Manti-La Sal Mountain Loop

The mountains are calling and I must go.
— John Muir
Warner Lake, 9400 ft, Haystack Mountain at 11,641’ is in the background.

Warner Lake, 9400 ft, Haystack Mountain at 11,641’ is in the background.


The mountains are always calling, but especially when they are filled with fall color. This is our third extended stay in Moab, but it was our first trip up into the Manti-La Sal mountain range that is southeast of town. In years past we had always filled our days with hikes in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, jeep cruises on some slightly scary -to me- back roads and exploring the slick-rock hills around us.

When I stopped in town the other day at the Post Office to pick up our mail (general delivery is a necessity when you are on the road for years at a time), I noticed the US Forest Service office was right next door. I wandered over to ask if they might have some maps or ideas where we might find some fall color. The ranger directed me to a grouping of maps about the Manti-La Sal mountain range, and our next day was now planned.


About seven miles south of town on HWY 191, we turned east onto the Manti-La Sal Loop road. A 60-mile loop that the ranger said would take maybe two to three hours, took us closer to six. But then we had a lot of stops along the way for photography and views. The vegetation changed as we gained elevation. Pinyon and juniper trees gave way to oak, then to larger pines and aspen - and of course - Fall COLOR! The loop began at about 4500 ft and we watched our dash-mounted GPS as we climbed up the steep windy road to over 9400’ by the time we made it to Warner Lake, the second of two lakes we hiked around on the loop. I talked with some campers and they told me both bear and deer had been sighted that day, but I didn’t see any as I made my way down the trails in search of color. Bob chilled out at the Jeep, smart man, he always brings a book with him.

We were almost to the end of the loop road when we encountered a semi car hauler - not sure why he thought it was a good idea to go up that road. He was seriously stuck on a hairpin turn, he wasn’t going any farther. We were lucky that the Jeep could skirt along the inside of the hill so we didn’t have to turn and go back the way we had come.

We made a slight detour on the way back to see the dinosaur tracks in Bull Canyon. A short gravel trail took us to see several therapod prints. According to the info sign at the trailhead the tracks dated to the Jurassic period about 200 million years ago when the area was a shallow sea. The overlock was dramatic as well.

The drive back took us through Castle Valley and the road skirted by Castle Rock and Castleton Tower, huge sandstone towers. We then followed the Colorado River as it snaked it’s way back to Moab. It was a beautiful day, and I would make the drive again just for the views and peaceful moments along the lakeside.


On the Road to Moab

Friends are the sunshine of life
— John Hay
Sunflowers grace the beautiful and productive certified organic garden that Jaime and Kevin have created. Two Ravens Farm, a wonderful new addition to Nevada Grown’s network.

Sunflowers grace the beautiful and productive certified organic garden that Jaime and Kevin have created. Two Ravens Farm, a wonderful new addition to Nevada Grown’s network.

After a much too short visit with Kevin, Oli and our surrogate grand-doggies, we left Florence, OR for points east. Traveling at a pretty fast clip, we went through $495.37 worth of diesel to get from there to Moab, UT. On a good note though, included in that total we do have a full tank to start the next leg of our journey.

On the way we got to experience an overnight in a casino parking lot on the Oregon/CA line, (nice and quiet but WAY to smokey to even venture inside), and two nights with our dearest friends Melissa and Tim at their new home in Chico - exploring on bikes the massive Bidwell Park and the eclectic downtown area. An early snowstorm going over Donner Pass led to an unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable extended day stay outside Fallon that allowed a visit with our tribe.


The drive through the long lonely miles of Nevada reminded us once again why we love this state. Flat lands of dusty desert and tumbleweed quickly change to the snow-covered mountains of the West Humboldt Range in the distance. On down the road we watch as the Ruby Mountains come into view and Bob tells me stories from the two years he lived there when he started his job with US Fish and Wildlife. Sara was just starting third grade at that time, and while it was incredibly difficult to have the 400+ mile distance between us, it allowed him a career that provides us with the lifestyle we now enjoy.

As we get close to the East Humboldt range we watch as a massive storm is brewing off in the distance. Thankfully as it got closer all we had to show for it was a few drops on the windshield. It’s not easy taking a good pic from the giant screen of the windshield as your going 65 down the road, but sometimes - that’s all you get.

This is our third extended visit to the Moab area and we will spend the next month re-visiting some of our favorite hikes and exploring new areas. Coming from sea level for the past four months, we may have a little altitude adjustment to contend with on some of the more difficult hikes planned. At 4000 ft. the air is dryer and thinner as Bob found out during his first 10 mile mountain bike ride yesterday. Camped on Utah State Trust Land overlooking the Klondike Bluffs, it’s just a short drive to the back entrance of Arches National Park. Our free spot is secluded and quiet and the night skies are a spectacle to behold. Even though it is towards the end of official Milky Way “season”, I am hoping for some practice while we are here.

