Dellenback Dunes – December 2, 2017

Hike Coordinator – John Malone

The forecast for Saturday December 2nd was a grim one, which is probably why only 3 hardy souls showed up at the library car park, and made the drive over to the coast.

At the trail head they were thrilled to find Rachel and Traci from the South Coast Striders waiting for them. For the next 20 minutes the air was filled with rustling and grunting as the 5 hikers wrestled with their waterproof garb. 

Shortly after 10am, the small but merry crew set off on their soggy hike. A quarter of a mile in, Rachel started to question whether she’d locked her car or not. Her paranoia spread to Traci too, so after a few indecisive minutes she ran back to the car park to check both vehicles, promising she’d catch back up to them shortly. With John’s long legs and massive stride leading the way, the others were dubious about that.

The hike started off on a well-defined path through a forest, but then opened up into a vast expanse of sand with no discernible path whatsoever. We hiked up a steep dune and then down the other side, and then up the next dune…we could see for miles…sandy dunes in every direction, almost devoid of vegetation except for the odd “tree island” and tufts of beach grass here and there. But then we spotted a distant spot of red cresting the dune behind us…could it be? Yes, it was Rachel, and she had another hiker from the Striders in tow, who she had found milling about in the car park. We waited while she caught up. Apparently she hadn’t locked her car, so it was just as well she had gone back.

Despite the lack of a proper trail, John seemed to know exactly where to go. At first there were a few moments where there was a little “bush-whacking”, and some rather precarious sandy hill climbing, where the tufts of beach grass came in handy when the sand gave way as we hauled ourselves up. 

After a few miles we found ourselves hiking alongside Ten Mile Creek. It was very picturesque. It probably would have been a lovely place to sit and eat lunch, had it have been dry enough to do so. But the rain was unrelenting for the duration of the hike, so we just just ate our lunch as we went. 

We made our way to the “trail” that leads to the beach, but as usual at this time of year it was utterly flooded. John tried to find a drier entry point to the trail, but alas, after many false starts, we never found one. He suggested just biting the bullet and wading through, but having made it that far without getting our feet wet the rest of us voted him down vehemently on that one. 

As we started meandering our way back to the trail head, John regaled us with some dune history. Apparently, in the olden days the coast from north of Florence to just south of Coos Bay was an expanse of shifting sand. This was not ideal for the folk wanting to build highway 101, so someone had the bright idea of planting European Beach Grass to try and firm up and tame these wild shifting sands. The plan worked a bit too well, and the grass thrived here and unfortunately has affected many local plants and animals, and is now considered an invasive species. 

We all agreed that the landscape seemed almost other worldly, and could totally appreciate it being the inspiration for Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novels. Luckily we all made it back to our vehicles without being eaten by giant sand worms. Rachel and Traci’s vehicles were still locked. According to Rachel’s Fitbit, we hiked a grand total of 10 miles (which experienced hikers know counts as 12 when it’s all on sand). Despite the incessant rain, it was a fabulous hike.

Pictures by Rachel Swieck