Sunday, February 24, 2013


Known as the fish of "1000 casts", the elusive steelhead is one of the most sought after sport fish in the northwest.  A fish that begins its incredible journey, is born in freshwater, spends its adult life in saltwater, then returns to freshwater to spawn. 

This month I met a very good friend of mine for a long overdue girls fishing trip.  With her in California and myself in Oregon, we opted to meet on the beautiful Rogue River in southern Oregon and try our best to find one of these elusive creatures.

After making my way over the mountain pass, I made a stop at the Cole M. River Hatchery near Shady Cove at the base of Lost Creek Dam.

Constructed in 1973 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Cole Rivers Hatchery is used for adult collection, spawning, egg incubation and rearing of spring and fall chinook salmon, coho salmon, summer stealhead and winter stealhead, and rainbow trout.

To the right of the spillway is the fish ladder. 
It is one of the last obstacles of the long journey where the fish make their way back to their native waters to spawn. 
The Rogue River has two steelhead runs, winter and summer.

Arrival at Valley of the Rogue State Park in Gold Hill.

The very popular 'yurt'. 
Yurts have been a distinctive feature of life in central Asia for at least 3000 years.  In the early 1990's, Oregon became the first state in the nation to start using yurts in their state parks.  Made of a rubber-like material wrapped around a wood frame, not only are they portable, but they come furnished, are a reasonable price to rent, and are used as year round camping facilities.  Oregon is very fortunate to have many of these unique camping structures, most of which are located in a majority of its state parks.

One of my most favorite rivers...the beautiful Rogue River.
Located in southwestern Oregon, the Rogue River begins at Crater Lake and makes its 215 mile long journey where it dumps into the Pacific Ocean 11 miles east of Gold Beach on the majestic Oregon coast.

Ahhhh...the 'Silverbox'.

Great view from the campsite.
Valley of the Rogue Park is nestled along three miles of the Rogue River. 

A relaxing environment while waiting for my fishing partner to complete her trek from California.

After six hours of travel, she made it!

The next morning, the new crew arrived to join us.

Deb's parents rented one of the yurts in the park for a comfortable two nights of camping.

Believe it or not, this is considered traveling light for Debbie's folks for two days of camping. 
If it wasn't for the yurt, their normal logistic arrangement is in two vehicles.  One for the food and one for the sleeping arrangements and the other camping comforts!

Gear...oh how I love thee. 
Morning gear check before the first fishing outing.

I would be hard pressed to find something better than the smell of a river.
This is the site where the Gold Rey dam was recently removed. 
At river mile 125, was the site of a defunct hydroelectric dam facility, standing 38' high and 360' long.  Constructed in 1904, the power house was permanently closed in 1972.  After years of burdening the taxpayers of Jackson County, and years of hardship for the passage of the salmon and steelhead, the dam was finally approved for removal in 2010. 
Today, the salmon and steelhead are already seeing better return numbers due to the easier access upon reaching their final destination. 

Scouting the water.



Our onsite camera crew and moral support.

Finally!  A girls fishing trip!

After some fishing, we took in some local sites and some history lessons. 
This is where I attended the first half of my first grade year in elementary school. 
Due to the age and dilapidation of the building, it was ruled unfit and we were transferred to the newer grade school a few miles away.
Today, after a huge remodeling project, this is a privately owned home.

Built in the late 1800's/early 1900's, Sams Valley School remains an icon in this simple community.
The Sams Creek School District was named after Chief Sam, a leader of the Rogue River Indians and a signer of the Treaty of Table Rock in 1853.

Back to my roots. 
The old bell above me was the same old bell located in the old Sams Valley School (in the previous picture).  At six years of age, I can remember getting to ring the bell when recess was starting. 
The big pull rope to ring the bell was located in a closet in the middle of the school. 
The bell now resides at the current Sams Valley Elementary where I spent my first through sixth grades of elementary school.

In 1853, after the Indians of the Rogue River Valley put up a fierce resistance to the superior numbers of the federal and state governments, the leaders of several Indian groups called the former governor Joseph Lane, commander of U.S. Forces, to negotiate a peace treaty.

"The chiefs agreed to give up most of their lands (roughly 2000 square miles) in exchange for a 100-square mile reservation and $60,000, a quarter of which would be used to pay for the war waged against them.
The peace however, did not last long.  
The wars between the whites and the Indians lasted until 1856.
During that year, the Rogue River Indians were forced from their lands, including their new reservation, in exchange for a new reservation to the north.  By the end of the year, more than 2000 Rogue River Indians were forcibly relocated to the Coast Reservation, which later became the Siletz Reservation."  -- The Oregon History Project.

Fishing at Touvelle State Park.

Sunday afternoon, Debbie and I made a trip to Diamond Lake Resort to meet my husband and pick up our lab Katie.
Located in the Umpqua Nationl Forest along the junctions of Oregon Route 138 and Oregon Route 230, Diamond Lake is well known for its year round multitude of recreation activities including cross country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling in the winter, and fantastic fishing and hiking in the summer.

At an elevation of 5,183', the frozen lake is a common site in the winter.
Yes, that is a person on the lake on the left of the picture.  Depending on the thickness of the ice, it is typical to see snowmobilers riding across it.

Katie on her first camping trip. 
Our little puppy is not so little anymore.

