With @mini.turbodb getting bigger, only two viable seats in the Tacoma, and having sold the family 4Runner, it's a lot harder to get the whole family out to our favorite camp site on a regular basis. Of course, with @mini.turbodb getting older, the thought of spending time in the woods - away from showers, mirrors, and technology - and having to put up with parents - peskier creatures than mosquitoes - isn't all that appealing anyway.
And yet, several times over the last six months, she has mentioned the desire to try fishing for the first time.
So, when @mrs.turbodb got called out of town, and we had a couple mid-week summer days with no camps or practices, it seemed like as good a time as any to introduce the kiddo to the joy of reeling in dinner. And then killing it. And gutting it. And then savoring the sweetness!
Or at least, trying!
When I was her age, I could spend 12-hours on my favorite creek, always hoping I could throw every fish back so that I never reached my limit.
Unlike other trips - where we pack the night before and are underway before there's even a hint of the sun on the horizon - this one started bright and early at 11:30am, with a visit to the sporting goods store for supplies. Fishing has clearly become a bigger business than it was when I was a kid, but we were able to escape with only the essentials for a first-timer: a simple rod, some #12 hooks, a pack of sinkers and bobbers, some swivels, and of course, salmon eggs.
And then, we were off! Never mind that it was even hotter on the other side of the Cascades than it had been at home, we pumped up the air conditioning and set our sights on the cool breeze that's always blowing along a creek named for icicles.
After stopping for a quick lunch, we sat in traffic for more than 90 minutes before making a u-turn and looking for another route!
With traffic finally behind us, it was a little after 4:00pm when we pulled into off of the main drag and along the spur to the camp site that has become @mini.turbodb's favorite over the years. She'd piped up as we'd turned onto dirt, to make sure that I knew that she didn't want the "dark, buggy campsite along the creek," but instead wanted "the secret one up on the hill."
Winding our way along a road that's nearly invisible until you know it's there!
With fire danger in the "extreme" range and Stage 1 restrictions in effect, we'd need to figure out something when it came time for marshmallows...
Usually, arrival in camp is followed by a flurry of activity as I set up the tent and @mrs.turbodb preps for dinner. But when you're a newly minted teenager, there's nothing more important (except for your cell phone) than checking out all the places you remember to see if - or how - they've changed. Luckily our cell phones were service-less hunks of junk way out here, so I set off behind her as we headed down to the creek.
A familiar tree is the easiest path through the low brush.
As usual, once we reached the little beach where we generally hang out, several rocks were liberated from their dry homes, destined once again for the bottom of the creek until the following winter, when high water would redeposit them on the beach, ready to be skipped again.
Satisfied that things were as they should be, we headed back to camp.
At this point I wasn't exactly sure how much help would be needed as tents were deployed - we had two, since @mini.turbodb was way too cool to sleep in the same tent as someone as uncool as myself - and I was pleasantly surprised when she was able to do 95% of the set up herself. Maybe this uncool dude has taught her a thing or two over the years. Or not, I mean, she is cool enough to have been born with the knowledge, I suppose.
This spot looks flat enough. I do have a 3/4" Thermarest, after all...
Last pole going in.
Our chores complete and 90 minutes to kill until dinner, there was only one thing left to do - go play in the water! Or, if you're of the age where a tan matters, try to find any bit of sun on a now-shady beach in order to score the perfect skin tone.
Funny how - after I created a small pool for my feet - someone else ended up in my chair.
The, "I see what you did there when I got up to grab some more skippers," look.
Off doing a bit more exploring across the creek.
I have to say, sitting there amongst the rocks, building a little pool and helping the kiddo with a crossword - something we are both admittedly terrible at - was perhaps the most pleasant way to spend an evening. @mini.turbodb seemed to enjoy it as well, though I can only assume that she might have described it as torture to her friends.
Eventually, as the sun raced up the valley, we knew it was time to head back to camp.
Dinner was an interesting affair. We'd planned to have fried chicken wraps - essentially, chicken fingers with condiments, lettuce, and avocado inside a tortilla - but I'd forgotten a key ingredient: tortillas. Luckily, we'd planned for hot dogs the following evening, and with an entire pack of buns, dinner was officially fried chicken sandwiches as we continued to work on the same "easy" crossword that we'd started down on the beach.
I don't know who classified it as "easy," but our struggle was real.
I think terrible would be a nice way to describe our crossword talents, and as bed time approached, we decided to give it a rest and drown our failure in marshmallows. This couldn't be done over a camp fire - a fact that I'd been reminded of several times by my little rule follower - but I had other plans.
At least we still used some vine maple skewers.
And then, after a bit of teeth brushing and a "I'm looking forward to fishing tomorrow," it was off to bed. For one of us; the other still had to clean up after dinner.
The following morning...
As anyone who's done any amount of stream fishing knows, the best time to be out there is right around sunrise.
As anyone who has teenagers knows, sunrise is not a time that a teenager considers to be worth waking up for.
It was a just before 9:00am when @mini.turbodb unzipped her tent and headed into the woods to go to the bathroom. She'd slept well - better than the previous week at home, apparently - and was ready to go fishing. After breakfast, of course.
