June 29, 2014

Processing Fish–Continued

I still had another bag of fish to process, so I decided to devote the day to fixing the smoker problems and doing the fish.  After running to the library for an internet signal, and researching my smoker and controller, I went back to “camp” (a roadside stop on the Richardson Hwy (#4) about 4 miles south of Glennallen) to set up for the work!

After three of hours of experimenting with insulating the smoker, and tuning the PID controller, I was able to get the high temp enough to finish the smoking process.  It’s done in 3 stages, 120deg for an hour and a half, 140 for two and 1/2, and 170 for 2hrs.  A long process which put me several chapters ahead on “Black Sand and Gold” a book about the Alaska Klondike gold rush.  I’m particularly proud of my improvised insulation blanket for the smoker.  In true Alaska fashion, the cardboard came out of the dumpster at the rest stop!


It also had the effect of reducing the number of beers in the frig (funny, the smoking instructions online didn’t mention that). Oh, and yes, the fish are delicious!


First Day’s Catch in Alaska!

Well, after finally making it to Alaska about a week ago, I went fishing Thursday.  When I arrived at the river I wanted to fish for Kings (Chinook Salmon) the Gulkana was very high and muddy, not conducive to catch Kings (they have poor eyesight and need to be able to see the fly easily).  So, after sitting around waiting for the River to clear, with no results, I went down south to the Klutina River last Tuesday to scout.  And yes, folks were catching some Reds (Sockeye) down there.Combat Fishing 2

Klutina Reds-003As luck would have it, poured down rain all day Wed (not so uncommon up here, it’s raining again today July 1st).  So, last Thurs morning I was on the Klutina fishing for 7.  Got very lucky, in spite of losing seven fish, I had my limit of six by 8:30.

I would guess they weighed about 5-6lbs each.

I had walked quite a ways down the River to get away from the crowds above (Combat Fishing).  So filleted the fish right there where I caught them, bagged them, and through them in my backpack to carry out.

With the fish cleaned aKlutina Reds-002t the River, I proceeded to start processing.  What a lot of work!  I would guess that these three stuffed gallon bags of fillets weighed 15-20lbs!Klutina Reds-005

This large plastic tub is how I decided to “brine” them (a mixture of salt and brown sugar is rubbed onto the fish.  What you see here is two of the three gallon bags.  That wasn’t too bad, so into the fridge they went for an overnite soak.  The washing/cleaning off the brine was slow and a mess.  I started at about 9pm Friday and didn’t get to bed til almost 3 Sat morning!

Red Processing

Most of Saturday was spent 1st lightly smoking the fish (a couple hours at 120deg).  his gives then a bit of extra flavor once they are “canned”.  (ie, pressure cooked in jars).  I had trouble getting the smoker up to the temp quickly and keeping it stable once there.  (I had bought an expensive controller for that purpose, but it was not tuned correctly to my smoker).

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Red Processing-002Red Processing-001Once smoked the fish need to be air dryed for a couple of hours minimum.  I ended up sitting next to them in a chair, nursing a couple of beers while waving my big kayak paddle at the attacking gulls (oh, and one eagle!)…but, no bears at least!

Another part of the process that seemed to be very tedious was getting the fish chunks stuffed carefully in the hot jars, and with only a small, short WalMart table, my back was killing me.

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Anyway after almost a full day ordeal, I ended up with a dozen pints and eight half-pints of processed fillets!  But, I still hard almost a third of this first batch left, but that’s another story!

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June 6, 2014

Fry Boys Whitewater Trip!

For Christmas last year, I promised the boys (Mark, Nathan, and Grandson Jonathan) a whitewater adventure.  We spent 3 days at Nantahala Outdoor Center rafting the Nantahala, Pigeon and Ocoee, what a blast! 
Mark put together a great video with some of the highlights here:
2014 Fry Boys Whitewater Adventure!

May 27, 2014

Quinault Rainforest Wildflowers

In my two days of wandering through this area, I took quite a few photos of the wildflowers, which I was told were at their peak, so I'm just going to post them all here and let you enjoy!

May 26, 2014

Quinault Rainforest

There’s a lot to see in Olympic National Park, but coming in from the southwest, I’ll be able to see the part I’m most interested in first, the rainforests.  These are “temperate” rainforest, rather than “tropical” rainforest, which we most often think of or see on TV.  The huge amount of rainfall this area gets each year (on the order of 12 feet!) combined with the cool climate produces the ideal environment for the massive conifers that so identify this part of the Pacific Northwest.
ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival
ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival-001As I reach and drive into the Quinault Lake area, right on the side of the entrance road is one of the largest living trees on earth.  It’s pretty obvious from the parking lot which one this baby is!  Wow what a sight.

Standing in front of it, I try desperately to stretch my arms to reach across it’s diameter, but the huge tree easily wins!
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ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival-002Starting right near the tree is a nice 1/2mile nature walk that gives one a great introduction to the rainforest.  All of the ferns & growth are so lush & huge!  Nothing here is wasted, even the dead trees support new life.  Every rotting example is topped by new growth in the form of vegetation or trees.

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ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival-009ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival-008The trees or trunks that host new tree growth are called appropriately “nurse” trees.  They provide lots of nutrients for the new tree to grow quickly with minimum competition from it’s surrounding siblings.
By the end of the evening, I find a nice spot in Willaby Campground, but have to nestle the truck carefully between the stand of firs in the spot!ALASKA 2014 Olympic Quinault Arrival-012
The spot sits on a high bluff above the lake, with nice views through the thick forest to enjoy a cold brew at the end of the day.
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May 25, 2014


It was getting late in the day when I realized this is still Memorial Day weekend!  So, better find a nice place to camp before all the room is taken.  I stopped at this place and a quick drive through, it looked packed, folks were either camped or setting up everywhere!

The office was across the highway.  A quick run over there confirmed that lucky me would have a nice space for the evening, on the "beach row" where there is a short path right behind my parking space that leads straight to this beautiful beach!

So, I explore this area a bit more the next morning and wow, what a beautiful beach area!
and interesting things discovered along it!

Walking down the beach a mile or so, I discover these huge red bluffs with big conifers growing right here on the edge of the ocean!  Nature is marvelous indeed.

Drive Into Washington

Drive Into WAI decided to drive from Portland over to Astoria OR and then up Hwy 101 along the Pacific coast to eventually end up at the southwest corner of Olympic N P ( this is the area where the rainforests start).  On the way out of Portland, the highway to Astoria follows the river (Columbia) and it’s many marshes along it’s route to the ocean.
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For lunch I stopped at this delightful preserve area, and was surprised at the beautiful flowers and extended marsh areas.
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After crossing into WA, I noticed some folks way out on the mud flats, and stopped to investigate.
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Drive Into WA-006Looking down below my feet, the answer was obvious – Razor Clams!

I detoured into the small village of Tokeland following a sign pointing to the remains of a famous historic hotel.  I never found the hotel, but the drive around the old fishing village was interesting, reminded me of Maine.
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A few more miles up the road (yes, northward) at Grayland Beach State Park, I get my first stop at the Pacific Ocean! What a sight!
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