I’m sitting here in a motel room in Indian River, Michigan this evening. I’m at the end of a two week course towards becoming a Wilderness EMT, and eventually teaching wilderness medical courses. Tomorrow I will take my written test, and then start the journey home.

Until two weeks ago, I had not flown on an airplane in over twenty years. I had never been this far east on my own. I had never seen fall colors in the northern deciduous forest.

When I left home, several important things were going on in my life. My father was in the hospital in fairly serious condition. He has since been released, and is home again, although he can no longer navigate stairs. He’s 81, and I worry that he may not ever regain everything he had, before this sudden illness overtook him. The week before, a friend and neighbor a few years older than I am died pretty quickly, of cancer, only a month after being diagnosed. And a good friend, someone I have known for 28 years, is also, right now, dying of cancer, after fighting it and beating it back for ten years or so. She is still here, but only just barely. It’s only a matter of time now.

Part of my WEMT class was 34 hours spent working on ambulances and in the emergency room. While working on the ambulance as an EMT student last weekend, I saw my first dead human body, outside of a funeral.

A man, approximately my age, had decided that life was not something he wanted to do any longer, and on probably one of the nicest afternoons in northern Michigan all year, he went outside, parked his truck a ways away from his modest home, and spread a blanket out on the grass nearby. The sun would have been shining, and the weather was fantastic. Everyone I met was talking about how they were finally getting the summer they had been waiting for for months.

The man sat down on the blanket, facing a row of old apple trees, loaded with fruit. He took his deer rifle, a Remington pump action 30-06, placed the barrel against the roof of his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

I’ll spare you the details, but many of you can probably imagine what the end result was. It was not neat and clean, although I am certain this man felt no more pain. Not even for a moment. His mother, however, will feel pain about this day for the rest of her life. Guilt. Remorse. She will miss him. I checked her vital signs, and held her hand for a minute, and listened to her cry and chastise herself. And then I stood in the driveway with the LEOs from three different agencies and waited for orders about what we would do next. I looked at the body. I helped the LEOs look for the shell casing. I was careful not to step in any of the brains and skull fragments. Not because it mattered to the law at that point, but because it seemed like it would be rude. One of my mentors, an old time paramedic who knew the victim’s mother, picked an apple off of one of the trees and ate it. I wished I could do the same. They looked delicious, and it certainly did not matter to the man laying in the grass any more.

When I get home, I may, or may not make it to see my dying friend in person again, before she is gone. I am sure she wishes she was not sick. Was not dying. Was able to watch her son grow up, leave home, start a family, and become a man. Was able to live out a happy life with her husband who loves her.

And nearly at the same time, I have this image – I will ALWAYS have this image – of a sad man, whose name I know, and will never forget, in a remote driveway in rural northern Michigan, who decided there was nothing more he wished to see. That he had seen enough. I don’t think I will ever forget what he looked like, laying there in the grass, near the apple trees, on a blanket that he had laid out for the purpose, still holding his deer rifle in his hands.

No judgement. Just observations. And wonderment. And sadness.

I’ve often been asked about how to grow shiitake mushrooms, and since I’ve never posted about it, here it is.

Start with a young hardwood forest in need of thinning. Alder is what I have around here, but lots of different hardwoods will work, especially oaks. I look for logs that aren’t too crooked, and about 4-8″ in diameter. This year, I thinned a couple of acres of pure alder that I have, which was way, way more than I needed for mushroom logs. The rest will go to firewood, and my remaining trees should grow faster and larger now.

The best time to cut the trees is in the winter or very early spring, definitely before sap starts to flow. Once they are starting to leaf out, you’re a little on the late side. When processing your logs, be careful not to bang up the bark. Trees with sap running tend to get the bark damaged very easily. I cut the logs right where the tree falls and carefully carry and load them by hand.


alder forest

In the past I used to cut my logs at 42″, because that was the size of a standard pallet, and I used to stack my logs on pallets. Now I just throw a couple of un-inoculated logs on the ground and make my stacks on those. So this time I cut my logs at 48″. Much longer gets hard to handle, though. Make sure the logs are straight and relatively uniform, without damage or rot. I also take the time to scrub off all the moss and other stuff growing on them. If you have a pressure washer, this can go pretty fast. Some people wash and scrub them down to clean bark without any lichens left on it at all, but in my experience, they don’t need to be perfectly spotless.

