Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Saw a Cat in a Tree; Ed Saw an Opportunity for Cherries

“Come on. Ride with me to get a newspaper,” Ed suggested. “Take a break from QuickBooks.”

I still had a stack of cash receipts to enter into the accounting program. “Not now,” I thought. “I’m in the middle of entering six weeks of expenditures.” I was tempted to let Ed make this three-mile drive to the General Store in Joyce alone. Then, I remembered a passage in a book I had read. The message: We say “no” too often, when saying “yes” can build a better relationship and create opportunity. So instead of saying “no”, I agreed to ride with Ed to buy a newspaper keeping my work before play ethic to myself. Well, I repressed the QuickBooks part of the work ethic, “I’ll take the paper needing a notary signature witness with us, just in case Leonard is at the General Store.” This made me feel better about the pause of my financial entries.

Joyce, Washington is the nearest town to Salt Creek County RV Park where we were enjoying rest and time for rejuvenation after our trek across the US and western Canada. Joyce is a small town with everything we needed in the General Store – post office, gasoline, food, newspapers, fishing supplies, and even some dusty greeting cards. There’s a relic of an old gasoline pump outside the General Store. Ed explained it was the kind of pump station attendants would crank to pull the leaded fuel up to the gauge that measured the gallons requested for the purchase. You can do laundry across the street or buy a cappuccino at the roadside trailer. And, yes, if Leonard is in the General Store, you can even get a document notarized by just giving him a broad smile as his reasonable fee.

Our little break was over…Ed had his newspaper and I had notarized my documents. We were about to drive away when I noticed a black and white kitten among the branches of a tree. When I pointed this out to Ed, he immediately went into action. All I saw was a cat; he saw cherries.

The frightened kitten had climbed the cherry tree, a cherry tree loaded with ripe red cherries. Ed strode to the door of the trailer in the yard with the cat and cherries. I could see Ed talking to a man, and then I heard the man say, “The kitten belongs to the little girl next door. I got it out of the tree yesterday and I will rescue it again today.” Then he handed Ed a large Ziploc bag. “Take as many cherries as you want. I hate cherries.”

We picked five pounds of red cherries off the trees in Joyce, Washington that afternoon. We ate some. We cooked some. We made some cherry jam too.

So now I wonder, what if I had said “No, I’ll stay here” when Ed asked me to ride with him for a newspaper?

July 29, 2008
Joyce, Washington

We've Been from the Atlantic to the Pacific

In a cautious voice, Ed warned me, “Don’t go so close to the edge.”

I suppose I could have slipped since the ground surface remained wet from an earlier shower. Still I inched as close to the edge as I dared. We had walked the Cape Flattery Trail and reached one of the first coastal overlooks high above the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean.

I knew I could get a better view of the rocky cliffs if only I moved away from the protective railing of the overlook. I lingered for a while on the unprotected edge watching sea birds soar in the air and an orange starfish get pounded by beating waves without being dislodged from its rocky hold. Eventually, I moved to safer ground.

From a second overlook, I could see seals lounged on a rock island. Sea gulls plucks fish from the undulating water. Waves created a thunderous sound that echoed from the hollows of caves beneath the platform and visible along the coastline.

In October 2007, Ed and I had traveled through Quebec as far east as we could to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River on the Atlantic Ocean. Now, nine months later, we stood at the opposite end of the continent - Cape Flattery the western most point of the U.S. We hugged in a “We-did-it” embrace! From Atlantic to Pacific – A&P – we did it.

July 26, 2008

The Enchanting Trees of the Cape Trail

Do not rush to the Pacific Ocean end point of Cape Flattery Trail. The trial map suggests you can hike there in 20 - 30 minutes; but if you move at that pace, all you are doing is going from Point A – the trail head parking lot - to Point B – the cliffs of the rugged Olympic Peninsula coast line. I slowed my pace, lingering for photos and quiet moments on the trail. I saw more than the Washington Pacific Coast.

