The Amazing Diversity of the Tahkenitch Dunes
Monday 26 May 2014 — Category: Outings
About two weeks ago I spent a long day at the coast, exploring the amazing diversity of the Tahkenitch Dunes area. Even though the entire Oregon Dunes is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, I had never ventured into them, but had merely passed them by on my way to other parts of the Oregon coast.
Junction City. Once I reached Florence, I headed south on U.S. 101 for about 14 miles to the Tahkenitch Campground parking lot. By 8:20 I was loaded with my 25 pounds of gear and ready to hit the trail.
For this day’s outing I decided to traverse the hiking trails in the clockwise direction, so I headed southeast on the Threemile Lake North Trail (#1338). The nearly-three-mile walk to Threemile Lake (sorry, no connection between the name of the lake and the length of the trail!) is almost entirely through lush temperate rain forest. It was hard to believe that I was anywhere near rolling dunes or the ocean.
It was also hard for me to believe that I was anywhere in Oregon, because I kept seeing pink flower petals strewn over the forest trail! Looking up, I was astonished to see an abundance of huge blossoms decorating the trees! Because I am very ignorant about flora, it wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that they were rhododendrons.
Other photo-worthy sights along the path included an immense banana slug, exotic-looking fungi, a cute little Douglas Squirrel, and various plants lit by isolated shafts of sunlight. The only downside to all this rain-forest lushness was a corresponding abundance of irritating mosquitos. But at least they weren’t as vicious as the mosquitos I had the misfortune to encounter in the Stehekin area — those almost sucked me dry!
After plodding on for about three hours, admiring the beautiful surroundings and taking lots of photos, I finally arrived at a primitive “campsite” at the northwest end of Threemile Lake, about half a mile from the beach. This was a great time and place to stop for my picnic lunch — it was out of the mosquito-infested temperate rain forest, but also out of the direct sun. In addition, there were logs to sit on and a beautiful view of the ocean. Perfect! My Primo Taglio roast beef and Dubliner cheese sandwich, with a touch of horseradish spread, was exquisite!
Following the trail south for a little ways, I then turned off to the left for a short detour to see Threemile Lake. It’s an impressive view from the top of what is said to be a 200-foot dune, which plunges down to the lake shore below. Then I returned to the main trail, and continued another half a mile to the beach.
Because of some of the information I had read while preparing for this outing, I was concerned that I would not be able to reach the shore due to the high privileges given the Western Snowy Plover. Fortunately, the government still has some regard for humans as well, so they left a gap in the protected area through which I could make it to the beach.
I enjoyed a one-mile stroll north up the shoreline, encountering multitudes of birds, crab shells and mussels along the way. Near the mouth of Tahkenitch Creek I found the obscure trailhead of the Tahkenitch Dunes Trail (#1353) which would complete the loop back to my truck.
It doesn’t get into the 80s on the Oregon coast very often, but I sure felt the heat as I was following the trail that afternoon! On I trudged back through the sandy scrub forest of shore pine and Scotch broom and then upwards through the sand dunes until I reached the blessed shade of the temperate rain forest once again.
Because I was carrying 25 pounds of equipment and supplies on my middle-aged body, and because I didn’t want to overexert myself in the hot weather, and because I wanted to take lots of photos, it took me a whole seven hours to complete this walk! I took 490 photos on the Tahkenitch trails. The 92 of those which I have included in the Tahkenitch Dunes 2014 album will give you a good idea of what to expect along each part of the path when you put on your hiking shoes and head out to see it for yourself. In the meantime, you can enjoy the beautiful sights from the comfort of your own armchair!
The Tahkenitch Dunes area is an amazing place with incredible diversity. Within a short distance you have four distinct biomes: