Category Archives: The Great Outdoors

Blackberries!

Blackberries spread like the plague here on Vashon and I never thought I’d say this, but they really are quite a nuisance.  They’ve got nasty thorns all over and they’ll sprout a foot overnight.  I’d been battling them all spring/summer but the berries finally started ripening about a month ago and they have officially earned their keep in my yard.  They’re really tasty.  They’re everywhere.

We’ve been harvesting them near daily and haven’t even come close to putting an inkling of a dent in them.  It takes me maybe 15-20 mins to come back with 2 lbs worth.

Plus they’re healthy — antioxidant packed, 100% organic (wild-grown so that’s a given), blah blah.  Back in Cali, we’d pay $3-$4 for a tiny little box of them, probably just several ounces worth.  So anyway, one thing we’ve been doing with them is jamming them.  It’s fairly easy.

 A quick rinse.

Mash ‘em up.

Bring to a healthy simmer.

Add sugar/lemon and reduce.

Get stoked.

Blackberries for months.

Fly Fishing | Katmai National Park, Alaska

Anchorage, AK.  12:00 AM.

I landed in Anchorage around 11:30 PM, the sun was still just considering setting and I was immediately reminded of just how far north I was.  It was my first time in Alaska and having only seen it’s stunning landscape and wildlife in pictures and TV shows, I was pretty stinking excited to finally be setting foot on it’s rich and mostly unblemished soil.

I met up with the male side of my in-laws (father and brother) and we flew out the next morning on a vintage Navajo (small 9 passenger twin propellor engine plane) to head for Kulik lodge, a small fishing lodge nestled on the edge of Kulik lake in Katmai National Preserve. Flying down to the landing strip, I really got a sense of just how remote we were — not a single imprint of human presence as far as the eye can see, other than the dirt and gravel airstrip ahead of us and a tiny, winding dirt road that lead to a small cluster of cabins at the edge of the lake.

Katmai National Preserve, AK

We touched down and were greeted by a handful of warm and friendly staff, then hopped in an old beat up Ford van for a quick ride down to the lodges. We were sent directly to the dinner lodge for a warm lunch, then a quick registration/orientation, and we were off fishing, just like that.

Our cabin, Kulik Lodge.

The rest of that day and the next were spent fishing there in the Kulik river — a 1.5 mile stretch of shallow river that sees an enormous amount of Sockeye Salmon returning to spawn every summer and an abundance of Rainbow Trout, who like to feed on the salmon roe. By the time the salmon reach the Kulik they have fully completed their gnarly, werewolf-like metamorphasis and are no longer good to eat, nor will they take a fly, but the trout are-a-plentiful and are a ton of fun to catch.

Kulik River

We did a fly-out on our third day and caught a tiny 5 passenger pontoon plane out to the Kamishak river, just about 20 mins away.

Packed into the pontoon Cessna, flying out to the Kamishak river.  

Alaskan sunrise from the air.  

The flight alone was worth the trip. It’s truly humbling when you see just how grand and beautiful the Earth can be. Following the breathtaking plane ride was another equally breathtaking boat ride up the river. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

Glacier, taken from the air.

Aerial view of one of the hundreds of small waterfalls.

Landing in the Kamishak river near the Kamishak bay to start our boat trip up river.

We reached a spot where our guide thought would be promising and it was on. I have never (and will likely never again) experienced anything like it — we were hooking fish left and right. Char, Chum Salmon, a couple Pink Salmon, and most importantly, a handful of Silver (Coho) Salmon which 1) we were allowed to keep, and 2) had just barely swam in from salt water and were still fresh (un-scifi movie-ed). So new to the river in fact, that we were one of the first of the season to hook any. It was hardly even fishing (I mean that in the best way possible). I stumbled on a spot were literally every 1-3 casts, I would hook a Char or Chum. I actually ended up moving because it was just too much.

Fly fishing!

The Chum were the feistiest of the fish and really put up a hard fight…and we caught a lot. It got to the point where if I saw a chum chasing my fly, I’d stop stripping the line to stop drawing it’s attention. The Silver were fun to hook as well because they were much more rare, they were keepers, and they put up a decent fight as well. Lots of acrobatics. We honestly caught probably 100+ fish between the three of us just in that day. I also got to check off one of my life-goals — eat a piece of salmon sashimi river-side, fresh as it can possibly get.

Filleting a Coho Salmon (Silver) river-side.  Note the roe.  

Yes it was delicious.  

The bear were a-plenty there on the Kamishak as well. I’d never been as close to a large wild animal as I was to these guys. Oh, and they’re Kodiaks, aka Grizzlies. They’re BIG. In fact, the Grizzly Man documentary/movie was shot in the same range just several miles away. They seemingly had no fear of man and would lumber slowly toward you as if you weren’t really even there. They would go about their business and hardly even acknowledge our presence, but still, you couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy when something that powerful is just 20 yards away. By the end of the day though, we were fairly used to it.

One of many Kodiaks we encountered.

Remains of a Kodiak on the side of the river, most likely killed in a bear fight.  It’s guts were eaten out and gulls were picking on it.  Grizzly sight….zing.  

