Idaho/Montana Road Trip, June 2016

All this traveling for work got me more interested in traveling in general, and I made a few short road trips this summer, too. When I flew to Minnesota in May for work, I dropped off the pup at the trainer’s place in southern Idaho, and left her there for five weeks. After I got home, Alice and I made a short road trip to go pick her up. I had never been to Montana except passing through when I was seven years old, and hadn’t been to northern Idaho since I was a teenager, so we decided to take a few days and make a big long loop around to southern Idaho that way.

Darby, Montana

Salmon River, Idaho

Idaho and Montana were beautiful! We went to Spokane first, then over to Missoula where we spent the night. The next day, we drove south all day long down Highway 93, through the Rockies and for a while along the beautiful Salmon River, then out to Highway 20, which we took to Twin Falls, but not before stopping at the Craters of the Moon National Monument. We had thought about trying to go to Yellowstone, but there just wasn’t enough time in either of our schedules to pull that off. That will have to be another road trip…

Idaho/Montana Road Trip, June 2016

But Craters of the Moon was amazing! If you’ve never been there, and you’re traveling through southern Idaho, it’s worth a visit. Here’s a short description of what’s going on geologically there.

Idaho/Montana Road Trip, June 2016

Lava, Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Idaho/Montana Road Trip, June 2016

Idaho/Montana Road Trip, June 2016

We spent the night in Twin Falls, picked up the pup the next morning, and started the very long drive home from there.


For about a year now, my brother and I have been looking for a piece of land on the east side of the state, as a woodlot and hunting and camping spot. Since the evil empire Weyerhaeuser has been gobbling up all the other timber companies and their land, they’ve been gating off roads and making people buy expensive permits or leases in order to be allowed to hunt, or even walk on their land.

My neighborhood has been suffering from this especially in the past year, ever since Weyco bought out all of Longview Fibre’s lands, which included quite a bit of land right near me. Now mainline roads have been gated off, and some of those gates block access to state land, too. What state land remains accessible is going to be even more crowded with hunters in the future, since not everyone has the money or the desire to pay Weyco for the privilege of walking on their timberlands.

So, I’ve been looking east. The last few times I’ve made road trips out that way, I’ve been liking the landscape more and more, and so we decided we should look for a piece of land out that way, and this summer, we made a short road trip over to Okanogan and Ferry counties to scope out the area.

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

We headed over from Seattle one day, out through the beautiful Methow Valley, and over to the eastern part of Okanogan County, where we camped at a USFS campground at Bonaparte Lake.

Dinner at Bonaparte Lake resort...


We spent most of our time around the small town of Republic, exploring the roads to the north of there, and to the east and west of Curlew. We saw a lot of beautiful country, and some evidence of some really huge wildfires. We drove past a piece of land that I almost bought almost 25 years ago, too, near Kettle Falls, but we ended up liking the look of the area around Republic a lot better.

Thistles and burned landscape, Boulder Creek Rd, Ferry County

It's for sale... ;-)

When it was time to go back, we decided that we should take the detour south to check out Grand Coulee dam, which neither of us had ever seen, in spite of living almost our entire lives in Washington state.

We headed back towards the town of Tonasket, and then cut back south and east on Aeneas Valley Road, since there were a few parcels listed for sale there, and we wanted to get a look at the landscape. My map showed it to be a dead end, but James’ atlas was newer, and showed that it went all the way through to State Highway 21, which would take us south towards the dam.

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

We were kind of both right, actually. The road quickly turned to gravel, and then got smaller and smaller, passed through the Okanogan National Forest, and then we came to a sign where the USFS road ended, and Bureau of Indian Affairs “Highway” 6 began. We were now on the Colville reservation. What was already a pretty sketchy little logging road got sketchier, and I didn’t get out of second gear for quite a while. We passed through a lot of burned areas, saw a bear, and lots of fireweed, and dodged a lot of oil-pan-killing rocks in the road, but we eventually did make it down to Highway 21 unscathed.

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

For all the damage it did to the salmon runs, I have to admit that Grand Coulee Dam is an impressive piece of work. We rolled into the small town of Coulee Dam after hours of driving in the dry pine forests and scrub lands, and it was really surreal to suddenly be in 1950’s style, tree lined suburban neighborhoods, with every lawn lush and green! All that water right there, and people wanted trees and lawns in the desert, so that’s what they did.

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

We stopped for a bit there, and for lunch at a pub in Electric City, and then headed over through endless grain fields to Leavenworth, where we camped at Lake Wenatchee State Park.

I cannot recommend this as a camping spot. It was busy, even on a Sunday night. The campsites are small, and right on top of each other, with little to no privacy, and we paid $30 just for a tent site! I’m happy for public lands, and for state parks, but I’m not always happy to interact with them, especially at those prices. A nicer tent site at Lake Bonaparte was only $12 per night. There’s gotta be better and cheaper places to camp near Leavenworth, but we didn’t find them this time.

