2010-09-10

Mendocino, First foraging attempt

So, Jess and I decided that it was time to go out and try some of the skills we've been working on. In particular, we went out for the weekend with the intent of foraging as much of our food as possible.


First, the "meat". Things we tried and goodness factor:


Foods

  • Manzanita berry oatmeal:
    • Delicious: Crush berries, remove the seeds, add to oatmeal.
  • Manzanita berry drink:
    • not bad: boiled the seeds from the berries and drank the water. It came out weak
  • Manzanita ash cakes:
    • Delicious: Crush berries, remove seeds, mix with flour and wanter, cook in the fire
  • Fennel and Pine-needle couscous:
    • Pretty good: Make pine-needle tea, Cook couscous using this water, add lots of fennel, and some veggies.
  • Milk Weed Pods:
    • Delicious: Young milk-weed pods, remove husks, eat raw and boiled and added to the couscous
  • Cat Tail Stalk:
    • Good: take the base of fat stalks, remove most layers, boil, remove more layers until it seems like food. Comes out a little slimey, and smaller than one might hope, but was pretty good in the couscous.
  • Cat Tail Root:
    • side-shoots:
      • meh: Boiled and sucked on. These were kinda like eating glue. That said, it was food, just flavorless.
    • new growth:
      • pretty good: boil, peel and eat.


So. now the details. We rented a car in southbay and drove up. We made pretty good time. The car (kia sedan) had only a slight overstear in a drift on dirt roads, but slid easily. This made the driving fun, though slower than the mazda3 we've often used.
The first night, surprisingly, it was relatively chilly. We really hadn't been expecting this; I'd brought nylon pants, a canvas shirt, and a wool t-shirt. Jess had linen pants and a lighter (though heavy) cotton overshirt. We slept well enough though. It looked almost like rain all night; the clouds were really incredible (no photos, sorry).

Hunters

Before bed we went down to the river and discovered it was dry. Just down river though, it joins an outlet from the reservoir, so we figured that'd be wet. We walked down there and filled up a few water bottles. On the way we saw a light, and dodged it to the other side of the bridge. While gathering the water we could hear voices, so wandered around to say hi.
The camp consisted o a group of men. They had a couple of pickups and were wearing camo. One had a gun slung over his shoulder, another had a light he was shining up at the hillside. They didn't respond for a while as we walked up, making us a bit nervous. Eventually they did respond to our hails. We asked if they were here hunting, they said no, but that they were going to go hunting on the other side of the river tomorrow. They were still being oddly cagey. As we walked away we realized they were spotlighting deer, or possibly elk (there are a lot of elk on that particular hillside). They seemed like a friendly crew though, and not any danger (I'd rather have cagey spot-lighters around than someone who might shoot me by accident.)

Gathering

Next day we packed up our gear, with all our books, and walked down the river. We headed for an area we'd been in before where there was some decent foraging. We dropped some of our gear there and went off looking for good stuffs. We tried carrying sticks for opportunistic hunting of birds and lizards, but didn't get anything that way. The season is late now, so there wasn't that much. There were tons of manzanita though, many in full fruit. The berries were older and no longer sticky, but still tasty.
We got a number of milkweed pods. They're a very different variety than listed in our book. The poison quantities vary between verities, but all are low enough for even decent amounts to be eaten, according to our books. We'd discovered the last time we tried milkweed that the poison is a relatively strong and distasteful flavor. The poison can also supposedly be largely neutralized by a large amount of boiling, so we figured we'd boil it as much as needed. Upon tasting though it was pretty good even raw - though the pods we got (about 2-3 inches in length), we're on the old end of edible.
At our intended campsite we found some thistle, but it was dead, so no good shoots, and the roots were small (wrong variety). We dropped a bunch of our gear here and cooked some oatmeal with manzanita for breakfast on the wood-stove. We were near an old rope-swing, and as we ate our oatmeal some ATVs were going back and forth on the other side of the river. After breakfast we went to gather more food.
The cattail was hard to dig up from the muck, but pretty easy from deeper in the water. It was a small batch of cattail though, and we don't want to hurt the population, so we only took like 4 plants or so. A lot of the roots split while removing them from the muck. This meant they filled with muck that was between hard and impossible to get out, so we ended up discarding a fair amount.
Our books claimed that the root of lupine is pretty good, and we knew where some grew, so we headed there. It was growing in what amounts to rocks with a bit of sand in between. After a while of digging we'd gotten about 5 inches down, with no sign of anything looking edible. The root was still woody, looking just like a tree root. So we gave up on that one.

Gear disappears

We went back to our campsite and found... our gear was missing. Jess had lost her pack, cookset and sleepingbag. I'd lost my cookset and sleepingbag. We still had Jess' bearsack full of food, and a 2-liter soda-bottle, that's it. All gold this is several hundred dollars worth of gear (luckily we had the cheap sleepingbags, so it wasn't in the thousands.) Worse than that though, we had no way to stay warm while sleeping. We hadn't really gone out with the intent to try and survive in debris shelters, and eat food with no cookpot... so we headed for the car.
We were fuming on our way out, who would walk off with our gear? We'd carefully laid it out in a manner such that it would look like it was left intentionally. Most of it was even clean-looking. It must've been obvious that this person was stranding us without sleepingbags. We stopped by the hunters camp on the way, to ask if they'd seen the pack... They hadn't. When We got back to the car, I started fiddling with things (getting car-keys and such), and munching on some salami and corn-nuts while we tried to figure out what to do. Jess, on a feeling, waved down some people who were driving by in a pickup and asked if they'd seen our her pack. By some incredibly strange circumstance, they had.
They described the backpack as being right next to where we'd left it, but on the other side of the river, and hidden in some bushes. We figured we wanted to get there ASAP, so we hopped in the car and drove down the road and onto a smaller dirt road following the river. We passed a car that had clearly been beaten with bats and shot up as target practice, making us a bit more cautious. We stopped not long after at a spot that we thought might be near our goal, and went down a trail. On the floodplain we found ourselves in a camping area, just across the river from where we'd left our gear. There were a couple of groups there. One group had 2 ATVs, the ones we'd seen earlier. As we walked down to the river towards that spot one guy on an ATV stopped and said "Oh, are you looking for your backpack? I put it to the side of the trail."
It was exactly where the other people had described it, with all of our gear (modulo a BIC lighter). It did appear to have been hidden under the bushes... and not with the apparent intent of making it easy to find.

Car Camping

Anyway, we walked away with the gear, happy to have it. When we got to the car though. We weren't feeling great about that area, and decided to go elsewhere. We drove north a ways up around the lake. It was getting late'ish, and we were at a small campground and decided we should just car-camp there. The caretaker was a neat older man with a super-cute pudgy little dog that "was his daughters". Of course, there was also a rock with his and the dog's name painted on it :P - clearly his dog. Anyway, we happened to score the best place in the campground. The caretaker called it "boardwalk", and the one next to it "parkplace", and said that he often got a list of people waiting to get into those spots when someone left.
We lit a fire and tried all our food, sleeping in established sites is rough without pads due to the packed ground. We hadn't been planning that so had none. We slept okay - using one bag as a blanket and one under us (since I'd been cold the previous night, and my bag was less warm than Jess'). The next day we ate ash-cakes for breakfast, then walked a bit on the edge of the lake and just chilled out. Beautiful spot.
Not the trip we planned, but it all worked out fine.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smalladventures/sets/72157625184464218/

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