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A Packed 24 Hours in the Oregon Dunes
Well, this past weekend brought an action-packed overnight trip to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and the beginning of what I hope is a successful partnership to work on Dunes restoration. The Oregon Dunes stretch along the central Oregon coast from just south of Florence to just north of Coos Bay (about 40 miles), and provide amazing recreation opportunities and breathtaking scenery.
After watching my alma mater Indiana University pull out a victory and make it to the Sweet Sixteen (Go Hoosiers!), I started off on my adventure near dusk, parking at my favorite trailhead in the Dunes, launching my backpack onto my back, and hiking in to find an overnight resting spot. I made it in time to set up my tent and enjoy the sunset, perched up in the heart of one of the nonmotorized sections of the Dunes.
View of the Pacific Ocean from my campsite in the nonmotorized section of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (notice the beachgrass taking hold in the open sand).
It still gets dark relatively early, and so there was plenty of tent time for reading, listening to the frogs serenade me, and some star gazing that was simply amazing. Of course, being that it is still winter on the Oregon Coast, I awoke around 3 am to strong winds and driving rain (possibly sleet) and sand. Luckily, my book was still handy, I was in my 5 degree sleeping bag, and my tent held up, so a few hours later, when the world around me settled down, I drifted back to sleep.
Dawn brought a lull in the rain/snow mixture just long enough for me to pack up and get started hiking out. And a short time later I was on my way south, heading to meet with Jody, from Save the Riders Dunes. Over coffee and breakfast, the sun came out and we talked about life and our mutual love of the Oregon Dunes. Jody is one of the nicest folks I've met in a while and has been recreating, both in vehicles and on foot, in the Dunes almost his entire life. It was great to get his perspective, and find that we do have lots in common.
Now for a confession. After breakfast, we headed to Riley Ranch to meet up with some other folks from Save the Riders Dunes, and via the newly opened Riley Ranch access route our group of a full size pickup, a three wheeler, two side by side UTVs, and several more four wheelers, made our way into the Dunes. This was my first time visiting the Dunes via motor, and thankfully Jody did all the driving in his pickup. He is an excellent driver, and I learned a lot both about how the Dunes move and about the history of the area. I also have to admit that though I enjoyed the company immensely, and I'd go again so long as Jody is driving, I'd still much rather be on my own two feet (sorry Jody!).
Part of our group riding in a portion of the Oregon Dunes open to cross country motor vehicle use.
After exploring the open dunes, and some of the nearby trails, by vehicle, we headed over to park near Spinreel Campground for my favorite part of the day. We hiked over the foredune and onto the beach, enjoying a gentle breeze and sunshine. Our destination was Tenmile Creek, an area where, years ago, the Forest Service did beach grass removal on the foredunes and created some of the best snowy plover habitat that exists on the Oregon Dunes.
Western snowy plover near Tenmile Creek in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
This is what we had been talking all day about - removal of nonnative and highly invasive european beachgrass and restoration of the Dunes ecosystem, both for the plovers and for the riders. It was encouraging to see the plovers running around in the debris and beginning the process of mating and nesting. Just as it had been good for me to be with the riders as they enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day on the Oregon Dunes.
Here’s to hoping that Jody and I and the other folks who are passionate about the Dunes can continue on common ground as we take the next step of working with the Forest Service to try to save this special place.