Razor Clamming

After bum luck in Sequim with clamming, I had some pretty low expectations of our clamming trip to Ocean Shores.  But, the allure of the razor clam (described by some as the filet mignon of clam) was too much for me to resist.  I asked Tenille to book us a room at a hotel on Ocean Shores on one of the very rare razor clamming weekends in October.  After we had made this non-refundable reservation, my mom told me that we could buy razor clams at Uwajimaya or at the Pike Place Market.  I questioned why I was paying a few hundred dollars to go dig up clams myself on a cold rainy beach… Tenille wasn’t too happy that I voiced my regret outloud…  But by this point, we were locked in…
On the way down to Ocean Shores, I remained skeptical that this was going to be a reasonably decent experience.  The forecast called for rain, and my clam-o-meter was jaded.  I tried to dawn a good attitude and predicted we would catch 15 clams.  Tenille predicted 8.  Caleb predicted 2.  I think he was psychologically damaged from the Sequim experience.  This is what happens when you let down your kids.
It took about 3 hours to drive into our condo at about 5pm.  The inside of the condo was decent, although I think they were stretching the truth a bit, when they described it as "ocean-front."  It was true that there was no other buildings between the condo and the beach.  But there was about 3/4 miles of sand and brush, and you can’t see the beach until you walk out about 1/2 mile.  It ended up that this wasn’t too big of a deal.  The beach that we would actually clam on was only accessible by car, and it was less than a mile away.
To our suprise, the weather was holding up, and although cloudy, no rain.   Low tide was going to be at 8:20pm.  We thought that we should get out there around 6pm.  So, we stopped at a McDonald’s to wolf down some dinner and get unpacked before heading out to the beach.  When we got to the beach, there were already people leaving with bucket full of clam (presumably their limit.)  This is when my attitude started to change.  It wasn’t raining and I actually saw people catching clam.   Andrew was fussing for some food, so Caleb and I got dressed to hunt down some clam.  (Little did he know that his old man had no idea what he was doing…)  I dawned a pair of waders that belonged to my dad, and we ventured off toward the ocean, each with our own respective shovel and pail.  At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I just watched the other people…. But, it quickly became apparent, they didn’t really know what they were doing either.  Some had clam guns.  Some had shovels.  They were all scrutinizing the sand, looking for dimples.  I read up about this part on the internet (The washington state fish and wildlife department’s website on razor clams is fantastic.)  I also started looking for dimples.  It didn’t take long for us to find one.  Caleb and I excitedly started digging.  I used my big shovel, and I figured I’d keep digging until a clam popped up in my shovel.  After about 4 shovels of sand, a big clam tongue came up, but no clam.  I kept digging, and felt a crunch at the other end of the shovel.  I dug up a crushed razor clam (minus its tongue).  The website called this wastage… but nevertheless, we were supposed to take the broken clam and count it against our limit of 15.  Caleb was excited that we actually caught something.  He excitedly became the bucket holder and the keeper of the clams.  We found a second dimple pretty quickly thereafter.  After a few shovelfuls of sand, the same thing happened.  First a tongue, then a broken clam.  Broken or not, Caleb still excitedly tossed the clam in his pail.  By this time, it was clear I had to change my strategy.
On the next dimple, I borrowed Caleb’s small shovel and dug 2 scoops.  Then I reached in with my right hand, and started digging.  At about 1.5 feet deep, I felt the clam with my hand.  I dug around it quickly as the walls of my hole started caving in, grabbed it gently, then pulled it up.  My first successful razor clam.  Using that technique, we got about 15 clams in about 45 minutes.  Just as we were about to hit 15, my wife showed up with Andrew.  She took a few pictures and videos of me digging like a madman in the sand.  By this point, my right arm was very fatigued, and I invited Tenille to dig.  She politely declined. 
The rule is that you can dig on behalf of someone if they are within sight.  So, I gave my first 15 clams to Tenille, and Caleb and I ventured off to catch my limit in the dark.  It was much more difficult to find dimples in the dark, but as the tide receded further, the clams kept getting bigger.  Some of the clams were definitely 6+ inches.  Towards the end of my second 15 clams, I had to change over to my left hand.  My right hand had failed from fatigue a few times and could no longer hold on to the clam to pull it out.   Just as we were leaving, it started raining.
We got home that evening, and wondered what to do with all this clam.  I mixed some salt into tap water (to create a simulated saltwater environment), and left most of the clams in there.  I cleaned all the broken and chipped clams (about 4) and made some fried clam strips (from the Washington State website).  It was terrific.  Tender and flavorful.  Exactly what I imagined it would taste like.  Caleb had some, too.  He said he liked it, except for the rubbery part in the middle (the clam).  Tenille also tried some and admitted that she liked it, but couldn’t get over the fact that she was eating something that was alive just moments ago.  We watched the Little Mermaid that evening and went to bed. 
The next day, low tide was at 9:30pm.  We killed the day watching other movies that was available to us at the condo.    We also went to the beach and flew some kites.  I flew my dad’s stunt kite which is always fun.  One great thing about the beach is that there’s always reliable wind for kite flying.  I also went to the local grocery store to get ingredients for clam chowder (also on the WA state website).  At the grocery store, I asked a few locals about clam storage, and they suggested cleaning it immediately and throwing it in a bag water and freezing it.  I got home, used about 3 clams for clam chowder, and cleaned the rest of them.  They filled up two enormous ziplocs.  The clam chowder was also quite good.  Tenille loved it, except she didn’t eat any of the clams.  She said the clam chunks were too big.  Caleb didn’t eat any clam chowder.
When 5 o’clock rolled around, I tried to get the troops excited to get out there and dig for round two.  By this point, Caleb was a bit tired from watching so many movies.  Tenille looked like she was on a verge of a nap also.  They both encouraged me to go solo, so I did.  I took about 30 minutes catch my limit this time.  But, because I was digging way before peak low tide, I had to dig pretty far up on the beach, and I noticed that the clams were substantially smaller (about 4 inches).  I got home, and I debated about just heading back home for the evening, instead of staying another night in Ocean Shores.  Tenille wanted to lay down some bark over the weekend, so we decided to head out.  We cleaned all the clams, packed up the family, and stopped at a Restaurant called Alec’s by the Sea.  We shared the crab dip (excellent) and a big honkin’ plate of deep fried seafood (ok). 
I don’t want to think about what the per clam cost was for this little adventure… but it’s hard to put a price on an excited, squealing boy running around with a pail full of clams.  I would definitely do it again in the next few years.  What I’d probably do differently is get a room with Internet (lot of downtime when you’re clamming).  There really wasn’t an advantage to "ocean-front."  I’d probably go for one night and catch clams over 2 days.  It’d be nice if low-tide was in the middle of the day, but hard to control that.  I’d also come better equipped to dig with my hands.  Maybe some rubber gloves.  After a while, it’s like rubbing your hands against sand paper over and over.   Other than that – I highly recommend the activity.
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  http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=b3dee052-8b89-412b-a858-c218b888c52d" target="_new" title="Razor Clamming in Ocean Shores">Video: Razor Clamming in Ocean Shores</a>

