A Beautiful recount by Tom Sawyer of an
adventure shared with his beloved Bouncer
who is sorely missed
The sky was the usual damp, sullen, gray of a spring day in Oregon. My mood was
beginning to take on its characteristics. Little did I know of the evolutionary
communion with nature that awaited me just a short, twenty-minute drive up Highway
101 from our home. It was a weekend and Bouncer, the albino adventure dog, was
following me around the house, pawing at my leg whenever I stopped in one place long
enough. He looked at me with his intensely anticipated, long-run-of-the-week, pleading
blue eyes and the fog lifted from my spirits. I always looked forward to our escapes
into the wild.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches from Coos Bay, sixty miles up the
coast to Florence. It is a half-mile wide deposit of ice age sand left by the great
glaciers’ retreat. People come from all over the northwest to drive their sand rails,
dunes through private and State owned campgrounds. Fortunately, there are sections
ATVs and dune buggies in this natural wonder. There are many access points to dunes
through private and State owned campgrounds. Fortunately, there are sections Spinreel
Campground. Fortunately, there are sections that are off-limits to motorized vehicles.
This is where Bouncer and I were headed, Spinreel Campground.
We followed the meandering trail through the woods along Ten Mile Creek until we
came out at the swimming hole. I looked around with pleasure at the secluded oasis
and smiled at the thoughts of past days of warm sunshine spent here with friends.
Bouncer forded the creek and clawed his way up the thirty foot, loose, sandy face of the
border dune. He was gone before I could pull off even one smelly sneaker. When both
sneakers and socks were off and safely jammed into my pack, I rolled up my pant legs
and ventured into the knee deep, frigid water. No time was wasted in getting across.
As I trudged up the incline following in Bouncer’s wake, my feet pushed the pressures
of the week deep into the accepting sand. My shoulders relaxed under the gentle tug of
gravity on my pack. Cresting the peak, the world opened before me stark, ancient, and
I proceeded barefoot to allow the cool, steady breeze to dry my wet skin, but the
smooth earth was cold and soon moved me to dress my feet. There are little islands of
trees, mostly evergreens, dotting this vast sea of silica. The beautiful lines crafted by
the wind and the shear size of the dunes never ceased to amaze me. As I strode across
the hard, wind packed tops of the beige, granular swells before me, my little, white,
four legged, wild man came sprinting out of the sylvan isle behind and to the left of
me. Bouncer was heedless of whether the surface was loose or hard while making a
beeline for me. He circled me a few times, barking excitedly, and then took off like an
arrow toward the ocean, his silky, flapping ears beating the rhythm of his charge.“You’re
a nut!” I laughed.
We were headed towards the small, hidden lagoon we had discovered on a previous
adventure. No other human was to be seen. Northward poured the waves of sand,
leaving the creek on my left to fade southwestward to the Pacific Ocean. Before me I
could see the long, green line of stunted pines, effectively fencing off access to a long
swath of beach. Just at the southern end of this, I triumphantly crested the last
hummock of dune grass dotted sand and stopped to survey my antediluvian
surroundings. I curiously watched a large flock of seagulls against the shrouded, misty
sky, diving to the beach, darting up again, circling, and diving down to light on the
It wasn’t until I was right on top of the frenetic birds that I could discern the meaning
of their dance. They were having lunch. A dozen dead salmon in varying degrees of
dismemberment lay strewn over the beach. Bouncer quickly created a feathered
blizzard effect by routing all the landed birds. He joyfully dashed around the beach, his
high pitched, excited challenge sharply cutting the deadened air, while his stub of a tail
would have fallen off if it hadn’t been attached. It was wagging so hard.
Salmon, a foot and a half to two feet long were thrashing up the short, shallow
streamlet that flowed in and out of the secret lagoon. It was only two to four inches
deep and their backs were exposed to the air and the hungry gulls above. My eyes
drifted back down the channel to where it blended into the Pacific. I stopped short and
took a step back. There, silently, patiently sitting in the churning surf, a mere ten
yards out, were three huge California sea lions.
In one moment a warm rush of excitement and reverence coursed through me. I fully
realized on the most visceral level that I had become a walk-on part in the play of life;
the salmon struggling to continue their species, the seagulls and sea lions devouring
the salmon to continue theirs. In the next moment I was flinging my pack down and
ripping at my sneakers to bare my feet. I quickly rolled up my pants to above my knees
and sprang into the salmon’s pathway.
Holy mackerel! That water was ice cold! I was determined to snatch one of those pink-
fleshed dinners quickly and comfort my numbed feet back into my cotton socks. This
would prove to be an over estimate of my capabilities. I splashed and jumped around
for a good twenty minutes and only came within an arm’s length of my prize. It is
amazing how fast a salmon can swim even in the shallowest of water.
As I was contemplating defeat, I heard the muffled roar of a small plane engine closing
in from the south. It was cruising up the beach about twenty-five feet off the surface
of the water. In a matter of seconds, I could see the model size craft grow to full
reality. I raised my right arm in a hearty acknowledgement and the pilot returned it by
dipping his right wing, then his left. This was so cool!
Actually, it was downright cold. Reluctantly, I gave up my quest and exited the
streamlet. I used my socks to dry my tingling feet and slipped them back into my worn
sneakers. I scanned the immediate area for Bouncer but couldn’t see him. His
occasional happy cheer parted the dull air and I knew him to still be having fun in the
vicinity. Hoisting my pack, I stopped again and marveled at the spectacle of nature I
had interacted with. It was one of those rare instances where I have felt most human
and humbled by the fragility of life.