Fall on the Oregon Coast

While we certainly enjoy hunting mushrooms, the draw of coastal Oregon is much more than that.  Whale watching, lighthouses, gorgeous views, hiking, seals and sea lions are easily accessible.  We even hiked nearly face to face with huge elk.  There’s a lot of history here too but that will have to wait until next time.

View from Ecola State Park

Haystack at Cannon Beach

Scene at the town of Cannon Beach

Creek to Sea

Tidepool life at Hug Point

Green sea anemone at low tide

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint offers tours of the 1890s lighthouse and home of the Octopus Tree, the largest Sitka Spruce in the state.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Boiler Bay SSV offers views of surf, whales and seabirds.

Boiler Bay

Conde McCollough designed bridge

Nehalem Bay State Park sits on a spit of land separating Nehalem Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Nehalem Bay beach

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is a BLM site just north of Newport Oregon.  The headland juts one mile into the ocean with Oregon’s tallest lighthouse and tidepools teeming with life.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Seals on the coast

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse guards the entrance to Newport’s harbor.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Newport Bridge

Newport fishing fleet

Sea lions at Newport

Whale off the coast

Roosevelt Elk on the coast

Cape Arago Highway leads to three State Parks; Cape Arago, Sunset Bay and Shore Acres.  It also takes us to Simpson Reef Scenic Viewpoint which overlooks hundreds of barking sea lions.

Cape Arago Lighthouse


Sunset Bay

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Shore Acres SP is on the site of Asa Simpson, a very successful shipping and timber baron.  The home burned but the gardens remain and the coastal setting offers great views of titanic wave action.

Shore Acres SP gardens

Shore Acres water garden

Surf near Shore Acres

Crashing waves at Shore Acres

At North Bend Oregon the beautiful bridge over the Coos River memorializes the impassioned work of the visionary highway department engineer Conde B. McCollough.

Conde McCollough Memorial Bridge- beautiful cantilever design

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Wild Mushrooms in Oregon

Fall on the Oregon coast is a great time for foraging and enjoying seasonal foods.  Wild mushrooms are gathered in large quantities and many varieties.  Cranberries are harvested and distributed fresh.  Apples are everywhere and often found on neglected trees yet still perfectly good to eat or process into applesauce, desserts etc.

Fresh Oregon cranberries …$5

Great farmers markets

Foraging for wild mushrooms is one of our favorite activities.  Its a great reason to get out into the forest and wander for hours.  Oregon is the one state we know that offers free guided hikes to learn and collect these delicacies.  Starting at Fort Stephens State Park in September the ranger programs introduce many people to the ins and outs of collecting.  One weekend we participated with friends Martie and Phil.  We all found King Boletes with rookie Phil finding the most.  These are very easy to identify, great for cooking and improved by drying.

King Boletes

Boletus edulis in situ

Mushroom habitat in Ft. Stephens State Park

Martie and Phil

Down the coast we found Lobster mushrooms while visiting the Cape Meares Lighthouse State Park.  We weren’t even looking.  These mushrooms are very unusual yet common.  They are actually a Russula mushroom parasitized by another fungi.  Incredibly the result is a tasteless fungi becoming a delicious one that really does smell and taste like lobster.  We made into a fabulous Lobster Bisque and mushroom crab cakes.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Lobster mushroom

While staying near Newport OR we found more Boletes, Lobsters, Chanterelles and even our first ever Cauliflower mushroom.  The headland at Cape Perpetua gave us the chance to hunt in coastal mountain terrain.  The small town of Yachats (YAH-hots) had their 20th annual mushroom festival Oct. 18-20.  We attended some great lectures, wild mushroom displays, and a market of unusual varieties for sale.  It was fun being around people as obsessed as we are.  We collected so many boletes and lobsters that we got out the food dehydrator to preserve for future use.

Yachats Mushroom Fest

Good chanterelle harvest

Cauliflower mushroom

Cape Perpetua trail

Dried King Boletes




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Olympic Peninsula

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is a world all its own.  “Discovered” by Spaniard Juan de Fuca in the 16th century it is the northwestern most place in the continental United States.  It has hundreds of miles of coastline from Puget Sound to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North Pacific ocean.  Olympic National Park fills most of the vast interior with wilderness and the area is crowned with the Olympic Mountains which have snow capped peaks near 8000 feet.  There is so much to explore.

Indian family in 1914

Cape Flaterry is the actual northwesternmost point of the continental US.  It is on the Makah Indian Reservation one of 8 tribes who still call the peninsula home.  Friends Mark and Lyn joined us on a long day trip to see this area.  We ended the day with a great meal at Nourish http://www.nourishsequim.com/ restaurant in Sequim WA.

