Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

Archive for October, 2012

You’d Think We’d Know Better

Posted by todblog on October 21, 2012

October 14, 2012

My son Jacob frequently talks about having a bucket list. It’s a list of things one wants to do before “kicking-the-bucket” (dying). I don’t have one. If I did have one, I could scratch one item off that list.

It started about a year ago. A couple of friends and I got to thinking about going bow hunting for elk in some remote back country for a week. Of course thinking about it a year prior and looking at Google Earth from a soft ergonomic desk chair makes everything seem like a piece of cake. As the months passed by and it got closer to committing to buying the elk tag, I began to wonder if I was cut-out for this trip. I started thinking about the TV show- “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” and the real-life accounts of people who had close encounters with death only to survive by using their dull Leatherman knife and eating worms.

Nah, not me, I wasn’t ready for TV. I was gonna be smarter than that. I was going with some experienced partners. Andy, my college house mate was involved with Search & Rescue in high school and after graduating from Oregon State University, he spent a lot of time in third world countries conducting geophysical surveys in some rugged remote terrain. To him, the outdoors wasn’t something to fear, it was there to explore and conquer. Leo, the other suspect, is also no stranger to remote back country life and has put on a lot of miles backpacking in the Sierras and other remote destinations. I was in good company with nothing to fear, except that I found myself breathing hard after tying my shoe laces (Note to self: ditch the laces and get velcro straps). Luckily I had time to get in shape and I started working out several months before our trip (watching the Outdoor Channel while on the tread mill and/or lifting weights). I was determined to get fit (or close to fit) for the upcoming “death march” to elk camp.

Gearing up was also a challenge as I needed to find backpacking gear for this trip. Andy and Leo bailed me out by bringing extra gear for me to use. I had the basic stuff like sleeping bag, pad, tent, stove, mess kit, water purifier, canteen, etc. What I lacked was a good backpack. Not too big and not too small. The big packs had a tendency to want more stuff in ’em. For food, we needed to pack in seven days worth of meals. We got two cases of assorted Mountain House dehydrated meals, trail mix, protein bars, oatmeal, coffee, jerky, spices, and olive oil. The Mountain House dinners were excellent and a far cry from what they used to be like. It was easy to make (add boiling water to foil pouch, seal and wait 9 minutes) and they tasted great. Water was not going to be an issue since our campsite was next to a natural spring. This would be huge as a nearby water source meant ample water for drinking, cooking, dishes, and showers.

As much as we tried to minimize the weight of our packs, it was a difficult thing to do as we had food for seven days, clothes, camping and hunting gear. Lifting the fully loaded pack off the ground I said, “this is stupid” and I put it back down. Nobody felt sorry for me because my pack was the lightest. You see, I made a scouting trip a few weeks earlier and stashed some of my gear at the campsite with the help of some friends. I placed my things in a couple of dry bags and hoisted them up in a tree. That reduced my load for the final walk in but, in the back of my mind I wondered and hoped that my gear would still be there waiting for my return. Would it be found by other people or trashed by bears who detected food morsels in the bags? Leaving my gear in that tree also meant I was now committed to this backpack bow hunting trip.

After making final preparations and saying our good-byes, we hit the trail and began our hike up to elk camp. What took me 2.5 hours a couple of weeks ago, now found me taking just under 5 hours. At 3/4 of the way up we began to physically “run out of gas” and had to take breaks every 50 yards or so due to the incline, the rising temperature from the mid-morning sun, and just plain low energy reserves. Once we got to camp, it was a tremendous relief as we dropped our packs one last time. Andy, whose pack looked like it had a kitchen sink in it said, “That was a hump by anyone’s standard”. Nobody could argue that. What we pondered with each backpacking step was that our cumulative ages totaled 163 years- you would think we’d know better. Apparently not.

About an hour later, we decided to make camp and got settled into our new home. Little did I know that day would be the kickoff for a week of bow hunting boot camp- waking early, hiking up and down steep hillsides and crawling through dark timber thickets in pursuit of elk. We hiked our butts off covering a lot of ground and learning new areas each day. The early evening sunsets were breathtakingly awesome to behold as we lounged around a camp stove enjoying our gourmet dehydrated chow. After recapping the day’s events and making plans for the next one, we found ourselves crawling off to our toasty warm sleeping bags and “sawing logs” by 8pm-ish. That’s way earlier than I’m used to sleeping but, that and ibuprofen and chondritin was just what the doctor ordered. By the end of the week, I poked a new hole in my leather belt to take up the slack from losing almost 10 pounds. It actually felt great.