Since alder is a wood that rots easily, the alder tree has some defense mechanisms against invading fungi. Alder will encapsulate and “wall off” any rot very effectively, and right after you cut or damage an alder tree, it produces an antifungal compound of some kind, so I always stack my freshly cut logs in the woods for a couple of weeks or so before inoculating them, to let this defense mechanism run its course.

Keep the logs cool and in the shade, while you’re waiting for your spawn to arrive in the mail, and while you’re working on them. We lost over 100 logs one year because I had not learned this lesson yet. Logs that sit in the sun get sunburned, which makes the bark less useful for shiitake mushroom growth, but worse, the logs warm up and grow Trichoderma, a locally prevalent, aggressively competing fungus. If that stuff gets a toehold before the shiitake can get established, then the logs fail to ever produce mushrooms. So keep your logs cool and in the shade!

I order my spawn from Northwest Mycological Consultants in Corvallis, OR. I generally grow one of the cold weather strains, as they tend to tolerate my benign neglect, they fruit on natural cycles well, and the resulting mushrooms are of extremely high quality. This year, I also bought a wide range strain, that has a longer fruiting season than the cold weather strain I usually grow. Timing wise, I usually order my spawn about the time I take down the trees.


inoculating shiitake logs

I use sawdust spawn, rather than plugs. This requires a special tool for inoculating, which you can also order from NMC. I also ordered the special hardened drill bit from them, and it has drilled several thousand holes now with no troubles. Regular hardware store bits will not do that.

The other huge time saver is the drill. Don’t even bother with a regular shop drill, or cordless drill. You’ll be drilling holes for days that way. What you want is a high speed angle grinder, and to make a simple adapter so that you can mount a drill chuck on it. This is a way, way faster way to drill a lot of holes without hassle. Put a stop collar on your drill bit so you don’t make the holes super deep.


inoculating shiitake logs

You want the holes to be a little bit deeper than the length of the plug of spawn that you’re putting in there. You want there to be a little bit of open space at the bottom of the hole underneath the spawn. You also want to be careful to not tear up the bark too bad when drilling holes. Pull the drill straight out so that it doesn’t snag and tear the bark around the edge of the hole. I put the holes about 3-4″ or so apart and several full length rows around the circumference of each log. More is better for fast, successful colonization, but too many holes wastes spawn and leaves you with fewer logs. At the rate I generally do it, a five pound bag of spawn will inoculate about 20-25 logs.

I’ve found that laying the logs out in the grass to drill them is easier than trying to drill them on the bed of the truck, or on the sawhorse set up that we use for inoculating on. Having some teenagers around to move logs for you is nice…


inoculating shiitake logs

Inoculating is pretty straightforward. Open the bag, shove the tool into the spawn, it will fill with spawn, then put the tool over a hole and depress the plunger. Voila! Spawn is now inside the log. Repeat several hundred times…

Once you have a pile of inoculated logs, now it’s time to seal the holes with wax. We use a small thrift store slow cooker to melt wax in and keep it hot. There’s a million ways of doing the wax, too, but since we’re small time and usually only do up 50-100 logs at a time usually, we just use paint brushes. The wax protects the spawn from invasion by pests, and from drying out.


inoculating shiitake logs

Now write the strain number on the ends of the logs so you can keep track of which is which. I used to not do this, and then got frustrated when some logs performed better than others, but I couldn’t say for sure which was which. It only takes a few minutes and a big sharpie to label them.

