Tasty Bits of Ocean Goodness

ARCATA MAIN STREET'S OYSTER FESTIVAL, June 17, 2017

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said, 
“Is what we chiefly need: pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed-
Now if you're ready, oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”  

And feed we did, at the Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival. Our Walkabout took us back to Arcata where we met over 35 years ago. A lot has changed, but the area still holds plenty of nostalgia for us; abundant clean air, flowing rivers, green pastures, empty beaches, foggy cool mornings, windswept sunny afternoons, and the coast redwoods. 

The Whelan’s on walkabout at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The Whelan’s on walkabout at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The “Redwood Curtain” is real. We started our trip driving up the Redwood Highway US 101 and stopped in Southern Humboldt County along the Avenue of the Giants. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Albee Campground should be declared “the Redwood Experience.” There is a very real curtain of the tallest redwoods including “Tall Tree” and “Big Tree” both registered with the American Forestry Association. A wall of second growth and old growth coast redwoods surrounds the campground and a lovely mat of fallen redwood leaves cover the ground and deadens the sound in the area.

Coast Redwood cone in Albee Creek State Park Campground.

Coast Redwood cone in Albee Creek State Park Campground.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
— The Walrus and the Carpenter BY LEWIS CARROLL

The Arcata Main Street’s Oyster Festival is now the largest one-day event in Humboldt County. Every year, more than 13,000 ecstatic festival goers and community gather on the Arcata Plaza to celebrate and showcase our local aquaculture and savor the delicacies that have earned us the reputation as the Oyster Capital of California.

Arcata Bay’s Oyster Festival is the prized pearl of summer festivals, where food lovers have the opportunity to tantalize their taste buds with fabulous oysters and other local food. Attendees drink our local beer and wine, and dance the day away to local music. Many other activities entertain the festival goers, like the quirky Oyster Calling, and Shuck-n-Swallow contests. Local chefs compete for the best raw and cooked oyster.

The Arcata Plaza was filled with venders; BBQ’s smoking, cooks shucking, music playing, and oysters for the buying. Our friends Tom and Mary joined us. “People just don’t understand how wonderful oysters are when they are properly prepared,” they shared. Represented here were some of the best presentations of local oysters. Pacing ourselves, we feasted: Hog Island Oysters – raw with only fresh squeezed lemon, and sizzling grilled bourbon BBQ was our favorite. Humboldt Bay – served cold and raw with a cucumber chutney, and Arcata's Folie Douce - oysters raw with a lemon sorbet and another chilled with wasabi.

Hog Island Oysters – Sizzling Grilled Bourbon BBQ.

Hog Island Oysters – Sizzling Grilled Bourbon BBQ.

Humboldt Bay – with a cucumber chutney

Humboldt Bay – with a cucumber chutney

 Folie Douce – raw with a lemon sorbet, and another chilled with wasabi.

 Folie Douce – raw with a lemon sorbet, and another chilled with wasabi.

As the day progressed the lines got longer. 

As the day progressed the lines got longer. 

During the oyster calling contest we savored a delightful selection of local beer: Sharkinator from North Coast Brewery, Redwood Curtain IGA, and Mad River Pale Ale. After a few glasses you could almost hear the oysters calling back. 

How do you call an oyster?   

How do you call an oyster?   

The next day, we drove to Trinidad State Beach to look for oyster catchers, the bright red billed sea bird, but we saw none. So, we headed back to Eureka for a final display of oyster artwork at Brick and Fire.

Brick and Fire, Eureka. Local, fresh, Humboldt Bay kumamotos with a roasted onion, lemon and smoked chili beurre blanc.

Brick and Fire, Eureka. Local, fresh, Humboldt Bay kumamotos with a roasted onion, lemon and smoked chili beurre blanc.

I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out 
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

As much as we enjoyed the beer and oysters, life behind the Redwood Curtain is not the Arcata of 35 year ago. The drug culture has become hard to disregard. 

"Oyster Festival Guide INSIDE." Cannabis outside and in color. 

"Oyster Festival Guide INSIDE." Cannabis outside and in color. 

"Come this fall, tourists and curious locals may be able to hop in a van, visit local cannabis farms, purchase primo bud and soak up Humboldt County's multi-generational marijuana culture during day-long tours," reports the Mad River Union.

