Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dellenback Dunes

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is not one single area, but actually a patchwork collection of many sand-filled areas. Of all the dune areas set aside for hikers, John Dellenback Dunes is the largest of them all. I don't have any actual square acreage data to throw out, but based on my non-empirical impression, the Dellenback Dunes are huge. Recently, the Friends of the Umpqua were going to play, frolic, and generally caper about in Oregon's largest sandbox, so Daweson and I got up early to join the club on what promised to be a sunny day at the coast.

Perfect weather for hiking!
So much for the forecasted sunny day! It was overcast at the trailhead and would remain so for the entire day, but no complaining will be tolerated, for the temperature was cool and perfect for hiking. Even though there was cloud cover overhead, enough UV rays leaked through to cause mild sunburns on some of my more sun-challenged friends.

Uphill in sand, so much fun!
After a short walk from the trailhead on a sandy track through a coastal forest, we headed uphill in soft sand to attain the crest of the "Great Dune". Once atop the dune, the sand was firm and hard-packed (just like me!), making the hiking easy and enjoyable. Sand stretched out in all directions and wind had adorned the sands with patterned artwork.

Beaach lupine
The large dune we were walking on pointed like an abrasive dagger aiming into the sandy heart of Dellenback Dunes, the dune terminating at a prominent tree island that keeps observant  hikers oriented in all the featureless sand. Just before the tree island, we dropped off the tall dune and  set off across a sandy plain, heading south toward Tenmile Creek.

Ponds dotted the dunescape
As of today (May 30th) the Forest Service still has a flood damage alert posted for the Oregon Dunes area. Apparently the ample rain this year has raised havoc with campgrounds, trails, and roads (we ran into some of the flood damage on our Tahkenitch Dunes hike earlier this year). Dellenback Dunes was apparently spared from the watery rampage but there were still a number of leftover ponds collecting in the dune dimples, like so many oases. It seemed like there were more ponds than usual and the usual ponds were fuller than they'd normally be. Of course, our two youngest hikers (Daweson, age 14; and Emma, age 6) just had to sink in the quicksand that typically forms at the edge of the ponds.

Tenmile Creek looks more like a river
Tenmile Creek was wide and deep and looked more like a river as it cut through the dunes. We bushwhacked along the snaking creek/river, eventually trading open sand for thin forest and beach grass. Since I was the only hiker clad in shorts, I quickly became more aware than most that the tips of beachgrass blades are sharp and pointy. When Tenmile Creek made a pronounced turn to the south, the vegetation became too thick to bushwhack comfortably through. In the interest of scratch-free hiking, we bid adieu to the creek and took a more direct route to the beach.
A marsh just begs to be waded across

Despite the forested aspect of our route, we were basically navigating across a series of marshes so  it figures there'd be at least one large marsh in the way. The water was probably knee deep or better and Daweson and I were just about ready to gleefully splash our way across. However, our allergic-to-wet-feet comrades found it fairly easy to walk along the edge to get around the marsh and sadly, our boots remained as sere as a desert as we followed the dry-footers.

It's a bird, a plane,'s Super Daweson
Just beyond the marsh was the delta area of Tenmile Creek. The creek obviously changes course with great regularity, frequently shifting its track through the sand, as evidenced by a stagnant bay that formed where the large creek had been particularly indecisive about its route to the sea. Daweson demonstrated his long-jumping prowess by leaping across a tributary creek.


Speaking of showing off skills, Daweson further entertained the crowd by performing some flips, sticking the landing each time. I'd claim that I taught him that but the difference between my flips and his, is that my flips are not done on purpose. Rachel averred that she too, had tumbling skills and began a "graceful" run into an awkward leap in the air that culminated with an emphatic thud in the sand, much to the amusement of all onlookers. She might have jumped as high as six inches but without a ruler, it was hard to tell.

We're so sorry, Mother Kildeer
After a short visit to the tidal flats (it was low tide) and beach, we turned around and headed back. As we skirted a marsh, a kildeer was shrieking in the brackish water, dragging an injured wing behind her. The wing was not really injured, though: kildeer engage in deception in order to protect their young when nesting. Kildeer eggs are speckled and very hard to see, and lie unprotected on the open ground. We did find the nest but not before a hiking boot had disturbed it. It was really quite sad to listen to her anguish as we hiked past, all we can do is say "we are so very sorry, please forgive us for our trespass."

This sums up the hike on the return leg
On the return leg, the two youngsters shed their shoes and slid, rolled, somersaulted, and leaped in the sandy dunes. Progress was slow but it was entertaining. All that energy expended resulted in sleeping passengers on the drive home but at least nobody asked me "Are we there yet?"

Gaoying is dwarfed by the sandy expamse
Because of all the rainfall, it's been prognosticated to be a bad year for ticks. Well, to be more concise, it is going to be a great year for ticks, and not so great a year for hikers. Continuing a recent trend, John kept plucking them off his pant legs on the hike and on the way home, he dispatched no less than eight of the bloodsucking parasites. One tick burrowed into Daweson's shoulder and judging by the excited Chinese emanating from the back seat, Gaoying also found a few crawling on her and Emma. Also continuing a recent trend, not one tick was found on your merry blogster. Not sure why that is, but I'm going to keep eating those habanero chiles. 

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


  1. Ticks along the coast at Dellenback? Wow! We just had an adventure much like your hike at Peyton Bridge when we hiked at Union Creek. The weather has really changed the landscape of many trials this year!

  2. Playing on sand dunes looks like a lot of fun for the youngsters! You must possess some sort of tick "force field" - lucky you!