A couple of weeks later, I did find a website that will come in handy in the future:

Okanogan/Ferry County Road Trip, July 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I’ve had a summer full of travel – a lot more than I usually do – and I’m about to go to Greenland in less than two weeks, which will also generate a ton of pictures, so I figured I should probably get some of the summer’s pics and stories posted before I get too far behind!

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I spent much of the spring this year traveling to work for Wilderness Medical Associates, teaching WFR courses. My last course of the spring was at the Widjiwagan YMCA camp, outside of Ely, MN. People have been telling me for many years that I need to check out the canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, so I decided to take an extra week off, as long as I was already there, and do a little canoeing and exploring.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

My plans were cut a little bit short by some high winds and lightning storms that kicked up on the day that I had intended to go in, so I was stuck waiting for a couple of days while that cleared up, but I finally picked up a really nice, very lightweight Northstar Northwind Solo canoe from Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte, MN, and headed up to the Kawishiwi Lake entry point. I had planned to go in for four or five days, but now only really had three, so I just drove up to the put in, and jumped on the water, and figured I would sort out the details as I went.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

It was a really cold, grey, cloudy and drizzly day, and I wasn’t in a very good mood already, and it took a while of just paddling and paddling to start to get my head clear. For the first part of the trip, I was paddling through a pretty recent burn zone, too, and the landscape seemed kind of bleak. There were tons of biting insects, and there were a couple of extremely soggy and muddy portages, too. I ran into a beaver dam that wasn’t on any maps, but eventually found my way to Polly Lake, where I had hoped to camp for the first night. I paddled up towards the north end of the lake, and found a really sweet, empty campsite on a big block of granite right over the water.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I set up camp, and then paddled back out in the rain to try some fishing for a while, before calling it a day, and going to bed.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

It rained and blew pretty hard that night, and I was really glad I had put an extra tarp over my tent. The next morning was bright and sunny, though, and I decided to get a campfire going to see if I could boost my mood. Crumpled up paper was so damp that it just steamed, and I was just sitting there, feeling cold and damp and grumpy, and I just decided I needed a shift in attitude. What an opportunity to practice a little bushcraft! There had to be some way to make a fire, and so I started wandering in the woods to see what I could find. I ended up discovering a lot of dried pitch on pine trees, and also that if I flaked off the outer scales of bark that were wet, the next layer of bark scales was much drier, and I collected a small handful of that stuff, some pitch, and some birchbark, and ended up getting a nice fire going on the first match after that.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

A good campfire improves one’s mood considerably, and I had a nice breakfast, coffee, and laid in the sun by the fire for a while, and decided to explore further into the lakes as a day trip, and leave my camp set up where it was.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I took a day pack and the fishing gear, and headed out, exiting Polly Lake at the north end, and went up through a tiny little unnamed lake, Koma Lake, and finally into Malberg Lake, where there was supposedly decent walleye fishing. I paddled all around the north end of Malberg for a while, stopping and fishing and exploring the long eastern arm, too, and finally decided it was time to head home.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I got back to camp, made dinner, watched my beaver neighbors cruising back and forth, had a shot of rye whisky, and went to bed a much more relaxed and happy camper than I had been the night before.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

The next morning, I went fishing again for a while, then finally packed up camp and started back out. The long portages seemed way shorter now that I knew what they were about, and I was back in Kawishiwi before I expected to be and I still had plenty of time to get the canoe back, so I spent a while paddling all around the lake, fishing and scoping it out. I had really, really been hoping to see a moose, and I had paddled through a few places that seemed pretty likely to have some, but there had been no moose anywhere. I was literally a half mile from the take out, and fishing my way around a little island, when I looked across to the shore, and sure enough, there was a moose standing there! She ended up letting me get within a hundred yards or less, before she had enough, and took off, but a few hundred yards later, I ran into another one, too!

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I never did catch any fish on this paddling trip, but got some great pictures, and saw a ton of plants that were new to me. I learned that I can paddle and portage a lot faster than the guide books expect, and I know now that when I come back some day, I can plan on traveling much farther each day than the guide books would have suggested. I also realized how uncommon it is for canoeists to know a J stroke. I saw 32 other paddlers while I was in there, most at a distance, but only two of them were using a J-stroke, and they were the USFS rangers who were doing campsite inventory work. I joked to the outfitter back in Tofte that I was going to move to Minnesota and make $50k a summer teaching the J stroke at the BWCA entry points.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

I packed up all my gear into the rental car, got in and killed about 100 mosquitos that had gathered inside while I was packing, and headed back to Tofte to return the canoe, and then on to Duluth to fly out the next day. I cannot wait to come back and paddle in the BWCA again.

Oh, and by the way, I can highly recommend Sawtooth Outfitters if you’re needing a canoe or gear in that area, and also the lovely, super light and perfect Northstar Northwind Solo canoe that they rented me.

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

BWCA paddling trip, June 2-4, 2016

So, I’ve always wondered about canning red meat. I’ve canned a lot of fish over the years, but never gotten around to trying beef or venison. Recently, I discovered a couple of pieces of venison left in the freezer, and decided to try canning it.