Mark and Lyn

Us on the coast

Cape Flattery lighthouse

Cape Flattery

Port Townsend WA was near our base for this area.  We stayed at the Escapees Evergreen Coho RV Park in Chimacum, a nice farming community.  We found great farmer’s markets and fruitstands.   Tomatoes, squash, greens and fruit were abundant.  The area has a rich history with many Victorian homes and old military installations.  Fort Flagler and Ft. Worden are now public parks with beautiful seaside locations.  Located at the northeast corner of the peninsula both forts afford great views of ship traffic from the Pacific to Puget Sound.  Harbor seals, sea lions and otters are common and occasionally whales and orcas can be seen.

Ship passing Ft. Flagler

Ft. Worden lighthouse

Ft. Flagler beach

Tug at Port Hadlock

Victoria BC is a short (1.5 hour) ferry ride from Port Angeles WA.  The days we crossed the seas were like glass.  We have visited Victoria many times.  Its the retirement capital of Canada and provincial capital of British Columbia.  We stayed at the Pendray Inn and Teahouse, a wonderful B & B with a traditional English High Tea.  High Tea offers the smallest amount of food for the highest price and very good tea.  We had a great stay and celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.  Our visit included a tour of the Royal BC Museum, one of the best in all Canada.

MV Coho ferry

Pendray Inn and Teahouse

BC Parliament

First Nations at BC Museum

Wooly Mammoth at BC Musum

Olympic National Monument was established in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt.  It became a national park in 1938.  The park preserves the unique temperate rain forest and mountains of the Olympic Peninsula.  Parts of it are among the wettest places on earth.  While there we visited the Salmon Cascade, a series of waterfalls where salmon swim upstream 70 miles to spawn.  It is incredible to see these big fish leaping up the rocks in a desperate attempt to reach their birthplace and place to lay eggs and then die.  Nearby Sol Duc Falls is another beautiful site in the park.

Salmon leaping Salmon Cascade

Rainforest in Olympic NP

Overall Port Townsend is said to have 67 more days of sun than Seattle.  While we were there in September we experienced the end of Summer and beginning of Fall.  The weather included more rain but mostly pleasant days with mild temps.  We could actually  see ourselves living here for part of the year.

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Our goal this Summer was to babysit our granddaughter for the month of August before she started kindergarten.  That meant a visit to the great state of Washington.  We crossed the mouth of the Columbia River to enter the state near the town of Ilwaco.  Ilwaco is a thriving fishing town and we arrived during the Summer Coho salmon run just offshore.  We booked a trip on the Coho Sally and caught our limit of 2 fish each.

NW Native American salmon art

Coho Sally

The mouth of the Columbia River has been called the graveyard of the Pacific.  There were once 3 shipwrecks in one week.  It’s been very tranquil on our visits.

Pacific beach

Trail to beach near Seaview WA

Northwest beach Di

Beach at Ft. Stephens

Vashon Island is one of the large islands in Puget Sound accessible by ferry.  We spent a pleasant day there exploring the farmer’s market, lighthouse and rural scenery.  Beautiful.

Wa State Ferry to Vashon Island

Point Robinson Lighthouse

Beautiful Vashon seaside

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Oregon is one of our favorite states.  It is rightfully famous for its Pacific coast.  While staying in Seaside we had the chance to tour some of  the parks of the northern OR coast.  Oregon parks are ubiquitous on the coast.  One can nearly step from park to park they are co close together.  We visited Ecola State Park, Hug Point Recreation Area and Ft. Stevens State Park among others.  These parks offer great views and beach access.  Cannon Beach is a popular tourist destination with a famous rock

Pristine beach near Ecola SP

Cannon Beach and Rock

Roosevelt elk in park

Hug Point beach

Old seaside road

Seasonal falls at beach

Sea star “Patrick”?
at low tide

Sea anemones in tide pool

Another look at Cannon Beach

Our route to the Oregon coast took us along the mighty Columbia River.  It is so impressive.  We found a free camping site at a Corps of Engineers area called Rufus Landing near John Day Dam.  Certain times of year this area is used by Native Americans for salmon fishing using scaffolds.  This activity is protected by treaty and would be interesting to see but just now we got to enjoy the riverfront views.  There are busy UP and BNSF main lines running on opposite sides of the river.  We also saw hundreds of giant white pelicans that call this place home.  Just before dark a Columbia River Cruise Ship passed by and entered the locks to go upstream.   We were so happy to find such a serene place an hour from Portland with incredible views.

