Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pacific Northwest

It is almost the end of May. The rains are retreating and sun is beginning to lengthen it's appearance. A solar eclipse occurred three days ago and clouds broke just long enough for us to witness. Life has been full of learning and busy times which have woven themselves into what will now become transition. Closing of one chapter and the opening of another. here are a few recent favorites from my adventures in the Pacific Northwest. 
The Alsea River

the Havest
Sunset on the Olympic Peninsula

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the great gaper hunt

One of the lowest tides of the whole year. It just happened to be the morning I woke on the coast. I'm a lucky girl. The huge tidal swing was caused by the Perigee moon. What exactly does that mean? I "borrowed" this picture from NASA to help explain. The moon's orbit around the earth is an oval shape (think egg). One side of this orbit is actually closer to the earth (perigee) while the other (apogee) is a bit further. When a full moon occurs on the perigee side it appears very big and bright to us, the on-lookers from earth. Not only did the moon offer some brilliant lighting all through the evenings clear sky, but it also lent a fabulous day for clamming.

We woke early, 5:30 with anticipation of the tides. I'd been razor clamming, once, so obviously I'm a pro....yeah. The learning curve was a bit steep for the gaper clams we were after. We spent practically two hours trudging across the clam beds while the clam holes spouted water at our feet in the rhythm of 100 old faithfuls. Only these buggers alluded us. We dug after them...nothing. This is frustrating. We had rakes, shovels, buckets, clam guns. no clams. When you can't figure something out, what should you do? Well spy on someone else of course and then follow by example. We lurked close enough to observe another group who appeared to be on their hands and knees elbow deep in muck. Yes this was it! So we dug, and dug some more and finally reached a hardened mud layer. We broke through it and sure enough. Their snorkels retreated but my paws are fast and I'd grab on while someone else dug around my hands to retrieve the clams. We found the best technique was to dig a hole with the shovel and then get down and dig. Out of each hole we were pulling at least 10 clams. We had our gaper clam limit in less than a half hour.

From there I met a local woman who then asked me if we were going to head over to dig for cockles. We had our 12 gapers a piece so that meant we could still go for 8 cockles. "Well yeah... we were planning on it (never actually heard of it)... so how exactly do you do that?" She told us we needed a rake because they sat just under the surface of the sand. She also said her daughter liked to go barefoot while she looked for cockles because she could feel them with her feet. So there we went to the side of the bay to look for cockles. S dressed to his best in hip high waders and took to cockle raking the deeper channels and I stripped off the extra tuffs, rolled up my pants and took to feeling around the sand with my feet. Sure enough we found cockles. the raking technique required a good ear because when you raked over a cockle they made a sort of rumble sound from the ridges. Sometimes you also turn up angry crabs. they are not happy and will try to bite your fingers off. If they are boys and over the size limit, the unhappy crab is yours to eat. Turns out I'm a sucker and the crabs we caught were the luckiest crabs ever because while I intended on eating them, I actually let them go... I felt sorry for them! The barefoot method found me smaller cockles but worked wonders. I trudged around looking for the tell tale two holes in the sand, would run my feet over the place and sure enough would find a cockle just an inch or so under the surface. Needless to say, we ended the day with a feast fit for kings.


Two years in the making;  it finally gets checked off the list...