As for the hunt, we all saw and had opportunity at elk but, Leo is the only one who convinced an elk to come home with him. Congratulations Leo!

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Posted in 2012, Hunting, Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skater Elk

Posted by todblog on October 3, 2012

October 3, 2012

This past Labor Day Weekend we headed out for our annual rendezvous in NE Oregon with a number of family friends. This trip would be slightly different. Jacob would be coming with us from Corvallis where he was spending the summer as an intern working on a chemical engineering research project. We were very proud of him for landing one of the 29 Johnson Scholarship slots awarded to incoming freshman majoring in chemical biological or environmental engineering. It meant he would be spending the whole summer away from us and on his own. That meant no more telling him what to do or not to do with his spare time. It seems all he wants to do in his spare time is shred the paved slopes with his longboard. Fortunately, he wears a helmet and pads and apparently he is good at it. Personally, I don’t care for the longboarding scene and the counter culture that comes with it (not to mention the potential for serious bodily injury). For years he couldn’t skateboard because his baseball coaches said “NO”. The longboarding culture is totally 180 from baseball (except for players like bad boy Tim Lincecum aka “the Freak”). Anyhow, he’s old enough to make his own decisions and face the consequences.

These annual family trips usually found Jacob helping me pack the truck going over a check list of items to bring. Not this time and I also couldn’t tell him what to pack/bring for the trip. I would have to trust his planning skills. Scary thought- I know.

We made our trip in the usual 10.5 hours and immediately began to soak in the sights and sounds of the rugged mountains around us. It always recharges my batteries whenever I step out into country like that and behold it’s raw natural beauty. Meeting up with our host, Aunty Bitsy can only mean one thing, there’s gonna be some awesome outdoor activities in store for us. She did not disappoint.

The alarm went off at 4:45am and attending to the coffee pot is always the first order of business. I woke up Jeanine and Jacob to get them ready for their fast-approaching morning elk hunt. Months earlier, they both got lucky and successfully drew a controlled antlerless elk hunt that coincided with our annual trip to NE Oregon. It would be a new experience to add an elk hunt to our family trip. We sat around the breakfast table and downed some fat Costco muffins and patiently waited for our “guide” to show up.

At 5:15pm a tall figure of a man walked in the door and lit up the dim room with his smile. Our guide Dan was right on time to take us down the road to a nearby ranch where elk were marauding the alfalfa fields each night. This hunt was designed to haze elk from fields to minimize crop and fence damage to the local producers. A herd of elk can eat a lot of alfalfa and bedding down in it doesn’t help matters either. We had a job to do and we headed out the door.

As we piled into Dan’s truck, I noticed Jacob didn’t have on his Danner hunting boots. Instead, he had a pair of thin green canvas skater shoes. Great. I asked him where his boots were and he said they were in his friend’s car from last weekend when they went hiking up Mt. Thielsen. They hurt his feet bad and he got blisters from the boots. These were boots he wore everyday last summer working at the Roseburg Country Club doing grounds maintenance…. no problems then. But hey, not to worry he has his trusty skater shoes on and they’re the right color too, green! No sense arguing we gotta go.

Dan took us to a ranch where several different herds of elk have been showing up. One herd was reportedly close to 70 animals. They should be around somewhere. Jacob spots a group of horses against a fence line on the other side of an alfalfa field. Dan quickly points out, “Those are elk.” Jacob settles his .30-06 rifle into a pair of shooting sticks and starts to pick out an elk without antlers. Jeanine is trying to do the same. The elk are getting agitated and one by one they start to jump the fence and head for higher ground. Jeanine finally tells Jacob to go ahead and take a shot. At 325 yards, he does and an elk lays down.

Dan says he thinks we can find elk in another field down the road. We tell Jacob to stay put and we’ll be back. As we leave the elk gets up and starts to run and Jacob fires again. The elk goes down in a small draw out-of-sight. We opt to stay with skater boy and help him find his elk. We follow the elk’s trail through sticker patches and brush and find it near the bottom of the draw. Having boots on would be a nice thing right about now when you have to deal with stickers in your ankle because all you got is quarter high socks and exposed ankles. But, we don’t talk about that. We just focus on the task at hand, getting the elk cleaned and loaded into the truck where we can take it back to the ranch to work on it. Pulling the trigger is always the easy part. It’s afterwards that the work begins.

