Leaving Florence into the dunes was quite exciting. I love national recreation areas, but I admit this one is the least favorite I’ve visited.
The dunes are scenic and strange. We walked in a cloud for a full day which made them tremendously ethereal.
One major challenge with the dunes is the restrictions involving snowy plovers. These are very endangered birds and due to their nesting, big portions of the beach are closed for half the year. Hikers are allowed to walk on wet sand around the areas in question, so we can make it work. But camping becomes extremely challenging.
One highlight in the area was taking a boat shuttle across Winchester Bay. It was fun to zoom across… and then we camped in town at a lovely little campground where we were the only tents. Lots of RVs. No tents. It was cool.
Our next day of dunes was more challenging for me.
A substantial portion of the dunes is open to off-highway vehicles. I am in principle fine with that. I think machines like that are inherently wasteful and destructive but, as they exist, people should have places to play. But dang, it’s not pleasant to walk through an exhaust-fest. I’m also really skeptical about the plover restrictions for hikers adjacent to areas where off-highway vehicles rip everything up. Really? How does that make sense?
We finally got to a place on the beach where we could legally camp without hurting the snowy plovers and without being run over by off-highway vehicles. This was the first time we camped directly on the beach.
And it was an absolutely beautiful evening to be on the beach. Unfortunately, that night, someone came to our tents and stole my hiking poles. What is even creepier than being stolen from is the fact that my poles were directly next to my tent and somebody came within one foot of my body while I was sleeping in order to steal them. Given our proximity to where the off-highway vehicles roamed, and the complete lack of hikers we have seen, I know which user group it was.