Monday, August 31, 2009

A Microburst, More Rockhounding, and Red Kokenee Salmon

Renita steered the boat smoothly onto the trailer and I only had to reach over and clip the bow hook. A few turns of the winch and she gave me the thumbs up, she was ready to be pulled out. It was our last trip out for the year, and Renita had caught a red kokenee salmon!
The summertime was drawing to a close and California beckoned but the Red Desert still had its pull on us. We had been shaken by a mircoburst, had been hopelessly caught in rock hounding fever, and had finally found red kokenee salmon.
The microburst was amazing, and luckily not strong enough to blow us over. I had noticed a really different cumulus cloud as I walked Molly. It seemed like part of it it had fallen to the ground, but there was no wall cloud or rotation so I didn't worry. Shortly after we got back to our fifth wheel the wind came up and buffeted us worse than any wind we have ever experienced. I ran outside and looked for a tornado and as quickly as it had started it slowed. Our next door neighbor, Dave, was also outside and holding an anemometer. He had missed the worst but the wind was still blowing at 38 miles per hour.
Now Dave and Nancy are new friends who camped next to us and shared their fulltiming experiences and expertise with us. They have been fulltiming for nine years and had just bought a Bighorn fifth wheel, We told them about our agate hunting and they went out and found agates that were absolutely beautiful. Nancy showed us one and told us it was the best agate she had ever found, and it was spectacular. It was a translucent white with parallel rows of lined chalcedony.
Finally, we had found the schools of pre-spawn salmon. They were at Holmes Crossing and there were actually three year classes so the fishing was fast,(The spawners are in their third and final year of life).
We tried to release all that we caught but did end up harvesting one fish that had fought too hard. There were other boats there that were snap jigging the salmon, and another fisherman said that they were actually snagging the fish, (Illegal in Wyoming), but we weren't close enough to see.
We actually boated more fish than all the jiggers, the bite was that good. Our last fish was the brilliant red fish above, and we successfully released it, glad that it would have a chance to spawn. There were so many fish on the fish finder and it was good to know that another generation of fish would be here when we return to Flaming Gorge.
The day ended in a beautiful crimson glow, reminiscent of the fish we had returned. The sunset was actually colored by all the smoke from the California and Utah fires, but it seemed to me that the sky was celebrating the fish and their life cycle. It also was as if the Red Desert was saying, "You haven't even begin to see all of my beauty", reminding us of all we have seen and done and calling us back. It was a perfect end to our time here, and the road is calling us. Quoting my long time climbing friend and mentor, Frank Sanders, "We have been truly blessed". Clear skies.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prospecting Cedar Mountain and Butcherknife Draw

It didn't make any sense. According to the topo maps we should be at the intersection of Dry Creek and Butcherknife draw, but according to the gps we still had ten miles to go both north and east. Turning north we headed up a typical Wyoming gravel road when I spotted an ant pile. Now ant piles are great places to prospect as the ants pile small grains of whatever is underground and we have used them frequently for sharks teeth, peridot and now prospecting for pyrope and chromium diopside.
I had been researching this trip for quite a while. Last year I had bought two publications from the Wyoming Geological Survey. I also discovered that Butcherknife Draw had been on the Treasure Hunting show and so I feared that it had been swarmed upon by the shows enthusiasts.Having already downloaded the beta topo maps from the USGS, United States Geologic Survey, I was getting the gps coordinates off their on line site. We had turned down Mckinnon Road and then had taken the Sage Mountain road past Black and Cedar Mountains.
Sage Mountain was directly south and it seemed pretty easy to follow the roads. A sign pointed north to Interstate 80 and we could see the small town of Mountain View to the northwest. We should be there!
Sure enough. there in the ant pile were small gems of pyrope. Collecting some I got back in the truck and we drove slowly looking for more ant piles. We looked and looked and looked, to no avail. It dawned on us that people had been mining the ant piles!
Stopping at several draws we looked for the larger gems and I shoveled some samples from creek bottoms for later panning. Giving up on Butcherknife Draw we drove west to Wyoming 414 and then headed south to Lonetree,(Which actually has several trees to its name).
From there we took Sweetwater County road 41, which took us up Cedar Mountain. The route was pretty spectacular and we could see for at least forty miles north and west
Sage Mountain was on display, along with the rest of Cedar Mountain. Far in the distance we could see the route we had taken. Following the winding and narrow road to the top, we reached the plateau, grateful that we hadn't met any vehicles on the narrow hairpins.
We stopped and checked out other ant piles, which now were in profusion, and of course didn't find any thing to speak of. Driving the rim road we eventually headed back down to reconnect with Sage Mountain Road. We did stop at a draw and found lots of red and brown and black agate, or at least colored chert samples. In some places the agate was so thick that it looked like a burned area from a recent fire.
The road finally connected with McKinnon road and we returned home past the Devils Playground and Black Mountain. It had been a great day traversing the southwest corner of Wyoming, going places that most people never even know exist. We both felt enriched by all the desert scenery. The area truly rivals Big Bend National Park,and the trip was the true treasure of the days prospecting! Clear skies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Simple Grilled Kokenee Salmon