Then stack them under some conifer shade, so that they have good airflow, but no direct sun beating down on them. They’ll take all summer to fully colonize the logs, and it will probably be the following spring at least before you see any mushrooms. You can get more production by soaking the logs and managing them more intensively. There’s a lot of great information in the “Shiitake Growers Handbook”, by Paul Przybylowicz and John Donoghue.


inoculating shiitake logs

My last batch of successful logs were inoculated in 2008, and were still producing mushrooms as of a couple of weeks ago. If I had forced fruiting, though, it would have used them up faster. My 2011 logs were invaded by Trichoderma and have never fruited. I have a good feeling about today’s batch, though. I think these will be successful.


shiitake logs

It’s winter, and I don’t have much to say, so here’s some pictures from the past few months:

Colorful tugboat



Old car



Resting boat



Mouth of the creek



Winter sunset



Working boats



Owl, bobcat and forest







Fun with Instagram and ship



You know you’ve really fallen out of the blogging habit when your teenager actually notices that you haven’t posted in a long time. Sigh.

Canoe

Between my gawdawful internet service and the fact that Flickr, where I host all my photography, went to a bandwidth-gobbling “magazine” format, dealing with pictures got a lot less fun last year, and therefore, blogging held a lot less appeal, too.


tug and barge

But here it is, a year later, and I’ve got hundreds more good photos than I had last year, and I’ve been feeling the urge to get back to this, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and deal with it.


——————————————-

So, what has happened since last year? Well, last year at Lumpy Waters, Sean and I let a perfectly safe and sane, incident free long boat surfing class on Friday afternoon. The rest of my Lumpy Waters 2012 was safe and sane, too, although a bit cold and windy.


Long boat surfing class, Whalen Island/Sand Lake, OR

After Lumpy Waters was over, I moved right into hunting season. I saw a lot of animals this year, and watched one group of elk off and on throughout the season, but could never catch the legal bull out in the open during elk season.


elk

I went to a couple of Appleseed shoots, and learned a LOT about shooting accuracy that I did not know. I even shot a qualifying Rifleman score on one target.


Appleseed shoot, Feb 24th, 2013, Ariel, WA

I went to Seattle with the family and my brother, and we saw the King Tut exhibit, which I had seen many years ago, the last time it was in Seattle.


Pacific Science Center


dinghy

We moved the shop for CRK from the building behind the Skamokawa Store into the Skamokawa Landing building around the corner, and had a pretty busy kayaking season. Ginni and I got out for some coastal recon for a trip we are putting on the calendar for next year. And we paddled through fields of flowers…


paddling through flowers


Oregon Coast paddling

I got the sawmill running again for the first time in over two years, and milled some lumber for Brian down in Nehalem. We tried fishing for kings one evening, but to no avail. We did see over 50 silvers jumping, of course…


slabs


fishing with Brian

Back home, though, this was the year I finally figured out how to catch fall kings in the river near Skamokawa, and I managed to keep a couple of them.


cat and fish

I did a lot of other stuff, too, and took a lot more pictures from the deck at the new shop, like this one:


sunset

I’ll try to get back here again before another year goes by…


sky

It was starting to feel like northern California all over again, as summer just kept on going and going this year. There was almost no rain at all from the end of the July until October 12th, when the rainy season started very abruptly. The heavy rain quickly refilled our spring box in a few days, after about a month of no water.


windmills

Way back in July, I drove Opal over to Idaho and left her there with Northwest Youth Corps for five weeks. I went back to pick her up again at the end of August. She was grubbier than I had ever seen her, as she had been in the back country for two weeks.


Opal, after five weeks in the woods

I split up all that alder firewood and stacked it to dry in the sun, back in early August. I think there’s about five cords there, more on top of the firewood game than I’ve ever been.


firewood

Needless to say, the amazing weather gave us a very nice paddling season, with a lot of small tours and full Road Scholar programs.


kayakers


Road Scholar kayaker


lower gorge paddling day

The Army Corps of Engineers was working in our neighborhood towards the end of the summer, dredging the shipping channel and piling a mountain of sand at Vista Park.


dredge pipe


green

The sunny weather was accompanied by sometimes dead flat ocean conditions, and the week that I took off to fish at Ilwaco was mostly glass flat. I was able to run the boat full throttle on the ocean, like it was a lake. But the fish were scattered all around and hard to find.


ocean king

I did manage to find a couple of nice kings thanks to a helpful tip from a stranger at the boat ramp. But it was very hard to find a keeper silver. One day I put 53 miles on the boat trying, and at one point was 16 miles southwest of Cape D, farther out than I have gone before. I still couldn’t find any keeper silvers, even out there.


looking back at Cape D, 16 miles away...!

