PADDLING FOR CLAMMING
Grant shows us how to dig our dinner from the sea on a spring break getaway where all you need is a paddle, a PFD and a spirit of adventure.
Kayak Tillamook supplies the boats, the paddles, PFD’S (Personal Flotation Device) and the expertise while you slip inside the cozy confines of a sea kayak that allows you to go “Paddling for Clamming.”
Lead guide, Marc Hinz, said that all you need do is show up “dressed for the day,” but he cautioned: “Wear anything but cotton! Our standard mantra is ‘cotton kills’ because it absorbs the water and holds it to next to your body, so it’s bad news. Good news are the synthetics or even wool clothing.”
We timed our visit across Nehalem Bay in Tillamook County during the last hour of the ebb tide.
“It’s my favorite time of the tide and time of the year,” noted Hintz. “There are more visible wildlife like eagles and elk and fewer people around so it fits together well for a unique adventure.”
A slow moving outgoing tide eased our paddling from the Nehalem Bay County Boat Ramp (located just off Coastal Hwy 101 north of Wheeler, Oregon where you should be prepared to pay $3 for a parking permit) on a journey toward inter-tidal mud flats.
Hinz said it was a good time of the tide to be on our adventure: “It’s perfect – there’s just a little bit of outgoing to help move us along. If it’s going out really fast or coming in really fast it’s harder to paddle against the current. On this sort of trip you really want the bottom of the tide.”
Our party traveled to the area at this particular time of the tide for good reason: we wanted to dig our dinner – really! We were after bay clams that most folks overlook or have never heard of called the Eastern Softshells.
As the name suggests, eastern softshell clams are not a native clam species. The bivalve was introduced to Oregon coastal estuaries more than a century ago to jump-start a commercial shellfish industry.
Mitch Vance, a shellfish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that the eastern softshell occupies a unique habitat niche that doesn’t compete with other more popular bay clam species like cockle, steamer or quahog clams.
As a result and put simply, the eastern softshell doesn’t get a lot of pressure.
The lack of popularity may be the reason for a generous 36-clam daily limit.
That – plus the fact that digging the clams takes effort – and – you should be ready to get dirty. You see, the clams live in a soft sandy, gravelly and even muddy substrate and you must dig down a foot and a half to reach them.
My favorite technique is to dig a large hole and then excavate the sides of the hole outward. The technique reveals the clams where they live.
If you follow the technique you can easily pick the clams off the sides of the ever-growing hole.
But be prepared to get dirty in the doing of the deed, but for me, it’s sort of activity that makes you feel like a kid again!
Vance added that eastern softshell clams can be dug up and down the Oregon coast: “Tillamook Bay, Netarts Bay, down to Yaquina and Coos Bays are all really productive for bay clams.”
Remember that all clammers – 14 years and older - must have an ODFW shellfish harvest license. Each clammer must bring a container for the catch too.
“Everyone should dig their own clams,” added Vance. “And keep them in their own containers. That way we avoid one person digging clams for others. Each person should take part in the recreation.”
In addition, if you choose to paddle your own canoe or kayak, remember that you must purchase/carry an Oregon Aquatic Invasives Species Permit.
The permit is required for boats 10' long and longer.
The annual permits are for sale through ODFW License agents or from their website. One and two-year Tyvek tags are available through the Oregon State Marine Board. An on line form is also available.
“The softshell clams reach 4 or 5 inches in length and the digging of the clams is really just the start. For me, the best part of the adventure takes place in the kitchen where I enjoy cooking the catch even more.
A flick of a sharp knife blade opens the clam shell and then the meat is rinsed off. I also cut away and clean off the clam’s stomach and its contents. Most of the meat in an eastern softshell clam is found in the neck. I like to use the knife blade to open up the clam neck, so the entire affair lies flat on a plate.
In my kitchen, the clam meat gets a bath of flour – then an egg wash and then another bath of cracker crumbs before it goes into the hot oiled frying pan – I prefer olive or vegetable oil.
Don’t cook the clam more than a minute per side for there’s nothing worse than an overcooked clam.
The cooking of the catch rounds out the day-long adventure – one that’s waiting for you in an Oregon estuary this spring and summer.
The Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife offers an online shellfish map that locates bay clams beds throughout the state’s coastal estuaries – it’s a valuable resource for novice or experienced clammers alike.
“It’s really fun for families to go clam digging,” said Vance. “It’s easy to do, not a ton of gear required and it’s something kids can do too. Plus, you get to eat what you catch!”