We have a hard time going to restaurants for a couple of reasons. Both of us are on restricted diets, (although I slip up a lot), and when we do go the food is often poorly prepared or at least not as good as what we can make at home,(Our fiver of course). A classic example is cooking fish.
Now one of the biggest problems with fish is having fresh fish to cook. Luckily we are blessed here with an abundant supply of Kokenee. Wanting some freshly grilled, Renita and I went out and actually had a great bite!
Putting in at Holmes Crossing,(formerly Squaw Creek), it was a short run to the fishing. We both laughed as we passed a large group of boats fishing in a tight cluster. It seems pretty dumb to share a school of fish with others when you can find your own spot. Don't people realize that the fish are also at other places on the lake?
So we went to a place by ourselves and the bite was on! We caught four in an hour, Including a double! It was wild as my fish was jumping and suddenly the second downrigger pole released. Renita dropped the net and grabbed the pole and soon we had two nice Kokenee thrashing and jumping by the boat. Quickly picking up the net I was able to net mine and then Renitas and we both laughed as two salmon were now on ice!
Anyway the title of this blog is grilled salmon so here is a simple recipe we use for salmon, redfish, and pompano,(but I wouldn't hesitate to use it on any fish.

Simple Grilled Kokenee Salmon

Fillet the salmon leaving the skin and scales on and then wash the fish.

Lightly spray both sided of the fillet with cooking spray and place it in the fish holder,(If you don't have a fish holder you can place the fish directly on the grill, skin side down).

Salt and pepper the fish and put some butter on it, we use Smart Balance Omega, but butter works nicely.

Place the fish on the grill, skin side down, and cook till the fish flakes easily in the thickest part of the fillet.(The thicker the fish the longer. On big fish the skin may burn, and thats ok. You don't eat the skin)

If you want fancy grill marks you can turn the fish once, after five minutes, and then turn it back on the skin side to finish, but if you don't have a fish holder be prepared for your fish to come apart).

This recipe works great over a wood fire on campfire grill, but it was too windy so we used our Weber.

Oh my it doesn't get any better! Clear skies.

ps I know you are suppose to drink white wine with fish but red wine is better for your heart, and I am allowed one glass of wine a day so red it is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Black Elimia Tenera(Previously misidentfied as turetella) of Wamsutter

