1/19/2012 & 1/20/2012
Yesterday was the One Woman Spewing Spree. I won’t go into great detail, but I spent a decent amount of time inspecting the porcelain. Maybe a 24-hour bug or a lousy pistachio? Not sure, but I don’t want to go through that again.
Garret smoked the Guinness oysters for me. He and Jade ate several and claim them to be amazing. My stomach is still too queasy to give them a go. The nice thing about smoking is that the process increases shelf-life. The oysters will keep until I’m fully recovered.
I could have spent the whole day on the sofa trying to recover from yesterday’s purge, but there was a clam tide to catch. I needed a lift, and not the kind of lift one gets from a pantry filled with garbanzo beans, quinoa and other healthy stuff. I needed that vitamin-fortified, sugar-boosted, comfort food of youth, Lucky Charms.
Lucky Charms and soy moo served as morning medicine. It’s been years since I’ve indulged in the marshmallowy-magic. I remember when it was just pink hearts, yellow stars, and green clovers. Now, the bowl is full of all sorts of colorful crap. It’s a wee bit overwhelming, but I choked it down. In an hour, I had enough energy to tackle a dirty house, do the laundry, and tidy up my bedroom.
Lucky Charms was life’s elixir, but I knew better than overdo. One bowl, fine – Two bowls, fear. Overdo the Charms and suffer sugar-hangover. I was still ready to rock as night fell and the tide retreated.
Jim and I made the trek up Highway 3 and across the Hood Canal Bridge to Shine Beach Park. The parking lot sets north of the bridge, just above the high-water mark. Looking up at the bridge from the beach was a first. This bridge used to be a part of my life, but I never viewed it from this angle. There was something kind of Christmassy about the bridge. It was more than just the twinkling red glow of tail lights. The bridge made me think of family, my old Coast Guard family.
I’d seen Shine Beach Park many times through binoculars, scanning for potential threats as I rode in the center of the canal, high and dry on a Coast Guard vessel performing an armed escort for Navy submarines transiting in and out of the Hood Canal. The bridge was the pucker point of our transit. I dreaded this spot, sensing if anything bad were to happen, it would happen here. Fortunately, three years traversing left us incident and accident free.
Time spent with Coast Guard shipmates and Navy submarines was fascinating, and by far the most important military mission of my life. And as much as I’d love to tell you more, it’s best to cut it short. Just know that our waters are full of dedicated women and men taking care of business and keeping us safe.
I watched the twinkling lights of the bridge and waited for the water to recede. When it was time, I fought my way into a woodland camouflage, water-resistant jumpsuit. The jumpsuit, a recent purchase from Cabela’s, is more of a sleeping bag with arms and legs, definitely not figure-flattering, but warm as hell. In my mind, I look cute, like a militant snow-bunny, but I did take a short gander in a full-length mirror at the store. Horrible. Sasquatch-like, but less hairy.
Between the jumpsuit and the Boggs (boots), I was exhausted. Getting dressed shouldn’t remind you that you need more cardio-time. But it does, and I do.
I waddled out to the beach early to see how low was low enough. The low enough question is still evasive. The minus tide of -1.7 wasn’t predicted for another two hours, but I’ve learned that edible critters are sometimes found as high as the +3 portion of the beach.
I poked around in the cobble substrate for about 20 minutes and dug up about a dozen native little neck clams. The beach is known for its thriving populations of manila and natives, so I wasn’t surprised, but what I really hoped to find where butter clams, cockles, and horse clams. Of the three, I had only found one cockle in all my previous diggings.
Butter clams pose a unique challenge because they store marine bio-toxins longer than other clam species. Paralytic shellfish poisoning, also known as red tide, builds up and remains in butter clams long after other clams expel. The same goes for man-made pollutions. There are several beaches up and down the Puget Sound that are closed for Butter clam harvest, but still open for oysters and other varieties of clams. Shine Beach Park boasts healthy, edible populations of Butters, and I hoped to find a few. I know I’ve eaten Butter clams as a kid, but I can’t remember the taste. They are larger than the steamer variety I’ve been digging and found a deeper.
I followed the tide out, digging holes to sample populations, and refilling the holes as I chased the water down the beach. The composition changed from cobbled substrate to sand, allowing me to dig much deeper. Jim and Jasper joined me, and in a couple of hours, we filled our limits, 40 clams each or 10lbs, whichever comes first. One of the best things about digging with Jim, apart from his dashing good looks and expert driving skills, is that he doesn’t eat clams. His limit is mine, or at least mine to share with the boys. That makes Jim one hell of a guy, don’t you think?
We found 10 Butter clams, 2 Horse clams, lots of Natives and Manilas, and a small species I’d never seen before, the Macoma clam. The Macoma is native to the Chesapeake Bay and a staple in New England clam bakes. So what's it doing hanging out at Shine Beach Park on a fjord of Puget Sound? My best guess is that Macoma arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the very same way that the Eastern Softshell clam arrived, by way of oyster seeds purchased from the east. I'm looking forward to treating this foreigner to a little local wine, lemon, shallots, and butter.
The best find of the night were cockles. The cockle has a scalloped shell and may be patterned with splashes of grey, maroon, and cream. It’s my lobster of all clams, and I have a dozen to eat.
Tomorrow night promises a -2.0 tide. I plan to return to Shine Beach Park, and hopefully have a repeat of tonight’s success. The extreme low-tide brings a new target, a target I’ve been waiting a whole month on a tide low enough to dig. Tomorrow, I hunt the iconic Washington Geoduck. Wish me luck!