CLAM COOKING RECIPE
Eastern softshell clams
bread crumbs, panko or cracker crumbs
salt & pepper
vegetable or olive oil
After removing the clam necks from the shell, peel off the outer brown skin and cut off the black tip. Then "butterfly" the neck so it lays out flat.
Coat the pieces in flour, egg, then bread crumbs (panko or cracker crumbs work well too) and lightly salt and pepper if desired.
Heat oil in a medium skillet until hot enough to fry. Cook clam until golden brown - just a minute or so or they quickly become chewy.
MAGNESS TREE FARM
As the suburbs grow larger and our pace of life goes faster, it’s good to know that some Oregon places provide an outdoor escape into a bit of the backwoods.
Grant McOmie takes us to one local forestland where you can escape the city’s hustle and bustle and learn more about Oregon’s forests too.
Spring has returned to Oregon’s forests and you can see the splendor in showy ways. Not just the blossoms or the fresh greenery, but brilliant sunshine on a day too nice to stay indoors.
If you follow Bill Wood’s lead, there’s a good chance you’ll learn something new too. Bill Wood is chief guide and the man in charge at the Magness Tree Farm and he will teach you much about life in his forest.
Magness Tree Farm is an 80-acre parcel tucked into the hills just a handful of miles between Wilsonville and Sherwood, Oregon. In 1977, Howard and Pansy Magness donated the land to be used for purposes of environmental education.
The site boasts more than two miles of trail; most of it is a fairly gentle grade and as you hike, you will often have Corral Creek by your side. Down close to ground, you will also enjoy the first signs of spring: white-faced trilliums light up the scene and they are prime right now.
“Most of the spring flowers are beginning to show,” noted Wood. “We’ll have all kinds of color here in the next four or five weeks. But right now is trillium time and we have hundreds.”
Magness is just part of the outdoor education story because it is owned by the nearby World Forestry Center, (located in Portland’s west hills adjacent to the Oregon Zoo.) If you travel to the WFC, step indoors and explore the Discovery Museum for hands on education that compliments the outdoor experience.
The World Forestry Center’s Discovery Museum offers more than 100 exhibits that will open your eyes and perhaps capture your imagination.
You can go aboard a whitewater raft, climb into a tree lift that soars more than 50 high for a bird’s eye view into a tree canopy or you can buckle up in a four wheel drive vehicle to tour an African rain forest.
“We really want the experiences to be enjoyed by the family; not just for kids, not just for adults,” noted spokesperson Mark Reid. “We have things for every member of the family and at every age level.”
Laurie Hale hadn’t been to the World Forestry Center since she was a kid. On this trip, she wanted her three young children to see what the museum experience is all about.
“I was here in 6th grade and it was awesome then,” she said. “Now, it’s even better with a lot of inter-active things for the kids to do. They can pretend they’re at a log mill, ride a parachute like a smokejumper – and the best part is that they’re actually doing those things.”
Back in the forest at the Magness Tree Farm, be sure to check out the three rustic cabins that you can rent for a longer stay. Each cabin sleeps up to 12 people and offers electricity, but no heat – so if you spend the night, you want to prepare for colder nights. Reservations are required.
Bill Wood said that once folks discover the Magness landscape, they seldom want to leave:
“When they first come here, they are awe-inspired by the creek and the serenity of the surroundings. They hear the birds, see the squirrels and relax with their kids. When we see them a second time, they usually bring another family and so our circle expands. It’s really a wonderful place to be and yet you don’t have to travel far to get here.”
HOPWORKS URBAN BREWERY
Most weeks, Grant McOmie travels into the great Oregon outdoors to find unique adventures but not so this week. Instead, he’s found his way into the heart of Portland where the natural world is alive and well.
Grant visits a unique eco-pub where sustainability is king and where reduce, reuse and recycle provide the foundation of a thriving new business called the “HUB - Hopworks Urban Brewery.”It’s called the “HUB” and it’s a neighborhood hit where standing room only is the rule on most nights.
Folks come from all over to SE Portland’s 29th and Powell to sip a brew, dine with friends and relax in the knowledge that things are different in the newest neighborhood eco-pub.
Keri Rose, a neighbor and regular customer, explained: “It’s amazing beer that’s organically brewed, plus really friendly people and I think you get something uniquely Portland. I think the HUB speaks to all of us who are really oriented toward that way of life.”
The HUB is an eco-Pub and it’s a first on the SE Portland brew scene that’s built upon the practices of sustainability, organic ingredients and eco-friendly ideas.