Off for a hike - more in the upcoming days and weeks as we explore Arches, Canyonlands and the LaSale Mountain range.

(If you have the time, please leave me a quick comment, I think I finally have it fixed so they post and show on the blog)

The Landing

...your off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
— Dr. Seuss

We have been back in the Florence area on the coast of Oregon the last three weeks, and to anyone that has spoken with us during that time now knows - we have found our “landing”. Since we sold The Flower Tree and Bob retired back in 2013, we have been on the search for our landing spot. We have traveled the country, north to south, east to west - to find an area where we thought we wanted to live out our days. We actually had made pretty serious plans to move to the east coast of Florida. Close to our family, and the weather is pretty perfect most of the time, it had a lot of what we were searching for. Then we came back to the West, and spent four months on the coast of Oregon and Washington and realized that this is where we will call home. Yes, we know it rains in the winter - you don’t get these shades of vivid green surrounding you without it. But we figure that is when we will travel to see family back east, and camp down in the Arizona desert. After 35 years on this side of our beautiful country, we realized we are still “West Obsessed”.

Anyone that knows us very well also knows Bob and I are water people, and this town situated smack dab in the middle of the Siuslaw National Forest, at the base of the Siuslaw River, on the beautiful rugged coast of the Pacific fits all our needs. Plans are to be back here in early Spring, find a house and settle in. For now we are hitting the road tomorrow to continue a few more months of the “Friends & Family Tour”.

We may be landing - but we aren’t slowing down.

Heceta Lighthouse / 15 miles north of Florence

Heceta Lighthouse / 15 miles north of Florence

Hoh Rainforest, WA

The next time your mind wanders, follow it around for a while.
— Jessica Masterson

Nothing can quite prepare you for the Hoh Rainforest. I had been doing quite a bit of reading and research on the area as soon as Bob said we could make it as far north as Olympic National Park this summer. Our first time in a rainforest was a few years ago when we camped outside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island, Canada. We were camping out of our Jeep that trip and our accommodations were limited to our tent, and it rained…and rained…and rained. Appropriate right - after all, we were in a rainforest. The trails through that forest were mostly over boardwalks, the downed trees were so large. Whoever had built them had Bob’s utter respect as we traversed along the trail. 

Fast forward a few years and we now had the opportunity to visit another of the rainforests of Olympic National Park. We had spent a few miles the week before on the Quinalt trails, but this week we would be traveling to the Hoh. Many days had been spent looking over the trails and images trying to decide which ones would be a good fit for us. We spent some time at the Hoh Visitor Center talking with the Ranger and getting a feel for the park. Over worked and under staffed we didn’t find the information we were looking for. We wanted old growth of course, but we also wanted solitude to hear the trees talking to us. We decided to take the trails that led off from the Visitor Center as this was going to just be our day of getting a “taste” of the area. We had three days here, and we would make the most of them.

The first trail was absolutely filled with beautiful specimens of Sitka spruce. We bypassed the Ranger led tour group of forty or so that were at the entrance of the trail, and quickly made our way ahead of them. At this point getting the tripod out was not really an option. There were SO MANY people. But as we ventured ahead of the crowd the quiet quickly enveloped us. Big trees, cool green everywhere you looked and my favorite hiking partner ahead of me…’s love.

We decided after the short trail to venture up the Hoh River Trail. This is an overnight backpacking trail, if you have all the necessary equipment and a permit. For us it way to maybe get away from the crowds and experience the true quiet of the forest. We did about 8 miles round trip, and it was beautiful of course, but not quiet. We returned to the Rainforest Hostel for a good nights sleep.

Day 2 / Rialto Beach

Day 3 / Back to The Hoh!!

We decided to take the advice of both the Ranger at the visitor center, Jimmy at the Rainforest Hostel, and our own research and take a “not very traveled – you better be prepared” trail into the Hoh.

We packed up our gear and did our chores at the Hostel and then made the 15 mile drive down a dusty gravel forest road to get to the trails beginning. Our intentions were to do the long hike into the South Fork of the Hoh, and then have a quick dinner and head back for the bus in Ocean City. We had been warned that we might not see another hiker the entire trip - EXACTLY - what we were looking for, and hopefully our Jeep and belongings would be ok at the trailhead.


