Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tahkenitch Creek weekend backpack

Hello keyboard, did you miss me? Yeah, I know, it's been a while since I've posted and to all you who have been asking: I am fine but have been just plain old blog lazy. In my defense, Blog Central is upstairs where all the heat goes and it just seems like there are better things to do than literally drip rivers of sweat while typing out the latest inane entry that somehow involves a hike somewhere in southern Oregon. But anyway, the hikes are piling up and their stories are waiting to be told, so here goes the first attempt at catching up.

Tall rhododendrons provided ample shade
Several years ago, I took granddaughter Coral Rae on a backpack trip to the coast and that particular trip was somewhat of a fail. A pebble of sand had locked our food canister lid tight which was darn inconvenient, as our weekend nutrition was just on the inaccessible side of the lid. So, Coral Rae got to double up on the planned mileage when we hiked out the same day. Since she didn't like the inbound hike in the first place, she was doubly sour on backpacking by time we reached the car under setting sun. Way to make great memories, Grandpa!

Our route
But time heals all wounds and here in 2018, a couple of years after that first abortive attempt, Coral Rae was ready and willing for another attempt at this backpacking thing. So off we go to Tahkenitch Dunes, eager to complete our unfinished business from two years ago. She didn't do too bad this time, we indulged in a couple of rest stops in the shady spots and arrived at Tahkenitch Creek (sort of) before the heat ramped up in the afternoon.

View from our campsite
What a difference a year or two makes! Last time I backpacked here, there was an epic campsite attained by bushwhacking off the trail towards the creek. Perched atop the creek bank, the campsite proffered up a soothing view of the wide but languid creek S-curving into the ocean. Since then, unfortunately, a very rainy winter overly filled up the marshes behind the beach foredunes and the resultant runoff carved a deep gully that trashed the trail. 

Small girl, large ocean
Additionally, the creek has been migrating south and the trail has already been relocated several times during my acquaintanceship with the sandy path. This time was no different and the path had again been rerouted back into the woods south of the creek. And my awesome campsite had long since disappeared into the maelstrom waters of a rampaging creek. 

One of several bugs with large jaws
However, a section of the old trail remains, perched at the edge of the creek banks, and the Forest Service has strategically placed logs, branches, and brush to deter hikers from attempting to follow the old trail. However, the old path makes for a perfect camping spot with a similar view as that of several years ago, so Coral Rae and I illicitly bushwhacked through a dense thicket of trees and brush and set up camp on the once and former trail.

"I'm sailing away..."

One other change made by the Forest Service is that they have roped off creek banks on the beach and the dunes on the other side of the creek, in an attempt to save the snowy plover, an endangered beach-dwelling bird. While I always enjoyed exploring and swimming in the creek, giving all that up is good when done for a worthy cause, so Coral Rae and I dutifully obeyed the restrictions...except for our camping on the closed trail, of course.

Crazy kid at play
Since we had half a day to kill, we pretty much did that, wading in the ocean and digging for sand crabs. I showed Coral Rae how the sand crabs swim in the water around one's feet. But yikes! The little <bad word, plural version> started biting my feet and it was somewhat painful. It was like "Attack of the Carnivorous Crabs" starring My Feet. Needless to say, I'll never again walk barefoot in the beach, for the remainder of my life.

On the beach in the late and chilly afternoon
The beach was littered with jellyfish, their dried purple sails still catching the breeze after their boat had beached, so to speak. There were odd little insect critters with large and formidable jaws afoot (one more reason not to walk barefoot on the beach!) and much photography ensued while lying prone on the dangerous sands.

Late afternoon at Tahkenitch Creek

Coral Rae, seemingly impervious to cold (a brisk chill wind was a constant on the beach), waded across the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek and also spent some time lying down in the rushing water. When the temperature began to drop in the late afternoon, we beat a retreat to our campsite, made dinner, and then sat down atop the creek bank for the sunset show.

Clap, clap, clap!
The best sunsets are at the coast, there can be no argument about this. Predictably, the sun sank, and the air was cast with a brilliant golden glow as the creek sparkled with a million points of orange light. In what is a tradition of mine, we gratefully applauded when the last light of the sun sank behind the horizon.

Morning comes to camp
After a restful night, I got up early and let the snoring girl sleep. The creek was smooth as polished marble, and everything was tinted pink from the morning sunlight. A lone bald eagle swooped in and perched atop a post on the opposite side of the tree-clogged creek. Later, after Coral Rae woke up, I was telling her about the eagle when right on cue, the eagle returned for an encore performance. Thanks, eagle!

They may be small, but they sure are tasty
All good things come to an end though, so we struck camp, hoisted our packs and began trudging in the soft sand. It was quite warm this morning, and the open dunes did not provide any succor. Coral Rae and I diverted our attention from our hot and sweaty toil by nibbling on wild strawberries which were plentiful along the trail. We also debated for several miles whether Coral Rae's favorite aliens were kinder and gentler than my favorite aliens. Inane, to be sure, but several years ago all I heard was how miserable one grumpy granddaughter was. What a difference a couple of years can make!

The 2018 version of Coral Rae
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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