Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mussel Breakfast

On a whim we decided to head out to the coast after work. By the time we arrived it was 10pm and we could see by the light of the crescent moon that the tide was way out. Since it was winter, the safest time for shellfish harvesting, and since both Alex and I keep our fishing licenses in our wallets, we decided to do some foraging. With little more than a small crank operated LED flashlight (that retained light for 30 seconds between cranks) and a bucket, we slowly descended a trail down the cliff to our favorite mussel spot. Tide pooling is a slippery and wet endeavor even in the daytime, and we learned quickly that if we were to attempt it again at night, it would be far better to have a pair of headlamps then sharing a single crank operated pocket flashlight. In 15 minutes we had fucus sp. kelp, kombu kelp, and as many mussels as we could want. We also had both slipped into tide pools, thoroughly swamping our shoes in the cold Pacific waters.
 We were laughing pretty hard as we slowly scrambled across the slick barnacle-encrusted boulders back to the sand, but on the way, the crank on the light broke! We had planned to grill there, but in light of this new predicament we made the decision to ascend the cliff using the last bit of light in the crankless torch. It was slow going, but we made it up the sandstone cliff with ease almost entirely by feel. Traveling up an old country road to a spot we refer to as Coyote Ridge, we found a dead and well seasoned pine tree that we swiftly broke up and threw in the trunk for fire wood. Once arriving at the spot, we tried to pull off on a dirt road straddling two deep ruts…the dirt, turned out to be wet clay, and worked like liquid ball bearings. In a matter of one second, the car slipped into the ruts and was hicentered… we were stuck!
Working for an hour digging and piling rocks for traction, we finally had to face the facts; we were not getting the civic out. Right about that time, the only car we saw all night (besides the tow truck) rolled up. Two nice girls on a drive to the beach offered to take Alex down the hill to get cell phone reception. I stayed, determined to dig. After another half hour though, I accepted that the car was truly stuck; we were not just hi-centered at one point, the whole frame was resting on the mud, and my sea water and mud soaked feet were starting to get really cold in the below 30 degree winter weather.
Not knowing when Alex would be back, I made the decision to get a fire going. The flame took a while to catch in the breeze and mist, but finally the moss on the pine lit up and I added as much dry coyote brush as I could find to get a good bed of coals. My feet were finally warming up when Alex arrived. The girls wished us luck and left us with an hour wait for the tow truck... it was 1 am.
I piped up, “well, we got time, wanna grill some mussels?” Alex, as always, was down. We cooked them up and enjoyed our wood smoke and sea salt infused mussels and the warmth of the fire under the stars, laughing about the stuck car and the kindness of our new friends until the tow truck showed. He had the car out in no time flat and as the coals died we began making our way home.
Foraging is always an adventure, and that is just a part of why it is so much fun! When there is a rut in the road, don't try to drive up it...but if you get stuck, enjoy your surroundings, and always strive to keep the old ways alive! - By Kevin Smith

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