I stepped aside to let the unleashed energy of the Boy Scout Troop from New Jersey dash by me. I straddled a muddy puddle so the teenage girl wearing inappropriate shoes - flip flops – and her boyfriend in Nikes – at least he had better sense – could pass. And, I lingered at the end of a section of the trail’s narrow boardwalk taking photos so a very pregnant, waddling young woman and her partner could easily keep their cautious, steady pace. I was so alone on the trail by letting others pass that a deer crossed slowly in front of me. I completely lost track of Ed who I knew would wait for me at the end of the trail.

Let me tell you what happened when I slowed down on Cape Flattery Trail…

The forest enveloped me as I left the trail head area which was wide enough for passage of a single vehicle and I moved down the narrowing path. A hand-holding couple might squeeze through the trail side-by-side, Ed and I walked this way for a bit. Then, single file, and then separately, is how Ed and I made our way along the path.

Under the canopy of trees, sunlight dimmed and the towering trees cast shadows keeping the air cool and damp. I enjoyed the warmth of my oversized PITT sweatshirt and the cool air on my cheeks.

I saw trees shaped by the elements of wind, rain, and trauma of winter. They created a forest that if animated to life by Disney, the tress would certainly play the role of frightening, advancing villains. The exposed roots from these trees looked like they had petrified to shiny worn stone in places where they protruded across the trail. In other places, the roots looked like human arteries beneath the smooth trail surface. Hollow trunks of tress gave shelter to small animals. And, fallen giant trees created habitat for the carpet of green mosses and new growth of ferns.

Occasionally, I could catch a whiff of the salty Pacific air or the scent of the wet earth from the earlier rain.

I crossed wet areas on neatly constructed boardwalks. I carefully stepped over roots. I used strategically place rocks as steps up and down the varied terrain. I aligned my stride to step on the age-ringed circles of trees cut to make a section of trail. I paused to remove my shoe and shake a pebble from its heal. And, I wondered how the trail builders managed to set a heavy picnic table such a long way from the trail head.

I stopped and took a photo of a young couple who asked me for the favor. I jockey for space around a tree while another amateur photographer moved and focused his shot.
I passed some people along the Cape Flattery Trail who said “Hello” and others who kept their heads down not making eye contact. And, there was one lone man coming in the direction from the trial’s end who felt compelled to tell me in nearly an awed whisper, “I’ve never seen a place so beautiful.” He must have taken the trail slowly too.

Cape Flattery Trail runs through Makah Indian Reservation.
A $10 visitor’s pass can be purchased at the
Makah Cultural and Research Center Makah Museum in Neah Bay, Washington.
The pass is valid for one year from the purchase date.

The map we obtained at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center,
printed by the National Park Service U.S. Department of Interior,
incorrectly shows the road to Cape Flattery Trial as unpaved from Hwy 112 in Neah Bay.
The road is paved easy to navigate.

July 26, 2008

Where Sky & Water Blend: A Misty Coastal Ride on Washington's Hwy 112

The Strait of Juan de Fuca takes on an interesting look on a cloudy day. On a cloudy day, the sky and the water merge into one. The horizon is indiscernible. And, even though rain sprinkled the air and the sky was gray, Ed and I took a morning drive along scenic U.S. Highway 112 from Joyce, Washington to Neah Bay.

We stopped to explore the shoreline and noted that the Border Patrol were present too. We learned that they were not out to stop illegal immigrants floating across from Canada like we had seen along the Mexican border of the Rio Grande. Rather, they watched for aerial drops of marijuana from Vancouver Island. That was a surprise. I hadn’t thought of the island as a habitat for pot, apparently the plant grows well there and is often undetected in the remote outreaches of the terrain. Drug runners’ boats on the Strait pick-up the floating bales of contraband and bring them ashore on the US side. The officers hadn’t caught anyone bringing pot across the border lately, but their watch would continue.

