Thursday, November 14, 2013

Early Thanksgiving Feast. No turkey allowed…

   After getting home from school one day I realized I had a missed call. It was from my old roommate who is now married.
“Hey mang! I’ve got a present for you, call me back!”
   As I called him back, I was thinking to myself, what on earth could he possibly want to give me? He proceeds to tell me that through some connections of his, he was able to acquire some pheasants. I have never had a pheasant before. But being the lover of food that I am, I will take anything that can be eaten.
   So of course I want pheasant! However, I only thought he was going to come over with already cleaned pheasant meat, maybe two or three full ones. Man was I wrong. When he arrived at my apartment, he proceeds to pull out two trash bags full of them. And to make it even better, they had not been cleaned yet. Nothing is fresher than recently shot and ready to be cleaned pheasant. The most I have ever fully cleaned was fish. Pheasant was basically the same, only with more time invested into it. You had to remove the feathers, which was surprisingly easy because the skin underneath tore right off, break off the head, make a small incision around the breast, pull out the innards, and break off the legs.
   We got to work instantly. Luckily my cowboy friend and outdoor roommate were close at hand to help. Homework? Who cares. I learned more just by cleaning those pheasants that night than I ever would reading from a book. Sleep? Why bother. We were up till about 1 in the morning cleaning them. The meat was small, it was delicate, and it was beautiful. It is one of God’s many gifts to man. As we cleaned and gutted, I proceeded to wash them and remove any shot from the shotgun bullets that remained. There were over 20 or so, 1 male and the rest female. No small feat, but well worth the time and effort.

 Cleaning the pheasant, we kept it pretty clean while cleaning the pheasants surprisingly.

   We decided that we would have a feast with as much of it as we could, and with as many friends as we could muster up the courage to partake of this different meat. We did so, in a strangely thanksgiving manner, and froze the rest.
   Again, I had never had nor dealt with pheasant meat. So with what little knowledge I had on it, I made up a simple meal.
  • Bacon wrapped pheasant with a maĆ®tre d’compound butter (which had a slight twist to it, a la James)
  • Roasted red potatoes
  • Candied carrots with a sweet sugar glaze

The finished plate. Presentation is hard as a college student.

   There were a total of about 15 of us enjoying the bounteous feast. Everything turned out well, after all of the preparation and planning. For many present at the feast, it was a first, and hopefully not the last either.
   After finishing the meal, I learned just how delicate the meat was simply from deboning them. Anything they teach you about deboning chicken, please disregard. The meat literally could be pulled off with little effort, still remaining quite intact. I had to make up my own method of deboning from trial and error. Pheasant is very dark meat, but also very lean. It dries out fast, so you do not want to cook it with harsh heat unless you add more fat/protection to it through barding/larding. The bacon protected the meat, but I would like to try other methods (namely poaching) in the future to see what works best. Needless to say, I have plenty more pheasant to deal with. And through trial and error, I will become pheasant king, sort of…

Sunday, September 1, 2013

North Idaho Man Trip

   Seeing as this being my last summer in the great state of Idaho, or so I hope, my two roommates and I decided to plan a weekend trip up to beautiful northern Idaho.  It took a little bit for us to plan everything, mainly because each of us has our own passions. Nate loves biking, Shane is the fish whisperer, and I cannot get enough climbing with this beautiful weather. However, we somehow were able to get each in, in just four short days. After packing everything into my Subaru, somehow  fitting all of our clothes, climbing gear, camping gear, fishing gear, food, and bikes in a little legacy, we drove through the night for seven hours to Coeur d'Alene.
   We knew that we wanted to camp in the National Forest just north of town, and arriving there at two in the morning we started searching the mountain side for the perfect spot. After another hour of driving, we found it, or rather what we though would be the perfect spot. We came across a dirt road set apart by markers of beer cans, glow sticks, and other items nailed to the surrounding trees. We walked down the trail, all along me thinking a bear or wolf would jump us, and came across a large opening in the forest only to find broken glass and trash littering the entire area. We should have known that the markers at the entrance would be sign enough that this was the party spot for the locals. At that point in the day however, we were willing to settle for anything because of exhaustion. But with a bad feeling from Shane, we left and went straight to Post Falls, the town we planned to climb in. Our luck was short there as well in finding camping. Literally there was nowhere to camp in the area. Locals in Post Falls and in Spokane later told us that one had to travel to Coeur d’Alene to find camp sites, which we already did and were not impressed. So we did the next best thing. We found an LDS church and slept under the pavilion. It was surprisingly comfortable despite the cement floor, and the sprinklers going off all around us. Except for Nate, he forgot his sleeping bag, so he slept in the car. This we did for two nights in a row.

 Packed up car for the road.

