fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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start them lying fishing young

From well-known outdoor writer Tom Stienstra in the San Francisco Chronicle today, presented without comment:

Tall tale about giant bass

Word came from Pleasanton last week that a 13-year-old boy had landed a record 18-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass at Shadow Cliffs Lake. It seemed too good to believe. Unfortunately, it was.

At Shadow Cliffs, park rangers say several people saw the boy wade into the lake and scoop up a large dead fish. Park officials said they do not acknowledge the fish as a record.

When the story first emerged, the boy said he caught the fish with a lure, that the giant bass did not fight much, and he gave it to a friend to eat. A photo of the fish I was provided showed that its eyes had turned white and its body had a layer of slime, similar to that of a fish that has been dead for some time.

This is yet more proof that, while all people are born honest, by the time they go fishing they usually get over it.


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a stunning December day on Alcatraz Island

For Karen’s birthday, we played tourist and visited Alcatraz Island. I’d visited years ago, but this was Karen’s first trip, and we couldn’t have had better weather. I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf


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cruising Alaska, part five: Victoria, then home

At the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C.

Cruising, for most people, invokes images of passengers in deck chairs with umbrellas drinks in hand.

That’s not the case with me. At least not yet.

For me, when in port there’s sightseeing to be done and the bustle that arises from acting every bit the busy tourist.

But one unique aspect about a cruise vacation is that — though already having “wound down” away from everyday life — one can take time to wind down between ports.

That’s what we did the day after leaving Skagway. We were at sea, steaming toward Victoria, B.C. Without conscious thought, we made it somewhat of a quiet day. Almost winning a passenger trivia game in the morning, a leisurely lunch, and time spent in a hot tub with a view astern to the ocean; a quiet pause in the closing days of a superb vacation.

Sunshine greeted us the next morning in Victoria, where what is regularly referred to as “High Tea”* awaited at The Empress Hotel. More accurately, The Empress refers to it as “Afternoon Tea.” To be polite, I’d practiced the proper pinkie curl.

Gwendolyn’s little finger would be curled under and away from the heat of the cup which might otherwise inflict a burn on her delicate skin. The little finger would never be arched upward. Arching would be deemed a sign of extreme arrogance. Should you know of moments extreme enough to demand an arched pinkie, contact us immediately.
— from The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

There was a remarkable consistency to the extraordinary knowledge imparted by tour guides and bus drivers we met during this trip, and our driver in Victoria was no exception. He filled our nearly hour-long drive to, in and around the city with history, trivia and pop culture references. Soon enough we disembarked in front of the impressive Empress Hotel.

Above the commoners' side entrance to the Empress Hotel.

The 103-year-old hotel near Victoria’s waterfront can’t be missed, and there’s a story that for many years it did not have sign out front because of local sentiment that anyone who didn’t know it was The Empress shouldn’t be staying there. It is an imposing structure that’s hosted kings and queens and a fair share of celebrities.

Wondering if we weren’t worthy of a public arrival, we entered through a side door to find the Tea Lobby. With everyone seated on sofas upholstered with richly patterned chintz or in wing back chairs, our hostess set about placing tiered stands stacked with traditional tea sandwiches, pastries and cakes. Our starter was a bowl of big, tasty blueberries, certainly not an everyday occurrence for me, but something I could get accustomed to. Our cups were filled with The Empress’ tea (a blend of teas from Kenya, Tanzania, South India, Assam, Sri Lanka and China), and though I’m not a big tea drinker, it was tasty (and fun—how often does one get to say “I’ll take two lumps” without ending up with a headache?).

I don’t pretend to be a gourmand but found great pleasure in the tea sandwiches and cakes served at The Empress. Even the cucumber and watercress sandwiches were good. My personal favorite was the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich. Our gastronomic climb up the stand found a second tier filled with some of the best-ever fresh scones and preserves, and ended with the top tier’s assortment of light pastries. It was all good, but I was left wondering how such dainty sandwiches and pastries could be so filling.

We’d have another day at sea before arriving home, and there’d be whales, porpoises, and a special dessert courtesy our maître’d. But Victoria was the last big “hurrah” for me on this fantastic trip.

A last sunset at sea…


*It’s interesting to note that what’s often referred to as “High Tea” (in the U.S. at least) may in fact be “Low Tea” or “Afternoon Tea”, and I’ll bet that most of my six readers didn’t know that there were two types of “Tea.” Gleaning the Internet will tell one that High Tea ttraditionally was a working-class meal served on a high table at the end of the workday and comprised of heavy dishes (such as steak and kidney pie, pickled salmon, crumpets, onion cakes, etc.). Afternoon Tea or High Tea was more of an elite social gathering with assorted snacks and tea. But in the end, who’d really want to go to “Low Tea?”


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few words, some pictures, more to come

We’re back after travelling from San Francisco to Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, and back again in 10 days…leaving at the end of August and returning to the start of September.