The business is the brainchild of Christian Ettinger, the HUB’s Brewmaster (he has fourteen years experience brewing beer,) and alongside his dad, Roy Ettinger, (a veteran architect of forty years experience) the team co-designed the nearly 17,000 square foot eco-pub.
Both agree, the 1948 building that they selected for the HUB, once a diesel fuel depot and a former Caterpillar Tractor showroom wasn’t always warm or inviting.
“Oh no, not at all,” noted the elder Ettinger. “ It was full of dust, you couldn’t lean on anything because you’d get black soot on you. There were tons of wires strung on the ceiling …just 43 years of decay and dust and it was that greasy, grime.”
Christian quickly added, “We turned what was 60 years of a business into piles of material that were to be either recycled or shredded into fuel or reused.”
The deconstruction took over a year an a half to complete - but they salvaged every bit of material from the old building – the first step in walking the talk of creating a sustainable brewery and restaurant where reduce, reuse and recycle is an everyday business.
Christian noted that the bones of the building, the old growth doug fir posts, beams and planks were solid, substantial and deserved new life. The old wood became the booths, bar and other varied pieces of furnishings in the HUB.
And then there is Christian’s signature statement; scores of bike frames and old wheel rims that were incorporated above the bar and the booths of his pub. “Every one of these frames was recycled and I’m only about 300 bucks into this – and it really sets the bar apart from anyplace around.”
Downstairs, you could say the same thing about the HUB’s brewery where pesticide-free and fertilizer-free ingredients are staples of the 10 crafted organic beers that the HUB produces each week.
In the kitchen, organic ingredients take center stage too – from pizza dough to the sauces to the sandwiches with all the trimmings and more. In fact, even the heat from the pizza oven is recycled and circulated to heat the heat the pub’s water.
“That’s free heat,” said Christian. “Free heat is free energy and lowers our bills but it also lowers our needs to bring in fossil fuels.”
Lionne Decker, the HUB’s General Manager, is quick to point out that the entire HUB team walks the talk of taking care of the environment and making customers smile at the same time.
It starts with a commitment to the environment, a commitment to what you’re putting on the plate, what you’re putting in the pint. Really, it’s a commitment to leaving the world a better place than we found it. It’s amazing! It really is.”
It’s amazing adventure that may keep you coming back for more – built upon a philosophy worth living.
The Hub is one of just three Oregon breweries – out of 80 statewide – that have made the move to produce all organic beer.
The folks who work at the HUB are eager to share and explain all of the different ways that they walk the talk of sustainability. So, stop in and enjoy a beer and strike up a conversation! The folks at HUB will be pleased to tell their story - it's that sort of a friendly, neighborhood place.
Some of the best travel experiences across Oregon happen at places that offer teachable moments through touchable history.
Grant McOmie takes us to an iconic site in southwest Oregon that will put you in touch with geologic history that reaches back 250 million years.
It’s an above and below ground adventures at the Oregon Caves National Monument. When you trek inside “Mt Elijah” at the Oregon Caves National Monument, you must go through a locked gate. It’s just the other side of that gate that you discover it’s a national park land unlike any you’ve visited before.
“Imagine what it may have been like here in the 1870’s,” said NPS Park Ranger Sandy Gladish. “Elijah Davidson went into this cave to rescue his dog named Bruno. He thought the dog was in trouble because it had chased a bear into the darkness. So, Elijah did too and that’s how Oregon Caves was discovered.”
The half-mile long trail thru the Oregon Caves offers shadowy glimpses into a timeless world of mystery and adventure.
Park rangers like Sandy Gladish can teach you much about the place that - despite its century old national designation - remains surprisingly foreign to many visitors.
“It’s called “Oregon Caves” because early explorers thought there were a lot of caves here,” noted Gladish. “The name just stuck even though there’s but one cave.”
“Visitors tend to think the cave is all there is but there’s a lot more – in the monument and the area around us,” added George Herring, the NPS Monument’s Chief Interpreter.
He said that the 480-acre national parkland – established in 1909 - offers miles of trails with stunning scenery of mountains, creeks and waterfalls.
“It really is an opportunity for folks to explore their own Oregon backyard and discover geologic complexity that parallels any other place on the planet. You also learn that a little bit of intellectual curiosity can go a long way toward experiencing a very different world.”
The adjacent “Chateau at the Oregon Caves” provides a base camp to launch your adventures. It is a five story wooden lodge built of locally milled lumber, plus massive hand hewn doug fir posts and beams.