Unlike the serious natured border patrol, a whimsical Rosie welcomed us to the small harbor town of Sekiu. The date of June 13, 2005 was scratched into the cement base of this tennis shoe wearing fish, so I guess she has stood watch there for a mere three years. Sekiu is internationally known for quality sport fishing and bird watching. One fisherman, who we talked to, had been vacationing here for many years. He complained that he’s had better luck fishing in years past. His luck may have been bad out on the water, but we noticed a bald eagle had done well. The eagle sat perched on a rock tearing away at a fish, his recently caught lunch.

The color of the day continued to be gray except for some purple wild flowers that matched my purple raincoat. Although the clouds continued to hang low in the sky, sometimes shrouding the coastal rocks, we enjoyed this picturesque scenic drive on along Highway 112. It goes to show you that the sun doesn’t always have to shine to get pleasure from the scenery.

July 26, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Delicious Because It's Fresh!

Office Hours:
“Mostly open about 9 or 10
Occasionally as early as 7, but some days
As late as 12 or 1
We close about 5:30 or 6,
Occasionally about 4 or 5, but
Sometimes as late as 11 or 12.
Some days or afternoon, we
aren’t here at all, and lately
I’ve been here just about all the time,
Except when I am someplace else,
But I should be here then too.”

After I chuckled while reading the entire “Office Hours” message not once but twice, I noticed the sign “Open” next to another sign “Fresh Salmon Hot From the Smoker or Vac-Sealed.” I leaned tentatively in the open door to the dimly lit room. I could see a 50-something couple accepting plates of smoked salmon from a Native American man named Kimm. “That’s with two m’s,” he told us when acknowledged Ed and me. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

In that minute or so, I looked around. Three strips of fly tape covered with dead flies hung from the frosted window. Long and short eagle feathers stood in a line of what looked like pre-cut holes drilled into the wooded window frame. More eagle feathers stood like quill pens in a wooden mount on the wall behind Kimm, with two m’s. Round canisters of garlic salt lined the shelves above a stack of paper plates. A sign read “Free Samples.”

Trophy sized antlers hung on the wall of an adjoining room, the smoker room. And, stacks of wood set on the floor near the black cylinder smoker. I was thinking about leaving when I noticed a yellowed newspaper clipping on the wall near the door acknowledging Take Home Fish Co. of Neah Bay, Washington for its smoked salmon. The clipping was from the New York Times. I stayed.

Kimm, with two m’s, offered me a taste of freshly smoked salmon. He served it from a metal bowl on the blade of a hunting knife. “It’s hot,” he warned. I took the sample in my fingers. Inside the charred coating, the orange colored salmon glistened. The salmon tasted moist and delicious, like no other salmon I’d ever eaten. Even though I had just snacked on half of a ham sandwich in the car and I wasn’t even hungry. I ordered a plate of smoke salmon.

“Why is this so good?” I asked.

“Because it’s fresh,” Kimm, with 2 m’s answered.

Take Home Fish Co. – smoked salmon

Kimm Brown

Neah Bay, WA

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Northern Coast of Washington

I Need Civilization

“You can park in campsite #19 for tonight, then move to #20 for two nights. Sunday, you’d need to move again…or you can try to fit into #15. That campsite goes on a first-come-first-serve basis. You can stay there for up to 14 days – no reservation needed,” explained the Camp Host.

Hooking up and unhooking every 24 to 48 hours doesn’t appeal to us so we opted to take a look at #15. Ed paced the blacktop RV parking space. It wasn’t exactly 40 feet long. “Get ready for the show,” Ed called to some campers reclining in lawn chairs nearby. “I’m going to try to back my coach in here.”

Aware of the routine at Salt Creek Recreation Area, Denise offered up her lawn chair. “Here set the chair there to show you’re claiming the site,” she advised. “No one else will take the spot if they see a chair there.”

Years ago when I lived on a crowded city street, I staked out a parking place along Pittsburgh’s Semple Street with a lawn chair. This was the first time I had used a lawn chair to hold a campground site! Not wanting to buck local custom, I went with the strategic placement of the lawn chair as Ed began the arduous effort of taking the car off and disconnecting the tow dolly.