Goldie on the Columbia River

Fishing scaffolds

Giant white pelicans

Basalt cliffs at sunset

John Day Dam at night

Astoria is a historic town at the mouth of the Columbia River.  Founded in 1811, it is the first American town west of the Rockies.  It is named for John Jacob Astor whose fur trading company founded Fort Astoria.  Its a great small town with a vibrant art scene, micro breweries and a great Farmers Market all summer.  The Astoria Column was built in 1926 and affords great views from the top while the murals spiraling around depict events in the early history of Oregon.

Astoria Farmers Market

Astoria Column

Town view from the top of the Column

Fort Clatsop is a National Park Service site nearby that has costumed  interpreters in summer.  Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-06 there after reaching the Pacific coast on their epic journey.  They had nearly starved on what became the Washington state coast before the Clatsop Indians shared the abundant elk on the Oregon side.  The Clatsop saw trading opportunities.  Lewis recorded only 12 days without rain and of those only 6 with sun  during their stay from early December to late March.  They couldn’t wait to leave the area heading back to St. Louis.  The reconstructed fort is an excellent replica.  While there we took a ranger led kayak tour on the Lewis and Clark River where the fort is located.

Lewis and Clark’s
Ft. Clatsop

Ranger led kayak paddle on the Lewis and Clark River

Lewis and Clark River with pilings from the logging days

Oregon is one of our favorite states.  The climate is mild, its not too crowded, they have great parks and beaches, the people are friendly.  We stayed in Seaside OR at the Thousand Trails RV Park there.  Seaside is the oldest resort town in the state and its a very busy place in Summer.  Their Fourth of July fireworks show is among the largest on the West coast.  We plan to return in the Fall.

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Lee’s Ferry and Glen Canyon Arizona

NFS campground view

Lee’s Ferry is the only place in 700 miles of canyon country where one can drive to the Colorado River.  This made it a prominent location in the history of northeastern Arizona.  Today it can be reached from Page AZ or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or from Flagstaff off US 89.  Lee’s Ferry Campground is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have ever visited.  Our photos really don’t do it justice.  It is surrounded on 3 sides by the Colorado River and beautiful red cliffs.  We hiked a scenic trail up a dry wash before visiting the riverside to see boats launching and historic ruins.

Vermillion Cliffs

Dry wash trail

Opuntia cacti blooming

Ruins Lee’s Fort

Colorado River launch point

Great trout fishing

Lee’s Ferry is the launch point for all raft trips through the Grand Canyon.  It is also at the end of the Glen Canyon area of the river.  We took a boat tour of the canyon below the Glen Canyon Dam which was very controversial when it was built.  The resulting Lake Powell is now a large recreation area and the town of Page is a booming recreation destination.  We had a great guide for the river trip which cruised thru smooth water between towering red cliffs.  The trip included a stop to see ancient petroglyphs.

Navaho Bridge

Marble Canyon from bridge

Glen Canyon Dam

River below dam

River boat trip

Beach for petroglyph viewing

Very detailed petroglyphs

Late day sun on red rocks

We visited Lee’s Ferry the first week of May.  The weather was perfect.  We understand it can get very hot in Summer and quite cold in Winter.  There are many trails to explore and guided fishing trips available.

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Moab Utah is an adventurers dream destination.  Its popular with hikers, mountain bikers, rafters, rock climbers, ATV riders and more.  Its near Arches NP and Canyonlands NP.  Most all the land around Moab is Federal whether BLM, National Forest or National Park.  There is an abundance of boondocking opportunities which was good for us as our visit included Memorial Day weekend.

Red Rock over the
Colorado River

Rock art too

Moab Museum of Movies and Western Heritage

We found a spot suitable for Goldie in an area called Klondike Bluffs North.  It was east of US 191 about  15 miles north of town.  There’s a good gravel road about 2 miles into an area with multiple previously used sites.  The weather was unsettled and we had rain 5 days in a row.  (Yes, we had rain in Moab).  The red dirt of Moab turns to slippery mud when wet.  We were glad it dried out before we had to move Goldie again.  The beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River houses the free Museum of Movies and Western Heritage.

Goldie boondocking
near Moab

View from Klondike Bluffs

Rafting the Castle Valley portion of the Colorado River is very popular in Moab.  We called our friends at Mild to Wild Rafting https://mild2wildrafting.com/utah-rafting/colorado-river-rafting.html to book a trip with their Moab office.  The morning trip was beautiful.  Very peaceful with a few splashes.  They offer many rafting options around Moab. 