Night shot of our first camp site.

Q’Emiln Park (pronounced Ka-mee-lin)

   The next day, we finally set out to climb. This part was the highlight of my trip. I looked at the specs on this wall, or rather multiple walls, beforehand on mountain project. This place has well over 82 climbs with both trad and sport routes rated from 5.6 to 5.11. The granite rock has great holds, mainly krimps (which I prefer over jugs), and the rock itself was extremely grippy.
   We hit this place up for two days of straight climbing from morning till night, with the occasional brake for food, swimming (we found a sweet natural pool about a half mile away from one of the close by dams in the area), and fishing for Shane which was the highlight of his trip (even though he was not able to catch anything surprisingly). We also took a breather to head to Spokane Washington for dinner, only to find out we ate in Spokane Valley just outside of the city. We went to HuHot, a Mongolian Grill. Since I had never been to one before, let me warn everyone that you need to get the food cooked before eating it. Frozen meat and the cooks in the center cooking food on the grill should be sign enough to this minor necessity and needless to say, I felt very stupid for not realizing that I had to get my food cooked before eating.
   Anyways, Q’Emiln Park is very easy to find, and you do not have to pay to get in. Just park outside and hike into the various different walls. Each is easily accessed; it is just a matter of finding them. I recommend going to mountain project to get directions to each wall. In the two days we climbed, we hit up four of the thirteen different walls, climbing a whopping ten climbs. You could take a week at the park and MAYBE climb all of them. But as for us, we had the pleasure to climb at Grotto Wall, Lower Ledge Area, Upper Fifth Canyon (which is next to School House Rock, not found on mountain project, but a great rock to teach someone to lead), and Alpha Wall. It was loads of fun and extremely frustrating at the same time (some of the leads felt tougher than what mountain project would rate them at, oh and Nate forgot one climbing shoe but had the other). However, we got our climbing fix, and moved on to our next adventure.

Some of the walls were marked with these blue signs for an easy find.

Our first climb, a big chimney crack with bolts on one side. We had a lot of fun with this climb.

Day two of our climbing.

First lead of the day.

This climb was the last of the day, and with some climbing smarts, we top roped this sucker.

Keep Calm and Ride the Hiawatha Trail

   This was most likely the highlight of Nate’s trip. We did this in the end because it was fifteen miles of straight downhill beauty, allowing us to rest easy and ride free. So we packed up in Post Falls, and drove to Wallace for the Hiawatha Trail. Again we looked for camping, this time down by lookout pass on the boarder of Montana. We found a beautiful spot that looked out to the mountains beyond, but then turned back and camped in a dirt lot closer to the exit. Why might you ask would we do that? Two things. One, we found bear scat everywhere by the campsite, and two, there was a fire ban in the area. And what is camping without a campfire?

 Parking lot campsite.

 Beautiful Idaho sunsets.

S'mores on the gas stove we carried around.

   The next morning, we packed up one last time, bought tickets and drove to the Taft exit in Montana to start the trail. After getting our bikes ready we rode through a 1-½ mile long tunnel (which was pitch black without a head lamp, mine being almost dead, so I had to follow the light of Nate and Shane). After the tunnel, it was all downhill from there, signs here and there of the history of the place, and breath taking views of the mountains in Idaho and Montana. We got to the end of the trail and thought to ourselves, that’s it?? It was very quick. However, buying a pass for the bus to take you back to the top allowed you to ride the trail as many times as desirable. We only rode it once however. The bus ride back up was like a mini tour because the driver talked about Taft, a no longer existent town during the railroad days. I should mention that the Hiawatha was originally a railroad afterall. Look up the history of Taft when you get a chance, for it is very interesting. For example, Taft was burnt three times, one in particular during the huge 1910 fires. During that fire, firefighters asked anyone and everyone to help calm the uncontrollable blaze of the fire. When they came across the town of Taft, the people refused to help, and rather took to drinking their lives away (Taft was known for its extreme drinkers and “rowdy” women if you know what I mean). As the fire came rushing to the town, some died, while others were eventually forced to evacuate.

Just before the mile and a half tunnel.

It was very cold going through, with mountain ground water running down the sides to six foot deep drains running on each side.

 Us on one of the multiple bridges of the trail.

 Some of the views we were able to witness.

