Friday 29th September - day 10. Oregon dunes to Sisters.
We woke to the sound of rain on the roof of the RV and looked out of our steamed up windows to see grey skies and rain falling onto the tarmac outside. A low moment.
Taking a deep breath we set off to look for the beach. The sky was grey and the rain fell steadily but we persevered and were glad we did. Heading in the direction where we could hear the surf, we ran through a small thicket of shrubs and marram grass and there was the deserted open beach with the river winding across it down to the ocean. Notices told us that we were just leaving the Snowy Plover nesting site that had been out of bounds prior to the 15th September.
The beach was covered with birds. We saw pelicans and herons, sea gulls of many types but most of all we saw Snowy Plovers.
We ran to the water’s edge and ran north - the ocean to our left and the famous Oregon Dunes to our right. Although the rain continued, it wasn’t cold, and the sky brightened. At last we reached a fallen tree stump with it’s prehistoric looking roots exposed to the air and were reminded of the way that the dunes have formed by drifting sands heaping up over the coastal forest.
Shortly after we reached a sign indicating that the area behind us was out of bounds to motorised vehicles. In other words, the area ahead of us was an area used by dune buggies.
We turned and ran back, watching little groups of snowy plovers scuttling back and forth in the shallow waves.
Back at the RV we enjoyed a hot shower and great breakfast before setting off towards Florence and to Frontier Sand OHV hire. As we stood in the steady drizzle selecting our OHVs and signing a sheaf of waiver documents, we did doubt our sanity, but when we climbed on and started the engines all that was forgotten in an instant!!
Based on our experience as motorcyclists we chose semiautomatic quads so we could use the gears to ‘enhance performance’ and set off into the dunes! It was great! Very different from motor biking and steering in soft sand was quite a challenge! Better still we appeared to have the entire dune area before us to ourselves! We opened up the throttles and just went for it! We soon learned that to get up a steep slope you need a lowish gear and some speed. This worked well until we flew up to the top of a narrow ridge with an overhang and took off! Thankfully there was a shallow valley below the overhang so we landed safely but proceeded with more caution after that. Caution, of course, meant that we went a bit slower and then got stuck half way up the steep slopes and had to reverse back down - all character building stuff. At one point I got stuck in deep sand at the top of a hill. Bill came to the rescue but then got stuck half way up and slid back down, only narrowly avoiding getting stuck in quicksand at the edge of a lagoon. Meanwhile I was blissfully unaware of this attempted rescue and subsequent near catastrophe and was furiously trying to drag my bike out of its sand pit with no success. After that little episode we contented ourselves with flying around the flatter areas and making doughnuts. By this time the rain had stopped and the skies were blue - making for a very happy morning’s fun.
After that we shook the sand off our clothes and headed into old town Florence in search if some decent coffee. That’s proved unsuccessful but we did find s fishmongers selling freshly made chowder to take away, so we did just that. We then set off on our journey east towards Central Oregon, stopping at Safeway’s for s Starbucks coffee (surprisingly good!) and provisions (much as expected). Next stop Walmart for head torches and wine glasses and we were off on Highway 126 in the direction of Eugene and Sisters (places, not people!)
The land as generally flat and we were more or less following the course of the river and there were countless houses with a pole jetty or pontoon and small boat - fishing is a way of life around here.
We stopped for a late lunch of chowder over looking Ferngrove Wildlife Lake. Although near a busy road the lake was home to lots of birds including mandarin ducks, osprey, coots and red-winged blackbirds.
As we drove east from the unremarkable Eugene the senery changed - it felt Scandinavian - Beautiful steep mountain sides with rivers, lakes and trees.
Our chosen campsite was the Cold Springs campground - a peaceful and remote spot just s few miles from the town of Sisters- just $14 for another good nights sleep.