmed in the hiking of my hike.

Trail tunnel
Once the trail dropped out of the forest, it was goodbye pavement and hello sand. This area gets a lot of use, particularly so close to the overlook at the day use area, and numerous feet had chewed up a track across the sand, making the route easy to follow. A short walk across the dunes led into the deflation plain forest, with the trail tunnelling through the dense vegetation.

Swamps behind the foredunes
The trails through the deflation plain forest can be fairly wet and swampy but not yet, it's still early in the rainy season. So, it was a dry-footed hike through the forest before the trail spit me out into the marshes behind the beach foredunes. Fortunately, the trail was not yet swamped over with water so again, it was a dry-footed sand walk to the beach. So far, so good!

No beach hiking today!
Stupid high tide! So far, it had been too easy, there had to be some travails. The tide was high with the ocean lapping at the base of the foredunes like a hyperkinetic lake. I took a moment to evaluate the feasibility of a beach walk to Tahkenitch Creek when a large foamy wave literally chased me up the foredune. "Unfeasible" was the word that came to mind after careful evaluation of the possibility of hiking the beach to Tahkenitch Creek.

So there I was, all dressed up with nowhere to go, what to do? Back to the dunes it was, where I grabbed the dune trail leading to Tahkenitch Creek, well inland of the beach. Things took a turn for the macbre there at a spot on the trail where a small mammal had met its demise at the clawed hands of a predator. Scattered on the trail were tufts of fur, bone, fresh blood, and a pile of entrails. Gruesome enough, to be sure, but brown-green slugs were all over the carnage, looking all the world like those skin-burrowing alien space leeches normally seen in science fiction movies. I dared not stay long for fear the slugs would start to eat me too, and here I thought it was only deer I needed to worry about. 

In Oregon it rains and I hike
The day was overcast and rain came back to visit naturally, when I was totally exposed on the treeless dunes. Fortunately, it was just a short-lived squall and for the most part it was dry, in spite of the threatening sky overhead. 

Tahkenitch Creek
Tahkenitch Creek zig-zags next to the dunes in a series of pronounced oxbow and horseshoe-shaped loops. Tahkenitch Creek was about waist-deep at the normal crossing point so once again, my hike had to be rearranged. After a Tahkenitch Creek photo shoot, it was back to the sandy path heading up through the woods to the beach. At the beach, the tide was not as high as it had been an hour earlier, but it still was high nonetheless so at this point, I gave up on the longer hike.

Purple fairy club
So back through the dunes I went and now the trail was devoid of carnivorous slugs and ambling newts. The only other creatures I saw were some children running down the tall dunes, squealing with delight. As I was taking my boots off at the trailhead, the rain resumed, so it probably was a good thing I didn't do the longer hike as intended. There were enough travails on this day, as it was.

Slug on the prowl
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. I had no idea there were carnivorous slugs on the coast! ;) Despite the setbacks I'm sure you were glad to be out hiking.