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Saw an eagle | Semiahmoo | Birch Bay State Park | Texas caviar

Posted Dec 30 2010 11:28am

The second (and last) time I got seasick was on a fishing boat off the northernmost point of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. We were camping at Meat Cove, a fishing village accessed from an unpaved road off the Cabot Trail, with a permanent population of fewer than 100. Our tent was on a high cliff overlooking the ocean, and remaining on solid ground, hiking and enjoying the scenic beauty, was what I should have done. But no, I had to succumb to the lore of seeing whales. The owner of the gorgeous land was a fisherman who supplemented his earnings by renting out camping space, and hosting whale watching tours in his fishing boat.

(My first experience with seasickness had been a ghastly one suffered aboard a large tour boat off the coast of Paihia, a tourist town in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. On that fateful cruise, which I'd been looking forward to for weeks, I spent two hours locked in a tiny bathroom making simultaneous use of a toilet and sink basin. I was understandably leery of ever going out on the sea again.)

Anyway, the fisherman/Captain assured me that the sea where we were going was calm, and no one ever got seasick on his boat. HA! The boat was small, bare-bones, and seating was on a ring of milk crates along the rail. Things were OK while we were moving, but when the Captain dropped anchor, the boat started tilting from side to side — up and down, up and down, up and down. It wasn't long before I felt the familiar, horrible feeling of seasickness upon me. The only bathroom was an open toilet visible behind the Captain, and I began to cope with my misery by lying back on my crate and willing myself asleep, so as not to feel the horror. My crate and I became one. I was vaguely aware of a young child keening, "is it going to tip, Mom? Is the boat going to tip?" over and over, and of people leaning over me as if I weren't there, to see the whales, but mostly I was basically unconscious.

Then, one of my sons started tapping me and begging, "open your eyes, Mom. Open your eyes. There are eagles flying over us. Please, Mom, open your eyes. Just for a minute." I tried. I really did. But opening my eyes even a crack allowed the nausea to seep to the surface, so I squeezed them shut again, and fell back into my self-preservation coma. I've always felt so regretful about not seeing the eagles, which is why I was so excited when we went walking on on Semiahmoo Spit on our little mini-vacation to Birch Bay — and there, across the road, was an eagle!

Semiahmoo Spit is a mile-long strip of land jutting into the ocean at the northern end of Blaine, Wash. At the northern tip of the spit is the Semiahmoo Resort, where we stopped to have tea, and gaze at the water from one of the public sitting rooms. After our tea, meandering around the trails behind the resort, we found rotted, moss-covered old piers, and a newer seasonal ferry dock. (Clearly we were here in the wrong season.)

After exploring the docks, we headed to the beach, and walking path.

I've always been hopelessly attracted to rocks, especially wet ones, and used the most restraint I could manage to only look at them, pick up a few, then leave them behind. I won't admit to how many Lake Superior rocks I have, but I didn't take any from the spit. Not even one. You can see how irresistible they are, though, in their nests of grass.

We were heading down the walking path when I looked across the road and saw what appeared to be an eagle sitting on top of a dead tree. With only an 80mm zoom on my camera, we weren't close enough to get a good photo, and I saw there was a walking trail on the eagle's side of the park. Sooooo, we headed over there, not quite sure what the eagle would think of our intentions. When we were at Glacier National Park, where the chance of encountering wildlife is high, the rule of thumb was, if an animal changed its activity as a result of your presence, you were too close. Using this as our guide, we slowly went closer. The eagle turned to face us and, not knowing anything about eagle behavior, I opted to take some photos from where we were, rather than try to move any closer. Wouldn't you know it — my camera battery chose that moment to die, and I had forgotten to put the spare back in my bag after I'd charged it. Still, seeing the eagle was exciting.

Later that afternoon, Christmas Eve, we took a little break from the damp, natural world to take in a movie. We headed to a seven-screen theater to see True Grit. The lobby seemed perfectly normal, and the cost was typical of any movie, so we were quite surprised when we entered the theater and found a small screen and decrepit seating. The seats were old, uncomfortable, and arranged without concern for viewing ease. We were scrunched and twisted in our efforts to see the screen, and Ken attributes his stiff neck to the two hours we spent in the theater. I think it also had something to do with my aching back. (Along with our marshmallow bed.) The movie was good, though, if you don't mind some shooting and chopping.

Stuffed tofu hot pot with lettuce and black bean sauce

For dinner, we ate our Toronto leftovers plus the stuffed tofu hot pot with black bean sauce, and soup with dumplings, purchased for the occasion the evening before at Bodhi Chinese restaurant in Vancouver.

Soup with dumplings

The food was just as good as the night before, and left us wanting to return to Bodhi again, soon.

On Saturday we headed to Birch Bay State Park for a gentle hike. Actually, it was more like a walk through the woods, as my back was acting up and I didn't want to take any chances.

The wet, ferny, mossy woods were quite magical — kind of like a series of pastel paintings. It seemed like the kind of place that Hobbits would live. Seriously, I was expecting to come upon a Hobbit house at every turn.

It may be winter here, but so much vegetation stays green year round, that it's a very different scene from what I'm used to. Washington is called The Evergreen State, and it's an accurate description. The temperature is usually in the 40s during the day, and I seldom even wear gloves — an act unheard of in Wisconsin.

With so much rain and dampness, moss grows everywhere, adding to the green and slightly eerie look of the woods.

These are my new hiking boots, which I love. This was their first outing, and they were completely comfortable. As soon as we returned home, I donated my old (very old but still thought of fondly) hiking boots to Goodwill.

Buffy spent the days of our vacation in a scenic dog-boarding lakeside home near Bellingham, and I believe she had a good time there. I was hesitant to leave her because she's 17, but she did well, and came home happy and refreshed, though a little tired from all the excitement.


It's almost the new year, and I suppose I should be both looking back and looking ahead — evaluating the past year and forming resolutions and goals for 2011. But for right now, I wish everyone a prosperous, peaceful, healthful and generous new year. And to ensure your good fortune, I'm reprinting my favorite recipe for black-eyed peas. Make it today and let it marinate until Jan. 1, or make it at the last minute and enjoy it fresh. Either way, eating black-eyed peas on the New Year is supposed to bring you luck — and they taste great! See you in 2011!

Texas Caviar
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
4 scallions, finely sliced
3 jalapenos, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1/4 cup olive oil,
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground peppercorns

Rinse and drain the beans and place in a bowl with the scallions, cilantro and peppers. Put the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt in a one cup glass measuring cup and mix together. Add the liquid to the beans mixture and combine. Place in a shallow glass (or other non-reactive) dish. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or a few days. Mix occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly. Grind some peppercorns over the top just before serving.

notes: I thought the mix looked a little too green and beige so I went looking in the refrigerator for a few grape tomatoes to chop up. They were gone so I got a few slices of the tomatoes I dried last summer (and keep in a sealed freezer bag in the fridge). I chopped those up and added them for color and tang. I also used jalapenos from last summer's garden. I always freeze bags of whole, hot peppers from the garden to use in cooking during the rest of the year. This was the first time I tried to use them uncooked. Couldn't tell they weren't fresh.

I like to rinse and drain canned beans in a wire wok skimmer that I got in an Asian market years ago because I liked the way it looked. It's easier to clean than my fine mesh strainers and holds about one can of beans at a time.
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