Quicksand Tour

January 1, 1991

Of the 15 hopeful hikers who started the Oregon Dunes Quicksand tour, a pitiful 3 survived the merciless suction of bottomless sinkholes to crawl back to their vehicles. Sobbing hysterically at the loss of their good-hearted companions who had perished in their blithe search for harmless recreational adventure, the 3 surviving Obsidians nevertheless did find some comfort and gain perspective from the leader’s post trip observation that, at least, all those who had died were non-members and that all trip fees had been collected before they sank out of sight … Perhaps it was the preceding nightmarish (and fictitious, of course) vision that dissuaded any “hopefuls” from signing up for this perhaps-too-colorfully titled hike. Or maybe it was the sign-up sheet’s description of the mandatory wading through a stagnant pond that awaited all participants. Whatever the case may be, only 3 hikers signed on the dotted line for what proved to be an outstanding hike filled with adventure, laughs, sun, sand and surf in the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area. Starting out at 11:15 a.m. under crystal-clear, blue skies from our sandy trailhead just south of the Three Mile Lake area, our pace was brisk as we crossed a log jam over Threemile Creek and gained the beach. The warm sunlight sparkled on the chocolaty beery-like foam of ocean waves laden with dark sand on our initial 5-mile hike south along the north spit of the Umpqua River to the jetty overlooking Winchester Bay. After a brief lunch (i.e., the first lunch of the day, or “lunch #1,” as it were — bear in mind that John Englehart was on this hike), we retraced our steps northward along the beach for about 1½ miles before heading east across the foredunes and onto the vast inland deflation plain. Although the plain was not brimming with as much water (and thus, quicksand) as is to be found during early spring, there was still ample opportunity for the unwary to get into trouble. John provided most of the day’s entertainment, barreling Godzilla-fashion headlong into the most mucky prospects and literally radiating rippling waves of saturated earth out towards the party’s other two members. After several miles of wending our way through this memorable muck (plus more memorable lunch stops), we came to the sandy ORV “road” just to the north of the deflation plain that would take us back to the beach. As the road entered an impenetrable thicket of coastal forest, we came to the stagnant pond mentioned on the sign-up sheet. Alas, it is my duty as trip chronicler to put aside feelings of shame and admit that, yes, both Jack and the trip’s courageous leader accepted piggyback rides (courtesy of “Bionic John”) across the swill hole to dry land on the far side (sorry, photographs for the purpose of blackmail are not available). Regaining the beach, we finished the remaining hike northward along the beach and back to our cars to complete our 12-mile semi-loop by 4:30 p.m. Enjoying a great workout, fantastic weather (mid-50s), beautiful scenery, fulfilling adventure and filling food were John Englehart, Jack Engstrom and Michael Cooper (leader).

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