Is this the future of economic development in Humboldt County? Thirty-five years ago, then and now, I have no interest in touring a cannabis grow site or sampling buds.

We stayed in Mad River Rapids RV park, eating in town and sleeping in Eggburt. Under what circumstances does someone smoke pot at 3:00 AM in a RV Park women’s restroom? On our urban hike through Arcata, the Pacific Union Elementary School gutter was littered with used vials of NO2, nitrous oxide sold for whipped cream dispensers, but used as a cheap high. Grade school recreational whip-it? Not cool. 

We counted four used vials in the Janes Road gutter.

We counted four used vials in the Janes Road gutter.

Departing Humboldt County, Keith and I have revised our life plans to "move up to Northern California".  Now we are on walkabout and there is no telling where we will land.  That's the beauty of being on walkabout!  Our future home is uncertain, but we do know thatwe will return to reminisce about “the good old days” and enjoy the beauty of an empty beach and the lovely little tasty bits of ocean goodness.

Sunset at Mad River Beach. 

Sunset at Mad River Beach. 

"The world is my oyster."  What does that mean? I plan to find out while on walkabout. 

"The world is my oyster."  What does that mean? I plan to find out while on walkabout. 

Tasty Bits of Ocean Goodness - Arcata Main Street's Oyster Festival 2017

#arcata, #oysters, @arcatamainstreetoysterfestival, #oysterfestival, #humboldt, #northcoast, #walkabout

“That’s Not a Knife…” San Francisco Cooking School

“This is a knife”, and I learned how to use it while on walkabout in San Francisco.

This is my new knife with the unsuspecting veggies. Little do they know what lies ahead. 

This is my new knife with the unsuspecting veggies. Little do they know what lies ahead. 

In 1986, America was introduced to the idea of walkabout by the movie Crocodile Dundee. Thirty years ago, all you needed was a hunky man, a beautiful woman, a big city, and a big knife. 

Dundee is threatened by a mugger with a switchblade:
Sue Charlton: Mick, give him your wallet. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: What for? 
Sue Charlton: He's got a knife. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [chuckling] That's not a knife. 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: [Dundee draws a large Bowie knife] 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: *That's* a knife. 
[Dundee slashes the teen mugger's jacket. He and his friends run away] 
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee: Just kids having fun. You alright? 
Sue Charlton: I’m always all right when I'm with you Dundee. "

This is all you needed for walkabout... 30 year ago!

This is all you needed for walkabout... 30 year ago!

The world has changed a lot since then. Can you imagine a foreigner taking that knife anywhere without being hog tied and detained for suspicion of being a terrorist? Ok, I don’t need or even want a knife to scare off the bad guys.  What I need is the skill to chop a veggie without getting hurt. Nice clean cuts of even-sized tasty food pieces.

When we travel, we like to experience the environment, art, and food.  Food is one of the reasons I walkabout, and San Francisco is all about food. San Francisco is a city that LOVES it’s food. Bagdad by the Bay, is the perfect place for an urban hike: walk, eat, drink, walk, eat, walk, drink, walk, sober up on BART, and then head for home.  

Last weekend, I traveled to San Francisco to hike, eat, and take a knife skills class at the San Francisco Cooking School in the heart of the Civic Center. My daughter gave me a gift certificate to the San Francisco Cooking School because she knows that “travel far and wide, cook and eat good food” are on my list of life goals.

The San Francisco Cooking School on Van Ness, downtown and easily accessible. 

The San Francisco Cooking School on Van Ness, downtown and easily accessible. 

We start with a ride on BART and a stroll through the Sunday Farmer’s market at the UN Plaza. Then a hike to Hayes Valley for lunch.

Beautiful Berries at the UN Plaza Farmers Market.

Beautiful Berries at the UN Plaza Farmers Market.

While enjoying my vegetarian Greek salad at Soulva in Hayes Valley, I couldn’t resist peeking into the kitchen. I eagerly anticipated my culinary skills building class as the kitchen staff buzzed around under the words “make it nice & be nice.” Words to live by, “Opa!”

Words to live by. 

Words to live by. 