A couple of weeks later I went fishing at the north jetty with Bob, and we had amazingly hot day, keeping three silvers and releasing another six fish. I never had another day that hot down there, but it was a much less expensive way to not catch salmon than running the boat around all day.


fishing at the jetty


fishing at the jetty

We harvested our potatoes in mid September, but due to the lack of rain or other watering, the harvest was below what I was hoping for. Still, we did get this bucket full of beautiful blue potatoes, in addition to five other varieties we grew. There probably ended up being about 125# in total.


blue potatoes

I still haven’t picked the apples here at home, but I did clean up the apples off of my favorite riverside feral apple tree, as there were signs that the bears had already started in on them. In 2010, the bears beat me to all these apples, so this time I returned the favor.

Next up, Lumpy Waters symposium and hunting seasons…


feral apples!


My favorite image of this hike

As my wife Shannon has said, there is a special place in hell for fickle bloggers, and I suppose I’ll be spending at least some of eternity there. It’s been a busy year, and suddenly I realized that I had multiple sets of photos sorted out to go with blog posts that I never got around to finishing and posting. So, I’ll throw this one out there, and try to catch up with the others later. You can see the rest of my pictures from this trip here.


IMGP8881.jpg

After a few years of trying in vain to shoot a deer in the thick, dense rainforest that I live in, I started yearning for a little more open country to hunt in, and started thinking of making a trip to the east side of the state to hunt mule deer. There is a special “High Buck Hunt” in Washington every September, in which you can hunt only in select wilderness areas. I had been looking at the Glacier Peaks Wilderness area maps, and when I found out that my neighbor Levi was also thinking along the same lines, we decided to do a little recon trip up there to see what it was like.


trail

When I was in high school, I did quite a bit of backpacking, with the Boy Scouts and with the outdoor education program at Charles Wright Academy. And the last time I went backpacking was probably in 1982 or 83. So, there were a few issues to be concerned about. Much of my gear was from the seventies and early eighties, and not very light weight, my boots are not really backpacking boots, I am not exactly in tip-top backpacking condition, AND I decided that I might as well take a rifle and a bear tag, in case we found a bear that looked good. Oh, and a spotting scope and folding tripod, and a few other things here and there…

After a long drive up through Seattle and out over Stevens Pass, and a short time driving a few miles down the wrong Forest Service dirt road, we finally made our first night’s camp at the White River Falls campground, and the next morning, spent an hour and a half or so, repacking our bags, and leaving a bunch of stuff in the car. We finally got to the trailhead, loaded up and started walking around 10:30 AM.


Me, first time on a backpacking trip in 30 years...


Levi, ready to hike

The first few miles were along the White River, walking through some really beautiful old growth forest, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and biting flies. Eventually, we stopped at this crossing of Boulder Creek to put on some vile bug juice, and for Levi to tend to his blisters, since he had a pair of boots that didn’t fit quite right.


tending blisters

A little ways past this crossing, we came to the junction where the Boulder Pass trail #1562 takes off of the main White River trail #1507. There was a large group of tents there at the junction; we later talked to some kids who were on a trip that had been horse packed in and was camping there at the junction.


bear sign

As soon as we left the White River behind and started working our way up the switchbacks, the work suddenly got a lot harder, but the annoying insects started to subside as well. Part way up this hill, at about 3500′ elevation, I “hit the wall” as they say, and ended up stashing all my hunting gear in the brush, so I could shed about 25# of weight. It did get easier after that, and we made it up to the campsite in the trees at 4000′ in short order. We checked out the river crossing beyond the campsite, filled water bottles, and I dropped my pack at camp and went back down for the hunting kit, and brought it up.


lower campsite


first view of the upper basin

We camped there that night, and I ate a freeze dried backpacking meal for the first time since I was about 17 years old. The only deer we saw in person while we were up there showed up at our campsite soon after we settled in. It turned out she was very interested in the salt that we left behind wherever we had peed.


