Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sand in my shoes

After miles of driftwood beaches, coves and headlands, the Oregon coast changes dramatically south of a town called Florence. It is a fifty mile dunescape, scattered with coastal pine forests.I pull up and hike half a mile through the conifers, the sand dunes hidden beneath them. We emerge from the trees at the same time.




There are a few people knocking about, but none of them seem to want to take on the two mile trek to the beach. These are the biggest dunes in the state, and I climb the nearest one and head off for some solitude. In places the sand is so soft you go in ankle deep, and your footprints disappear immediately. Elsewhere it is like a road, and you hardly make any impression. I can see the footprints of other people, already covering over, and if you turn back you can see your own disappearing into the mire.




The wind blows relentlessly, and the landscape is in constant flux. The dunes climb gently on the windward side, and fall away steeply on the lee. The soft lines and curves have sharp edges, every last one sculpted by the wind. The weight of all that sand, all those tiny particles, ground down over thousands of years, move as one.




Far below the dunes, the vegetation that first caused the build up of the microscopic grains lies buried. There are small patches of grass and reed, and the odd puddle of water, but on the whole the place is parched. Maybe that's why, when I spot the smallest shoot of green emerging from the seemingly endless wilderness, against all probabilities, it strikes me as a thing of considerable beauty.


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