The Chateau at the Oregon Caves opened to the public in 1934 and the lodge’s rustic simplicity (surprisingly, there are only 23 spacious rooms) provides a warm setting supported by down home family comfort that’s based upon a simple idea:
“It is a cool cave with a warm hearth,” chuckled Menno Kraai, the Chateau’s General Manager. “When you walk in the lobby, see a fire in the fireplace and then gaze up to the large fir beams and posts, it all says Oregon!”
There are few distractions at the Chateau – no phones, radios or TV contribute to a sense of isolation, but that’s a good thing. The lack of distractions offers a wonderful chance to reconnect with your family or friends that makes the time here so fulfilling.
The Chateau also offers a super cool Oregon Caves Coffee Shop that will also make you feel right at home.
“Our counter is like a huge S-shaped serving tray,” noted Laura Empems, the Chateau’s Hospitality Manager. “Each person can be served from behind the long counter – plus the knotty pine paneling on the walls adds up to an experience that’s like stepping back in time. People love that – and the milkshakes too.”
Back down in the Oregon Caves, the temperature is a constant 44-degrees, so be sure you are prepared for the 90-minute tour with a jacket, cap and comfortable shoes. Don’t forget a camera to capture stunning stalactites that drop from above and stalagmites that reach to the roof.
“These form drip by drip by drip, noted Gladish. “They can take anywhere from a hundred to a thousand years to grow just an inch.”
“The true adventure is coming up the highway, letting go of the present and spending time in the past,” added Herring. “You will relax here – nature doesn’t give you any choice!”
Grant McOmie is a big believer that back-road adventures are the best when they provide sneak peeks at nature. He says that’s really true when you travel to the east side of the Columbia River Gorge where wildflowers are “bustin’ out all over” as he discovered during a bit of “Mosier Meanderings.”
There are many prized Oregon destinations that provide special scenic wonders as spring mows the winter season away.
The Columbia River Gorge is a place where the views are never twice the same and moments of beauty are easily found along trails that you can hike or bike.
The eastern point of view to the gorge is especially huge, sprawling and hard to miss at places like the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. It’s a timeless place that’s easy on the eyes and provides memories that last a lifetime.
“We are the eastern gateway to people visiting the gorge for the first time,” noted Carolyn Purcell, Director of the Discovery Center. “Many first time visitors to the gorge are actually coming from the east and they stop here for an orientation to the gorge. They soon learn what’s important about it, the cultural and natural history and also new places to see and experience.”
You're apt to find me off the beaten path in this part of Oregon – sometimes where the asphalt turns to gravel or where the dirt takes over and nature’s touch restores the soul.
You may get the bug to explore Columbia River Gorge back roads too and the Columbia River Scenic Highway 30 is a fine place to start. If you chose to travel the byway, head for Mosier (I-84 Exit #69) and try some meandering - (Note: you will slow down because the narrow winding roadway gives you little choice.)
Don’t be surprised if you cross paths with noted landscape photographer, Steve Terrill. His favorite gorge haunts are at their prime at this time of year when spring’s is “bustin’ out all over.” “From the clouds to the lighting to the colorful flowers, it’s all so wonderful in April and May,” said the longtime photographer. “It’s just a gorgeous place to look around for the bright beautiful balsamroot; the crimson red paintbrush and the contrasting purple lupine; it’s just an explosion of color.”
If you go to Mosier, consider two nearby parklands: the first is Memaloose State Park Campground with plenty of elbow room and a campground for an overnight stay and also nearby Mayer State Park where a picnic lunch is a perfect match at a parkland that sprawls riverside under reliably blue skies.
There are acres of wildflowers to be sure, but there are notable waterfalls – some a bit more secretive too - like Mosier Creek Falls that drops more than 100-feet from top to bottom. And all of this – waits for you – anytime!
Directions to Mosier Creek Falls: From Hwy 84, take exit 69 into Mosier and drive east through town on 1st St (hwy 30). Continue through the middle of town past the totem pole and business area. Just east of Idaho Street, you will come to a small bridge with concrete railing that crosses over Mosier Creek. The trail begins just east of the bridge on the south (uphill) side of the road. You will see a park bench inscribed with "Pioneer Cemetery" at the beginning of the trail.
The Columbia River Gorge offers moments of magic through natural beauty and from the memories that we create with our friends or family. One of the best ways to discover the varied gorgeous seasonal hikes is to connect with the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, a non-profit organization that provides experts who lead hikes throughout the year.