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Sequim

Our family along with my mother and my sister took a 1 week vacation to Sequim a few weeks ago.
What’s there to do in Sequim, one might wonder?  That’s what we wondered, too… 
Since our vacation fund did not fare so well in the economic meltdown, our Hawaii plans also quickly melted down to Sequim…
First the fun stuff – We went to a place called the Olympic Game Farm which is right inside town.  It is the kind of place that would be created if I had a few unemployed friends, about 50 acres of land, a bunch of animals, and $1,000.  You drive into the farm and stop at the drive-thru shack to pay your admission and buy loaves of bread for $2 a pop.  We bought 4.  We also got a single warning – Zebras bite.  (Haha, I thought to myself… like they’d have zebras at a place like this… )  After driving in about a 1/4 mile, we saw a big animal… it could have been a yak, an ox, or a bison.  It had big horns.  When we stopped, it seemed to give a sigh, slowly stand up and made its obligatory walk over to our van.  It opened its mouth as if we knew what we were supposed to do, so we fed him some bread.  We’ve never been so close to such a big animal before.  It was pretty exciting. 
Next, we drove down a hill, and 3 Alpacas came up to us.  Two of them came up to a window on each side, and one blocked us in in the front.  We joked that these Alpaca really know what they’re doing.  We started feeding them some bread, but after a while, they started to stick their head into the van, and we no longer felt obliged to comply to their advances.  I slowly moved toward the Alpaca in front giving him the signal that we’re going to move through him if he doesn’t move.  He gave in and moved aside.  We noticed the other Alpaca continued to walk beside our windows.  I accelerated to try and lose them. 
If the reader has not seen an Alpaca run 12 inches beside them going 25 miles an hour, you are missing out.  That alone was worth it.  They were fast.  And their neck moves in a funky way that makes them look very funny.  Not able to lose them, I slowed down, and one of the Alpaca cut me off, and the other two, came by our front windows again.  By now, we felt scammed.  The Alpaca were like velociraptors (a gentle, vegetarian version).  They were extremely smart and coordinated.  I no longer felt afraid that I was going to run them over.  If they’re smart enough to box us in, they’re smart enough to jump out of the way, when I squeal out of there.  I sped through some gates that had metal bars on the ground which apparently prevented hooved animals from getting out of that area. 
Further down the road, we also saw lions, tigers, wolves, coyotes, foxes… but unlike conventional zoos, they were in kennels.  (This is why I would need $1,000 to build this zoo.)  We also saw a rhinoceros, and several bears.  They were in much more spacious accommodations.  The bears would wave at us for food.  Apparently, a lot of these animals were trained movie animals that have retired… It was a bit sad to see, honestly…  These glorious animals shouldn’t be begging for food… they should be tearing through our cars and eating whatever they want…. (I suppose what’s sad for them is good for us…)
We also finally saw the zebras.  They walked right up to us.  They are magnificent creatures.  Caleb was a bit freaked out because of the single warning we received from the admission shack guy. 
All in all, this was definitely the highlight of our Sequim trip.

Now the bad – Hurricane Ridge was closed due to construction and weather.  We thought that Hoh rainforest was a bit too far of a drive.  We tried to go clamming, but most of the beaches, including the one our house was on was tainted with some bacteria.  We did wake up early to go to a beach that was deemed untainted… but that was perhaps because no shellfish lived there…. It was a beach full of rocks…. Very difficult to dig through rocks.  We did run into quite a few people that were fishing though.  At the beginning of the trip, my mom and I were just getting over a bout of the stomach flu… (details are better withheld.)  Midweek, Caleb started getting some diahrrea, but quickly recovered.  By Friday, Tenille and my sister were battling a bout with some time of fever and flu.

Next time – If we ever go back, we will pick Crabbing season.  There were hundreds of dead crabs all along our beach.  I’m sure the beach was crawling with crabs.  We’ll go for max 3 days.  We will check Hurricane Ridge conditions.  It’s only a few hours away and includes a ferry trip, which makes the drive out pretty easy.  We’ll also hopefully not bring the flu with us.

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