Accompanied by my son-in-law Mike for a good portion of it, I was privileged last month to launch Mushroom Obsession's Fall 2019 Coast-to-Coast Mushroom Tour!
Here's a quick report of the outbound leg (Washington to Pennsylvania), 3,444 miles of foray. I'll talk about the hunting we did in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the return leg, separately.
October 9, 218 miles -- I picked Mike up at SeaTac Airport (he flew from his home in south-central Pennsylvania to join me) and we proceeded due south from Washington into Oregon.
October 10, 392 miles -- After camping near the Cascade Locks on the mighty Columbia River, we proceeded east into the Mahleur National Forest to see the Humongous Fungus, arguably the world's largest single living organism. This is a 4-square mile Honey Mushroom infestation that has been killing pine trees out in this lonely spot for several thousand years, expands outward at the rate of 3 inches per year, and is considered unstoppable. But before we reached the fungus we also had lunch and got advice at the 1811 brewery in John Day, as well as a stop at the ranger station in Prairie City.
As you can see from the photos, there really isn't much evidence (after traveling 7 miles up this gravel forest service road) that you are actually there. I think we were a few weeks too late to see any fruiting, but we saw lots of dead trees, and the evidence of the Amarillia ostayae mycelium that is killing them.
After seeing the humongous fungus, we proceeded south through the Mahleur Forest and saw some very beautiful and interesting geology and paleontology through the sparsely populated regions of eastern Oregon. Our class C motorhome (a Sprinter/Jayco Melbourne named "Jed" after the famous explorer) had a startling run-in (at 50mph with a very large black bat in the middle of nowhere, then we spent the night at the RV park where the media and many of the protestors involved in the Bundy protest in eastern Oregon (which some refer to as the State of Jefferson). In the wee morning hours it was so cold (18F) that our RV water shut down to protect itself! Not a whole lot of mushrooms out there in those kind of temps.
October 11. 541 miles -- We proceeded east to Salt Lake City, where we had reserved the very nice Pony Express RV park for Jed to rest up in, only to discover our after-hours check-in packet had been stolen by a group of three international tourists who were tent camping on our pad in this RV-only park. The management wasn't pleased and interrupted their tea time to usher them out. We had a good laugh (although we were concerned about people tent camping in below-freezing temperatures) and a good night of rest before proceeding east.
October 12, 462 miles -- We hit the road early and on our way out traveled through the heart of Salt Lake City, enjoying lots of interesting Mormon architecture, great coffee at Jack Mormon roastery, and marveling at a heavy police presence downtown. We then headed over the beautiful gorges of central/eastern Utah, turning north as we skirted a major winter storm up in Montana. (Our original plan was to follow a more directly northerly route, but the storm changed our minds the day before we left.)
The scenery in Wyoming was less entertaining, and we kept our minds busy by looking for the famed Pronghorn Antelope, a native to North America which really isn't an antelope at all. When we finally saw one we were so excited I backed the rig over a road marker in order to get a picture. But no harm was done so we continued on, and then of course we saw lots of Pronghorn. But no mushrooms.
We had lunch at Bitter Creek Brewing, then arrived for the evening at the KOA park in Douglas, Wyoming, self-proclaimed jackelope capital of the world. We saw lots of jackrabbits and lots of antelope, and concluded that whoever somehow combined the two into a single image had had way too much to drink and perhaps their mind had been tweaked by the boredom of miles of Wyoming scrub.
October 13, 389 miles -- On day 5 of our journey we headed northeast out of Wyoming and into South Dakota. There were somethings we wanted to see there -- Mt. Rushmore (which neither of us had heretofore had the privilege of visiting), Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and the Badlands. We also toured the Bicycle Monument in Pringle, looked at the Crazy Horse Memorial near Rushmore (a sandstone carving in progress that will end up being larger than Mt. Rushmore itself), and did a little shopping for the missus in Keystone, heart of Black Hills Gold country. (Nice set of earrings -- our wedding bands are all Black Hills Gold.) We saw gold, lots of bicycles, and even more sandstone -- but no jackelopes or mushrooms.
We had dinner at the Rusty Spur in Murdo (nothing to write home about), then pressed on to our spot for the night in Presho (the New Frontier RV Park) ... one of the weirdest places we stayed thanks to a maintenance man who monopolized the shower room for many hours that evening in ways that I won't elaborate on here. (Here's a map tracing this portion of our journey: https://goo.gl/maps/69N7v6zXg4c8oGgi6.)
October 14, 821 miles -- After a good evening of rest we left Presho before sunrise as we wanted to make good progress eastward. We had some very good coffee at the Elixir Roasterie in Mitchell, before proceeding to see the nearby world-famous "Corn Palace" (closed because this was "Indigenous Peoples Day" in South Dakota, formerly Columbus Day, although the birds who were pecking at the corn murals didn't seem to care). South Dakota is one weird place. I kind of like it.
And one of the most interesting stops (which added 21 miles to the map) was our tour of Badlands National Park. Now that I'm 62 I've been able to secure a lifetime national park pass, so I definitely took advantage of that this trip. Didn't see any mushrooms there, but lots of Prairie Dogs, a bighorn sheep, and lots of beautiful geology.
We headed east through Sioux Falls and into La Crosse, Wisconsin, where we marveled at the largest beer store either of us had ever seen. After procuring several cases of hard-to-find specialties, we continued on to the Wisconsin Dells, where we had a very good dinner at Sprecher's. Then we pressed on around Chicago (where we paid what seemed like endless road tolls to get where we wanted to go), and stopped for the night at the Indiana Dunes State Park on the southeast shores of Lake Michigan.
We didn't have a reservation here and were surprised to find the RV park completely full. It was late (after midnight, after a our longest day of driving) and we were tired. After circling a few times we had decided to go search for a Wal-Mart, but the nearest was many miles away. Fortunately a young hippie couple (no doubt intrigued after they saw the mushroom logo on the back of our RV invited us to share their space, and we shared some of our beer bounty with them in return.
October 15, 541 miles -- after an 800 mile day, we felt like we could easily press on through Indiana and Ohio and to Mike's home in Osterburg, Pennsylvania. After some truly bad coffee in Toledo, we made up for it by having an awesome late lunch at Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, which had some of the best beer of the trip. We then pressed on to arrive in Osterburg for a great dinner. (Here's the map of the second half of our outbound leg -- https://goo.gl/maps/8ctNPo7scakF4HwY7.)
So -- other than the humongous fungus, which was interesting but not much to look at -- from a mushroom standpoint the trip out was a bit of a bust. But the rest of our time was better, and I'll talk more about this on the next post.