Baker Beach - January 18, 2014
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

It was quite the contingent what with 21 hikers and one dog (3 hikers and the one dog were from the South Coast Striders in Coos Bay) participating on this hike, especially since we were only 4 hikers on the last hike I led. Of course, having a dry trail combined with a superbly sunny day helped entice the multitudes.

However, this trail was not without its travails. The trails we followed through the Alder Dunes were not official trails, just a loose networks of paths from Dune Lake to Baker Beach, I think these paths get a lot of use from the horse crowd. The problem is the trails braid and rebraid and and it can be very confusing and easy to wander off in another direction. So, as hike leader I pinned name tags to everybody and made us all hold hands as we crossed the dunes and the forests in between.

Of course, the hand holding was figurative, but we really did walk together which ensured finishing the hike with the same number of hikers we started with. We did get a little off my pre-planned course and wound up unexpectedly at a nearly dry lake, in testament to the lack of rainfall (at the time). No worries, we just grabbed another trail that spit us out onto a large dune that stretched for a couple of miles. A sandy path alongside the dune brought us to Baker Beach Campground at the 2 mile mark.

For additional mileage, we grabbed the short Lily Lake loop which ran us past the lake, barely visible in the reeds surrounding the lake. At the lake, the forest petered out as we walked on a grassy track to Berry Creek. I purposefully strode to the edge of the wide and deep creek and announced "OK, time to put on the wading shoes" So cruel and yet so much fun!

No, we did not cross the creek at this point but did sit down and eat lunch under the sun, the gorgeous day totally out of keeping with the month of January and the locale of the Oregon coast. After lunch we returned to the campground and grabbed another sandy path to the beach.

Several of our group went wading in the cold water and nothing says "Pacific Northwest" more than ocean waders with down vests and winter beanies. While the waders laced up their boots, the rest of us went on a mini-adventure as we returned through the marshes and dunes without benefit of trail. The last 10 yards was a soggy splash through a marsh. As my charges made it safely back to the trail, I noticed the wading group lagging behind so I went back to retrieve them. Not wanting to get my feet wet again, I opted to go around the outer edge of the marsh. Imagine my surprise when suddenly, my foot plunged deep in the marsh and plunged and plunged and plunged into cold water. My foot found solid ground but not before I was chest deep in the hidden sinkhole I had stepped into.

So I walked fast back through the dunes to keep warm as my clothing air-dried. I gladly suffered the only negative experience on this hike as all my charges were delivered safely to the trailhead on what was a great day out on the coast.


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