I steered the truck as Renita eyed the gps, but something seemed wrong, The rockhounding book said that we should be near the black turritella yet the gps coordinates told us we were too far south. Something was definitely screwy!
Renita pointed out a four wheel drive road that I had missed and we turned off the main gravel road, traversing a deep ditch sideways so we wouldn't get high centered. We drove slowly down the rutted two track road, past the black desert pavement,(also the color of black turitella), and Renita suggested we stop and look. It was a good decision as the black colored rock was turritella!
Now the black turritella is highly prized for jewelry making as the black rock is actually chert and its full of the freshwater snail, Elimia tenera(which was first identified as turtitella and then gonobiosis, both saltwater snails). It polishes to a beautiful black sheen filled with cross sections of the fossilized snail.
We had both been worried that such a famous site had been picked clean, which turned out to be a needless worry. We collected several samples and then drove further until Renital yelled out, "Theres a big Rock", which turned out to be another large mass of the fossil.
It seemed to outcrop in lens shaped masses of loose broken up material and we stopped and collected at several places, until we found a place that had so much that we could have filled the truck! Now you are only allowed twenty five pounds of the rock per day so we dumped most of our samples and sorted and sorted looking only for really nice pieces.
I was collecting fossils that had broken free from the matrix when Renita motioned me over, telling me to bring the camera. There, at her feet was a horned toad, its body puffed up in its defense mode. It was showing us its spiny skin as a way of telling us it would be to dangerous to eat,( as if we would want to eat horned toad).
It finally deflated its body and crawled at a gate that would make a porcupine seem a speedster!
We collected our samples and filled our buckets. We had found some brown swirl agate,(actually fossilized algae also used in jewelry), at another stop and so our expedition was a success! We spent the rest of the day driving roads and looking for more sites. Huge antelope bucks stared at us as we passed obviously aware that it wasn't hunting season yet.
It was a day of fun as we arrived back home with more rocks and more weight for the fifth wheel. Clear skies.

ps If you go get the book Rockhounding Wyoming. Do not attempt the back country of the Red Desert if its raining or you will get stuck and your vehicle covered with mud, and that's just on the roads.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Signs of Fall

The signs of fall are all around us. Orion dominates the morning sky. The moths have come down from the high country. We have heard reports of salmon being caught that have turned red, the color change that signifies the fall spawning run up the Green River, (the kokenee make their run, spawn, and then die). As if these signs weren't enough a strong cold front blasted through and frosted the truck! Finally, looking west to the Uintas fresh snow marks the peaks and so its about time for us to head to a lower elevation and begin our wanderings again. Hitch itch is setting in.
However, we still have quite a bit to do before we head west, another doctors appointment, more rock collecting, and we still want to canoe the Green River.
We did sell Renita's car, which had been in storage for the past two years at our daughter in laws condo.
The car wouldn't start at first but with Matt and Patty's help we jumped it and aired the flat tires. It was covered with dust and had been written on by teenagers( go figure messages of love and lust), but at least they hadn't keyed it. Washing it, we parked it at a spot where Matt told us others used to sell their cars and the car sold in less then twenty four hours. Suppose we sold it at a price too low?
Its surprising how much we have to do and how we ever got anything done when we were both working. Retirement has been so busy, We still have more prospecting for fossils and minerals. Black turitella beckons, swirl agate along with pyrope and chromium diopside crystals. Thoughts of diamond prospecting and Sweetwater agates and jade all tempt us as we made a mistake and bought another prospecting book, filled with pictures of museum quality specimens.
The Green River Days, festival in the park, are approaching. Hopefully the water will be down and it will be safe enough for us to canoe through the whitewater runs. Theres just not enough time! Clear skies.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Blue Forest of Wyoming, 2009

