Fly fishing diaries | Excuses, excuses

We went to Orvis today to use our $25 certificates from our Fly Fishing 101 class.  We've been holding out for sling packs, have looked at a lot of them, but decided the Orvis Safe Passage Magnum pack fits our needs the best.

We also picked out a few other essentials, like a holder for tippet spools, dry floatant, a pin-on zinger, and a few PMD dries, which are recommended for fishing the Cedar River in the evening hours.

While we were discussing the sling pack and how best to set it up, a man walked in with his cell phone in hand, and it rang. He answered it, listened briefly, then said, "I'm about to go into a meeting. Can I call you back later?" Then he hung up and started looking at fly fishing waders.

I just smiled. Not too long ago, I'd have been tempted to do the same thing.


My sister's baskets

My sister, Laurie, has always been creative, and so often her talent leaves me speechless. Her latest self-taught craft is the art of basket making, and the collection of small baskets displayed in her house clearly shows her skill.

Laurie first got interested in making baskets 6 or 7 years ago. She collects all the materials, including cedar bark, cattail, tule, sweetgrass (a sedge), and bark such as cherry and maple. She admits to loving the process of gathering materials almost as much as she loves weaving them into baskets.

The twine pieces in this photograph are samples of cordage made from various materials:  cattail, sweetgrass, dandelion stems, and nettle fiber. She says making twine is fun and easy, something they demonstrate and teach to their historical museum's visiting school children, even the little 1st graders. This year they taught the 7th graders how to make twine from cattails.

Tiny, delicate bits of twine made from natural materials are ready to weave into a basket.

My sister says it’s not hard to learn the basics of basket making, but it’s much harder than it looks to make a really beautiful, well-crafted basket. She has the knack of seeing how a basket is constructed, the materials used and the patterns needed, but says it's harder to make her fingers do what her brain tells her to do. Basket weaving requires patience, and lots and lots of practice. She gets together with a group of friends every week, and that helps keep her motivated.

Here are some of her creations.

The string of shells that decorates this basket ends with a limpet shell

The small stone bear perfectly matches the colors in this basket,
which is decorated with a feather from a Steller Jay

This tiny basket with two different weaves is only about
three inches high, and less than an inch thick
The basket to the right is woven tightly around a closed clam shell that's
filled with tiny shells and stones to make it a rattle. The basket holds the
shell closed, and it makes a lovely hollow sound when shaken.

This beautiful loosely woven basket is made from seawood, and holds a collection of shells

This basket has a braided handle, and the top edge
is decorated with strings of wooden beads


North Cascades smokejumper base

All my life I've known about smokejumpers. They're the first line of offense for the brush and forest fires that plague the Northwest during late summer and early fall. But today we found out that you can actually tour the jumper base that's near Twisp. We were on the last day of a road trip through B.C., Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and wrapped the tour into our day. Glad we did.

Did you know that smoke jumping originated here in the North Cascades? We didn't. That was just one bit of fascinating information we learned during our hour tour, which included watching a FAA-certified parachute packer folding and packing the chutes that just came back from a drop, exploring the plane that takes the jumpers to a fire zone, and learning about the gear the jumpers carry, and the extra gear that's dropped with them.

Jumpers go first into a fire zone, hoping to contain a small fire before it blows up out of control. If they can't do this, they often cut out a helicopter landing zone so ground crews can be brought in to fight the fire. If there's no road out, they walk out. 


Old Molson

We first discovered the ghost town of Molson while on a state-wide road trip in the MX-5, searching for geocaches to complete two caching challenges:  the Washington Counties Challenge, and the DeLorme Map Challenge. Fun times, back in 2007. We've never come across anyone else who'd ever heard of this historic spot.

On this road trip through the state, we were showing the town to my sister and brother-in-law. Molson is close to the Canadian border, in an area of high rangeland in the Washington Okanogan. Beautiful scenery in an area with a harsh winter climate, gorgeous rivers and lakes, great fishing, and for sports car owners, great twisty roads. We love it here.

If you visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you'll be able to visit the museum, which fills the entire 3-story brick schoolhouse, and is run by volunteer labor from the community.

If you're curious to learn more, you can read about Molson's history here.

Sherman Pass bones

This small set of bones is not an official part of the viewpoint at the top of Sherman Pass, but someone thought they were worth rescuing and putting on display. Walk down the path from the viewpoint, toward the new gazebo that looks north over the old fire zone. And on the way, you'll spot the bones on a granite boulder.

It's a reminder that there's always something to see along the path, no matter where you are, and no matter what the destination might be.

Vintage Seagrave

One thing I love about exploring the back roads is that you never know what you'll find. The unexpected roads, the secret streams and hidden waterfalls, the flush of new fall colors, the sight of a moose grazing near a river. Whenever we travel by road, my camera rides on my lap, ready for whatever I see.

