Dellenback Dunes - February 16, 2013
Coordinator John Malone, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

Just a month prior, I took grandchildren Aiden and Coral Rae for a short 3 mile hike on Dellenback Dunes. While we enjoyed the experience, the fact remains that the expansive dunes just beg for more exploration than can be experienced in a three mile hike. So, when the Friends of the Umpqua Hiking Club penciled in a hike on the Dellenback Dunes, it was time to put on the man-boots for a serious hike in the dunes. Dollie and 9 year-old Aiden came along too, so maybe it would not be all that serious.

Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon and as we started, clouds were hanging around the dunes here and there in preparation for the afternoon rain festivities. The sun was out also, and the combination of clouds, blue sky, and warm sun was extremely camera friendly and it wasn't long before I found myself lagging behind the group, the only sound on the quiet dunes being the click-click-click of my camera shutter.

Halfway down the "Great Dune", John (the hike leader) took a right turn and headed north, away from the main dune. Dropping steeply off the dune crest, we bottomed out on a sandy trough with ponds before heading steeply up the next dune. You see, the dunes tend to run east-west and since we were heading north, the hike quickly became a trailless up-and-down hike as we crossed tall dunes in soft sand.

There was a prominent tree island ahead and I assumed we would head to the beach after rounding the island. After working our way (we were walking at wife, boy, and photographer speed) up the steep tree island, a huge series of dunes rose ahead of us. Actually, dune is too kind of a word. These dunes were more like the Cascade Mountains of sand with the troughs in between being more like the Grand Canyon of sand. Actually, after climbing up and out of the valleys, it was more like Hells Canyon of sand. And, much to our dismay, we could see our people far ahead climbing up the tallest one, looking like the ant line on my kitchen counter. It was about then we began to refer to John as Sir John the Cruel.

But if you are going to have burning leg muscles, you might as well have them in a beautiful place like Dellenback Dunes. The clouds were the story of this hike. Big black, white, and gray clouds hovered dramatically over the sand mountains and canyons while sun warmed tired hikers. Lots of pictures were taken of the incredible cloud scenery while hiking up steep sand hills.

Aiden had been running up the dunes, as is his wont. However, a veritable wall of sand rose up, nearly vertical, and there would be no running up that. The tracks of the club angled upward across the face of the wall through a leafless willow thicket and my legs ached in anticipatory pain just looking out our route. Trudging up slowly but surely, we traversed up and over the massive dune crest and I noticed Aiden was done running up dunes after that.

The good news was that this was our last big uphill sand walk; it was now a gentle downhill and we made a left turn towards the now visible ocean. In between the ocean and our hiking party was the deflation plain forest (which was full of standing water) and we could not find a way to get through the dense brush to the ocean. Improvising, we walked south, parallel to the forest's edge and sat down in a small clearing for lunch. Aiden, in activity totally unrelated to eating lunch, explored the swamps and caught a number of frogs. At least, I hope the frog catching was totally unrelated to eating lunch.

After lunch, we continued south to the bonafide trail leading from the dunes to the beach. Aiden was back to his old tricks, running ahead of his slower grandparents. At the trail junction, hardy hikers turned right for a longer hike to the beach while the short-distance hikers and wife turned left for a return to the car. Aiden was to return with Dollie but he instead went to the beach so I had to follow and retrieve him.

The trail through the forest was very swampy and it was impossible to keep feet dry. It was like a Richard Hike but without all the responsibility. As we neared the beach, an elevated boardwalk kept wet feet from getting any wetter in a case of "too little, too late".

At the beach, clouds came in and it looked like and felt like rain was coming in. We hung out for a bit and some of our group doffed shoes and went for an ocean wade. That was an open invitation for a 9 year-old boy and he joined the waders. After a bit, everyone left except for a boy who took forever to tie his shoes, much to the consternation of his impatient grandfather.

We figured Aiden's maximum hiking distance was about 5 miles or so and we were well above that with the beach detour. So the next three miles or so were spent cajoling, yelling, and enticing a very tired Aiden to keep his feet moving. It was a big hike for a small boy. After it was all over, he wound up eating a promised hamburger after a tough 7.6 miles.

For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album, the scenery was fantastic.


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