December 18, 2006.
A quick drive this morning led me to the John Dellenback trailhead south of Reedsport in the Oregon Dunes N.R.A. It was a 3 mile hike to the beach and 2 miles or so was in the dunes. Sweet.
It was a chilly start and the sands were covered in frost. I rapidly found my way out to the dunes where the trail all but disappears in a maze of interwoven footpaths. In the distance, wooden posts marked with blue paint supposedly lead the way. I kept the posts in sight as best I could, while first I followed prints and then ventured out on my own. It was much more fun making my own trail, and being on the dunes was like exploring another planet. It reminded me of walking along a rolling, snowy, treeless ridge if you substituted the sand for snow. Gorgeous.
A barricade of greenery divided the dunes from the ocean. I found my way through the increasingly wet landscape to the clearly marked path leading into the scrub. Before long, the scrub turned into a dark, muddy swamp. I couldn’t believe it. I’d expected a morning of easy walking along glistening, dry sand to a beautiful ocean view. Instead, I was pushing myself through the Everglades, the water getting deeper with every step.
My boots and gaiters kept me perfectly dry as I splashed through the near-frozen ponds that covered the trail. The vegetation on either side was so thick that bushwhacking around the water wasn’t possible. Besides, the rest of the forest was flooded too.
I got to a point where the water seemed to get about calf-deep, and I was not thrilled about having soggy socks and boots on the return trip so I braved the cold and went barefoot for the remainder of the trail.
Punching through ice and walking through bitterly cold water was really painful but I desperately wanted to get to the ocean! I knew I couldn’t be far. After what felt like forever, I finally reached a patch of dry land, which I immediately found was covered with a low-growing, needle-like plant. The needles embedded themselves into my feet, making standing on dry land uncomfortable too, so I briskly walked to the beach.
Here, the sun was shining and the sand seemed to stretch for eternity. I laid out my footwear to dry off and took a short walk on the beach. Plovers dashed up to the water’s edge with each receding wave and the wind blew ever so gently. It was another wonderful moment at the shore.
I managed to tear myself away after a half-hour of lollygagging and did the trip in reverse: wading through water, traversing the dunes on yet another route, and zipping through the trees to the car. I passed one older gentleman towards the trailhead who was amazed that I’d traveled “all the way to the beach!” Six miles down, and it was barely lunchtime.
This was a quick diversion, just an excuse to get out of the car and wander. There was a lighthouse here but it was closed today, of course. That would be the theme of this trip. I did manage to find a path down to the beach, where I poked around in the intertidal, harassing tiny fish and hermit crabs.
After seeing such a glorious sunset over the ocean yesterday, I decided I needed to see another one, but I wanted to work for it. According to my sources, a 1.5 mile trail led through the woods to the beach at this small park. So I parked at the trailhead at about 4:30pm and barreled down the trail.
The hike was all downhill, and it took longer than I thought, so I wondered how far I’d actually gone. I never made it to the bottom, but stopped once I had a wide open view of the rocks and sea below. The sun was already in setting mode, so I didn’t want to go any further than I needed to. I found a comfy seat on the ground, took my camera out, and watched the waves, listened to their thundering crashes, and glowed in the brilliant pinks and oranges the sky was dressed in tonight. As the sky darkened, I put on my headlamp and trudged back up the trail.
I moved as quickly as I could without tripping, so as to exploit as much of the fading daylight as possible. Soon, the forest grew very dark and I switched on my lamp. First, on the lowest setting, then on the highest as being alone in the dark started to freak me out. I thought I saw another hiker on the trail ahead of me, a big guy in a dark jacket carrying something under his arm, but it turned out it was just some weird shadow and my inventive imagination. That put a little pep in my step and I couldn’t have gotten back to my car faster :).
I’d had a productive day, and planned to drive down to Redwoods CA to stay in a hostel there. Unfortunately, it is closed on random days throughout the winter so I was unable to spend the night there. Instead I drove on to the Prairie Creek campground within the park (after a very long and unproductive drive on some sketchy gravel roads) and slept in my car. I was too annoyed to bother with the tent. Winter sure does keep the people away, which is mostly good for me, but sometimes does cause problems.