The Vivid Green

Like I mentioned at the top, nothing really prepares you for the green of the rainforest. We lived our lives for 30+ years in the brown of the desert. Before that we had spent our years in Hawaii, South Carolina and Florida. All areas filled with green. The year in New York you can’t really count the colors. The green fills my spirit and heart. 

We put our packs on, filled with snacks and water, and started down the trail. The South Fork of the Hoh River Trail is an in/and out that traverses along the river. I wish I could capture the quiet, the green and the beauty. I remember back a few years when Pantone chose a shade of green for their “Color of the Year”. It was called greenery - and when you are standing in the midst of all this beauty it is hard to imagine how they choose just one shade. I lingered around the very first path down the trail and stood in awe of all the vivid hues of green. How would you every choose, a shade- a color of green- here. The massive roots entangled the paths and after a mile or so I realized that when the huge roots were crossing the trail – STOP – and look around. Sure enough a massive old growth Sitka spuce was close by. Wearing bifocals, I spend a lot of my time hiking looking down, and this gentle reminder was exactly the prompt I needed to just pause - look up and all around - and enjoy the beauty. The squirrels alerted each other as we passed by, and the river below us provided a constant voice in the background.

Old growth trees fall, and provide the “nursery” for those to come. They gather their energy and allow the little folk to rise and grow. This forest is where we witness the most perfect example of how the trees support each other, and how we should in turn support those around us.

As the hike continues we found ourselves climbing higher and higher up the mountain side, leaving the river far below us and that is when the quiet of the forest engulfed us. We separated many times over the next few hours, each lost in our own thoughts, and then found our way back to each others side.




Last day in Pacific City - for now

A dory is a flat-bottomed boat, with sides and bottom planked lengthwise and with no keel structure other than the bottom planking
— John Gardner

We spent our last day in Pacific City watching the surfers and Dory boats at Cape Kiwanda. I had left early in the morning to head to the beach by myself. A short half mile down the road I stopped for a coffee and a Marionberry muffin for Bob for later and arrived at the beach to see 11 boat trailers lined up on the shore, a good sign I thought that someone would be landing at a later point during the morning. The Dory boats land and take off from the shoreline and while we had spent time at the museum reading up on their history, I had yet to see them in action. I planned on staying until I did.


It was the “super” low tide of the day so I wandered over to the tide-pools and explored around for awhile, keeping a keen eye out to sea just in case any of the boats returned. It was about an hour later that I noticed the beach was filling up quickly with surfers. When I had arrived there were maybe two or three in the water. Now there were twenty or so and the “drive on” beach was starting to look like a parking lot. Just as I turned to walk back towards the Jeep I spotted a Dory coming in at full speed towards shore. There is only a small area of the shoreline where they land, not far from where all the surfers were gathering. Full throttle the boat hit the shore and skidded up onto the beach, one person jumping out to grab and hold onto the boat while another ran to get the truck/trailer to pull the boat out of the water. It was a THRILL to watch!

I stopped and watched as they got the boat pulled out and their catch stored, 45 Dungeness crabs and 12 Ling cod. Chatted a bit with the owner of the boat and he told me he was going back out later in the day with another group if the weather held out.


As I walked back to the Jeep I watched as more and more surfers were arriving to check out the waves. Calling out to each other and pointing at the breaks coming in - you could tell that they were excited to see some good surf. I decided to call Bob and see if he wanted to come down and watch with me. Sometimes I am not sure if the enjoyment of watching others in Mother Ocean outranks the sadness of not being in the water himself. Bob spent many years surfing the waves in Florida, South Carolina and Hawaii and I know he misses it. But I let him make that call, and he decided to join me. Ran back to camp and grabbed him and we came back and set up on the beach with our chairs and of course the muffin I had purchased earlier. Over the course of the next few hours we watched the surf, got to see another boat land and the same one from the early morning take off. It was a great way to enjoy our last day in Pacific City. This area has so much to offer. Hiking, rock hounding, beach-combing and beautiful scenery. I know we will return.

Milky Way hopeful

Scouting Milky Way locations for the next super clear night. The end of another beautiful day. Thanks Bob 💚


Back to Oregon

After a beautiful month in Washington we are back in Pacific City at Cape Kiwanda. We love the area here on the Three Cape Scenic Loop. Just a short 15 minute drive and we are back on the trail at Cape Lookout. A steady two miles down a steep switchback trail filled with old growth Sitka spruce takes us to a beautiful calm and deserted beach. Agate hunting and relaxing. The climb out is always a challenge, but is getting easier each time. We will only be here a short time this trip and then it is on south to Florence for a month or so. The coast of Oregon is quickly moving to the top of our favorites list.