Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homeschool Field Trip to Oregon Fish Hatchery

                                          Sabo boys at the hatchery fish ladder

We set out for Oregon this summer for several reasons, among them to include spending quality time with family and friends and visiting and updating supporters and potential supporters of ours for our missionary work with TEN3 ( We have been achieving all of that and in between I purposely, intentionally and even deliberately have resolved not to get cheated on our time in Oregon. Hence, within two days of our arrival I had canned 30 pints of Marionberry and boysenberry jam,. Later one evening I took the kids down to the Canby High School track for a Sabo Olympics and later took a scenic, back road drive with the family when the highway was readily available. Today was another of my "Oregon resolution" days.

Julie and our five daughters went and visited her Aunt Judy in Gresham so the lads who remained, Abram, Gabe, Eli, Ezra, Judah and Seth, decided to take a field trip. Well, technically I decided. I wanted to visit a fish hatchery out in Oregon and today offered the opportunity. The kids were simply along for the ride and trusting Dad wasn't completely out of his melon with this idea of a good time. Our "educational" excursion proved to combine all the key and required elements of homeschooling field trips: Brain stimulation, fun, adventure, varying degrees of danger, a stop at a rural convenience store for chips and snacks and man versus nature that has the potential to go awry. At least those are the required elements of my home school field trips. Certainly there's a time and place for art galleries, museums, operas, symphonies and visits to historical sites. Just not today.

We set out just after lunch for Milo McIver State Park and the Clackamas Fish Hatchery in metropolitan Redland, Oregon. Or maybe it's metropolitan Viola, Oregon, neither of which may even be on a map. So maybe it's metro Estacada, Oregon? However you slice it, we got there by rolling in our van through the hills of northeastern western Oregon, bisecting and snaking through the hay fields and Christmas tree farms and splendid Cascade foothills vistas. It's gorgeous. Even on a relatively cool, cloudy day. At the fish hatchery we were all alone. Except for a few workers who paid us no mind. Inside the hatchery was everything you would want to know about salmon, in this case primarily steelhead and Chinook. Outside the buildings in holding pens we saw hundreds of the monstrous critters and dreamed of salmon on the grill. Well, at least I dreamed of landing one of those 40-lb. behemoths for a grillfest.


After touring the hatchery, we hiked a short distance down to the Clackamas River and that's where the fun and adventure really began. First off, the water is cold. The boys were shocked at how cold it is this time of year when they plunged in up to their ankles. They are used to the York River in Gloucester, Va., where the tidal saltwater is 80 degrees or so in mid-July. A fisherman we met on the Clackamas, Jason from southwest Portland who could not seem to get over the fact that I had 8 other kids who did not make the "home school field trip" trek, estimated the river was 55 degrees. I explained this novel concept of "snow melt" to the boys and how the rivers in Oregon are fed by melting snow from the mountains. Which makes the water freezing. In reply they shivered. I guess they understand.

We arrived at a bend of the Clackamas River where several fishermen, including Jason, were trying to snag the elusive salmon. My boys promptly started throwing rocks in the river. I tried to direct them away from the fishermen and mostly succeeded. The mouth of the creek where the salmon head upstream to the fish hatchery is at the bend so the older boys ditched their shoes and socks and clambered over rocks to the creek channel. It was a bit dicey for them getting out there over the rocks, but while stationed along a rocky chute they nearly managed to wrangle, or noodle, or whatever you want to call it, a few steelhead out of the watery chute to shallower calm water where we would've, I don't know, tried to wrestle them out of the water and take them home for the grill? Okay, so maybe "nearly" is a little strong. Gabe and Abram managed to actually touch a couple of steelhead salmon -- mind you these steelhead are easily in the 15 to 20 lb. range -- and it was exciting, even gripping you might say, action. Especially when the lads ended up pretty wet from being splashed by steelhead determined not to go down in history as the knuckleheads who got caught by hand by some "fishing" greenhorns from Virginia.

                            Jason the fisherman walks up the chute hunting for steelhead

At the end of the field trip we ended up a bit chilled, wet and empty-handed. But our day was far from over. No sirree. On the way home we stopped at the Redland Store for chips and drinks. That's always a highlight of any educational field trip. Then just on the outskirts of Canby we stopped at a roadside peach stand and snagged a box of Red Haven "seconds" -- basically peaches that aren't exactly the pick of the peck, though by tasting them you'd never know it -- for $1 per lb. There is something absolutely heavenly about the aroma, color and flavor of fresh, tree-ripened peaches. Don't even bother arguing with me about it because that is the absolute truth. And lastly, we stopped at the Fred Meyer in Canby and picked up a wild sockeye salmon from Alaska for the grill. Maybe it wasn't a steelhead out of the Clackamas, but it proved to be a darn close second.

                                                 Red Haven peaches