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Jacob showing off his Hunter Green Skater Shoes

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Back at the ranch cleaning station. Lots of good meat hanging here.

Two days later, Jeanine found her elk opportunity on a small herd sneaking up and onto a bench almost out of sight. But, our guide Dan was quick to point them out to us and he got us into position where we could slip up on the herd and set up for a shot. I sat behind Jeanine and waited for the elk to appear in the field of dry grass in front of us. Our hearts were pounding from the short hill we climbed and from the anticipation of seeing elk any second. We could hear footsteps in the dry crunchy plants they walked through and the sound was getting closer with each step. A quick check of the wind found it blowing into our faces and all was well. Suddenly, a 1×2 bull walked into view just 50 yards from us as we sat like statues in the grassy field. I was close enough that I didn’t want to make eye contact with the bull as I thought he could see my eyes. The bull stared at us for an eternity sizing us up and he knew we were something different but we remained motionless and he couldn’t smell us either. He slowly turned off and continued his walk uphill away from us. Then the cows started to show up one by one. They were slowly feeding and walking uphill to cross the fence somewhere above us. At 70 yards Jeanine slowly pivoted her rifle barrel in the shooting sticks to the right and when the crosshairs of her scope found the first cow elk in the group she squeezed the trigger of the Tikka .30-06. Cow down! The herd milled around for awhile and then headed over the fence and into the draw above in no time. Those animals can really cover ground when they want to. Ahhh, what a great hunt that turned out to be, and it was over by 7am. Well at least the trigger part…now came the work!

Compared to some other elk hunts and the extreme difficulty involved in getting an elk and then dealing with it afterwards, this hunt required much less caloric output. As a matter-of-fact, one hunter skated on this one.

Thanks Bitsy, Dan and Eric for making this hunt happen. You have provided us with some very good wholesome stuffed alfalfa elk.

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Jeanine with her cow elk taken just above the alfalfa field it fed in all night long.

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Watching the elk leave the field for higher ground.

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The elk are about 150 yards away and will be safe in the timber in a few minutes. They can really cover ground when they want to.

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Running out of slope, it’s getting way harder to drag the elk!

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Taking a break before trying to load the elk in the truck…Could use skater boy’s help about now, ARGH!

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Fish and I carving up the back half of an elk to more manageable cuts before making the trip home.

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Making teriyaki thin sliced steaks. This marinated meat tends to disappear from the grill before getting to the dinner table. Darn BBQ Gremlins!

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Canned elk is tender, juicy and flavorful. It is easy to heat up and make enchiladas, tacos, stews, stroganoff, etc. and no freezer storage!

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Burger, one of our favorite ways to eat elk…meatloaf, tacos, spaghetti, burgers, sausage, etc.

 

Posted in 2012, Family, Hunting, Stories | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Far Too Wide For Me

Posted by todblog on October 1, 2012

September 28, 2012

I apologize for this LATE story but, it’s one that has weighed on my heart for a long time…

In December 2010, we traveled to visit Hawaii and reconnect with friends and family that we haven’t seen in a few years. We haven’t done a very good job of keeping the kids grounded in where they’re from and all the ties they have to the islands. We spent two weeks and island hopped from Hawaii to Molokai to Oahu and did as much as we could in such a short time. The fragrant sweet moist tropical air and the sound of the waves gently lappingĀ  on the sand was a real homecoming for me. Of course, what would a trip be without eating great food. That was another void quickly filled as we hit the deli section of the grocery store and bought tako and ahi poke. I couldn’t get it down fast enough.

Tako poke and passion orange juice on the beach at Waipio Valley… Ono kine stuff!

We got to reunite with some old friends and did some fishing and diving off the Kohala Coast. It was just like I remembered and I was hoping that those would be great new memories for the kids to have. Growing up in the islands and having those activities available to you all the time can make you take them for granted. Would our short vacation be enough to rekindle their memories and recollections of their early childhood life in the islands? Would it be enough to keep them interested and make them want to come back?

