Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Orcas and Salmon

Reid Harbor is a favorite of ours - with a trail to it's one room school house that is open for teaching as long as there are kids on Stuart Island to attend.  This last year it was closed but the library as always was open for visitors with its inspiring walls lined with books and hand printed postcards to purchase and send on.  We went to Reid Harbor while Simi was at Camp Orkila and planned to spend several days there - hiking out to the Turn Point Light House and playing on the beach.

On heading into Reid Harbor we spent many hours  fishing for pink salmon that seemed so abundant that we should be able to just catch them with our large net.  We all took turns casting our pink buzz bomb into the water but finally gave up and went inside to set our anchor.  After dinner we rallied for an evening fishing session from our dinghy.  We were one of four boats out on the unusually calm waters of Haro Strait with the sun heading down towards the horizon.  For sure we would catch a good sunset if nothing else!  

Inspired by seeing other fisherman landing their fish, at last we got a bite, pulled in the line hauled in our first salmon.  The kids were ecstatic!  Since we had just provisioned the boat with lots of food and also had our new freezer compressor stop working, we had to get crafty about preserving and using the meat on board.  We decided to make gravlox which is a three-four day process of cold cooking the fish in salt, pepper, sugar and dill and weighting it down with cans (or gravel - which is where the Swedish name comes from). 

Finished lox - four days later!
Covering salmon with salt/sugar mixture
On Day 2 at Reid Harbor we joined the crack of noon club for a hike to Turn Point.  The stars aligned and when we at last made it out to turn point at 2:00pm, a pod of Orcas surfaced in the waters right below the lighthouse cliffs!  There was a large male Orca and at least seven others in the pod with a young calf and mother in tow.  It seemed there were at least as many whale watching boats, streaming behind the pod keeping some distance.  The majestic presence of seeing an Orca surface does not change from one encounter to the next, simply amazing. 

Whale boats chasing fast moving Orca pod down Stuart Island
The kids hiked a total of almost 5 miles and really didn’t complain much at all.  William loved seeing the grassy airstrip that islanders use, Maggie listened for animals and we talked about the geology and different ecosystems.  We saw a swampy area with chewed on skunk cabbage, dry grassy fields, saltwater marsh, thick Madrona and Fir forests and chatted with the many walkers up and down the road who encouraged the kids (and us the few times they actually ran ahead!).

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