I stabbed the shovel into the cracked shale and pried, or tried to. The shovel's handle threatened to break! Some rock almost came out and so I jabbed it again and again, finally pulling out a piece of limey shale. There was some petrified wood in it, so I returned to my digging. Renita came over and took some images as I peeled off layers of clothes. It was cool day, but I was hot and sweating.
Taking a break I looked at her samples, she was surface picking, and she had better stuff than I had dug. It was obvious I was doing something wrong. If only I had some type of subsurface ground penetrating radar, hmmmmm.
Putting the shovel away we both picked on the surface, and we actually found some small fossilized twigs and branches, along with a lot of chalcedony and petrified wood chips. Nice stuff for Renita's jewelry making.
We moved to a new site and picked some more, until we finally had enough wood. As we prepared to leave a pickup drove up with the Washington license plate, "PackRat".
We talked with the couple for a bit and it turned out they were also touched with rock collecting bug and had spent the day in another part of the Blue Forest.
Dick and Patty, from Washington State had been on a trip across the country and had the bed of their pickup filled with rocks. Dick also told us that he had camped here many years ago and had done a lot of digging for blue forest wood.
He showed us how he selected a site to dig, by first using a steel probe. Pushing it into the soft shale he would feel for a clink! It all made sense,(In college I had taken petrology class and after reading thirty some pages of the most boring description of identifying characteristics of shale versus slate, the book said if it clinks its slate and if it clunks its shale)! Dick was probing for the clink of silicified petrified wood!
He kindly let me take some images of his tools and of his digging. He explained how the best wood was inside a concretion, and showed how he used a large steel chisel to break it apart. It was obvious that my shovel just wasn't enough for the job.
Taking a break Dick and Patty showed us the beautiful turetella they had collected in Wamsutter. They even shared the gps coordinates with us and talked of meeting an Escapees group, the rock hounding birds of a feather at another site,(Escapees has many clubs, one of birds and rocks and just about everything, called birds of a feather of bof).
Thanking them, we let them continue their prospecting and as we drove away we talked of how lucky we were to have just had a great lesson on collecting techniques. It was obvious that Dick is an expert! Tired and sore, from all the bending over, we returned home to our guard dogs delight! More rocks for the fifth wheel! Clear skies.

ps The area gets its name from the blue color of the chalcedony, caused by a small amount of tin impurities. You are allowed to collect twenty five pounds a day and you must fill in your hole, a new regulation. The gps coordinates are 42.020 N latitude and 109.910 West longitude. Trust me, you will see all the digging holes and piles of rock.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Hot Bite at Flaming Gorge, August 2009

Its kind of amazing that four adults can stare at pole tips for hours and yet all manage to miss the moment when a salmon hits and the pole releases from the downrigger. I mean it's pretty obvious, the pole tip jerks a couple of times and the the tip straightens as the salmon pulls the line from the release. Soon the pole bends as the slack line is tightened by the running fish, but by then Val, sitting in the bow chair, had already alerted us to the fish on!
Pandemonium then breaks out in the boat as the boat is slightly turned into the fish. Renita or George or I would crank up the cannonball, so the fish wouldn't get tangled in the steel cable. The net would be handed back, and it seemed like we would all hold our breath, only releasing it when the net would swoop down and the thrashing salmon would be lifted into the boat!
We would take turns landing the fish, playing the three strike game in which each person has three chances to land a fish before they lose their turn and someone else gets to fight the fish. Its rare for one person to strike out and so everyone gets to catch a fish and enjoy the catching.
George and Val were visiting us form their ranch in Colorado. They live near Crawford and grow hay in the summer to pay for their winter in Rockport, Texas. We met them at Watersedge Rv Park last winter and George kindly taught me how to wade fish and also fish the jetty's. Val and Renita had also hit it off so we were happy that we could take them fishing.
I don't know who had more fun, George, who would quietly fight in his fish, or Val who would laugh and giggle like a little girl as the salmon would leap from the water! Regardless, we were happy that they came up here fishing during the hottest bite of the summer.
We fed like pigs, eating grilled salmon and salmon patties and even had some grilled fresh brook trout that George had caught in a stream near their ranch. Renita and I hadn't had fresh brook trout in years and we were surprised by their delicate grilled taste!
Too soon their time was up and they had to head back to the ranch. They have horses and horses and livestock demand attention. We had fished together for three days in a row and caught and released both salmon and rainbow trout. George and Val took their limit of salmon home and Val was excited to have salmon for her new smoker!
It is a privilege to be able to fish Flaming Gorge with such fine friends! Clear skies.