Sunday, November 9, 2014

SCUBA Diving, Mushrooms, Clams and Coastal Good Times

This weekend Emily and I spent a terrific weekend on the coast with Holm, Paris, and some friends from work including Drew, Lennie, and even Chris Miwa along with a bunch of others.  We were invited along the weekend before by Chris and Paris.  We stayed with James Lawonn at his place in Netards.  James took over Lindsay Marcella's job on the coast when she left and we had met him before at an Easter Party at their place earlier in the year.  I definitely recognized him as soon as we saw him.  We spent the weekend SCUBA diving, raking clams, mushroom picking and clamming and feasted on all that we successfully hunted and gathered.  Read on for more photos.

Emily and I left Portland early around 1:30pm on Friday after I successfully delivered a very time consuming project (several 55+ hour weeks).  Unfortunately, instead of joining my photo group in celebrating the delivery at happy hour, Emily and drove down to Corvallis to give our love and support to our friend Cathy at the memorial service of her boyfriend she had lost to a tragic plane crash earlier in the month.  Several hundred people showed up at the Corvallis airport to remember Tyler who we found out was one of the most adventurous spirits I had ever briefly met.  Very sad, but everyone who left the memorial service I'm sure was left pondering their next big adventure, which I'm sure would have put a smile on Ty's face.

Alexa had flown in to support Cathy so we all went out to eat at an Indian restaurant in Corvallis called Nirvana.  It was fathers weekend it was one of the few places that wasn't packed.  My stomach later that night may have proved to me why it wasn't packed.  Mischa, Jim, Kate, Jason, Jen, Fausti, Scott and Danielle joined Em and I for dinner there before we headed over to crash with Paris and Holm for an early night.

On Saturday we headed to the coast, arriving in Netards at about 11:30am.  It only took about 30 minutes or so after Lennie arrived to gear up and head into the Bay with our Scuba gear.  Lennie had picked up a wetsuit for me, tank and all the gear and I wore my booties and gloves I had from my cold certification in Maine over 14 years ago!  It had been a decade since I last dove in the Barrier Reef and this was going to be much colder!  

Chris and Lennie gave me a quick refresher on all the gauges and hookups and it came back to me quickly.  Lennie gave me a crab gauge to measure the shells for legal capture and a mesh sack to stuff the crabs into if we found any.  It was then a funny struggle for me to put my neoprene hood on, goggles and flippers as Lennie, Drew, Kim, and Holm joined me in the bay.  For the next hour of diving it was pretty much amateur hour from me.  A combination of my rusty skills and a dive jacket that was too big for me resulted in me bobbing up and down a 30 foot deep water column unable to figure out my buoyancy.  When I did make it down to the bottom I was constantly popping my ears and clearing my leaky mask of water that slowly was filling it.

We found a few crabs on the bottom but unfortunately, they were either too small or female so had to be let go.  I was surprised at how easy it was to just grab them off the bottom. They certainly didn't move very fast!  We saw a bunch of cool fish, sea cucumbers, anemones, and other small crabs and critters.  Despite the cold and only about 10 feet of visibility we saw quite a lot of life in the Bay.  Drew and others even saw a couple huge octopi!  Lennie found a crab but then accidentally dropped on Drews face which proved to be a shock.  

After a while I looked at my gauge to see I was only at about 500psi... halfway through the red of the gauge... I had used too much air to inflate, deflate my vest.  I continued on for a few more minutes then showed it to Holm again who signaled to go up.  On the way up (again, only 30 feet so not a huge deal) I began to notice it was harder to pull air through my regulator... I had pretty much maxxed out the tank!  When we got back on shore I noticed it was down to just under 100 psi.  Definitely not advisable! 

Not only were we skunked for crab, Emily had taken off with the Prius to go mushroom picking with Paris and had taken all my dry clothes!  Thankfully, Chris let me borrow some shorts and a t-shirt so I could get out of my wetsuit.  We then headed up the hill to where James lives to chill for the afternoon.  That's where I learned that James already had 16 big crab waiting for us that he had harvested the night before with a rake! (more on this in a bit).  We relaxed in his wonderful house up on the bluff, drinking and gorging ourselves on crabs and lobster mushrooms that Emily and Paris had foraged on their unsuccessful trip for Chanterelles.

Yes, a rake.  Later on Saturday night our group, now with Miwa, Rachel and others who had arrived, split in two to go crabbing again, and to go clamming at low tide.  James headed off with the others to go clamming far out in the bay in the mud while a Lennie, Drew, Holm, Kim and I headed to the beach with garden rakes, waders and head lamps.  The plan was to wade out into the low tide surf, kinda stun the crabs with our headlamps and then poke with a rake to which they would cling to and then drop them in bags.  I of course had absolutely no luck despite walking the entire length of the beach but when I caught up to Holm I helped him grab the biggest crab we had nabbed all weekend!  

We then headed back to the house to chill for the night.  When the others got back they were all smiles as they had pretty much limited out on butter clams with James in the Bay!  We had soo much seafood to feast on!  It wasn't long until we had more clams and crab cooking for us all to eat.  It also wasn't long until everyone by the heat of the fire started to fall into food comas!  

Emily and I crashed in the back of the Prius with Leo for the night.  Apparently I yet again screwed up with the keys leaving them out in the pouring rain all night.  What had been a beautiful day in the 60's on Saturday had turned into a deluge Sunday morning!  A group of brave souls went out at low tide again for some clamming but this time didn't come back with too many.  That wasn't a worry though, as we had probably 70 butter clams still to eat, about 10 crabs in a cooler and James was going to town cooking up fresh tuna and salmon that he had caught for breakfast!  

In the early afternoon James took us out to Cape Lookout to a spot on a south facing slope in the woods for us to hunt for Chanterelles.  At first we didn't find anyting but Leo was certainly having a grand time romping through the woods.  After we had made it past the thick ferns around the drainage we were following we began to find some luck and after about an hour all of us had several pounds of fresh mushrooms in our bags!  Finally, Emily and I have a good idea now on the right conditions to find the delicious, bright little mushrooms!

We all headed back to the house to lounge around by the fire again for the remaining hours of daylight, continuing to snack on the amazing leftover seafood lying around.  Not only did we have a terrific weekend of diving and chilling out with terrific people, Emily and I learned A LOT about how to forage and hunt for our own food which has become a big goal for us now in Oregon.  Consider this.. the clams we harvested retail for about $5 a pound.  We harvested about 50-60lbs worth I would bet.  Crabs go for $11/lb, we ate 16 James caught plus another 8 maybe = 24.  The only thing we paid for was oysters at $8 a dozen x 3.  

We also harvest several pounds of lobster mushrooms and pounds of Chanterelles that we all took home.  So, for a few hours of foraging, and raking for crab we ended up eating about $400-$500 dollars worth of seafood for pretty much no cost.  Yeah.. finding our own food in Oregon is a big goal now for Emily and I.  Had we caught a salmon or Tuna that cost would have even been more worth it but I didn't even count that as James had done all that and was kind enough to share.

We left just around sunset, stopping for coffee for the 1.5 hour drive back to Portland.  What a wonderful weekend.  I think James is a stellar dude and I can't wait to connect with him this winter for some backcountry skiing!

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