Damsel in the Desert

(Click on any picture for a larger view in a new window)

_72D9742-1200As I slogged through the loose sand, I heard the faint cry carried by the gusting wind, “help, help!”

What’s that, I wondered.  I looked around.  The landscape was a sea of dunes; monoliths of sand, stretching off to the horizon.  And flying overhead, heading away, a vulture.

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It didn’t look promising.  Heading towards the sound of distress, I still had one of the mightiest of dunes to surmount.

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Near frozen waves of sand crested in a myriad of little peaks, each a potential sloppy foothold of sliding sand as I worked my way up the hill.

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Footprints in the sand.  By the look of it, you’d think a massive herd of tourists or a fleet of camels must have passed through, a caravan of carousers cruising by.  But there was no one in sight.

Still, there was that cry.  Again, “help, help” crawled over the distant hilltop.

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What was that, in the sand ahead?  It looked almost like a bone, an unfortunate remnant in the desert sand.

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On closer inspection, it turned out indeed to be a bone, but one from a tree branch, blown far askew from its moorings.

Like a miniature mountain wave, the burble around the woody bone from the blowing wind formed patterns in the sand, and hinted at the sandblasting my bare ankles were enduring.

And as it veered through the nooks and crannies and dips of dunes great and small, carrying grains from one place to the next, the wind sculpted and molded its initials into the sand.

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At last! Signs of life.  Of a sort.

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And soon, even more.  Perhaps this wasn’t a desert after all.

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There! Just around the dune was the damsel.  Like the Perils of Pauline, some nefarious force had captured her and tied her to a post.

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I trudged on.  Getting closer, the horrible truth became evident. The damsel in distress was none other than my wife!  Seeing me, she gasped out in weakened breath, “help, help!”

I surmounted that last dune and viewed the magic invisible manacles that bound her to the post.  There could be only one way to break the spell.

With a kiss, she was free.


Ok, ok, so I used a little artistic license here.  It was fun, wasn’t it?

We were actually at the John Dellenback Dunes on the central Oregon coast. Part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area, it’s hardly a desert.  Unique in the world, this area contains a mix of dunes, European beachgrass (an invasive species), trees, rivers, and lakes, and runs up to the Pacific Ocean.  See this link from the National Forest Service that explains the geology.

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However it came to be, it had been many years since I’ve explored the dunes, and the first time I explored this section.

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Needless to say, the scope of the dunes is extensive and any exploration is just a toe-dip. We spent about three hours and never even got close to the ocean.

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The great thing about this section of the dunes is it’s restricted – no noisy dune buggies ripping tracks across the pristine sand.  So, while that big dune where the trail leaves the trees and joins the dunes is covered in footprints, once you get further off the bulk of the area shows few signs of humanity.

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The occasional island of trees started life as a larger piece of forest and proves that once the dunes start their march, nothing stands in the way.

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That invasive beachgrass is influencing the ecology.  Originally planted near towns and jetties to bind the sand, it has spread beyond those boundaries and is binding up large dunes near the ocean.  This has caused a depression behind those main foredunes that supports a different biome and other invasive species.  The area we hiked is further inland, but perhaps in time the beachgrass will bind this up too.  Who knows what it will look like in a couple hundred years?

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Looking east from the dunes we can see the beginning of the forests of the coastal mountain range.  This is much more typical of the west side of Oregon.

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Whatever this region will look like in the years to come, these days it’s still a beautiful and unique pocket of Oregon.  Exploration is sure to have you trying new adventures.  You may even get to rescue a damsel in distress!

51 thoughts on “Damsel in the Desert

  1. I had no idea there were giant sand dunes like this in Oregon, what a cool place. I also had no idea the lengths you’d go to for a article, leaving your wife out there for the vultures! The photos are excellent, I like the final one in particular, kind of spectral-looking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole “damsel in distress” thing was inspired by my wife. We were on the return end of our hike when I opted to climb a giant dune to check the view. She declined because slogging through the sand, uphill, takes a lot of energy. While I was up on the hill I heard, “help, help”, and this story was born.

      I was impressed she stuck to that post while I made my slow way down the dune and over to her location, stopping to take pics here and there.