camp deer

The next day we decided to get ourselves up to Boulder Pass and have a look around. I packed up optics and the rifle and butchering tools in case we ran across a bear, and we headed up. I started out wearing my crocs, and carrying my boots on the pack.


camp


the upper campsite

We went astray after crossing a snow field, and couldn’t easily find the trail on the other side. We knew we needed to start gaining elevation, so we started looking on the high side, and eventually found a trail, although it was much more overgrown than what we had been using. After a few hundred yards we saw “boulder pass” and an arrow pointing the way painted on a boulder, so we figured we were on the right track. But this was an old, unmaintained trail, and we ended up bushwhacking up through some timber, coming across the trail from time to time, but eventually we lost it altogether. Along the way, I finally had to put my boots on, as the crocs were not up to the task anymore. We came out way up high, and in a steep, open meadow, which we crossed, and up above we found the remains of the old trail, headed in the direction we wanted to go.


climbing up along the old trail


red algae on the snow pack

We crossed some more snow, but eventually made it back to the regular trail, just below the pass. At the pass itself, we had one more chunk of thick icy snow to cross and climb over, and then we were standing on the pass itself, looking down into Napeequa Valley.


Napeequa Valley


Napeequa Valley


Napeequa Valley

We sat up there, had lunch and drank our Fort George beers after cooling them in the snow. We played around with the spotting scope, boggled at the scale of the Napeequa Valley, and then finally headed back down to camp, coming across some marmots, and finding our way on the regular trail.


Fort George beer at 6300'


Looking into the Napeequa


marmots!


looking down the valley

The next day, we decided that we should move back down to the campsite at the trail junction and look for a bear down below. We hadn’t seen any ripe berries, or fresh bear sign near where we were, and we thought the berries might be better down by the river.


Boulder Creek

When we got down to the intersection of the trails, though, the big group was still camped there, and we decided to just pack out to the car, have a break in town, and then go check out the surrounding area. We ran into a group of young people headed in on the trail near the bottom, and one of the guys was clearly VERY bothered by the fact that I was carrying a rifle. The other three seemed friendly enough, but about a half hour later, they passed us headed right back OUT again. Apparently, we had ruined that guy’s day, and he wanted to get far away from us, and apparently, any place that we had even been.


at the pass

We stopped by the USFS office in Leavenworth, hoping to find some more specific information about trails, and which ones allowed pack animals and which did not. The woman at the desk HAD a booklet that had all that information in it, but she said there were no more copies available when I asked to buy one. Apparently, the FS did not have a budget to print any more copies. We purchased a few maps, but generally, we got very little in the way of useful information, and the women working in the office seemed beleaguered and not well equipped to answer most of our questions.

After a burger and a beer in town, we headed out the Icicle Creek road, to the very end, where we camped just inside the wilderness boundary at the trailhead. Every single FS campsite on the Icicle Road was operated by a for profit company, and even just a simple tent site seemed expensive to me, especially considering how crowded with RVs many of the campgrounds were. We were happy to pitch our tents in the woods just off the trail for free.

There were LOTS of ripe thimbleberries here, and signs that bears had been there recently, so I stayed up until sunset with the rifle, wandering around and looking for a bear. About an hour after dark, and with me almost asleep, I could hear the bears moving around in the berries, about 50 yards away….


Svea 123 stove

When I got home, tired and a little sore, I gathered up all my gear and weighed it. It turns out that AFTER we ate a bunch of food, burned some stove fuel and drank our beers, my pack and rifle still weighed 65 pounds. That sure did explain my sore hips and shoulders! Since then, I’ve been sorting through gear, setting aside the stuff that we didn’t end up using, and replacing a few of the heavier items with more modern, lightweight gear. I now have a couple of small, titanium pots that weigh less than half of what the pots I carried weigh. For now, though, I’m sticking with the Svea 123 stove, as it’s compact, simple and reliable, relatively light weight, and I already own it. There’s still a lot of weight shedding I need to do, both from my gear, and from my midsection. But it was a great trip, and my love of backpacking has been rekindled after 30 years of dormancy.


