Hikes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

September 21, 2014.

We split town and spent the day exploring sand dunes by foot. It was a lovely break from the mountain climbing training we’ve been doing for the past couple months.

Carter Dunes

First stop: Carter Dunes. We began from the Taylor Dunes Trailhead. The sky was overcast and there was hardly a human in sight. It was a great day to explore the coast. The hike began in coastal forest, the trail well-packed into the needle-covered duff.

A zig-zagging boardwalk took us across the wetter bit of the forest, or at least the part that gets wet during the other three seasons of the year. The forest led into the big sand dunes, but it was no Sahara desert. Lots of vegetation grew here: a variety of grasses, shrubs, wildflowers and small trees called this home.

We followed the thin line of sand through the beachgrass, walking from one blue-tipped pole to the next. Strawberry plants laid their runners (or trip-roots, as I liked to call them) across the sand. I walked barefoot most of the way, and so did some other critters.

Were those bear tracks? We did a double-take and walked along a line of unusual prints in the sand. The tracks were short and wide, with five distinct toes and a relatively short gait. If I would have seen a bear on the beach I think I might have experienced a combination of fear, surprise and delight! We never did find who made those tracks, but we kept our ears perked up as we continued walking.

It was fun to play in the sand, balance on logs and try to avoid stepping on all the pokey plants that seem to love living along the coast.

When we reached the ocean, I took a big breath of air. We walked along the beach a little ways, looking for treasures. It was a gray day. The sky seemed to blend right in with the water. Foamy waves rolled into shore. We were the only ones on the beach.

In order to loop back, we walked through the Carter Lake Campground and then finished with a short road walk. It was time to wipe down my feet and get ready for the next adventure.


Oh, shoot. I meant the next hiking adventure.

Oregon Dunes

The first time I visited the Oregon Dunes I had a pegleg. Today I’d be able to enjoy the walk a little bit more!

A quick hike through the trees brought us to wide open sand. Hundreds of footsteps made the path very clear. We crossed through more patches of trees and vegetation on our way to the coastline. It felt very similar to our previous walk.

But now, in order to make a loop, we had to walk along the beach.

It was a delightful walk. The ocean lapped the wide, sandy beach. Driftwood created mini-playgrounds for us along the way. There were shells, plants, seabirds and other interesting baubles to attract our attention as we sauntered by the sea.

There’s something inherently wonderful about walking barefoot on the sand. Our feet lack much tactile stimuli when they’re in shoes all day. The sand provides an overload of textures. It moves underfoot. It’s cold on the top and warm down below. It can cover up buried surprises. It can be wet, dry, or something in between. I savored letting my feet have some playtime on our beach walk.

Darlingtonia Wayside

One last pull-out. The Darlingtonia Wayside is a worthy stop. A small bog filled with these weird-looking plants is accessed by a short boardwalk just off the main highway. It’s incredible to think that nature could even come up with something like this. Such a bizarre-looking plant, and they’re found in such density! We stopped here to admire the Darlingtonia before making our way home.

A trip to the coast is always memorable. This one was no exception. Quiet beaches, pretty sand dunes, unique vegetation and great seafood equaled an awesome day!


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