I’d say our trip when by fast, but the ship rarely exceeded 21 knots and the days were packed with the history, wilderness and the people of Southeast Alaska.

There was amazement that two of our ports o’ call can only be accessed via plane or boat. Pink salmon crowded the rivers and brought out the bears. We tasted beer that can’t be found anywhere else.

Pictures for now; words later.

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

(You can directly access the Picasa album, with captions, by clicking here.)


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what we see… (02/09/2011)

  • The Unaccomplished Angler and Trout Underground step up when John Walsh doesn’t: http://bit.ly/hztyUN, http://bit.ly/hA4G4K
  • Going on my “I Want that Job” list, because of the trout; nothing to do with co-host Hilary Hutcheson. (Look out Rich Birdsell.): http://bit.ly/gpDlMf
  • What trout will you chase? And what’s this “Other Trout” some folks will be waving sticks at: http://bit.ly/hGIAyd
  • Below, a day at the Oakland Zoo (The Wife declared this date “Spontaneous Saturday.” We ended up at the Oakland Zoo and enjoyed dinner with the San Mateo nephews and their parents.):

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finding fish, but not fishing, close to home

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Fern Silhouette

Muir Woods National Monument in the hills just north of San Francisco could be like someplace near you. That place that’s relatively well-known and frequented by out-of-town visitors, one that you always mean to visit but never set aside the time to do so. The trees of Muir Woods quietly stand in a valley accessed by roads that progressively shrink from a highway to a local boulevard and, finally, a small two-lane country road that twists down the hillsides without the comfort of guard rails. It’s a drive that requires patience. It’s worth finding, however, because this 560-acre national monument encompasses one of last groves of old-growth coast redwoods on the planet, and the only one in the San Francisco Bay area.

It was a gray morning last week when The Wife and I left the rolling hills of home and headed west across the San Pablo Bay Tidal Wetlands and into the hills of the Coast Ranges. The air was cold, the sky hidden by fog, dense and unmoving. The kind of day that suggests you’d be better off nestled by the fireplace with a hot beverage.

Most of the drive was familiar and thus unremarkable, but soon enough we were rising into the hills and the fog. An all-encompassing grayness took the place of what otherwise would have been a sweeping view toward the coast. The fog, but not the chill it lent to the day, was left behind as we descended a number of switchbacks.

The getting there was easy; the parking was problematic. Even on a day like today, parked vehicles were overflowing onto the roadway. Maybe it was karma, or simply superior situational awareness, that opened our eyes to a slot unobserved by half a dozen other drivers at the end of one row.

On a short hike to the park the oak woodlands typical of California’s hills give way to a coniferous forest, dominated by towering Sequoia sempervirens. The paved trail parallels the babbling Redwood Creek, feeding guests toward the obligatory exhibits and gift shop, then the entrance.

Though there’s no escaping the noise of the crowds ignoring scattered signs asking “Quiet, Please,” the silent presence of these redwoods, many seedlings before World War II, can impress. Light filtered first though fog then the thick forest canopy lends a deep blue cast, deepening the greens of California bay laurel, Douglas firs, bigleaf maples, dogwoods, tanoaks, redwood sorrel and countless ferns; horsetail lady, sword, maiden hair, and gold back to name a few. It’s a wonder that such a place exists so close to San Francisco.

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Near Cathedral Grove

A quiet and easy walk took us deeper into the dense grove; wander first closer to then farther away from the creek. Soon I’m getting kink in my neck gazing at the massive trees in aptly named Cathedral Grove. These trees average 800 years old and taper from a thick base to a top that can’t be seen. They have survived fires, storms and man.

The trail leading back out of the grove crosses the clear waters of Redwood Creek, one of the southernmost streams in which coho salmon spawn. This time of year it’s the coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) that will make their way upstream, to be followed by steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). It’d be dishonest to state that I wasn’t hoping we might be blessed to see fish in the creek.

We were blessed. The trail that would return us to our starting point crosses then parallels the creek four or five feet away from its bank. As we neared a small bend the bed of the creek moved. A coho, at least a good 18 or 20 inches, hovered in a couple feet of water. We watched, shushing the less courteous, as the salmon rested in a small eddy below fallen tree branches. Shortly, it was joined by another, similarly sized fish. After seemingly communicating via body language, the two cohos continued upstream. After a two-year absence, two more coho happened returned to Redwood Creek during our visit.

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Evidence that the Redwood Creek coho salmon may have a future...

Perhaps it was fell-good aspect of being outdoors and seeing nature at work (often despite humans), but lunch at the Muir Woods Trading Co. Café was particularly good. While Karen enjoyed a hot dog of grass-fed beef, I dove into a house special, the “Marin Melt,” which is built on a foundation of some of the most rustic bread I’ve ever met and two smooth locally produced cheeses. Add a bowl of fresh tomato soup, and it’s a lunch made for a cold morning near the coast.

Though there were no fishing rods involved in this trip, the fish were a welcome surprise.

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