After a "FRAP" (Frenetic Random Activity Period) of several minutes around the riverbank, she unexpectedly jumped in the river over her head. 
Before this, she had never been in water past her knees.

Taking our annual group camping photo, Katie thought Ed needed some freshening up.

Like the steelhead, I felt a little piece of home visiting my native southern Oregon.  Great times with great friends and family always make the trip worth it.  Although we weren't lucky enough to catch one of these creatures, every mile driven was worth it.  Reflecting into my childhood and making new memories of today, the Rogue River will always hold a special place.

"I need this wild life, this freedom." -- Zane Grey

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I don't know about you, but winter seems to be a great time to catch up on projects that can be done in the house to prepare yourself for when the weather starts getting a little more outdoor friendly.  A fun project for me, is to create my own vacuum sealed backpacking meals.  Not only are they easy to make, but they are much better for you, and cheaper than your store bought freeze-dried backpacking meals.  If you've ever loaded up on freeze-dried meals for an outing, the cost can add up quickly. 

Because it is always time versus money, I always try to make the time to save money.  If you shop around a little bit, you'd be surprised with what you can come up with and throw together for a couple of bucks per meal.
The trick is to think outside of the box.  In addition to your local grocery store, you'd be surprised at the different variety of stores that carry food of some sort.  Manufacturers are also getting creative with their packaging when it comes to single servings. 
Here are a few stores that I have found for getting some variety, saving money, and creating unique one of a kind meals:
  • Dollar Store
  • Big Lots
  • Bi-Mart (northwest locations only)
  • Walgreen's
  • Rite-Aid
The main tool of course is going to be your vacuum seal appliance.  You can pick up a decent one of these for around $50-70.  I have a Seal-A-Meal and it works perfect for this.  If you also have a food dehydrator, you have the ability to dry your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats.  Your meal making options will become almost limitless.  Check the internet for unique and creative ideas.  There are TONS of videos on about food dehydration and preparing meals such as these.

Having a bulk section like this really opens up opportunity for creative meal making.

For sake of demonstration,
here are a few things that I picked up that often frequent my vacuum sealed meals.

Not too many can stomach these. 
 I think they are delicious.

I just found these recently.  They are a perfect individual size to go with crackers or dried fruit.

These are an excellent source of protein with no messy fluid inside. 
Just toss it in the pot with your dried vegetables and cooked pasta or rice.

Delicious.  Add to package with dried nuts and fruit.

A few things from the bulk bins. 
(From left to right:  dried mango, banana chips, dried cherries, strawberry granola)
Very tasty and no mystery chemical ingredients.

If you have means to a food dehydrator, you can easily make these yourself.

Delicious and quick to cook.  Add your own spices for your liking.

Great addition to many types of meals. 
Snacks such as trail mix or add them to your oatmeal.

Way cool new stuff.  This is powdered peanut butter.  It is delicious!  Because they have removed the heavy oils, there is almost no fat and as an added bonus, it is very light weight. 
A great addition to your oatmeal!

Workstation ready to go

If you have never used a vacuum sealer, they are very easy to use.  The bags come on rolls and you cut them to your desired length.  The first seal makes the 'bottom' of your bag.  The second step draws all of the air out and creates the second seal which completes your package.

Choose the meal items you want to mix and match in your package.
Here I have selected hazelnut butter, crackers, and banana chips. 
I have separated these particular items in smaller Ziplock bags to keep the smells from mixing.

After making your first seal to create the bottom, arrange the contents neatly in the bottom of the bag leaving enough room at the top to make your second seal. 

When dealing with more messy contents such as powders, make sure the area at the top is free of debris to ensure a clean seal.  A slightly moist paper towel works well.

Your completed package.  Air tight and compact.

Take caution when sealing sharp, hard foods as this may result in a punctured bag. 
Lining the bag with a paper towel before you add the sharp contents works well
and doubles as a napkin later.

This is a mixture of dried red peppers, spices, pasta, and tuna.

With a permanent marker, I like to date the package when it was created
and mark the number of servings if it's for more than one person.

For a more complete package, you can also add a drink mix (such as Crystal Light, a tea bag, or one serving coffee packet), plasticware, a napkin, a one use wet wipe, and a stick of gum.


A meal as well as dessert


A delicious breakfast mixture of dried mangos and cherries, strawberry granola, pistachios, powdered milk, and banana chips.

With about an hour's worth of work, you can crank out quite a few meals.

I try to remove as much of the excess packaging as possible on the original food product as well as trimming the excess on top of the sealed package.  Be careful not to cut too close to your seal.

As long as you have a heat source, water, and a cooking pot, these little meals are also great as emergency rations for your vehicle, boat, 4-wheeler, snowmobile, or rv. 

Bundle up snack packages and put them in your backpack or purse for watching the kids' sports or an unexpected long day of running errands.

If you know that you might not be eating the entire package or want to ration, seal in a Ziplock bag with your contents to save it for later.  Or, seal in a rubber band to roll up and wrap the original vacuum bag.

As you can see, there are endless combinations as to what you can put together.  Even if you don't have a vacuum sealer, start by creating your meals using Ziplock bags.  You can still squeeze quite a bit of air out of the package.  The whole idea is to be creative, be prepared, and save some money in the process. 
Have fun with it!

"The man who goes afoot, prepared to camp anywhere and in any weather, is the most independent fellow on earth."
HORACE KEPHART, Camping and Woodcraft, 1917