Now, we still had to do a bit of setting up of the pole, but luckily the Eagle Claw swivels had a handy diagram of the knots we were to tie as we got everything assembled, and in no time a "disgusting" salmon egg was hiding the hook and I was demonstrating how to lob the bait into the current so it'd be carried into the hole - and hopefully the mouth of a hungry rainbow!
She caught on quick.
Maybe this is the spot.
Soon, she was out in the middle of the creek.
I was pretty impressed at how long she stuck with it, unphased by the lack of fish for dinner or even nibbles on her line. For a good couple of hours, she tried one hole after the other. Slowly improving her underhand casting technique, until she realized that an overhand approach would get the bait much farther from shore.
Distance - it turned out - was the name of the game for her, though the increased acceleration of the line as she cast it towards the opposite bank also increased the frequency of "so disgusting" rebaiting. No matter, she kept at it, working her way downstream and then back towards camp.
There was a nice little eddy here that surely had fish in it.
Eventually we ended up back at our little beach, where I tried to read my Kindle, but really just watched her have a good time.
All that casting has worked up an appetite, back to camp for lunch!
Luckily, I hadn't forgot any of the ingredients for lunch and as I prepped the pepper turkey sandwiches, the kiddo pulled up a chair and opened up her "Favorite Easy Crosswords" book so we could struggle again at the simplest of clues.
Actually, I think they just put the wrong cover on the book - surely what we had was the "Impossible Crosswords" edition. At any rate, we still hadn't finished a single puzzle when we decided that it was starting to get warm up in camp, so perhaps we ought to head back down to the creek for a bit more fishing.
Convinced that there weren't any fish in the creek near camp - obviously we'd have caught them if there were - we grabbed the pole and headed to a bridge about a mile downstream. There, several large pools looked promising and soon @mini.turbodb was unscrewing the cap on the salmon eggs to give them a go.
Lots of places for the fishies to hide.
We stayed at these holes for nearly two hours, cast after cast plopping into the water. The patience was initially helped by the visual confirmation of several fish swimming about, and we tacked on an additional hour after getting two nibbles from a pair of what looked to be 7-inch rainbows.
Repositioning to get the salmon egg into just the right spot.
Alas, after watching several eggs get gobbled up and not getting the hooks set when those eggs were still attached to our line, we called it an afternoon. @mini had done better than I'd ever imagined, and though she hadn't reeled in dinner, she'd still had a great time. Perhaps good enough to give it a go again, in the future!
Now just after 4:00pm, we headed back to camp to repeat our actions of the previous day - sitting out on our shady little beach working on crosswords and building rock pools. Oh, and this time - after a hot, dusty day - we actually went swimming.
It was freezing. But so great.
Made it across!
After playing around in the water for a bit - bringing our body temps down and finding a few spots that were deep enough that we couldn't touch the bottom - it was back into our chairs for a final push on the world's hardest crossword.
OMG, we got it!
High on our success, the last thing I wanted to do was start another one of those damned things, so we skipped rocks and splashed each other until it was time to head back to camp for dinner.
Just before we headed back, a familiar chopper raced by overhead. Hope everyone is OK!
With temps still in the mid-80s °F, these will dry in no time.
Unfortunately, my terrible joke of, "I brought hot dogs for me, but I thought you were going to eat fish," landed as parental jokes do on teenagers, and all I got was an eye roll in my general direction as I plopped nearly the entire package of meat fingers and buns onto the grill. Fishing - even when you're not catching - apparently makes one hungry!
Dinner - and a few marshmallows - was a quick affair, leaving us with a couple hours to kill before bedtime. Having learned my lesson the previous evening - about cleaning up while there was still daylight - I set about breaking down the kitchen while @mini busied herself making a deck of cards so that we wouldn't have to break out those #$@&#! crosswords again.
A paper bag or a deck of cards? Why not both?
The cards turned out to be fantastic, if a little difficult to shuffle, and as we sat on our knoll overlooking the creek, we played gin as the sun set and the sky turned pink.
Not my photo.
Someone else had my camera.
Eventually - after several rounds of gin and a couple decks of blackjack - it was too dark for those of us with decades-old-eyes to see, and despite the fact that I was assured that there was "plenty of light," we packed up the cards and headed for bed.
The following morning...
Sun's up, kiddo's not.
With our plan to have breakfast and then pack up to head home, I let the big little one catch a few more Z's while I poked around some of the spots that we tend to visit on each of our forays into this little neck of the woods. It's fun to see how they change over the years, water working its magic to move not only the small stuff, but even large trees, and boulders into new positions between each visit.
Eventually I headed back along the creek to camp where @mini.turbodb waved to me from inside her tent. She was already gathering up her things, ready to get back to civilization and the luxury of her LTE.
As with setup, she nearly single-handedly tore down her tent, getting it done in about the same time it took me to wash dishes from breakfast and get the kitchen and roof top tent stowed on the Tacoma.
A final look upstream.
After making sure we hadn't forgotten anything, and picking up a bit of trash others had left behind, we climbed into the Tacoma and pointed ourselves home. We'd get there before lunch, another successful trip to our secret camp site in the books!
More Trips to Icicle Creek