   At the end of our first ride down, we decided to head home. Upon leaving, low and behold we find perfect camping sites around Taft that were secluded, free, and beautiful. It appears to me that even after much preparation, there is always something forgotten, or something that did not happen as planned. That, in a nutshell, is how this trip ended up for us. But we had loads of fun, and were easily able to adapt to each situation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UTAH, Part One

   Despite the fact that the majority of Utah is a desert, I will say there is some beauty to be found if you are the outdoor type of person. My roommates, friends, and I decided to make a couple of trips down to the great state of Utah. At first we thought this first trip, a trip to Moab, outdoor capital of the United States, was well planned out. Unfortunately due to some weather issues, we were not able to make it there and ended up altering the plans. Luckily one of our friends then joining us had a cabin located in St. George. Despite the set back, we adjusted and found climbs, food, and relaxation. When in doubt, speak to locals!

Chuckwalla Wall

   The climbing was wonderful! The whole of the areas we went to were covered in beautiful red and white sandstone. The rock was grippy, and it was full of great jug holds. You know, the ones that do not require impossible amounts of finger strength to hold onto. Chuckwalla Wall was the first we scouted out. This wall was pointed out to us by the locals. And for good reason. This place has great warmups as well as challenges. This place is rated from 5.9 to 5.13.
   The climbs here are like nothing I have ever experienced before. We went 3 days and thoroughly enjoyed everyday.

 Jordyn doing a 5.10

 Local dog with Jessica

 Prepping up for the climb

 Nice moves by Nate on a 5.10

  Jessica's very first outdoor climb

 Me starting a lead on the 5.10

 View from above

Prophesy Wall

   We also went to Prophesy Wall located a little bit outside of St. George, in the back country. We took one of the main roads going out of St. George for a couple of miles and turned off onto a dirt road. We parked a couple miles in, in front of a large pipe. Prophesy wall was right there. Standing in the middle of nowhere, this crag looks a lot smaller than it actually is from far off. Most crags I have been to are deceiving in that way. But this rock wall is full of high pitch climbs (2-4 pitches), some trad and pro routes, and the occasional sport climb. We did not do the trad or pitch climbs but were able to find the sport climbs after some hiking. The rated climbs are from 5.7 to 5.11b. Not too difficult for the adventurous soul.

 First climb of the day

View from the wall

    This climb was quite easy in the beginning. However, the crux was just before the chains. Being fresh for the season on climbing, we were not able to finish the climb. Luckily we were able to find a place to hike up to the chains and top rope. I will say, it was not the safest route to take, but a necessary measure to save a quickdraw.

   This rock presented me with challenges I have never experienced before. Literally, the shale type sandstone kept us on edge. You grab onto a hold and feel as though it would break off at any moment, but the rock held true.

Zion's National Park

   Vacation is not a vacation without recognizing beauty and experiencing it first hand. There is nothing quite like the view of Zion’s National Park at the top of Angel’s Landing. Despite the fact that this is a very popular hike, this was probably one of the scariest hikes I have ever done. In fact, I did not actually make it to the landing. I got to the top, but being deathly afraid of heights (compliments to my father) and having chains on one side and a 2000 foot drop off just shy of where I was walking, was enough to do me in. Even though there is no sport climbing, Zion's National Park is a trip well worth taking. There are two things one can do. First, there are plenty of trail hikes after a bus drive into the park, or second, you can take the other road and drive through the canyon, park the car after the long dark tunnel, and find your own adventure. I would recommend this. There are some sweet slot canyons that are not so intense that you need gear and certification to do them, but are still thoroughly enjoyable. You just need to spend some time to find them.

Picture of us all after a small hike

 First small slot we found

 These shots do not give justice to just how breath taking it actually was in person

 Final hike to Angel's Landing on the top of the mountain

 Here was the drop off that did it for me, I turned back here

 These last three are a view from the actual Angel's Landing, complements to Nate and Jordyn for sticking it out to the end

Las Vegas (Spago)

   To end the trip we traveled to Vegas for the day. Honestly, the only good thing to be said about Las Vegas for a young Mormon boy like me was the food. We went to Caesar’s Palace and ate at Spago. It is a little pricier than other places, but the quality of food makes up for it. Wolfgang Puck was the starter and the current owner of the restaurant. The theme with its courses is centered on Italian cuisine, but I got a small sense of French cuisine with the dish I purchased. I got their meatloaf with sweet mushroom wine sauce over a bed of pureed potatoes. It was smooth, it was sweet, it was savory, and it filled me up for the night. The menu is seasonal, causing it to be different each time you go eat there. Because we were there for only a night, this was the only place we were able to eat at. And as many gastronomies may know, there are plenty of other great restaurants in the area that are worthy of checking out. Most known celebrity chef’s have a restaurant located in Las Vegas. However, do not expect to see them, let alone have them prepare your food. Most likely it was done by a simple cook working to make ends meet. Many props to them. They deserve much more credit then they receive.
   For just a weeks time, we got all of this in. It was a trip to remember, and one that helped me to truly appreciate the beauty and workmanship of the hand of the Lord, have fun, and eat good food.