It’s a word that’s usually used (and overused, yes, I’m guilty) to describe incredible trips to exotic locations. But in this case, it was only California. And there were no fish harmed in the process. But I’m just home from the Patagonia Ambassador Summit, and can’t think of another word to describe the days there.
It was difficult not to be blinded by the famous faces and big names in the room, as the best climbers, surfers, skiers, ultra runners and fishermen in the world (and me) all converged in one place. But, as it turned out, they are also some of the kindest, coolest, most interesting, and most committed-to-the-health-of-our-planet people in the world as well. What an honor to be a part of this crowd.
The whole time was awesome, but a few moments keep coming back into my mind: Long talks about life and art with surf/film legends Dan and Chris Malloy. Talking fish conservation with Finnish film star, Jasper Paakkonen. Learning about spear fishing and riding great white sharks from Kimi Werner. Book talk with Kelly Cordes. Comparing climbing and fishing with Kitty Calhoun… The list goes on and on. Lots of plans hatched and dreams put into motion.
So many new friends, but also some amazing time with old friends Kate Taylor and Dave McCoy, where we cooked up ideas to save our fish and waters, talked philosophy and roamed the streets of Ventura late into the night. That’s Kate and Dave at dawn, after two hours of sleep, as we walked to get our pictures taken. Perfect timing.
I don’t know that I’ve felt this much inspiration, camaraderie and fun from a large group of random people since my college days. Only now, these are people with enough horsepower to make great things happen. And I think some great things will happen. Epic.
There are the brilliant reds and oranges of New England sugar maples. The quaking stands of vibrant gold aspens in the Rockies. The glowing yellow larches in the North Cascades and up through British Columbia… But when I think of autumn in the maritime Northwest, it is defined by one color: gray.
Sure, we have our vine maples here and there, and bigleaf maples can light up patches of the woods, but for the most part, the bright colors you see around town this time of year are alien ornamentals, brought from distant lands. So gray it is. I don’t mind, though. Perhaps because I grew up on the west (wet) side of the Northwest, it’s actually comforting to me, and a welcome change from the heat and blue skies of summer. Time to stoke up the woodstove. Start cooking stews and soups and big pots of chile verde. Drag out the down comforters. Gray is good.
Of course, check back with me in March, and I will probably be singing a different tune. For now, though, it seems perfect.
Well, with the current monsoon pounding, rivers rising and silvers headed upstream, I think we can safely say our 2014 saltwater salmon season is done. That’s Skyla running into the wind on what turned out to be our last day of silvers. We found a few fish, worked on boat driving and generally had a great time in spite of the wind and choppy conditions. A good day to wind up the season.
On the other hand, some good winter blackmouth (immature feeder king salmon) reports are already trickling in, which means I probably need to gas up the boat. Have to be ready when decent weather, good tides and available time coincide.
So…as one season ends, another starts. The great fortune of living in a temperate climate with an inland sea in our backyard. Now it’s just a matter of making the time to go, and having the gumption to bundle up and get after it. The taste of fresh winter king salmon should be motivation enough, I think.
What is it that makes the Skeena watershed so special? Is it the size of the fish, the 25-pound Kispiox steelhead or the 80-pound Kalum Chinook? The sheer abundance of all six species of wild Pacific salmon, with populations that run into the millions? The gorgeous scenery? The easy road access, good towns and friendly people?
For me, it’s all of those things. I dream of autumn floats down the Bulkley amid glowing cottonwoods; of big steelhead rising to dry flies; icy spring tailouts on the Kalum; casting into the enormous mainstem Skeena in search of fish that match the river in size and strength. The fact is, the unique combination of great fishing and access that we’re privileged to experience on the Skeena doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.
But right now, the proposed Petronas LNG plant, which would be built right in the Skeena estuary, could bring an end to much of what we love about this river. This development would require massive dredging of the eelgrass flats around Lelu Island, the very habitat that allows juvenile salmon and steelhead to thrive. Even the Canadian government’s own studies show that altering this critical rearing habitat would significantly damage Skeena salmon and steelhead runs.
What can you do? Click HERE and sign the petition. It’s easy and it makes a difference.
What is it that makes the Skeena special? It’s everything, really. But at the heart of it, it’s the salmon and steelhead. If the Petronas plant gets built, the fish runs will dwindle . Is that a sacrifice we’re willing to make?
<pix courtesy of Tim Pask>
After what has been the longest, most beautiful summer in recent memory, it seems fall is actually here now. Scattered showers between long stretches of warm, bluesky days have given way to what looks to be a pretty steady stream of gray and wet. We cranked up the wood stove for the first time tonight, and it felt and smelled just like the season.
While slugs and mold spores are jubilant, there is good news for us humans, too: Chanterelles are popping up in prime condition now. These are not the dry, hard mushrooms of August rain showers, or the soggy, wet behemoths of November, but rather the perfect, firm specimens that make these mushrooms so popular with cooks and eaters alike.
But I think what I love most about wild mushrooms is the process of finding them. There’s nothing like getting out in the woods and walking around with friends and family–with a focus reminiscent of childhood Easter egg hunts. My good friend Neal and I had a great time picking the other day–just a short little run to nearby woods, but full of good talk and plenty of golden beauties. I stopped harvesting just long enough to snap this shot of one before it went into my bag. Next stop, atop a chanterelle pizza. Or in pasta. Or over creamy polenta…