young hemlock

When I was a kid, I was really, really into fishing, and somewhere along the way, I picked up subscriptions to Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines. I read the hunting articles with gusto as well, and used to read all the outfitters’ ads in the back, imagining what it would be like to hunt javelina in Arizona or moose in Alaska. But hunting was not something that my family did, not my parents’ generation anyway.

My dad had an old Winchester model 94 rifle, chambered in obsolete .32 Winchester Special. When I finally got to be a teenager, and had been through hunter safety training at Boy Scout camp (in direct contravention to my mother’s orders to stay away from the rifle range), I was allowed to at least handle this rifle, and I used to take it out of the cabinet and clean it. It was in pretty rough shape though, with lots of copper fouling and crud. I don’t think it had been cleaned since sometime in the early fifties, if then.

But I never knew any adults who hunted, and so it pretty much slipped off the list of things to think about. When I lived in Northern California, one year I went looking for a wild turkey for Thanksgiving, having read a small book about turkey hunting. They were everywhere in that neighborhood, but I wasn’t able to find the flock that day until I had tramped all over about 300 acres of land. When I finally came across them, there they were, on the other side of the fence where my hunting permission stopped.

pack and rifle

When I moved back to Washington, I started fishing again, and pretty much had to teach myself how to catch salmon, since that was also something that I didn’t learn from my family. I had a pretty frustrating first season, first not hooking any fish, and then hooking and losing them, but I eventually figured it out. For the past three years, I’ve been talking about getting a hunting license, too, since I live surrounded by elk, deer, grouse and bear, but I would always get caught up in other activities and, since hunting would require a steep learning curve, I would let it slide.

This year, though, I finally decided it was time to do something about it. I dragged out some of my brother’s rifles that are stored here, and ended up selecting the SVD Tiger/Dragunov as the closest thing to an elk rifle that I had, and I went and bought a license, my first one ever. I spent a few days during early deer season scouting around behind my land here, and the first day I went out, I jumped a small buck in thick alder and brush. He was up and out of there so fast I didn’t have a chance to shoot. I spent the next couple of days trying to find him again, but with no luck.

timbered slope

When elk season started, I went over to the forest behind Andrew’s place, where there was a lot more elk sign than at my place. I spent several days, getting into the woods at dawn and hunting until afternoon. I had a great time, and covered a lot of territory that I had never seen before, including a nice stand of second growth timber, which is not all that common around here anymore.

I quickly figured out a few things, mostly about noise, and moving quietly. Almost all my clothes are noisy, my pack is noisy, and especially the rifle is noisy. The safety is very stiff and loud, the plastic stock makes loud noises every time it brushes up against anything, and it is covered with sharp, angular protrusions that are uncomfortable against your body and tend to snag up on every little twig or branch.

I ended up putting this rifle away, cleaning out the piggy bank and buying a “proper” deer rifle, a used Marlin 336 lever action rifle, in .35 Remington. It is SO much nicer to carry!

For days of elk hunting, these old bones were as close as I got to an elk.

elk vertabrae

One of the best things I got out of hunting this year though, was learning the area behind my land at a level of detail that I did not know before. I found two different ways to walk up to the next network of logging roads on the ridge that lead all the way over to Oatfield road, where Andrew and Audrey and the Speranzas live, and was able to drive (just barely!) from that side all the way up to the top, where the ridge is only about as wide as the road and you could look into Middle valley on one side and over to the marsh below my house on the other side. GPS waypoints and Google maps are awesome tools.

On the last day of elk season, I was hunting in the clearcut behind my place, and jumped a blacktail buck out of his bed. He walked about 30 yards up towards the timber, and I stopped, sat down and pulled out the binocs. He stopped about 100 yards away, and stood there, perfectly broadside to me, and just watched me. If only it was deer season!

I came back for the four days of late deer season, looking for this buck every day, and never saw him again. The weather was rainy and sometimes very windy, and the deer stayed hunkered down and out of sight. The day after deer season closed, I went up to the clearcut again, and found the buck’s fresh tracks going right up the middle of one of the logging roads, right out in the open. They’re not dumb, those deer.

do you see the buck?


Well, here it is, almost Halloween and more than three months since I last posted anything! It has been a busy season, and I just haven’t felt very organized about blogging and posting pictures to Flickr. I have to admit, Facebook has absorbed a good deal of the time and energy I have for blogging and social interaction on the computer, but I am not ready to give up the blog just yet. So here’s a somewhat long update.

Pelicans at Buoy Ten

Salmon fishing this year was incredible. Almost every time I went out, everyone on the boat limited. One day Brian and Lisa and I went out in the ocean and kept six fish in under an hour, and put back five natives. It was about as hot as I have ever seen it. I smoked and froze a bunch of fish and when it got to be too much fish to have time to smoke it all, I vacuum packed and froze fillets instead.


