Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dunes

Dunes at Siuslaw National Forest, Florence Oregon

Our destination that night was the coast. I was looking forward to seeing the ocean! The abundant pines and rolling hills returned as we got closer to the coast. We passed Florence and began to look for a campsite. The first state park we came to had camp sites called "sand lots." We thought that sounded like it might be on the beach but there were no staff around to ask as it was after 6 pm. We stuffed our ten dollars into the box and set off to see what we had gotten ourselves into. The sun was low in the sky as we pulled around a curve and out of the dense woods. Thick pines gave way to shorter, stubbier pines, many a ghostly white from lichen bleached by salt water. Sand dunes rolled behind the sparse pines. Very quickly the straggling pines gave up and grass covered dunes stretched out on either side of us. The setting sun dipped below the dunes to our left, a thick fog hung over the road in front of us. We passed from the yellow grass, golden in the late afternoon sun, to blue and green fog cloaking the land in mystery. Since entering the park we had not seen anyone. The eerie mist led us to believe we had stumbled into another land, apart from civilization. We could hear the waves pounding on the beach but dunes piled high on our left, blocking our view of the ocean. To our right stretched a rolling grassland that disappeared into the fog. The road went on and on. Here and there we saw cars parked, but no human beings. We began to wonder if we had passed the "sand lots." The road ended in a gravel lot populated by a few campers and other vehicles. The dunes on our right leveled off, allowing a dirt lane to make its way past the beach and out into the ocean on a jetty made of large rocks. A wide channel cut into the beach to the right of the jetty. Now I understood that we had been driving on a long peninsula parallel to the mainland, the channel cutting between us and the mainland.

We could barely see across the channel to the other side. We got out and walked up the dirt lane beside the dunes, and there was the ocean! Stretching away as far as the eye could see, vanishing into the mist. There was a wild loneliness to it. Here we did see other people, but we all seemed swallowed up in the vast emptiness of the ocean clothed with mist. No one was camping, but we decided since it seemed there weren't many people around, that we could camp where we wanted. We choose a spot up in the dunes and set up our tent. I (incorrectly) stated we didn't need to blow up our air mattress since the sand would be soft enough. Boy, was I wrong! We didn't get much sleep that night.

The next morning we awoke to a cold drizzle. But the drizzle mist did not diminish the grandeur of the ocean and the rolling dunes. We had camped next to a dugout made of driftwood. The beach was littered with driftwood, in some places whole trees had been tossed far up on the beach. This example of the ocean's power made me appreciate that we were not there during monsoon season.

The story continues...

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