Today the unexpected was an old Seagrave fire engine, slowing rusting away in a vacant lot in Curlew. Red and rust, with surprisingly bright emblems and badges. There was no indication of year, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was probably made in the late 1940s.

Peter and I were out of the car before it came to a stop, cameras in hand. We walked around and marveled at all the detailing, the bits and pieces you wouldn't expect to find intact, given its age. A quick search told me that Seagrave has been making fire engines continuously since 1881. I hope this fellow is slated for restoration.


Zero moose

I looked everywhere today, in their last remaining habitat, for signs of my favorite woodland animal. No luck.

Not in the wide valleys and brushy meadows in Waterton park, or in Glacier National Park.

Not along the Pend Oreille River on its course through northeast Washington and into Idaho. Not along the Kettle River from Canada through Curlew and south, even though we saw a lot of the habitat that moose love.

Not even around the beaver ponds in the highlands above the Pend Oreille river, on the drive to Gardner Cave. The ranger there said she's often seen moose at the beaver ponds, especially in the early morning and late evening hours, but we couldn't wait until the perfect time.

After our cave walk we spent some time at the beaver ponds. It's one of the most peaceful places I've ever seen. I sat beside one of the ponds and wished I could have stayed there for a couple of hours. The light was so beautiful in the late afternoon, and the clouds were reflected in the still surface of the pond.

It would have been the perfect place to be, if there had just been a moose.

Fate, interrupted

We came across this old barn today, after a drive through the countryside south of Colville. It has the look of a work in progress, or a work abandoned. Too many barns have met this fate, being ripped apart for the sake of their beautiful, weathered wood.

What a sad sight, standing now...  but half gone, half there.  The roof is intact, but with the walls gone, it doesn't stand a chance. The winter snows will finish the job eventually.


Surrounded by vines

Here we are in the Canadian Okanagan wine country, surrounded by vines and wine grapes of a dozen varieties. They even grew on this trellis, which shaded the outdoor patio at a winery restaurant where we had dinner the first night of our trip.

But these blooms that grew on the side of the vineyard road completely stole the show.
Sometimes the unexpected is right behind you... all you need to do is turn around.

Salmon sign

We stopped in Greenwood, B.C. to find cold drinks, but first we took a slow drive around town to look at the old buildings and charming Main Street. And around one corner I spotted this wonderful sign... with a delivery truck parked smack in front of it. Hmmm... 

So, all we had to do was wait for the truck to move, which gave us time to wander through the historical museum, find those cold drinks, and walk up the hill to photograph the old customs building. 

The sign was worth the wait.


Summer road trip

Eight days
Eighteen hundred miles
Four people (two of them sisters)
Two countries
Two provinces
Three states
Three national parks
Seven motel rooms in seven towns
One ferry ride
One limestone cave
Three beaver houses
One ghost town
Three historical museums
Four hikes
Two dams
647 photographs

No moose (sigh...)


Fly fishing diaries | the cabin fly shop

This weekend was the first family weekend at the cabin in almost a year. It was also the first time we've ever had such a big group of fishermen there. So we launched our canoe, my sister brought her kayak, and we borrowed a paddle boat from friends up the lake.

Saturday afternoon, when the water skiers were disappearing from the lake in search of their dinner, the fishermen reclaimed the lake. And on our deck, the fly boxes and lures came out for inspection, Dave and Jeromy and Bob passing their boxes around. And I heard the age-old question that all fly fishermen ask: What flies do you think will work today?

Ella was fascinated by the display of feathery bugs on hooks, the subtle colors, the different shapes. Her Uncle Dave was happy to answer her questions and let her touch the flies in his box. But I think at her age, the beautiful, colorful lures used for spin casting were more to her liking!


Bob rigged up a fishing pole for his granddaughter, and took her down to the shore to practice her casting. She is the youngest member of a family that loves to fish, and is already an eager student.


The Vivster

Vivian is almost one year old, growing so fast, changing constantly. Like her sister, Ella, she is endless fascinating to me. Funny and wise, with an intense stare that makes you feel like you're the only person in her small life. I am smitten.

Before we came to the lake, my sister picked a bucketful of the sweet, juicy yellow plums that grow at the farm. Vivian reached out with tiny hands when mom offered her a plum, and didn't let go of it. She gummed it and waved it around, getting juice all over mom's pants before suddenly letting it fly, straight into mom's lap.

She's pretty happy to munch away at an apple, too... as long as someone with bigger teeth makes a hole for her first!

Blackberry pie... oh, my!

All those berries picked fresh on Thursday went into the freezer, bagged up for pies. Two big bags went with us to the cabin for Moore family weekend. Yesterday we had too much fun playing with baby Vivian and watching Ella learn to swim, and sending the fishermen (and women) out in various boats to try their hand at catching the perch, bass, and rainbow trout in the lake, to even think about baking pies. Kathie, my eldest sister, mixed up dough for two pies, and this afternoon I blended two filling recipes together into what I hoped would end up being the perfect sweet, not-too-runny, blackberry pie.