I decided to just make a simple stew. The internet was full of advice and recipes of all kinds, cook the meat first, don’t cook the meat first, add liquid, don’t add liquid, but the one thing that was consistent across all the recipes I found was the pressure cooker stats. 10 psi, 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts.

Canning Venison Stew

I cut the venison into pieces about an inch or so to a side, and then browned it in the cast iron dutch oven, then moved it all over to a stock pot, added some soup stock and dried shiitake mushroom powder, and simmered it for about a half an hour, adding a bay leaf for good measure.

Then I took chopped potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley and packed the jars with that and the meat, divided the liquid up amongst the jars, and threw a pinch of salt into each jar.

Canning Venison Stew

Always wipe the rim of the jar nice and clean, and always use new lids. Tighten the rings enough to hold the lid in position, but not too tight.

And then I packed the jars into the canner and started heating it up.

Canning Venison Stew

However, what I had not noticed is that my well worn All American 921 had gotten roughed up in storage somehow, and as the head of steam started building, I noticed some leaking out of a crack in the pressure gauge. Ack! Not what you want to see with a hot canner full of precious food!

Fortunately, I have had a 941X sitting around for years, originally set up as a sterilizer, but I had ordered the parts to convert it to a canner years ago. I scrambled to swap the new parts over, and we unpacked the 921 and moved everything into the 941. The 941 is too big for the stove top, so we set it up on the porch with a propane burner.

Canned Venison Stew

When I unpacked it the next morning, I found that a few of the jars hadn’t sealed, so we got to try those out right away. It needed a little bit of salt and Worcestershire sauce, but was otherwise excellent. I have another batch heating up in the canner as I write this…

Once again, I find myself a little surprised at how long it’s been since I updated this blog. I’ve been meaning to, but things have been busy, and I find what usually happens is that I write a post in my head, but before I get around to publishing it, I decide that it’s not worth publishing, and then more weeks and months pass. In the meantime, the last entry on the blog is titled, “Death.” Not exactly representative of my life right now!

Anyway, here’s an update that is long overdue.

From yesterday

I came home from Michigan in the fall of 2014, took my NREMT test, and over the course of the next few months, did a lot of paperwork and more testing until finally the state of Washington DOH got tired of me bugging them, and gave me an EMT license. I’m now a volunteer EMT with both Skamokawa VFD and Cathlamet FD, which is what I needed to move on to the next step in my changing career plans, becoming an instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates.

Rig check and OTEP tonight

I went to the WMA instructor training in March of 2015, and got hired at the end of the course, but I wasn’t able to work that spring, because of my other conflicting work schedules. I finally started teaching for WMA last December, and by the end of the spring season, I had worked as an instructor for 51 days, all over the place. I’ve been to the LA area, SE Ohio, SE Missouri, Gettysburg, PA, northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota.

Widjiwagan dining hall

Besides learning a lot about teaching, which I will be learning about for the rest of my life, I also learned that I like traveling. I’ve rarely done much more traveling than west coast road trips before. Until I went to Michigan, I had only ever been on commercial aircraft twice in my life, in 1991. Now I’ve been through a dozen different airports this year, some more than once.

Everyone told me I was going to hate it, but I found that I actually like flying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the long TSA lines, or the ridiculous security theater that that entails. I’ve learned to dislike at least a couple of the nation’s largest airports, O’Hare and Dulles. But I’ve also found that I really like some of the smaller ones, like Duluth and Traverse City, and I really liked Denver, too, although I’ve only been through there once so far.

Headed home

I like the people watching, I like the amazing level of complexity that goes into a working airport, and I like airplanes, too. I love machines of all kinds, and a commercial jet is a pretty amazing piece of machinery. I like taking off and landing, and the complexity of the wings working to do the job of lifting all those tons of loaded airplane into the sky, and then bringing the whole thing gently back onto the ground. I’m not a huge fan of the long, boring hours in between, which is why I usually try to get a window seat, so there’s something to look at. I’m slowly learning various tips and tricks for more comfortable and practical air travel, and the very beginnings of how to use mileage points accounts. The Points Guy has been helpful.


I loved seeing all kinds of new places, most of which turned out to be more interesting and pleasing than I had thought they would be. Gettysburg touched me on a level that I did not expect. SE Ohio was more beautiful and interesting than I thought it would be, and the Great Lakes region is a place I plan to go back to as often as I can manage it. I love Duluth, and Lake Superior. I love smoked whitefish. I even learned to tolerate a level of biting insects that I never would have imagined getting used to.

More lake views...

In between all of this travel and activity and life changes, I finally shot a deer, bought a Brittany spaniel puppy and started learning about upland bird hunting, put a brand new logging winch on the tractor and started actively thinning my woodlot, started remodeling my barn and trying to get a handle on my messy shop, and also spent much more time than I ever anticipated dealing with my aging parents, and working on helping them sell off some assets and remodeling my dad’s office building. I caught a few fish, and took a few pictures, too.

Excited pup

Coming soon, some pics and words about a short canoe trip in the Boundary Waters.

Canoeing on Burntside Lake

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.


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.


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


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…


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:


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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