devil's club

Ultimately, I want to get this particular set of gear down to something more like 35-40# with food. And Levi is in the same boat, in addition to needing to replace his boots. We just talked a couple of days ago, and decided that we aren’t ready for this hunt, this month. But, with a year to get ready, and a better idea of what we’re dealing with, we’ll be ready next fall for sure, and in the meantime, I’m going to apply the lightweight, bivouac style camping to my local deer and elk hunting this fall.


paintbrush flower of some kind


Santiago and cityscape

I recently got totally fed up with iPhoto as a photo managing tool, and decided to switch to Adobe Lightroom instead. Unfortunately, as is the case with most software upgrades and changes, there was something of a steep learning curve involved, and it took a while to figure out how to make it work, and, more importantly, how to make it export photos to Flickr. I think I have a handle on it now, and spent this morning sorting through my pics from GGSKS a couple of weeks ago. All my decent GGSKS pics can be seen here at my Flickr page.


tower

Until the incident at Netarts Bay last fall, I hadn’t given much thought to going after the BCU five star award. After the ass-kicking that was handed to me at Netarts, I decided I needed to rethink that. So when I saw that a five star training was being offered at Golden Gate Sea Kayaking Symposium this year, I decided I needed to go.


paddling back

The regular symposium ran Friday through Sunday, and the five star training ran Monday through Wednesday. I couldn’t afford to be away for the whole time, so I arrived Sunday morning, and Santiago and Morag Brown and I went for a nice paddle out to Point Bonita and back, and got a little taste of what an ebbing tide at Golden Gate feels like. Paddling back around Lime Point under the bridge was a bit of a workout, and we were only dealing with about half of the max current for that day. We filed that one away for future worrying.


bridge and kayakers

Monday morning we met in the class room and talked about what we were hoping to get out of the class, and then we geared up and got on the water.

We paddled up into the bay towards Angel Island, initially hoping to go up through Raccoon Strait and around the island, but by the time we got there there was a pretty solid ebb flowing out of the channel, so we ferry glided across and landed on the south facing side of Angel Island for lunch.


paddling around Alcatrez

After lunch we headed on south towards Alcatrez Island, and around it. I think we had a cooler view of the island than the tourists on the boat were getting.


prison structures, Alcatrez Island


prison structures, Alcatrez Island

We finally got back to the marina and spent a little time in the classroom again, and then headed back out after dark for some night navigation exercises. All told, it turned out to be about a 12 hour day. I got home to where I was staying in Fairfax around 10:30. I was so happy to find a working hot tub out behind the house!


Night Navigation

The next day we started out talking about and practicing towing, and then headed out under the bridge for some rescue and towing practice in amongst the rocks.


paddling under

Then we headed over to the nearby beach to practice landing an incapacitated paddler in the surf, something I had never tried. I don’t have any good pictures of me getting yanked out of my kayak in the impact zone by a too-short tow rope, sorry…


looking west

After lunch, and some group photos, we saddled up again and headed back upstream. I knew that our timing was such that we were going to end up going around Lime Point against the full strength of a 4.75 knot ebb current, so I was starting to play it safe and conserve my energy. I had seen it at about half that level of current on Sunday, and wasn’t really sure what to expect today, at max ebb, except harder work.


BCU Five Star training course

On the way back we stopped to do some more rock garden play, and to practice landing and launching ourselves on and of the rocks, another thing that I had never really done before.


landing on rocks exercise


landing on rocks exercise


landing on rocks exercise


landing on rocks exercise

After we were done swimming around and climbing on the rocks, we headed back towards home, stopping at Lime Point just long enough to get tasked with one more exercise for the day: towing an incapacitated paddler around the point, into the current. My group initially tried a rafted tow with two people towing it, but we got all tangled up and pushed up against the rocks, and had to break it all apart and wash back out to try again. This time they broke us up into two simple tows, and with a hell of a lot of work, I finally made it around with my tow, trying as hard as I could to stay right on the rip line the whole way. And so ended day two…


headed home

The last day we spent on land, working on navigation problems with UK charts and current data, and going over kit and scenarios. Eventually I’m sure the UK tidal data will become something I’m comfortable with, but so far, it doesn’t make intuitive sense to me yet. I need to get some books and practice more.


