OCT | Day 13 | Florence to Tahkenitch

Florence to South Jetty Road

It was a little harder to get up and going after the long rest day, especially when it seemed like the rains promised the day before simply waited until we were ready to leave. Ah, well! I’m sure we’ll be wishing for weather like this when we get back to Phoenix. 

Walking out of Florence, we crossed over the Siuslaw River on a drawbridge. The wind picked up as we got out over the water, threatening to steal all our hats. Fortunately, my hood was up which kept it in my possession, not the river’s.

Once we were over the river, it was a little over a half-mile to get to South Jetty Road where we “officially” entered the Oregon Dunes.

On South Jetty Road, we had another 2.5 miles west to get to the beach.

As we got closer, it became clearer how different the landscape might be for us over the next 3-4 days. Lots of sand to cross!

Personally, I had very little idea what to expect of the dunes. At one moment, I thought we’d be shuffling like bedouins across a vast desert. Another part of me pictured us huddled under massive dunes while ATVs and sandrails flew over us. Either way, I wasn’t imagining this would be my favorite part of the journey.

Thankfully, one virtue of the rain is that it made the sand tacky and much easier to walk on.

And once we climbed over the dunes onto the beach, we were back to walking on the hard-packed wet sand near the water. The sky was again grey and the air full of mist as we turned toward the south.

South Jetty to Siltcoos

The big adventure today was two river crossings — the Siltcoos River and Tahkenitch Creek. Up to this point, we had crossed every river and creek by walking across a bridge or by hopping across rocks and scattered driftwood. Neither of those options would be available today. To cross the rivers in front of us, we would need to wade across, hopefully without needing to swim.

Before worrying about a river crossing, though, we had 5+ miles of beach walking to take care of.

At mile 6.2 (from Florence), the endless sand of the beach suddenly turned into a great shell field that stretched to the horizon.

On nearly every beach we’d walked over the last two weeks the ocean had washed up shells. In fact, it became a bit of game as we walked along, crunching the shells with our shoes or trying to stab them with our trekking poles. But nothing like this.

At some points, the sand disappeared under a carpet of shells.

Literally millions of shell fragments covering the beach.

Siltcoos River

A few miles later, we found the Siltcoos. At the mouth of the river, the water looked relatively shallow but the crossing was wide. We thought we might have an easier time if we walked upstream. 

Upriver, the crossing was narrower but we couldn’t tell how deep. We took a vote and the result was 4-1 in favor of me figuring out how wet we would actually get by wading here.

Fortunately, while the water was certainly cold, it didn’t extend much above my knees. I made it across successfully to wait for the next victim, Jill, to give it a shot.

She did great as well.

Then, the other lovely ladies of the OCT…

Once across the river, we found a nearby log to put our shoes back on.

Within a minute or two, another hiker in the grasslands behind us started yelling to us that we weren’t supposed to be there. We yelled back, letting him know we were moving on which seemed to satisfy him at first. After only a few minutes, though, he returned to yell that we had to go now! So we immediately picked up our stuff and walked barefoot back to the ocean.

Back at the beach, we found another log to finish putting on our shoes, only to see a U.S. Forest Service truck coming down the beach straight toward us. Christy and Rhonda and I went out to meet them.

Unfortunately, we had inadvertently wandered into an area that was off-limits to hikers. From March to September, a threatened species of bird known as the snowy plover nests on much of the Oregon coast, making the beach a protected area in some places. We had seen barriers along the beach and were careful to stay away from them but that wasn’t enough. The Forest Service let us know that the barriers were merely a “reminder” that people needed to stay out of the ENTIRE beach where the birds nest. That meant everything except for the “wet sand” (hard-packed, underwater at high tide) that was closest to the water. Yikes!

If we had actually entered the beach at this location, we would have seen signs that would have warned us. Since we walked in from the north, we never saw the signs.

After a stern talking-to, and a warning about potential $50,000 fines, we apologized profusely and promised to follow the rules going forward. That seemed to satisfy the Forest Service volunteers and they let us go.

Here’s a picture of one of the little guys that got us into trouble. She might have been yelling at us as I snapped the photo.

Siltcoos River to Tahkenitch Creek

From the Siltcoos, we had another 5+ miles to get to our next crossing at Tahkenitch Creek, ideally with fewer incursions into snowy plover territory.

Along the way, we reached our 200-mile landmark. Miranda etched a magnificent sign into the sand to commemorate the occasion.

Then came the Tahkenitch. We were old river-crossing pros by this point, although this creek was a little deeper. Long legs prevented me from getting wet but you can see that some of the group didn’t enjoy that advantage.

On the other side of Tahkenitch Creek, we had to look around a bit to find the trail inland to our campsite. Around a corner, I spied a place whether others had scrambled up a tall cliff. Thankfully, someone left a rope to aid those who needed to climb. Note the handy loops tied into the rope.

Once at the top, we found one of the signs we missed coming into the snowy plover area earlier.

Sufficiently done with creeks and threatened birds for the day, we headed up the trail.

As the trail meandered its way around, we could see Tahkenitch Creek curving back north.

Heading east, the Tahkenitch trail eventually worked its way back to the dunes.

Where we got a full measure of walking through the powdery sand.

Then back to the forest for our last stretch.

Here, we encountered our first real mosquitos on the coast, which was a bad sign heading into the evening.

After another mile or so, we came out of the forest at Tahkenitch Campground.

Unfortunately, the mosquitos followed us in, which didn’t provide a super fun experience for us trying to get the tents up. Dinner was made and consumed very quickly before we dove into our tents to escape the man-eating insects.

We tried to start a fire but all the wood we could find was wet. You can tell how impressed Rhonda is with my fire-starting abilities!

Day 13 mileage was 19.9 with 899 feet of elevation. Total distance to this point — 208.7 miles