I had doubts that we’d fit in #15. Ed was determined to try. And, Denise’s husband optimistically said, “Give it a try. If you can’t fit, there’s always site #19. You might have to move around to stay for a few days. We did but it’s worth it in the end.”

Ed backed “Dolly’s Pride” in site #15 perfectly. The rear tires of the coach pressed tight against the concrete parking block. The back bumper grazed the grassy hillside. The front of the coach barely cleared the park road by an inch. We officially claimed site #15!

Amy at the Olympia National Park Visitor Center had recommended Salt Creek Recreational Area when I pressed her with a plea, “I need civilization for a few days. No wilderness parks. No hikes to mountains. I need a laundromat, a grocery store, Internet access, electricity, a post office, a bike shop, a car wash, and UPS shipping.” I ticked off this list as she knowledgeably marked a Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce street map showing the location of each.

“Our RV is 40-feet long. Can the park campgrounds accommodate our length?” I asked. “No, and none of them have electricity,” she replied as I groaned. “You need to try Salt Creek Recreation Area. I think it will meet your needs,” she added with a smile. I smiled then, and smiled even bigger when I wrote a check for four days in site #15 knowing I had the option to stay longer. Salt Creek Recreation Area has 92 campsites, 39 with utilities, and I had one of the ones with
utilities! We were 15-miles from Port Angeles and all the shops and services I requested. I had civilization. Yeah!! Better yet, I had a front row view over the rocky bluffs of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a body of water separating the US from Canada. When I finished my chores, shopping and errands in town, I could relax and explore the coastline and the park.

My Tour Guide Was on Stick Duty

High tide sent waves of salty water crashing over the rocks at the base of the steps from Salt Creek’s campground. The bluffs glowed with the green mosses and seaweeds pressed to the coastline. Seagulls flew overhead and cruise ships moved across the far horizon. I took deep breaths of the salty air. Earlier in the day, a movie at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center reminded me why I love the coastal waters so much. It’s the eternity of the water. The waves never stop. The motion and sound are ever present. The shore is forever. I quietly enjoyed these thoughts then ascended the steps.

At the top of the steps, I found Denise’s 12-year-old son walking around, holding a fiberglass tip of a fishing rod. “Hey, did your Mom tell you I picked up some marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate for her when I went to the store? Guess you have what you need to make some-mores.”

“Yes, thank you! That’s why I’m on stick duty,” he said holding up the fiberglass rod tip. “This won’t work over the campfire. I need some real sticks.”

Then, we sort of fell into step together along the trail over top of the bluffs. He showed me the water caves where a bear probably lives and the rocky cliffs he had fearlessly explored earlier during
low tide. We admired the delicate lacey flowers blossoming on a tree. We descended some steps over the bluffs and poked at the
anemones in the tide pools.

Back on the high trail, we debated the merits of taking photos of certain trees and scenery. I took a few photos of him with the
waves as background to transfer later onto a disc and give to his Mom. Where a park sign marked the trail’s end, he showed me how to cut through some campsites to get to Tongue Point. We politely walked around some tent sites and dodged toddlers weaving their miniature bikes on the park road.

We climbed down more steps to the water’s rocky edge where waves crashed, driftwood bounced, and algae floated. I turned to take some photos; and, when I looked back, the kid was gone! For an instant, I wondered how I’d explain his disappearance to his Mom.

“Hey, where’d you go?”I yelled a bit sternly. Then, I saw the fiberglass rod tip pop over the edge of the rocks and I knew this fearless 12-year-old had climbed closer to the water’s edge. “Kid you scared me. Get up here!” I said with a nervous laugh. “Come on let’s head back. I’m getting cold wearing just these shorts and sandals. Maybe there’s a campfire ready for those some-mores you plan to make.”

We never did find any decent sticks for marshmallows while on “stick duty”; but I came away with something more precious. My new friend gave me a delightful tour of Salt Creek Recreation Area through the eyes of a 12-year-old. Back at site #15, I loaned my new friend a metal pronged roasting stick, he returned it to me in better condition than I gave it to him, just as my walk turned out better than expected.