Fisher Towers used in many films

One of the main attractions near Moab is Canyonlands National Park.  We have visited the Islands in the Sky section before but never the Needles section.  Church Rock  is near the turnoff.  Then comes Newspaper Rock, one the largest rockart panels we’ve seen.  Near the visitors center we did a hike to more rock art, a cowboy camp and a well preserved puebloan granary.  We could’ve hiked up to the top of the rock but lightning changed our plans.  More left to see on another visit.

Church Rock

Newspaper Rock –
more rock art

Storms approaching

Well preserved granary

Cowboy camp

Needles canyon

More storms –
time to go

Hiking around Moab is abundant and we found two great hikes walking from our site at Klondike Bluffs.  This area is also known as Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracks.  The one trail we hiked is called Dinosaur Stomping Ground as there are over 2200 fossilized footprints in the rock ridge.  It was a beautiful hike to an overlook of a valley in front of Arches NP.  The other hike led us to giant allosaurus type footprints in the rock and then up another ridge to an abandoned mine and equipment.

Big footprints in the rock

Over 2200 individual prints

Water holes on the trail

Cacti blooming

View toward Arches

Allosaurus footprints

Relics of the mining period

Moab is one of those places where we find more to see each time we visit.  More to come back for.




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Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

C&TSRR Depot in Chama

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs from Chama NM to Antonito CO on a preserved portion of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.  It is consistently ranked the number one scenic railroad in the United States.  Its 64 miles of unspoiled beauty.  Its narrow gauge railroading at its best.  We love it.

Restored coal tower with approaching steam loco

Restored loco 318 on display

Casual yard atmosphere

Here we go

Our friend Grant Luckhardt is a volunteer on the railroad and joined us for a ride on the entire length of the line from Antonito to Chama.  The train travels across the Colorado prairie into New Mexico, then thru the Mud Tunnel and the Rock Tunnel, into Toltec Gorge, the Los Pinos valley, Tanglefoot Curve,  up and over Cumbres Pass (10,512 feet), around Windy Point and down to Chama.  Every trip includes a lunch stop with a large and varied buffet lunch.

Grant and Randy

The next day we chased the train and we were lucky to find a double-header out of Chama.  When one locomotive isn’t enough to haul the train up to Cumbres Pass another engine is added for that part  of the trip.  We found #464, nicknamed “The Mudhen” coupled with #484 providing the power that day.  This is a real treat!


After Cumbres just the Mudhen

Riding steam trains and chasing steam trains are highlights for any year and 2019 did not disappoint.


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Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

We love the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  It’s what brought us to Durango Colorado for the first time over 20 years ago.  It is still an icon of Southwest Colorado in spite of the devastating 2018 fire no doubt started by one of their coal burning steam locomotives.  Recently the Federal Government filed suit against the railroad for starting the fire.  No one doubts they started it and will have to settle.  In the meantime people in the community continue to honk and wave to the train and know its bringing prosperity to the town.  The D and S is making changes to reduce the chance of another fire including converting a locomotive to burn oil and running diesels on occasion when fire danger is high.  They also have a greater fire fighting capability on the speeders following the train to catch small fires.  For years the train has more than offset their carbon footprint with tree plantings and other activities.  No one wants the train to go away.

Meanwhile… ridership is up this year.  Colorado  had  a tremendous  amount  of snow  this  past  winter  and  we  have  never  seen  so  many  waterfalls.  And  avalanches!  The  first  train  to  Silverton  in  April  found  60  (thats  right,  sixty)  feet  of  snow  covering  the  tracks  at  one  point.  The  ride  is  still  spectacular.

Site of avalanche that left 60 feet of snow over track

We hope the D and S survives this latest disaster.  Its been running since 1880 and we hope it continues far into the future.

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Goblin Valley State Park

Utah has an abundance of scenic beauty.  First impressions of Utah are often blah.  Desert, sand, desert, mountain, desert.  But the state has many national parks and monuments and spectacular scenery.

Ripple in the earth at
San Rafael Swell

A recent stop at an information tent told us about Goblin Valley State Park.  What bizarre rock formations!  Like big and little toadstools all arrayed across just one desert valley.  We imagined all kinds of animals and faces.  Utah has the most impressive collection of rock formations.

Spires in the desert

Goblins in the foreground

I see a rat

After visiting the goblins we headed off to a slot canyon hike.  The weather was threatening so we cut it short but it was still beautiful.  Some real skinny spaces and scrambling up dry waterfalls.

Di in the slot

So if you’re visiting Utah, there is much more to see besides Arches, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands et al.  There are scenic wonders most of us have never heard of.

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