Dave found the recipes for me, searching online for the best options, and making notes. He takes his blackberry pie very seriously! My final recipe used both flour (not cornstarch) and instant tapioca mixed with sugar in a big bowl, then I added the berries (9 cups for my deep-dish pie plate) and lemon zest and lemon juice, and stirred occasionally for 20 minutes to allow the sugar to start breaking down the berries and making juice. While that magical chemical reaction took place, I rolled out the bottom crust (with help from Ella, my 5-year-old great niece), rolled it up on my antique rolling pin, then poured the whole gooey purple mess into the pie crust. I chose to do a full top rather than a lattice top; easier to do at the cabin with limited counter space. Ella watched the whole process and asked questions; this little girl is very interested in cooking and baking already... perhaps she'll be a master chef one day.

Into the oven it went to bake for about 80 minutes, longer than the hour specified in the recipe. Finally the juices started to bubble out of the slits, and after leaving it for 20 minutes to cool on the counter, it went into the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Finally came the moment of truth: when I cut into the pie, will it be set up enough? Well, no.  It was a bit juicy, but not bad. The flavors were wonderful and the pie was judged a success.

The next day I mixed up the second pie and made a few changes to the filling, adding an extra tablespoon of flour and the same of tapioca. My second, slightly shallower dish needed about 8.5 cups of berries, and baked about the same amount of time. This pie set up perfectly, but it was not as sweet as the first pie. We didn't mind... with the Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream, it was a delicious combination. And it looked pretty good, too, especially on the rustic table my brother-in-law Bob made for us.

So next week I'll bake Pie #3, and will tweak the recipe again. I'll post the final recipe in my blog as soon as my own personal food critics give me the OK. Stay tuned...

The faces of Ella

This girl, this almost 6-year-old daughter of my niece, Anna, is a mercurial girl... full of life, full of contrast, bright and funny and lovely. It's a joy just being near her, to watch her laugh and tease.

She's photogenic and a natural in front of the camera, but doesn't have that posed smile that too many kids develop. She's just herself.

This morning she splashed in the lake, gradually getting more comfortable in the water, and before she knew it, she was wet to her bottom. And that inspired endless giggles from her (and from her aunt).


Berries on my cereal

It's truly one of the best things about August in the Northwest:  the coming of the blackberries.

Yes, I wail about how fast the canes grow, how they seem to grow over the fence in the blink of an eye (or at least overnight). And that I write about this so often, I have a blog label called "Blackberry Wars."

In July all is forgiven. I stop pruning except for the new shoots (which won't bear fruit until next year), and watch the flowers turn to tiny green berries, then gradually plump up and turn deep purple in the warmth of the long days of summer.

A few days ago, Dave mowed the back pasture, isolating the berry patches, then mowing wide paths through them to make it easier to pick berries. Kathie has taken over the picking chores, walking outside to pick a bowl of berries when the dew is still fresh on the grass. Yesterday morning she surprised a doe, grazing on the newly mown grass. There's plenty to go around, both grass and berries... I just hope the doe stays out of my neighbor's spectacular flower gardens.

Today our breakfast cereal was doubly delicious:  warm-from-the-sun blackberries from my own pastures, and raspberries from our other sister's farm on Vashon. These are my favorite berries, doubly special when mixed together.


Carpenito Bros.

I don't know what I love more: the gorgeous flowers at Carpenito from late winter to early summer, or the specatular produce when the place transitions to a farm stand in June.

When the corn comes in in August I'm there often... it's Dave's favorite summer vegetable, and Carpenito grows their own. One of my favorite sights is one of their John Deere tractors pulling a trailer of corn through the streets of town, on its way from the fields to the farm stand.

The corn is amazing, but there's so much more. Fruit from local sources and if it's not grown here, they'll bring it in from the Yakima valley. Raspberries and blueberries and strawberries; cherries and plums and apricots, melons, and apricots (my favorite). Salad greens and onions, cucumbers and zucchini, melons and peppers from their own farms in Auburn. Tomatoes from California and warmer climates right now, replaced by local tomatoes of all kinds once the weather allows. It's the best place for heirloom tomatoes, at prices that won't break the bank.

The place was mobbed, and as I threaded my way through the rows I noticed a woman choosing melons, then noticed she was wearing a Safeway uniform. I just smiled.

Today I was in the market for salad greens and veggies for roasting, my favorite summertime dinner fare. For salads, Romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and tomatoes. For oven roasting, green beans, garlic, onions, green peppers, basil, and zucchini. And fresh, valley grown sweet corn. Yum.

Two big carry bags of the freshest produce, about 12 pounds worth, for $11. When I got home I couldn't resist weighing the huge head of Romaine lettuce:  it weighed 3.4 pounds, and cost 85 cents.