Part of the adventure of food is also cooking. There is an international challenge in finding recognizable food elements and preparing it in a new location with limited and often unusual utensils in a kitchen that isn’t our own.  In the travel world it is known as self- catering. Learn how to cook with local food while traveling, meet people, eat food, and save money.   “The less we spend the more we travel” is one of our motto’s.

A knife skills class where I can learn proper knife handing and food cleaning processes in THE San Francisco, is a walkabout travel and food experience. Learning cooking skills is preparing for the next big trip where we can cook, eat, and have an amazing food and culinary experience.

The lesson is basic and challenging: learn how to use a chef knife; be safe and efficiently make properly sized pieces of food for a tasty experience.

It was like Food Network live! 

It was like Food Network live! 

Our instructor Dario, and the teaching kitchen were right out of Food Network. I was so excited I washed my hands three times!  We suit up with an apron and hand towel to face a beautiful bunch of onions, celery, carrots, leeks, potatoes and half a cabbage. Innocent veggies, ready for slaughter.

We are taught proper cutting grip and stance. Keep your cutting space clear and organized. We learn the chop cut and the rock n' roll cut to first clean, and stabilize. Next we make planks, batons and the final cubes. Trim goes in the bin. Which knife is for you? Sharpening, mincing, cross-cutting, supreme, chiffonade and roll chop. What is dicing, slicing and julienning any way? Then we take it all out on those poor veggies.

I’m not as fast as Dario, but cooking is a journey, not a destination.

Dario chops, he slices, he dices, and he minces like a pro at the San Francisco Cooking School

In the end, there is just this big bag of smelly goodness ready for the stovetop. I stuff my diced veggies in my bag and I’m afoot again, into the City for more urban hiking. I can’t afford to eat at San Francisco’s 100 Best Eats of 2017, but I can cook a yummy bowl of minestrone soup.

I'm going to need a bigger bag. 

I'm going to need a bigger bag. 

Now I’m ready for walkabout. If a veggie pulls a knife on me… well, it is not going to be pretty. It’s going to be soup! Dinner is served.

All cooked up. Delicious and nutritious.  

All cooked up. Delicious and nutritious.  

www.cynthiawhelan.com Whelan on Walkabout "That's Not a Knife..." 

#sanfrancisco, #sanfranciscocookingschool, #cookingschool, #cooking, #knife, #walkabout

Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones

The last time we wanted to hike the Redwood Mountain Sequoia Grove, the air was so thick and brown that it hurt our eyes and burned our noses. We were smoked out by an administrative burn, as sometimes happens in the land of the Giant Sequoia trees.  This trip was just before Memorial Day weekend and there was a wait in line at the entrance station to Kings Canyon NP.  We were visiting one of our three backyard National Parks (with a capital “N” and a capital “P”), so we could stand to wait a few minutes for the other visitors to enter.

The adventure for the day was going to be the loop trail, less than two hours drive from our house and only two miles off the highway.  The parking lot included license plates from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course, many from California. The weather was seasonably nice and the trail was in beautiful condition: clear, easy to follow and winding through the hundreds of beautiful ancient and second growth giant sequoia trees along the two ridges and the valley. The black char of previous burns intermingled among the huge red bases of the giants. Young sequoia seedlings and historic stumps were side by side. The dogwood trees were still in bloom. Fern fiddlenecks were unfurrling There was water in the streams and the grass was green. We were pleased to have a chance to walk among the giants, and also proud to be in ‘our’ backyard.

The area was with carpeted in cones, as if the ancient giant sequoia trees were concerned about their future. Trees can produce ‘stress cone crops’ whereby they create an unusually high number of cones. These additional seeds can increase the number of possibilities for future scenarios. Did they know something? Giant Sequoia have survived many serious California drought years, but can they continue? Are they prepared for the future? Will others be able to marvel at their size and beauty as we do?

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Giant Sequoia cones, everwhere.

Keith blew out the sole of his boot and we didn’t have any duct tape in our daypack. So, being friendly, I chatted up a couple of young Texans out for an overnight backpack trip. “Excuse me fellow hikers, I’m looking for a fix for a floppy sole.”

