|Early departure to Umpqua Dunes-cool and windy low 50's. This was a hike from the Eel Creek campgrounds to the Pacific ocean. It was about 5.5 miles total distance round trip and is considered strenuous. The total vertical (feet climbed) was 770. The terrain was quite spectacular. It began on a interpretive trail in heavy forest. We passed by a scenic pond populated with beautiful yellow pond lilies. Then suddenly the trail ends at the base of a massive sand dune probably 150 ft in height. This was difficult and very slow going as the sand slips beneath as if one is on a rolling StairMaster. It is difficult to make forward progress. The top of the dune showed miles of dunes spread out before us with no tracks to follow. It looked just like the Sahara Dessert. The dunes rose and fell in sudden plunges and had windswept cliffs. Some areas were compacted and easier to walk while others were soft like powder snow. The good part was the coolness of the wind and the softness of the steps versus hiking upon a rocky trail. We had a GPS compass and scattered wooden vertical posts to mark the way. There was an occasional island of trees and also rare islands of shrubbery and dunes grass-red fescue. Wild lupin in yellow and blue was everywhere. The dunes are first colonized by the red fescue grasses and then more complex plant life takes over as the soil improves and stabilizes. Soon, dense shrubs develop and finally the mature forest with towering pines and other trees. Notice the pictures showing the forested islands on the most mature dunes. The dunes came to an abrupt end as we found a hole in the trees which was the beginning of the path through the dense shrub and forest towards the beach. There was no other way through the barrier-the forest was so dense it was quite cool and dark. After about a half mile we ascended another sand dune and broke out of the forest onto the magnificent expanse of the Pacific ocean. Large waves crashed onto an expansive sandy beach and the air was full of the smell of the ocean. We were spent. We had a great time lunching upon a log before making the return trip. We then drove to the historic Umpqua Lighthouse but were too late for the tour so we spent time in the lighthouse museum. Lighthouses were developed along the coast to serve as navigation aids to mark the important geographic features. Each lighthouse had its own flashing code so the mariner would know where he was located. Theo the major west coast cities Umpqua Lighthouse marked the entrance to the important Umpqua River. Logs were brought to the river which extends some 30 miles inland. They could then be transported to the Pacific Ocean and brought to the major west coast cities. There is also a whale watching station here active in Nov. and Feb. to May. We finished the day with an early dinner at Winchester Bay where fresh oysters and other seafood was being unloaded from the boats. We ate at Griff's. We had grilled tuna, crab cakes and seafood medley. We finished the day with strawberry rhubarb pie and mixed berry pie. It was delicious.