In August, we held the Loco Roundup kayak symposium on Puget Island again. After a whole lot of last minute wrangling and logging approved training hours, I took the BCU four star sea kayak assessment, and passed. This is something I have been trying to get done for almost a year and a half, and it finally came together this summer. It was a two day, on the water assessment, leading a group of paddlers near Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River. I was so focused on the task at hand, that it was only later I realized that I hadn’t taken a single picture for two days. But I did take pictures during the training sessions, and that’s where this picture is from.

Cape D

I also passed the three star canoe assessment, and took the new Level Two coaching class. With luck, a lot of hours practicing, and piles of paperwork, I might be ready to take that assessment next spring. I helped Ginni with two BCU assessments this year, one of them was a new two star with canoes and one was a three star assessment with candidates from three countries, speaking two different languages.

Canoe fun

navigation project

At the end of August, Shannon and I went to see Al Green at the Edgefield. Does Al Green still have it goin’ on? Yes, he certainly does…

Al Green at the Edgefield, August 28, 2009

Near the beginning of September, Columbia River Kayaking got the news that we will be allowed to run our own Elderhostel programs here next year, without the need for a middleman like we had this year. This will allow us more direct control over our interaction with Elderhostel and we will keep more money in the bank at the end of the day as well.

pilings and kayaks

Oh, and Elderhostel, for reasons I cannot fathom, decided this year to change the name that it has spent 25 years building brand recognition around. Apparently there is a sizable piece of the over-55 demographic that found the word “elder” to be offensive. The new name, which I might never get used to, is Exploritas. I’m sure there were many interesting committee meetings involved in that decision…

smooth water

Skamokawa Center continues to languish in limbo, though. There had been a foreclosure auction scheduled for October 2nd, but the day before, Greg and his LLCs filed for bankruptcy, which automatically shielded him from the foreclosure action. The auction was rescheduled for Friday, November 13th. Heh, heh, heh….

Sunrise in Port Townsend

The well ran dry this year. There was not enough August rain to keep it full for the whole dry season. I carried water for about three weeks, which isn’t too bad compared to other years. One year I hauled water for something like 80 days. Unfortunately, it always runs out just at the time that there are fish to clean and process…

the well

It was a great year for food preservation. For the first time in a long time, I was very organized and persistent in keeping on top of all the food that was showing up this year. Besides fish, berries were also in abundance and I made a lot of jam. And when Ginni left for Mexico, we had a big garden gleaning day at the farm and hauled away bags and boxes of produce, including an IKEA bag half full of jalapenos. I pickled a bunch of those, and Shannon and I made some jalapeno relish, and I have a big tray of roasted ones sitting here that I need to finish putting in jars tonight. I still have to get in the rest of the apples from here and Ginni’s place.


All of that food, plus the fact that I’ve been really broke this year led me to break ground on a new garden. I haven’t been willing to go all out with gardening here, since the water is not all that reliable, but I have been reading Steve Solomon’s “Gardening When it Counts” and setting this garden up with his minimalist irrigation plan in mind. Basically, you give each plant more space, and then relentlessly weed out any competitors for the water. I borrowed Krist’s tractor and tiller attachment and tilled up a space about 40×60 feet, and then made nine, five foot wide beds out of it. I planted three beds to garlic and the rest to cover crops for now. Fencing is next.

new garden

This will be the biggest garden I’ve grown since I lived in Salmon Creek, in 2000.

garden beds

This is also the first year I have purchased a hunting license. I didn’t grow up with hunting, so I never really learned anything about it, but I have had deer and bear in my yard this fall, and there are always elk around here, too. Last year, we bought a quarter of a local steer for the freezer, and spent several hundred dollars on that. It was delicious, and it’s nice to support local folk who are growing local meat. We bought a half a hog this year from Crippen Creek Farm. But I sure would like to put an elk or a bear in the freezer, too. We’ll see how that goes. With hunting season in mind, I’ve been sifting through the armory here, looking for an adequate elk rifle. I’ve been shooting my brother’s Dragunov rifle, but I haven’t been able to set it up on a bench and sight it in properly yet. It seems to shoot a little low and to the left. My practically new Browning shotgun might actually get put to use this year, too, since grouse are abundant around the land here and they are open until the end of December.

Dragunov SVD Tiger

I should have put up more firewood this year. I did a lot of work in the woods here this summer, making tractor trails so I can access the stands of trees there. But what I pulled out in that process is still only a cord or so, and three cords is more like what I use in a season here. No doubt I will actually end up purchasing a cord or two this year. I’ll get back in there in the spring to pull out another batch of logs to inoculate with Shiitake mushrooms.

alder logs