A Taste of Patriotism: My First Bunker, My First American Bald Eagle

Patriotism is infrequently on my mind, yet during our visit to Salt Creek Recreation Area two things triggered a taste of patriotism. I saw my first bunker on US soil and my first American Bald Eagle.

Remnants of World War II-era Camp Hayden are tucked away in a hillside where deer roam now, and in the surf below, swimmers

brave the chilly water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The military presence of guns and the 150 soldiers once housed here are long gone. A kiosk explains that two 16-inch guns defended this waterway against enemy aggression, but they were only fired several times for practice. The 45-foot long monster gun could fire could fire a one-ton projectile 28 miles. It was never discharged. The red projectiles inside the tunnels of the bunker are similar to those used in WWII. These historic remnants are the reality, traces of US defenses to preserve our freedoms.

While missiles, guns, and bunkers are the reality, the American Bald Eagle represents the ideal of freedom. An eagle soared against a misty morning sky over the Strait landing on a barren branch of the giant pine. He had the freedom to glide over the whitecaps, freedom go beyond the cliff of the rugged coastline, and freedom to perch watchfully over the US coast.

July 24 – 28, 2008

Salt Creek Recreation Area - Clallam County Parks

West of Port Angeles, Washington; from Hwy. 112, turn north onto Camp Hayden Rd. Travel approximately 3-1/2 miles to the park entrance on the right.

"I Just Wanted to Get Home Early" on the COHO Ferry

Victoria, British Columbia is like the grand finale of a fine show. This harbor city bustled with activity. People crowded the streets. Water taxis zipped across the harbor. First Nation vendors sold beaded jewelry and wood carvings. Musicians created a rhythm with drums and guitars. Street performers entertained crowds riding unicycles nearly ten-feet high. Government buildings, condos and hotels dominated the land side skyline. Flowering baskets and gardens decorated the harbor walkways. Sailing ships, small tour crafts, and ferry boats floated in the harbor. Float planes flew overhead. Noise, color, and excitement – the life of this city made it a fitting place for the finale, our departure from Vancouver Island.

During our stay on Vancouver Island, we collected sand dollars on the quite algae draped shorelines of Parksville. We strolled the nearly deserted beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park. And, we rested beneath the canopy of the woodlands in a Provincial Park. Quiet, green, and peaceful – the tempo of the island lead up to the striking contrast experienced in Victoria.

I liked Victoria’s send off. We arrived there with the hope of catching a late day COHO Ferry back “home” to the USA. Although the 3:30 PM ferry had no room for our coach and car, we secured a reservation for the 7:30 PM ride, a sunset cruise.

A custom’s officer checked our passports and cargo around 6 PM – one Canadian, one US citizen, no guns, no tobacco, and bit of Mexican tequila in the ‘frig. He gave us an orange slip of paper for the coach windshield marked with a number “2” as our permission to board the ferry.

A ferry worker directed Ed to pull the coach tight against the center wall of the vehicle deck. Then, the man moved to the front of the coach motioning Ed to pull closer and closer until I jumped up to the windshield. I had to look over the nose of the coach to assure myself the guy would not be crushed by our chrome bumper. From my seat, it looked as if he’d be sandwiched between our bumper and the flatbed ahead of us. He stopped us just in time. Later, when I commented on his confidence, trust in big rig drivers, and bravery to simply stand there motioning us forward, he smiled. “I was just looking to get sent home early,” he teased. A bump with our bumper would have surely sent him to the hospital not just home early!

On the ferry passenger deck, the buzz of Victoria continued. People took seats on the upper passenger deck for choice views of our ferry voyage. Children challenged the watchful eyes of their parents scampering up stairs labeled “Watch Your Step” or leaning over railings to peer into the water. Once the ferry pulled away from the dock, the scene changed.

