Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Famous Last Annual Abalone Camp-Out

Yet another belated post... this trip was May 29-31.

Last year we were invited, but couldn't attend, the famous last annual abalone camp-out. This year, we made a point of being available in case last year's event wasn't actually the last. And, for something like the third year in a row, it wasn't!

The abalone camp-out is a loosely-organized get-together of FoR (Friends of Randy) for a long weekend of bike riding, abalone diving, abalone cleaning, abalone pounding, abalone cooking, and (lest we forget) abalone eating. The location is the gorgeous Ocean Cove campground just north of Fort Ross. There's a big group campsite, everybody sets up a tent, and brings pot-luck food for Saturday night's feast.

I went up very early on Friday morning with Randy, and we rendezvoused with Bruce and Steve for breakfast at Pat's in Guerneville - a tasty and very traditional diner, owned by the same folks since 1945. We then got a great ride in, going down the coast to the rather steep Meyers Grade road, then down Fort Ross road almost to the little town of Cazadero, where we turned on King Ridge road and got in a few more climbs, before descending Hauser Bridge road then climbing some more to get to Seaview road. Here we considered dropping down Kruse Ranch road, but it's unpaved and, at the top, quite steep -- this didn't look so appealing, but Timber Cove road, a few miles further along, looked like a good bet. It proved to be a screaming descent on good pavemement, dropping us from the ridge pretty much straight down onto Hwy 1. We rode north on 1 back to the campground, making a loop of about 50 miles, up and down some very steep hills, and racking up nearly 8,000 ft of climbing for the day. By the time we got back to the campsite in the evening, lots of other campers had set up, and my Mom had arrived, shortly followed by Anna and Nimue. The Schmidts had also arrived, with their girls, so Nimue had some other kids to play with. BBQs and homebrew were quickly deployed, and a fine evening was enjoyed by all.

Steve, Bruce and Chad, smiling because they have no idea of the steepness of the hill hidden in the fog behind them...

Randy smiling (or is it a grimace?) as he tops Meyers Grade: two miles at an average grade of 18%

Saturday morning, my Mom and Nimue went wandering off is search of tidepools with the Schmidts' girls and some others, while Anna and I set out for a ride. I didn't get 20 feet before realizing I had a flat... but a quick tube replacement, and we were on our way. We took a great route, up Hwy 1 for a few miles, then turning inland on Kruse Ranch Road, a quiet dirt road that, as it turns out, climbs gently through rhododendron forests to the tiny hamlet of Plantation. The steep part I saw the day before is short, and only at the very upper end; otherwise, it's a great little road, but more suited to climbing than descending. It then connects to Hauser Bridge road, which descends to a creek and then climbs like crazy back up out of the canyon... emerging into rolling pastureland populated by cows and calves. I remembered going down this hill the day before, and thinking what a tough climb it might be in the other direction, never for a moment considering I might be doing so the very next day! The road continues through terrain much like this -- no cars, a couple of other cyclists, very pretty -- emerging in a miniscule native american town on an only-slightly-larger road. A long and crazy rollercoaster descent eventually dropped us back onto Hwy 1, and we cruised back down to the campsite to make a big loop. We didn't ride all that far (maybe 35 miles) but racked up about 3500 feet of climbing. For me, it was well over 10,000 feet for the weekend!

Anna and Chad, almost back to the campground

After some snacks to recuperate, we joined the dozen or so campers who spent their morning diving for abalone in getting the mollusks cleaned up and ready for eating. This involved an ad-hoc assembly line, getting the abs out of their shell, cleaned, trimmed, scrubbed, trimmed some more, and sliced thinly; then each slice was pounded pounded pounded! before being declared ready. With lots of hands, this went pretty quickly. Meanwhile, margaritas were being blended, other beverages were being liberally applied to the crew, and a variety of drums and other percussion were brought out...

Nimue had a fine time drumming, singing, practicing her mountain-biking skills, and running with the "kid pack."
Nimue zoomed around on her bike a lot!

Soon, a huge variety of pot luck dishes began to appear on the tables set up in the middle of the campground, and then the abalone cooking began. As dusk approached, the assembled campers consumed as much abalone as their bellies could hold, augmented by some spectacular fish stew, an experimental abalone chowder, grilled meats, salads, vegetables, breads, and more in great profusion. It was Good.
Drummers drumming.

Sunday morning, Mom and Anna and Nimue and I walked out to the land's edge near the campground, to play in the sand and watch the ocean for a bit. Nimue (and Anna) found a fun swing to play on! Then we packed up, said our farewells, and headed back home.

Oooooh, sand!

We're sure looking forward to the next last annual abalone camp-out!

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