end of the day

Since I had driven all this way, and hadn’t been to SF in many, many years, I took an extra day after the course to drive over the bridge, instead of just paddling around underneath it, and spend a little time in the city. My mission was to find some of the wild conures that live there, and that the wonderful documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” was made about. I had heard that they had expanded in numbers, and no longer were primarily seen in the Telegraph Hill area. I didn’t know anyone personally who had succeeded in finding them, but I figured it was worth a try, so I parked just outside the Presidio and started walking into it. I saw a small group of them almost immediately, but flying far off in the distance. Forty five minutes later, I found a pair hanging out near the YMCA, and watched them for a while until they flew off. I followed in the direction they had gone, and a few minutes later I caught up to them, and sat like a bird-nerd tourist for a half hour or so, watching them with binoculars. And no, I was not able to get a single decent picture of them. What I would have given for a good telephoto lens on the Canon!

I did drive over to the Coit Tower, just to see if there might be some over there, but no luck. And with that, my SF trip was over, and I headed home, stopping in Sacramento to visit some friends.

As soon as I got home, I registered for a San Juan Currents class with Body Boat Blade on Orcas Island. I need to get out more!


overexposed!


early morning waterfall

After missing opportunities to go steelhead fishing for most of the winter, I finally made it down to Brian’s place Wednesday night. We got up at six the next morning and were on the water at daybreak, kayaking down the Nehalem River looking for steelhead.


ice

It was really, really cold all morning. Ice would form on the paddle and the kayak, and the guides on the poles would be iced up in a few minutes each time I stopped fishing. Cold water like this does not make for great steelhead fishing, and it didn’t help that the water was low and very clear. Amazingly, I made it through the whole run without losing a single piece of gear. I guess I’ve gotten way better at getting hooks unstuck. Wearing a drysuit helps a lot. Under the drysuit, I was wearing three pairs of socks, and three layers of polypro and wool long underwear, and a heavy fleece jacket and it was just about perfect. My hands got cold, but that was it.


cobble beach

Most of the spots that Brian was hoping to stop and fish at already had people in them, so we had to pass up some pretty nice water and keep on going. But around midday, Brian hooked one on the first cast into a new pool. It was a nice, bright fish, but a native, so not a keeper. We let him go as quickly as possible, so no pics of that one, sorry!

Other than that little bit of fishy excitement, it was a pretty uneventful, but beautiful and relaxing day on the river.


pool


riffles


Nehalem River

I think it was the winter of 2005 when I first went out with Andrew for the Wahkiakum County Christmas Bird Count, and I’ve done it nearly every year ever since. I usually paddle the section of the count circle that is lower on the river, in the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. It’s usually a very cold, and sometimes stormy kayak trip. This year was no exception.


Christmas bird count by kayak

I set off from Skamokawa around 10:30 in the morning, and paddled out into a strong ebb tide, with a lot of extra runoff pouring out of the mouth of the creek. It was almost instantly windy and rainy, and I saw almost no birds for the first couple of miles crossing the river.

When I got to Woody Island I was ready for a break from trying to look at birds from a kayak that was getting tossed around in the wind and waves, and I pulled out for a half hour or so, had some tea and a Clif bar, dried my freezing hands and put on gloves. I usually don’t use pogies, since I’ve mostly used a Greenland stick for years, but lately I’ve been using my bent shaft Werner, and I sure was wishing I had pogies now!


Christmas bird count by kayak

I had planned to paddle down the west side of the refuge islands, but the wind was just too heavy for decent birdwatching, and I finally gave up and moved to the inside of the islands. That didn’t take me out of the wind completely, but it cut it way down, and I could finally set my paddle down without having it blown away.


Christmas bird count by kayak

My last stop was on Karlson Island, where Andrew hoped that I would be able to climb up on top of the old dike and find a treasure trove of birds in the large field inside the dike. Years ago, someone hit the jackpot here, so I gave it a try again. Sadly, this spot was nearly devoid of bird life. I found a dozen mourning doves and a Fox sparrow, and that was it. I did find a sizable congregation of coots, though, inside the little channel next to the dike.


