Road Trip XI, Days 1-5: From Mossyland to Pricklyland, or, WA-OR-CA-AZ

We didn’t plan it that way, honest—but we picked a good time to hightail it south. Heading out from the Anacortes ferry terminal, we were surprised by snow.

But by the time we got to our friends’ home in Eugene, spring was already peeking out here and there.

Can I just take a moment to appreciate Eugene, Oregon? It was my gateway to the Pacific Northwest, way back in 1980, when The Boyfriend and I visited to watch the Olympic track trials. (We ran around town pretending we were American distance record-holders Frank Shorter and Mary Decker.) Since then I’ve grown accustomed to those magnificent, towering evergreens that embody the state of Washington. But one thing we don’t have are those irresistibly Middle-Earthy oak trees that, to me, define western Oregon.

And when the sun shines on the ferns and moss…oooh!

Because we’ve had bad experiences with icy passes on I-5 in southern Oregon, we opted to cut straight over to the coast at Florence. It was hard to bypass all those gorgeous hiking or picnicking spots, but we were on a bit of a schedule, so I had to make do with photos from the car. Oh, Highway 101, you are a temptress!

It’s called Humbug Mountain, and I really want to go back to it! Humbug.

Even though we might have chosen a brand-new trail, for a reliable 90-minute fast hike before dark, we returned like faithful spouses to our forever-favorite, the redwoods of Prairie Creek.

I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful sunny day. Almost all my redwoods photos feature moisture! So I had to add to my collection.

Insert your own caption here 🙂
OK, that’s enough! (note: Never enough redwood pics!)

It was, however, heading toward darkness and cold by the time we finished our hike, and we were eager to set ourselves up for a shorter drive next day, so we opted for a motel in Arcata—a town that feels like it’s struggling economically. Hang in there, Arcata.

In Oakland we got to spend the night with our cuzzies AND Son Two—bonus. Not pictured: yummy meal, youthful joy, domestic bliss, etc., etc.

For Day 4, still time-bound, we had to sacrifice our beloved Highway 101 for the delights of I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley. At least the almond trees were in bloom. In summer, this route is one of the few unattractive stretches of I-5.

Wish I could smell ’em! Grow, little almonds, grow!

Traffic into the city we’d sworn never to drive into was actually easy-peasy, as though LA were just playing with us. It was also sunny and 62–freezing cold for Angelenos, delightful for us—so we enjoyed a hike in Runyon Canyon before heading over to our other cousins (my side of the fam) for dinner.

These are the cousins whose generosity and 100 year-old avocado tree are responsible for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Avocados, which I’ve blogged about in past years. Nor did they disappoint in 2022. Not only did they have a sack of avos ready, in staggered stages of ripeness!!—my cousin Susi introduced me to her kumquat tree.

Whaaaaaat!!!?!

I’d never eaten a kumquat. But I made up for many years of kumquatlessness in a few minutes.

Not pictured: my mouth stuffed with those tart-sweet-bitter-zingy little Fruits of Amazingness

After spending the night at the home of another set of “far and dear” friends, we made the Big Left Turn and headed into the desert. Joshua Tree’s Cottonwood Campground was full…

…but freshly green!

…but we treated ourselves to a hike on one of our favorite (and most accessible) trails.

Our California friends reported a cold winter, and the desert seemed to agree: I saw almost nothing blooming.

Just this one ocotillo

Of course, ocotillos are pretty scenic even when not blooming.

There’s a reason “cactus-hugger” isn’t a phrase, even for folks who love cacti.

As I write this, The Mate and I have introduced our avocados to Buckeye, Arizona, in an overpriced motel on the outskirts of Phoenix. 

More where this came from!

It’s not exactly a destination city, but we crossed a lot of desert today, and staying here puts us that much closer to our happiest of happy places: Chiricahua National Monument. Coming soon to a travel blog near you!

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