The lodge is a family operated business that has been in operation since the 50’s, with three different lodges (Grosvenor, Brooks, and Kulik) in the region. Kulik lake and river are known worldwide for it’s sockeye salmon run and unbelievable rainbow trout fishing.  Grosvenor is the smallest and most secluded compound, with a max capacity of something like 6 adults.  Brooks lodge is located right on the Brooks river, which is home to Brooks falls, where the iconic bear-lazily-standing-on-edge-of-small-waterfall-as-salmon-hop-up-into-their-mouths photos/videos are taken.  Our stay at Kulik was perfect — amazing fishing, friendly staff, knowledgeable and helpful guides, an overabundance of tasty meals — well worth a recommendation.  I really hope to do this again some day.

The water was pretty cold as it was literally melted snow coming right off the mountains.  

A little vintage sartorial inspiration.  So good.  

Kulik lodge.

Crabbing

Crabbing season just opened here in the Seattle area and I wasted not a single brain cell to muster up an enthusiastic “YES” when I got the invitation to go.  Best. Day. Ever.  This is a little taste of how it went:

Up at 5:45 am.  Grabbed my thermos full of coffee, a banana and some trail mix and out the door.

A less than 10 minute drive to the east end of the island to a little dock.  The sun rising across a dead calm Puget Sound.  Absolutely beautiful start.

Set up the pots with some herring and other misc leftover fish parts, throw them over, set out the lawn chairs, pour a cup of coffee and enjoy the crisp, early morning ocean air.

First pull of the day yielded no crab but this gigantic 16 legged sea star.

First crab of the day.  Off we go…

This salmon head proved to be a hit.  This pot consistently brought in the most crab.  Keep ‘em coming…

Pulling a pot.  Nice results…

These little guys are a lot stronger than you think.  It’s quite a fight to be able to keep them from pulling their pinchers in at you.  All the crab we caught this day were Red Rock crab, and they tend to be pretty nasty little suckers.

Looking pretty full and this was probably about 2/3 through the day.

Counting our catch to make sure we are in regulation.  We had 9 permits between all of us and we all caught our 6 crab limit.  Yup, 54 crab.

Needless to say, we invited a bunch of friends over and had a giant crab cookout.  Simply boil them whole in a big pot with some salt…

Gut and clean…

And get happy.

As fresh as it can possibly get.  The meat was amazing — that delicate, slightly sweet flavor you expect from crab and oh, did I mention…fresh?  I kept reveling in the fact that I woke up, drove less than 10 mins and fished crab out of the ocean, drove straight back home, cooked and ate them all in succession in a matter of hours.  Not to mention the weather was absolutely perfect all day and we got to have a great picnic in the yard, sharing some fresh crab, beers, and laughs with some good peeps.

By far one of the best experiences I’ve had on Vashon.  I’m looking forward to an entire season of this.  I hear the pink salmon should be coming in droves later this year…

Blazing Trails

I’ve been working hard since I’ve been home battling the growth that is threatening to take over our property. There’s a lot more land to take care of here and the growth is a lot more incessant compared to SoCal’s quasi-desert climate. In between hacking blackberries (they are pest status here), tall grass, and nasty weeds, I’ve been attempting to open up some trails in our woods out back. There seems to be a lot of different patches of forest here on Vashon and we’ve got a mostly Madrone forest. Growth is a lot lower and a lot more dense toward the ground then a more typical Pine forest so it’s not easy work. Sore but having fun.

A big fallen Madrone. I’m hoping to get this milled so I can make something out of it. It makes a nice little cave fort for now.

Miles joined me mostly for moral support and an extra set of feet for “tromping”.

Miles walking our freshly cut trail.

Yard work aftermath.

This One’s For Pops

This photo made me think of my dad.  He was a fisherman, sailing the treacherous Bering Sea, between Alaska and Russia.  He’d be at sea for several months at a time, docking at Dutch Harbor and flying back to visit me if he had a long break.  He’d always come back with long hair and a beard, wearing a scraggly hoddy and he (and his entire duffle bag + contents) would always wreak of fish and cigarettes.  I can imagine why, especially considering the picture above.  I can still picture the smell and as gross as it sounds, it’s very nostalgic to me.

Transplanted | Vashon Island, WA

I packed my life into the back of a Uhaul and made a 24 hour marathon run up the west coast from my hometown of Orange, CA to my new home of Vashon, a small island right off the coast of Seattle.  My wife and I decided it was due time for a lifestyle change for us, our two kids, and two dogs.

This place is absolutely perfect.  We’ve got a lot to learn being city folk, but I’m more than happy to be along for the adventure.  So here’s to green trees instead of brown smog and acres instead of square feet.

p.s. If anyone reading is in the Seattle area and happens to have a motorcycle you want to let go for cheap, let me know.  I left mine in OC for the time being (will explain later) and am itching to ride, especially here on the island.

Destination | Revelstoke, BC

We spent our day off between Seattle and Edmonton in beautiful Revelstoke, BC.  I was up for about the last hour or so of the drive into Revelstoke and it was breathtaking.  Trees upon trees occasionally gave way to picture perfect lakes, and the mountainsides played host to rock cliffs, waterfalls, and of course, more greenery.  I decided right then and there that I was going to make the most of my day in the woods of Canada.  According to the girl at the front desk of our hotel, it’s “downtime” for the most part right now, and a lot of the recreational activities weren’t in operation, so a hike it was.  I was able to rally a couple other guys and we took to the trails.  It was an absolutely perfect way to spend a day off.  So refreshing and rejuvenating.  The woods this time of year are so lush and so incredibly green.  We decided that the city needs to make shirts that say “I got stoked in Revelstoke”.