Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lean-to on the North Coast

"You got any cheese?"- Ben Gunn (a marooned character) from Treasure Island

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Away from the hustle, noise, concrete, and streets, from the buildings, the just have to go far!
This day, in the old way, I hiked to a secluded cove, 
there on the scenic north coast with no tent and not even a stove.
Driftwood, and my grandfathers old pancho became my lean-to, with warmth of fire, I enjoyed one of the best beaches I've been to.

I speared some black rock fish with my brother the day before; he nailed a nice lingcod. I intentionally speared one in the eye to keep its form pristine as we hope to make a traditional Japanese fish print (gyotaku) soon. The second rockfish was to be my dinner, paired with foraged peach, plum, blackberry, and wild fruit salad.
The hike in was really pretty with vast open views of the northern Pacific Ocean.
 There was no stone-free spot above the high tide mark for my bed, and no conifers to lend me boughs for a padding, so I set to work systematically removing as many stones from a small patch as I could while the sun set. 

 I found ample driftwood for constructing the frame of my lean-to and for fire wood. Paired with my grandpa's old WWII pancho I had a nice bushcraft shelter in no time flat.

 Again, my new Black Pine down sleeping bag kept me toasty warm even in the thick coastal fog.

 I was unable to get a decent shot of my dinner plate...but trust me, this was a great meal...and 100% free!
 I woke up to a very vocal group of baby river otters wrestling and foraging in the surf. In historic times when the Russians first settled the north coast, establishing a major settlement at Fort Ross, they hunted sea otters to the brink of extinction. River otters have now moved into the inner tidal zone enjoying the bountiful fish and shellfish resources that can be found here.

 After washing up in the sea, I got a batch of cowboy coffee going on the coals. I didn't have any bacon (a bushcraft fopaux) but some sauteed salami paired quite well with the left over fruit salad, and potatoes with homemade sea salt and herbs from the garden.
 With an old chair leg I found in the driftwood pile, and a notched stone sinker, I set up a hobo fishing rig. Yet, try as I might, I had no luck. 

 So, as the tide went out, I switched my focus and gathered limpets and tegula. Many people do not know that bivalves such as mussels and clams are toxic in the summer months, yet mollusks and gastropods are edible year round.
 I paired beer battered calamari-style limpets with homemade onion rings as a nice little snack.
 While picking berries the day before, I had also came across some yerba buena...which makes excellent tea!

A week before I had purchased a butter knife from a thrift store for 23 cents. With a little modification I transformed the silverware into a fully functional crooked knife.

 A crooked knife is a wonderful Native American innovation that makes bowl and spoon carving much easier.
I also hollowed some carrizo cane I found in a creek to make a pipe through which I could concentrate my breath to get the coals forge-hot in a blue oak bowl blank. By alternating fire charring and scraping with my dirt-cheap crooked knife, I started making real progress with my new bowl.

 Of course, splitting a willow into tongs for grabbing hot coals is also essential to the process.

 I took a little walk to check out some of the local flora.

And ended up finding some nice Franciscan chert for flintknapping. Of course, this stone requires a special process known as heat treatment to make it workable, but a quick search to the recesses of my brain found a successful procedure. I used the ash that had accumulated from dinner and breakfast to help insulate the chert blanks, and built a new fire over the top which allowed the stone to slowly increase in temperature, hold at a specific threshold for a predetermined period of time, and slowly cool back down.

  The process was totally successful! I will show you the results when I get around to flintknapping again.

A few hours later it was time for a late lunch. I find that bringing a dry salami and dry aged cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan is a good way to go when refrigeration is limited. In fact I got the idea to bring Parmesan from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. In the story, the character Ben Gunn who has been marooned on the island for years keeps asking each new person if they have any cheese...the one item he misses most. Towards the end of the book, one of the men brings him a small block of dry aged Parmesan. 

With the homemade sea salt, herbs, and flour, I made a flat-bread style bannock which I seared on a little wooden grill.

 I then built a sandstone oven and got a piping hot fire going within its walls.
 I placed the bannock in my new oven topped with an olive oil sauce, Asiago, salami, caramelized onions, and the last of the oyster mushrooms from last season (re-hydrated with fresh ocean water).
The resulting pizza was absolutely fantastic!

When I was finished eating I packed up my gear and said farewell to my little cove. Sure to scatter stones back where I had slept so that only a sleuth would know that anyone had been there. Remember, always tread lightly! It is how we preserve the beauty and majesty of our pristine wild places.
Keep the old ways alive!

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