Christmas bird count by kayak


Christmas bird count by kayak

Numbers wise, this wasn’t a great bird count year for me, personally. I only got 28 species, and there were quite a few that I was expecting to see that I did not. And my position as Scaup Sighting Champion, which I’ve held for several years running, was taken away from me. Last year I counted almost 7000 Scaup, this year, only 1020.

But I did see more White Winged Scoters than I have ever seen before, and I think my Coot count was the highest I’ve ever had, too. And I saw the Tundra Swans, and a few Ruddy Ducks, which I don’t get every year.

I pulled up to the Knappa Docks in Oregon at about 3 PM, just as another squall hit, nearly taking away my paddle again. Twenty minutes later it was back to flat calm, as I loaded up the kayak on the car. All in all, a nice winter paddle.


Christmas bird count by kayak

The year is nearly over now, so here’s another lengthy blog post to catch up.


Frost

There was still a weekend of classes left at the Lumpy Waters Symposium after the Friday surf class that my previous blog post covered. On Saturday, Karl and I taught a class for beginners to get used to rock gardening, and rescuing each other in that environment, and we got to play in a little surf at the end of the day, too. The mouth of the Salmon River in Oregon is a really, really beautiful place. I will definitely go back there again sometime.


getting out

On Sunday, Amanda I and I led a small group of beginners on a trip to the Three Arches Rocks at Oceanside. There was a strong northwest swell and a building north wind, so we stayed on the south side of the rocks, but we did get to check out the largest arch, and get a little taste of the swell and wind.


checking out the big arch

Once the last Road Scholar trip of the year was over, I moved into the early deer season and started hunting every afternoon. I actually took a shot at a deer this year, for the first time ever, but missed. Mostly, what I brought home every day was chanterelles, which were plenty tasty, but not venison!


chanterelles

I also hunted all eleven days of elk season this year, and got close to elk a few times, but not close enough to see my way to a good shot, and I ended the elk season empty handed, too, except for some great pictures and more chanterelles.


forest

Next year, for elk season, I’m putting together a small posse, instead of going it alone again. It’s nearly impossible to push an elk towards you, when you’re hunting alone.


Devil's Club


busy beavers were here

I hunted all four days of late deer season, too, but got faked out by an older, smarter buck, who waited for me to sneak past him, and then doubled back around behind me and vanished. I guess that’s why he’s a four point now.


frozen!


Looking down at Skamokawa valleys


smoked turkey

We went to Seattle again for Thanksgiving, and for fun, we took the ferry over to Bremerton on the way home.


downtown Seattle

The weekend after Thanksgiving is when the Solstice Forge Hammer-In is every year, with good food, beer and coal fired fun.


Solstice Forge Hammer-In, November 26, 2011

The timber company that owns the land behind me sent a crew in this fall to clean ditches and maintain roads. They took out a bunch of alder along the road where it passes through my land, so I borrowed the Farmi logging winch from my neighbor Krist and spent a few afternoons bucking and skidding firewood logs into a pile in the pasture. I think I may have about four or five cords of firewood there when I get it all split and stacked. I sure love the Farmi winch. Someday I need to own one of these.


Tractor Logging with the Farmi winch


Firewood


Tractor and Farmi logging winch

Way back last February, when Alice and I were on our way back from visiting colleges, my beloved, well-worn Subaru started making horrible engine noises, and when I got home, I parked it with the suspicion that it had a timing belt pulley going bad.

I ended up driving the Mercedes all summer, and putting the Subaru on the back burner, but then in early November, Shannon flipped and totaled her Toyota when she hit some black ice on KM Mountain. I ended up giving her the Mercedes to get back and forth to town, and finally was forced into dealing with the Subaru.


Bad bearing

It turned out I was right about the timing belt, and a couple of days and $300 later, I had my Subaru back on the road again. I am so happy to have this car back, with its ipod capable stereo, heavy duty roof rack, working cruise control and all wheel drive. Yay!


new timing belt