The sun faded over the horizon. The air temperature dropped. The movement of the vessel sent bone chilling wind through the fibers of the thickest of fleece jackets and denim pants. Everyone retreated to the protected interior of the passenger lounge where panoramic windows still offered a view but the structure blocked the wind.

When the ferry docked in Port Angeles, Washington less than two hours later, the quiet we experienced on Vancouver Island had returned. There was a gentle thump of the ferry against the pier, the lap of water on the hull, and the lone call of a seagull.

July 23, 2008

Goats on a Roof? Where Did You Say I Could See That?

“I forgot to tell you about the goats!” the man puffed nearly out of breath. “Goats on a roof…in Coombs…go there,” he said in short phrases between breaths.

“Of course, we will make a trip there before we leave the island.” What else could I say to a man who just ran along the beach to give us this travel tip?

Ed and I had casually chatted with the man and his wife moments ago about places and things to see on Vancouver Island. The couple passed along dozens of suggestions but forgot to mention the goats. Now, I figured the goats must be worth seeing. After all, this stranger left his driftwood seat and trekked after us when he realized this important omission from our original conversation.

I almost forgot about the goats too, at least until I noticed the exit sign on Highway 19 for Coombs. It was late in the day, but why not go see what this man had encouraged us to see?

And, we did see goats! Baby goats, black & white coated goats, goats with horns - all live on the grass covered roof of a market combination restaurant/ice cream store. They walked steady across the pitch of the roof. They nibbled grass growing over where gutters should hang. They seemed accustomed to the tourists like me with cameras in hand. So we say “the goats on a roof” and will pass this attraction along to other travelers to Vancouver Island.

July 20, 2008
Coombs, BC

Salmon is Delicious Anyway You Cook It, Especially If You Cook It Kent’s Way

Wonderful ideas hatched over cold Canadian beers and snacks of Fontanne cheese on crackers. We were sitting around a nighttime campfire in a Provincial Park when the conversation with our campsite neighbors, Kent and Jen Kristmanson, turned to salmon. We were, after all, on Vancouver Island. We were thinking about fishing, the salmon runs, big fish in a big country in big wilderness and our big appetites.

Ed and Kent actually put the idea forward that would forever challenge my esteemed chef’s status when it comes to preparing salmon. No longer would I think of my Brookshire’s bought orange fillet as delectable. No longer would I think about disgracing the fish with dabs of butter and minced garlic. Kent would show me a new way of preparing salmon.

That evening Ed and Kent agreed to go out the next morning to French Creek Seafood, Ltd. for “off-the-boat” seafood. I honestly thought the idea would die by daybreak. But, true to their word and fortified with a couple of cups of coffee and a hearty breakfast, the fellows headed out to the harbor. Kent knew this place well. He said it had a fine reputation locally.

Ed and Kent came back from the fish market with a salmon that was longer than any cooler we had in the motor home. Nevertheless, we packed that baby with ice and waited until later in the day. We’d have a fine dinner that evening.

In preparation for cooking, Kent went through my collection of a spices and dried herbs. He knew what he needed. He took some of my stuff and added fresh herbs from his wife Jen’s kitchen. Ed built a fire in the fire ring. I pulled out the roll of foil to wrap the fish. Kent took charge of stuffing the salmon in the way he had been doing for many years.

The toughest part of the dinner was waiting for the fish to cook. It smelled so good as the herbs blended with the salmon aroma. Kent told us to be patient. And, while we waited, Jen and I prepared side dishes, set the table, and kept bringing the guys cold beers. Time passed and the fish cooked to perfection.

We popped open a bottle of fine wine when Kent brought the fish to the picnic table. As he pealed back the foil wrapping, there it was …fresh salmon sizzling and steaming. We chowed down on salmon. I’ll tell you, the side dishes weren’t the main choice on any of our plates. We all went back for seconds of the salmon. It tasted dang good!

Salmon Purchased at French Creek Seafood Ltd.

Open 7 days a week

1097 Lee Road, Parksville, BC, Canada

On the Point at French Creek Marina


July 18, 2008