“Where are you from?” they asked casually.  With only a moderate level of modesty “We’re local. We live down in the valley and we’re just up for a daytrip. Just having a hike and a picnic today.” Keith and I were on walkabout in the British sense: a public stroll taken by an important person, such as a monarch, among a group of people for greeting and conversation.  We were polite, but I recall thinking “this is our backyard and we are so happy to be able to share it with you, what do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?”

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Keith at the base of a giant sequoia tree.

Yet, despite our pride, we were humbled by our relationship with the giant redwood trees.  How can you be proud standing among lives that dwarf us in time and space? Our backyard neighbor is bigger than us, will outlive us, and may be wiser than us. It was an honor to make the acquaintance of such a grand place.

Our 5.8-mile round-trip fitness/photo/bird hike ended at Heart Redwood; not quite half the loop available on the map. Returning to the parking lot we were glad that we didn’t try the entire loop with Keith’s boot wrapped up in tape from our first aid kit. Next time… we can try the full loop, but we better buy some new boots and start training for our next back yard hike.

Kings Canyon Carpeted in Cones @cynthiaawhelan, http://www.cynthiawhelan.com 

#walkabout, #kingscanyon, #hike, #bigtrees, #giantsequoia, #sequoia, #nationalparks, #cones,

Kernville is Kinda OK.

My first blog about Kernville wasn’t much of a blog, and I am feeling like I could do better. So before this week’s trip, I’ll give it another effort.

When I worked for the Sequoia National Forest I’m sure I said at least once a month I or someone would say “well, at least we aren’t Kernville,” or “it could be worse, we could be in Kernville,” or “dang glad we aren’t on our way to Kernville.” You get the point. We on the other part of the Sequoia and very thankful to not be dealing with “that” place.

But after retirement changes things. A lot of things, like where you want to be and where you don’t want to be.

When Keith said he wanted to go to the Audubon Reserve near Lake Isabella, and camp with Eggburt in Kernville, I did not say: “yuck.” In fact, I was upset at the idea of staying home instead of going along on the trip.

On the drive we saw waves of water in the Lower Kern river, very light traffic, blooming yuccas, and fields of violet wildflowers. We stayed at Rivernook RV Park, right on the Upper Kern River and as we sat below large old cottonwood trees, we watched the roaring river flow past our campsite.  The sound of the river wasn’t quite as tranquilizing as the rumble of ocean waves, but it is a close second. We walked to the brew pub for dinner and a pint of local beer, and later sat in the campground enjoying the evening air, the sound of the river, the trees, the breeze, and just being outdoors again. 

Thankfully we were there off season and had most of the place to ourselves. While Keith was out looking for the elusive blue headed grosbeak, I walked the campground taking photographs of cones and seeds and little stuff on the ground. It’s a thing I like to do these days, take photos of stuff on the ground.)

The Audubon reserve was flooded, but we took a sport drive from Kernville, on the Jawbone valley road to Butterbredt Audubon Preserve. It is a cottonwood tree equivalent of a palm oasis. Huge, beautiful, old cottonwoods surrounded by Joshua tree desert. The sandy wash was swimming with birds and life. Owls hooted, humming birds buzzed us, and willow flycatchers bobbed in an out of patches of willows. Walking out from under the cottonwoods was like walking from early dawn into high noon.  

The road in and out of Butterbredt isn’t for your Honda Civic, and reinforces the value of having a high clearance, all wheel drive sport vehicle. Jawbone Valley road was just enough of a challenge to feel like you are exploring someplace unusual. A short drive from southern California sprawl, and we had the trail and the preserve all to ourselves.

Having time to slow down changes things, like yucky places are no longer yucky.

 

#kernville, #lakeisabella, #audubon, #birding, #cottonwood, #trees, #lake, #travels, 

Camping in Kernville

If you had asked me before I retired, about camping in Kernville, near Lake Isabella, I would have definitely said "no thank you." But now the world is open and it all looks different. 

So, I'm going to give blogging another try. I have my Instagram and my Facebook, now, maybe, I can start writing about my travels.

I know I'm no "Julie - Julia" kinda blogger, but I'm jumping in for myself. I do like taking photos, and it is a shame to have them just sit on my computer. 

Up close and personal with a ladybug.