Rain, rain and more rain. This is the southern Oregon coast in the winter. We’ve been here 8 days and it’s rained on and off every day. Hard rain, dripping rain, light rain and blowing rain with high winds. Today was a day off for us and we took full advantage of it. Why? Because it was partly cloudy with NO rain chance! We headed for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area day use access. There we found a 4.5 mile loop trail that traverses the giant dunes sandwiched between the forests and the surf, stretching for 20 miles to the North and 20 miles to the South. The trail is a wonderful way to experience the ecosystem particular to the dunes.
The dunes are home to fox, coyote, deer, rabbit, hare and a myriad of birds. Go a little ways inland and you’ll find bear, cougar, wolf, marten, beaver, fisher and bobcat. Not to mention streams full of salmon now in spawning season. Just offshore travel gray whale and orca. Once we made it to the shore we scanned for gray whale, as it is smack in the middle of their migration period to the Gulf of California. We did not see any, but sensed that they were out there. We’ll keep looking.
The surf was dangerously high today, following the windstorms of the past several days, at 10 to 15 feet. I am told that the surf was at 30 feet during the height of the windstorm. It is thrilling to hear the ocean’s roar as you are traversing the dunes. You catch glimpses of the surf as you go along, until you cross the last high dune and there it is in all its dangerous majesty; the pounding surf. One thing that really caught our eye today was the foam that the waves left behind. With the wind heading up the beach, the foam breaks up into animistic blobs and scurries up the beach, like some cute imaginary creatures from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. The huge driftwood logs too look like something from another world as you gaze up the beach through the mist. The windblown sand makes for some pretty interesting shapes as well.
I took these photos from the crest of the dune closest to the surf as we turned to head back across the dune world. The grasses are beautiful, but it turns out that it is an invasive species – Dune Grass brought in from Europe to control erosion. The Western Snowy Plover is on the endangered species list and is facing extinction due to habitat loss. The Plover needs open sand to live and the successful spreading grasses are eradicating their homes. We saw some Plovers as we made our way down the beach. They are similar in size to the common Sandpiper, but are fluffier, with gray feathers on top and a white belly.