Saturday, January 9, 2021

Dellenback Dunes (Hall Lake Route)

At December's commencement, I was well poised to reach my yearly goal of 500 miles but unfortunately, sort of ran out of gas due to weather, sore knees, and life stuff. Still, I wound up with 469 miles hiked in 2020 and that's respectable. But here we are in a brand new year and this was the first hike of the year. Brand new year but still some travails, apparently. On this particular hike at Dellenback Dunes, I felt a sharp pain somewhere "down there" that left me feeling teste, pun intended. After a post-hike round of tests and stuff, turns out I am the proud father-to-be of a brand new baby hernia which would explain the burning pain in my groin. And just to clarify, this particular burning in the groin is the kind you get when you are sixty-four years old and not the cool burning in your groin you get at say, age twenty-four. Anyway, I dispiritedly erased my 2021 goal of 500 miles off of the message board hanging in the kitchen. Hernia surgery and the requisite period of post-surgery recuperation will do that to a mileage goal.

Across the dunes we go!

Dellenback Dunes is one of those places I seem to hit pretty regularly and since I've been hiking eons, I've visited the sandy expanse an eon's worth of times. To keep from getting bored, I try to find a different route to keep the dunes interesting and while I had done the version that connects the John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead with Hall Lake several times, most of the attendees on this Friends of the Umpqua hike had not, allowing me to experience the freshness of the hike by listening to their complaints about the endless mountains of sand we were hiking up and down.

This hike provided lots of quality "Whee!" time

There are basically like five mountain ranges of sand running between trailhead and lake and the first slope is one of the steeper ones. The day was overcast, but we were all soon quite warm from the exertion of hiking up steep slopes of soft sand. On the plus side, the steep drop-off on the other side of the crest was fun to watch as hikers ran down the slopes in ebullient glee like first-graders exiting the classroom for recess. Although, nobody could match the exuberance and joy of canine friend Gus, who ran back up the slope solely for the delirious pleasure of running back down again. Me, I just calmly walked down the sandy slopes because like the day, I too am gray and chill.

Spirits of forests past

Our second "little" hill was through a ghost forest, a highlight of the hike. It's hard to imagine a forest growing in what seems to an entire Arabian peninsula of sand in Oregon. Yet, there they are, the bones of several dozen dead trees half buried in an arborescent graveyard, with the top half of the trees serving as grave marker and headstone. This arboreal necropolis is a reverential place and we stopped to mourn the trees' loss of life and generally just ponder the meaning of it all. I'm not sure how a mini-forest of evergreen trees ever managed to grow tall in the middle of all that sand but you can't argue with the spirits of the dead manifested on the crown of this sandy crest.

Our lunchtime view of Hall Lake

After several more ups and downs on several more tall alps of sand, we arrived at the slope overlooking Hall Lake and stopped to admire the vista for a bit. Hall Lake sits on the dividing line between coastal forest and stark dune and accordingly, the east side of the lake was heavily forested while on the west side, the tall dune we were eating lunch on sloped directly down to the dark waters.     

Not looking at any dang yardangs!

The Hall Lake overlook was the culmination of the 4th climb up a steep slope of sand so several of our party opted to hike return by way of that dune crest while the rest of us tackled Dune Number 5, which was the meanest one out of the whole bunch. But Dune 5 is the coolest, scenery-wise, for the combination of rain and wind had carved the damp sands on the dune crest into all sorts of sculptures (known as yardangs) resembling random pyramids and temples. Those with cameras explored the yardangs while those without lowered their heads and toiled up the steep sandy inclines, oblivious to the splendors of the sandy ramparts and revetments sited just below.

Linda leads the mad charge across the dunes

After the dune descent, we were happy to be hiking along the edge of the behind-the-beach marshes until the main body of our group grabbed the trail to the beach. Linda, Don, and I opted to return directly to the trailhead at this point. Don and I have each recently lost a close family member, so naturally in the middle of this celebration of nature and life, the main subject of our conversation was death and dying. But it was therapeutic and helped mute the increasing pain in my lower side. Stupid hernia, anyway.

A veritable Mount Rainier of sand looms on the horizon

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

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