Dylan Shiraki, Brandon Mah, Jacob & Gerald Shiraki ready to go spearfishing

Boogie boarding at Waipio Valley

Playing in the river at Waipio Valley

Gearing up for a deep sea trolling adventure with Captain John Whitman

Mahimahi fell for an opelu trolled behind the kayak

Back on shore showing-off his nice mahimahi!

Baked mahimahi was killer!

Taking a hike in Hawaii Volcano National Park. Looking at the large tree ferns and forest birds above.

Plants take hold in the cracks and crevices of this pahoehoe lava flow.

Walking through Thurston Lava Tube

Checking out the steam vents in the a’a lava flow.

Our next stop was the island of Molokai where we found ourselves eating all kinds of ono grinds like pulehu dried tako and opihi, parrot fish, papio and dried teriyaki deer meat. When it comes to ono local food, leave it to Molokai people to do it right! Our trip to the Hawaiian islands was long overdue and once again I remembered what it’s like to come home again.

Getting on the puddle jumper for a short flight to Molokai

Drinking fresh coconut water

Catching fresh tako (octopus, he’e)

Master chef, Glen Sakamoto cooking the tako on the barbecue grill (pulehu).

Ready to slice and grind!

Jessica is whacking da opihi with some help from Mahina

Opihi (limpets)= black and yellow gold

Beach break on east end Molokai with Maui behind us

Halawa Valley, end of the road East End.

West End axis deer hunt

West End Molokai Deer Hunta! I forgot just how RED that dirt is over there.

Uncle Ed Misaki taking us for a morning papio (Jack crevalle) fishing trip

Nice papio fell for a small feathered jig trolled behind the boat

Nuff for dinner!

Steamed papio for dinner!

Molokai farewell where your friends can still see you off at the gate and then line up at the end of the runway to wave goodbye at takeoff.

Our last stop was to the island of Oahu to see more friends and family and of course eat more good food. Our dear friend Bitsy was super gracious to offer her home to us during our visit. Located right on the slopes of Diamond Head and on the beach, how could you say no to that! It was a gorgeous place to stay. The sound of the sea reminded me of childhood weekend getaways to a Malaekahana beach house where the surf lapped the shore continuously. Whether we chased sand crabs with flashlights, had an evening bon fire on the beach, searched at sunrise for Japanese glass ball floats stranded on the beach, or body surfed all day, the sound of the sea rushing in to meet the sand never ceased.

Bitsy and Jacob boogie boarding in front of her beach home.

Surfing from Bitsy’s backyard

Showing the kids how to catch mongoose. I still get um!

Of course you gotta stop for shave ice

A real treat was having mom come down from Kauai to visit us on Oahu.

This is how I remember Hawaii… walking on the beach clutching your dive gear and sand between your toes. It’s a wonderful feeling.

We packed a lot of things into this trip and it went by WAY too quick. I pray it won’t take so long to return to the islands again. It’s obviously still got a grip on my soul and speaks to me ever so loud and clear. I really miss the beaches and the ocean. Ironically, the very water I love is what puts so much distance between us, over 2,000 miles of ocean between Hawaii and Oregon. I suppose that’s a good thing otherwise the islands would be overrun with people at a quicker rate than it is currently.

Personally, I struggle with the idea that maybe I’ve done the wrong thing by taking the kids out of the islands to pursue and provide them other opportunities. They have benefited in many ways but, the price we paid is the lack of extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) and being raised in a different culture. It is definitely a trade-off, they still take their shoes off before coming into the house, bathe at night, and eat plenty rice. However, they don’t know any Portagee jokes and their pidgin stay junk. Da kids won’t have the same ties to the islands as I have and we will be one of the many thousands of families who’ve left the islands to take up life on the BIG BIG island of North America. One day I hope to return to the islands and I’m hoping it won’t be too seriously overpopulated and drastically different from the memories I cling to… Hopefully my kids will want to return one day and visit me in my rocking chair and flip the tako on the grill for me.

You can take the boy out of the island but, you can’t take the island out of the boy.

I wish that there were someway to walk across the sea
It seems to me I always lose when fighting any homesick blues
I do believe this ocean is far too wide for me.
Far Too Wide
Peter Moon
Cane Fire Album

Posted in 2010, Family, Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »