THE SALMON AND THE GRANDKIDS
Have you ever considered the influences that helped you discover the great outdoors? Maybe it was a singular event like a memorable family camping trip or an exciting backpacking adventure with good friends.
Perhaps there was a significant mentor who influenced and introduced you to the wonders of fishing --- a friend, a parent or maybe a grand-parent who showed you the way and which end of a fishing rod catches the big ones.
Wise fishermen like Bob Toman and Bill Monroe know the value of introducing youngsters to the pleasures of the outdoors. They also know that the hour before daylight is precious and not to be wasted.
“We’ll be trollin’ in the shallow water of the upper bay at first light,” noted Toman as he and Monroe prepped the tackle and gear in pre-dawn shadows on Tillamook Bay. ”So, we want to be ready because many of these areas hold salmon that are eager to bite right out of the chute.”
Toman, a legendary Oregon fishing guide and Monroe, a respected outdoor writer, recently invited me to join a salmon fishing trip on Tillamook Bay – but not with clients or cronies.
Instead, our lucky crew consisted of their teenaged grandkids: Toman’s 14 year old grandson, Cobey Pentecost and Monroe’s 15-year old granddaughter, Kayla Grant, filled out the seating chart for a full day of fishing aboard Toman’s boat.
Bob sported a broad grin and said, “Nothing better than playin’ a little hooky from school when it’s okay and approved by mom and dad!”
“Alrighty, we’re ready to go,” noted an eager Toman, as brilliant daylight squeezed from the top of the Coast Range Mountains.
“Now, be ready!” coached Toman. “We are only a couple feet deep and it’s amazing how aggressive the salmon will hit these spinners.”
Toman’s enthusiasm for catching husky fall Chinook has not flagged one bit – even after sixty-plus years of fishing across the Tillamook estuary.
Cobey and Kayla smiled too! They clearly relished the idea of a fishing trip with their Granddads. In fact, each of the elders has long been a lead guide for each of their respective youngsters during the critical “growing up years.”
“Older guys like Bill and I get to train a younger generation,” said Toman. “It’s a hoot for us because it’s so obvious that they have the same passion we had when we were young. We nudge it along a bit whenever we can.”
In fact, Monroe and Toman made certain that their grandkids started out on the right foot when they were small fry: the two kids caught little fish and then bigger fish and then bigger stringers of fish.
The two teens can boast more fishing and hunting adventures with their Granddads than many adults could dream about.
“I started them out at a half hour and then 45 minutes or until they got bored and then it was back to the ramp,” noted Toman. “The next time it would be a little longer and now we’re to the point that they know what to expect. They can handle a rod and fight a fish. Really, it’s no longer entirely new to them.”
As the morning’s tide slowed to full ebb, Toman’s forecast of eager biters was spot-on too. Within 30 minutes, Kayla had her hands full with a 18-pound salmon.
“Kayla, come back here by me and hold that rod just a little higher,” coached Toman. “That’s cool – you’re doing great!”
The strong salmon made several hard charging runs away from the boat, but Kayla stood her spot and confidently handled the rod, reel and fish. Soon, the gleaming salmon was ready to net.
Toman did the honors – smoothly sliding the large mesh bag under the fish, pulling the handle back and lifting the fish into the boat - all in one effortless motion.
“She was right on it, never gave it any slack and it was perfect,” said Toman.
Her admiring grandfather watched the entire scene and offered: “Women (who fish) are every bit and maybe more important to the outdoor sports these days…because they’re the mothers of tomorrow. We need to teach more girls that this is fun and valuable, so they remember it for their own children someday.”
“When you teach a kid to fish,” added Toman, “they are gaining confidence because they’re doing it properly and can be rewarded for the effort. So, their enthusiasm goes way up too.”
Cobey Pentecost’s enthusiasm was impossible to mistake – he sported a mile-wide grin as he held tightly to his bouncing fishing rod that held a gleaming and powerful 20-pound salmon on the end of the line.
“Oh, grandpa – he’s way, way out there – look – his tail fin is on the surface. He looks like a shark swimming around out there.”
Bob reached for the net – and then paused: ”Kayla, do you want to net it,” he asked.
Bob showed her just how to guide the large net under the fish and close it up just right. She watched his demonstration carefully and then smiled confidently as she took hold of the long handled net.
“Parents who don’t do this sort of thing regularly but would like to actually have lots of options,” said Monroe. “For example, the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife offers classes for all sort of outdoor recreation activities – including fishing and crabbing and clamming. There are clubs and organizations like the NW Steelheaders and the Oregon Bass and Panfish club that offer field trips for beginners – both adults and their children. There are many ways that parents can get their children involved in the outdoors.”
After half a dozen straight away runs, Cobey’s salmon tired and came toward the boat.
“There you go Kayla,” said Monroe. “Underneath the fish – just like that. Now, lift and pull back. Good job!”
It was a great job! Not just the netting of the fish, but two Grandfathers who showed a commitment to share their love of the Oregon outdoors with the next generation.
Kayla was quick to appreciate her Grandfather’s guidance: “He’s made me the person that I am. I mean, if he wasn’t in my life I wouldn’t be an outdoorsy girl. Every time I go with him, he teaches me and you just have to cherish it because he’s not going to be here forever.”
But the lessons weren’t complete yet! We dropped anchor and Bob moved his “class” to the bow area of his boat where he prepared a batch of his favorite recipe called “Salmon Cakes.”
“I don’t like wasting things. It’s that simple. I grew up in a world where we used what we harvested,” noted the longtime fisherman as he reached into a cooler and pulled out a salmon carcass that had already been filleted.
Toman smoothly pulled an ordinary teaspoon the length of the salmon carcass and scraped the salmon meat off the entire frame. It was amazing how much salmon he was able to collect.
“There’s a lot of meat here that the filet knife misses and this provides a tremendous amount of protein. I don’t think most fishermen even think about it, but I sure do.”
In a large bowl, Toman cracked four eggs and mixed in all-purpose batter mix and a half cup of diced onion. He added approximately 6 cups of salmon and then spooned the mixture (approx. two inches in diameter) into a hot oiled fry pan. He cooked the cakes for approximately 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.
As he served each of us a delicious “breakfast on the bay,” his admiring grandson offered: “My grandfather has spent his whole life out here doing this kind of stuff and I always learn something new. He teaches me every time we go outdoors and I consider myself pretty lucky to have this time with him – to have a Grandpa who likes to share time with me is pretty special.”
Bob Toman’s Salmon Cakes Recipe
Scrape the remaining meat from a salmon/steelhead carcass for approximately 4-6 cups of salmon.
Pride of the West Batter Mix
4 eggs, one half cup diced sweet onion and ½ cup diced jalapeno pepper (optional)
In a large mixing bowl crack the 4 eggs, then stir in enough batter mix for the consistency of thick pancake batter.
Add the salmon and stir thoroughly.
Spoon the mixture in a hot oiled frying pan (about two inches in diameter) and fry until golden brown.
Optional Fish Dipping Sauce
In a bowl mix one cup of mayonnaise, enough ketchup to make the mixture the color of Thousand Island dressing and then add one teaspoon of mustard. Mix thoroughly and serve with salmon cakes.
Taking Aim at Archery
John Strunk dreams of carving the perfect bow from the perfect piece of wood.
He gently draws a knife blade across the bark of a vine maple stick. The paper thin curly-q strips of shaved maple rise, fall and float to the floor.
As Strunk carefully crafts his next “tool” from the 6-foot long, lanky stick of wood, it’s clear that the Tillamook County resident has a master bow maker’s touch.
“When I start cutting out a bow, my hunt, my thoughts, my dreams are all generating at the same time,’ said Strunk. He added: “If you really try you can build a bow just like the Native Americans.”
For nearly forty years, Strunk has tried and succeeded in creating everything he needs just like native people might have: the bows, the arrows, quivers and broad heads.
The natural materials he prefers for bow making include: bamboo, maple, osage and the long popular and gorgeous yew-wood:
“Yew is probably one of the most used woods in archery in the northern hemisphere,” he said with a smile.
The native Oregonian said his passion for the bow was born as a kid – watching movies like “Robin Hood” that starred the then popular Hollywood actor Errol Flynn.
“I love to shoot a bow just to see an arrow fly and it gives me more pleasure to do it with a bow that I have made,” declared Strunk.
He’s a longtime hunter who is among the best in the country at building bows in a form called “Traditional” or “Primitive Archery.”
The retired Tillamook school teacher not only excels at building the bows and arrows, but at shooting with them too.
He admitted that an evening doesn’t go by when he leaves the shop behind and steps into the backyard to shoot arrows.
“You need to train the muscles that are needed for shooting and that is done only by shooting lots of arrows. To me, that’s the essential love affair that I have with this sport. If I’m not using what I create then I lose interest in it.”
By all accounts, thousands of folks have renewed interest in this ancient sport that puts each individual in control of their actions.
At Tigard’s Archers Afield – one of Oregon’s largest indoor shooting ranges - 28 lanes are jammed with youngsters learning how it’s done.
Manager Kris Demeter said that young imaginations are fueled by new movies like “Brave” and “Hunger Games” whose main characters discover independence and self-reliance with a bow and arrows.
“We have many teenage girls coming in that want to resemble or be like the main characters they see in those two movies. They want to wear the back quivers or shoot the longbows – it’s remarkable,” noted the longtime manager.
Demeter is an accomplished archer and she has been the archery instructor at Archers Afield for the past 27 years.
Newcomer Gabe Bolden said that he learned something new his first visit: “I learned that instead of standing flat square facing the target, it’s best to turn for a better aim – it’s true.”
Back at John Strunk’s Tillamook workshop, he agreed that the learning never stops, and that’s a good thing. It keeps the sport fresh, engaging and exciting. He remains motivated to build more bows and shoot more arrows.
“It becomes a passion and that’s what it’s all about for it helps to build lifelong friendships too – I’ve many brothers in archery. Who couldn’t have fun doing this?”
You can reach out to John Strunk’s “Spirit Longbows” to learn more about building bows and arrows. He teaches classes in the craft throughout the year.
Traditional Archery is more popular than ever and you can find clubs and shooting ranges across Oregon to give it a try. If you are interested in learning how to shoot modern bows, try the Oregon Bowhunters Assocation.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park
When you explore Oregon be prepared to enjoy new adventures at each turn of the trail and be ready to discover unique treasure in the history or the state’s varied regions.
You’ll really strike it rich when you travel to Oregon’s newest state park in Eastern Oregon at Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the John Day River.
With a little imagination, the new parkland is a fine place to connect with a unique chapter of Oregon’s past in an area guaranteed to take your breath away for its spacious, big sky country feel.
Even though many decades have passed across Oregon’s big sky country since the early settlements of the 19th century, the memories of those times are worth holding on to and they are worth a pause to consider.
Eastern Oregon’s gigantic landscape holds on to memories of the countless families who carved out farming and ranching lifestyles amid a rugged and remote country.
“When you come into this park and you see the old windmill and the original Murtha family barn, it really gives you that 1940’s ranch feel,” said Tom Peterson, Park Manager and longtime staff member with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. “We wanted to preserve a sense of time and place that exists here to give visitors a break from daily life and let them get away from it all.”
The new Cottonwood Canyon State Park is set in a landscape of enormous vistas marked by towering buttes and cliffs – plus, 16 miles of free flowing John Day River that winds through the 8,000 acres parkland. Peterson said it is a place where nature's drama takes your breath away.
Near the park’s entrance, the original barn and interpretive fence line offer you a chance to see and learn more. There are engraved messages that are pulled from journals and diaries, plus photos that help you discover a context for the ranching and farming life of the last century.
Inside the working barn, discover a unique “leftover” from the ranching days when the Murtha family worked the land – first as a sheep and then as a cattle ranch.
A 90-pound wooden wagon wheel, wrapped in a steel rim is a fascinating artifact that rolled into the park by chance, according to Peterson. It seems a passing rafter saw the wheel submerged in the river, dove into the water and recovered the huge wheel and then donated it to the park.
The wheel dates to the turn of the 20th century, according to Peterson. In fact, it was so intriguing that Peterson and archeologist, Nancy Nelson, went looking for more last August.
“We were able to dive down about 12 feet in the water,” said Peterson. “We actually found the old axle that had another wheel attached and it was all lying on its side – it was hard to see if there’s more of the wagon connected but it was amazing to see something so huge under the water. It’s still there too.”
The two found Oregon history for sure and Peterson added, “Someday, we’re going to retrieve it all. It’s all quite exciting!”
That much is certain, just like the prospect of exploring the new park on one of the many hiking trails.
The scenery at Cottonwood Canyon is absolutely breath-taking and simply makes you feel small as you stroll past towering cliffs that rise above the John Day River. There are miles of trails on both sides of the river that are easy and perfectly suited to the entire family.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park Campground offers primitive campsites for tent or trailer and while there is water available, there is no sewer service or electricity at this time. (There is no cell service in the park.)
Peterson advised that visitors should come prepared for a “wilderness like experience” – but one that has distinct advantages as you escape the daily grind of traffic, city hub-bub and noise. In fact, time at Cottonwood Canyon seems to go “on hold” for a while and that gives you a chance to escape the rush of daily life.
“The abundance of land and the exploration that you can enjoy in the John Day River Canyon is unmatched. At each and every bend of the river you’re going to discover something new and enjoy quiet solitude.”
Wildwood Recreation Area
You’ll want to bring your camera to capture the steady stream of color along the Salmon River that flows through the Wildwood Recreation Area near Welches, Oregon.
Many parts of the Cascade Mountains demand a slower pace. You simply see more when you leave busy campgrounds behind and let quieter, wilder moments surround you.
Those moments are easy to come by down the many trails inside the Wildwood Recreation Site near Welches, Oregon.
A site that may have you wondering, “How is it I’ve never heard of this place or visited it before?”
After all, the Salmon River is born from glaciers atop Mt Hood and it is Oregon’s last undimmed river that flows unhindered from the mountains to the sea.
It cuts a beeline through more than five hundred acres of designated public recreation land at Wildwood.
Adam Milnor, a BLM Recreation Specialist, said that most people who are in a big hurry to reach Mt Hood or Central Oregon and overlook Wildwood.
“Mt Hood beckons to everyone who lives in the Portland area and that’s understandable; it’s a hugely popular draw. But – it’s also a mistake not to pull in and see what this site has to offer. We have such a great place for families to introduce their children to the outdoors with a rushing river, salmon and fantastic trees in a beautiful forest.”
The trails that wind through Wildwood are marvelous opportunities to explore the parkland.
The Wildwood Wetlands Trail is a one-mile loop of gravel and paved foot- paths plus more than a thousand feet of elevated boardwalk that gives you access to the heart of a vast wetland area where many different wildlife species live.
Observation decks extend into the wetland at a number of locations and allow closer inspection.
Don’t be surprised while hiking the boardwalk to see blue herons, mallards, teals, turtles, or any number of small songbirds.
Pay special attention to the many interpretive signs that describe the wetland habitat and the critters that live there.
“A wetland eco-system is something you have to really see up close to get really fascinated with it,” noted Milnor. “Building this structure really allows you to get up close and personal to it in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.”
There are more than 1,000 feet to the boardwalk on the Wildwood Wetlands Trail that was built four feet off the ground to keep hiker’s feet dry and limit access onto the sensitive wetlands.
Beginning in mid-October, the boardwalk area explodes to life with a colorful show of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows from vine maple, big leaf maple trees and alder trees.
The Cascade Streamwatch Trail is a barrier-free and paved, three-quarter-mile trail adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. Interpretive displays describe points of interest.
The most remarkable highlight of this trail is a stream-profile viewing chamber where you gain an underwater “fish-eye” view of a small stream and salmon habitat.
The chamber--ten years in the making--drops twelve feet below the water surface and allows you to see through two large windows more than twelve feet across and seven feet high where ‘baby’ salmon live.
I enjoy just watching the behavior of the three- to four-inch salmon fry and how they use logs, branches, and even rocks to hide. As a bug floats on the current, a fish jets out and picks it off, then retreats back to its shelter.
“We love the fish and we want to protect the fish,” noted Donna Hansen, Wildwood Park Ranger. “If visitors go to the river and they come at the right time of year, they actually get to see fish too. The salmon spawn throughout the Salmon River from October through November. People like to see that.”
The park is open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset from mid-May to early November. However, during the off-season, you may park at the gate and access Wildwood and Cascade Streamwatch by foot, walking the entrance road to the trailhead or other facilities.