      That last shot is kind of a ghostly version of a color shot earlier in the series. I transferred the shot to Topaz, added a slight painterly effect, and converted it to black and white.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great story! And yet again our well-meaning but ill-thought actions are causing problems(I’m talking about that beach grass).Sometimes I think we shouldn’t be messing around with nature, either by accident or by mistake or by negligence we just seem to be creating issues!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem like there are pluses and minuses for everything. Sometime I feel like it the planet were a person, it would consider the human population explosion as a nasty virus, making it ill. But then, on the planetary scale in a relatively short million years or so humanity will just be a bad memory. Kind of like that asteroid in the last mass extinction event.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Like I told Robert, my wife triggered this tale while I was scaling a dune and she stayed back. (“Help, help”) From there it was just a question of how to take advantage of the idea, and which pictures to use to emphasize it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave, these are most excellent! And if I may be honest, the whole time I was perusing these I kept imagining C-Threepio and Artoo Detoo wandering over the crest of a sandy hill in pursuit of the young Luke Skywalker, haha! Hope this finds you doing well down in Portland, Oregon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Credit my muse. She really did go “help, help” while “attached” to a post, when I was off climbing a dune. The vulture never had a chance. 😉 The dunes themselves are definitely worth a visit, should you even get the chance.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That it is. And I’ve barely explored the east side of the state – true desert there. The dunes do have different faces, especially if you’re cool with something a little more abstract.

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  4. Hi Dave, I read this late last night and it was a great, meditative way to end my day. Walking on sand is always a great workout, especially uphill. Awwwe, how sweet on how you freed your wife. You captured the dunes, beautifully. Stunning photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I gave you something positive to sleep on. The “story” was a bit of a lark, inspired by my wife really doing the “help, help” thing, without actually being in trouble. I did like how the pictures turned out, that’s why there were so many – I had a hard time thinning them out.

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    1. Must be all those Hallmark movies I watch with my wife. 😉 Fiction is still a reach for me, especially dialog. And complex plotting? Forget it. But it was fun shooting the dunes, and turning it into something a little extra creative.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the dunescape (and I love the word “dunescape”). Closest I’ve been was White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. We went sledding down the dunes on our rear ends. Ahh, good times.

    Thank god you were able to rescue your wife.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t been there, but my sister and brother in-law go there at least once every year ~ and I need to make a trip. Agree about your thoughts with photography ~ when a shot tells a story, nothing is better 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Once in another life, a long long time ago, I was acquainted with John Dellenbach. So when we came upon the park driving up the road in 2012, we had to stop.
    We had a wonderful and quiet walk – no cries for help.
    It was great to “see” it again and fun to have it enhanced by your creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It must have been a long time ago. I assume you met him in your DC days. Politics has sure changed; can you image the GOP setting aside natural resources or holding companies liable for pollution these days? They need more guys like John Dellenbach.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was in the early 1970s when I was working as a lobbyist for either PPG Industries or the U.S. Department of Labor. I seem to recall he was on the House Education and Labor Committee. It was a different era when “people of good will could disagree.” OSHA, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were all passed under the “villain” Nixon.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Stunning photos as always, Dave. As you say, the sand dunes of the Oregon coast are vast and full of surprises. Climbing them to aid a damsel in distress can be hard work though. Two steps forward and one step back.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent photos, Dave, you were inspired! There are so many great shots here. It’s interesting to learn about the ecosystem, too. We missed this place on our most recent trip, now we’ll have to come back to the Oregon coast…pity. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m crushed to hear that you missed out on the dunes and have to make an encore visit. Such a hard life! 😉 It’s a neat place to visit. There are other sections worth seeing too, such as Honeyman State Park further north, near Florence. I suspect you’d get inspired too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hard life, yeah. 🙂 The Oregon coast has so much. And then there’s northern CA. We’re going to return to Humboldt County because after two visits we feel we barely scratched the surface. Redwoods AND beaches and some nice towns. But I think we’ll fly to SF and drive a rental car north this time instead of driving down from here, so we’ll have to plan a separate trip to the OR coast. It’s a hard life, like you said.

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