Monday, April 30, 2012

This house is REALLY Smokin'!

But then, what else would you expect from a salmon smokehouse?

To be more precise, the Miramichi Smokehouse, in Doaktown, N.B.

Just a few minutes' drive down the road from the Atlantic Salmon Museum, it's a natural fit to pop in for a visit to the smokehouse if you're in the neighborhood, checking out the museum.( Especially if you've just sampled some of their delicious smoked salmon the night before!)
Let's go smoke some salmon!

Now I'm not a huge fan of smoked salmon; however, this was the best I've ever tasted.

Most of the time, this particular food has an overpowering smoky taste, which I don't care for.

However, this salmon is cold-smoked (smoked longer at a cooler temperature) as opposed to hot-smoked (smoked faster at a higher temperature), and it does make a difference. And for the smoking process, they use hickory wood chips.

The flavor of this salmon is much more delicate than any other I've ever tasted, it's not nearly as strong.

The other aspect of this business I found to be really cool is the fact the owner also builds and sells cedar strip canoes through Oak Ledge Canoes.

One of them - a beautifully crafted red canvas cedar strip canoe - is on display in the front office of the smokehouse. Just looking at it made me want to pick it up, portage it across the road and go for a paddle in the Miramichi River.

Anyone for a paddle?
At first glance, that seems like a bit of an odd combination of businesses to be involved in. 

But if you give it a little bit of thought, it makes sense, do have to fish for the salmon to smoke it, and it does help to have a boat to fish in. (Not that they really do it that way, but it has a nice ring to it.)

The business just opened in December 2011, and they are already exporting their product to Montreal and Toronto. Down the road, they are working at exporting to India and China.

While visiting, I took a tour of the facility, being shown the various steps and machines used to create the end product.

Now while I don't know much more about how they smoke salmon than what I've described here, I do know the salmon from the Miramichi Smokehouse tastes awfully good, especially when it's served up on crackers with cream cheese

And I also know that these are crackers I do not intend to share with Polly - or any other parrot, for that matter ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tying one on - Miramichi style

Okay, so here's the deal:

I've never been fly-fishing in my life.

I've been fishing with tackle, spin-casting from shore, from boats and canoes; I've been deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys; but I have never even picked up a fly rod.

That's why the next few days in New Brunswick should be interesting.

I'm staying at the O'Donnell's Cottages in Doaktown, N.B. on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River.

And I'm here to fly fish  - or at least to try to learn how to fly fish. And if my first day is any indication, it's going to be a steep learning curve for Yours Truly.

Outside the Atlantic Salmon Museum.
After settling in at the lodge, the group I was traveling with headed to the Atlantic Salmon Museum to learn all about this fish, the N.B. sport fishing industry in general - and how to actually tie flies.

Greeted warmly by Linda Gaston, the museum's executive director, she quickly introduced us to Bev Gaston, the man who'll be guiding us around the next few days. He in turn introduced us to Kim Mertens, fly tyer. (Hey, that's what her business card says!)

She ties flies. She also runs several programs that teach kids how to tie flies - kids as young as five - to get them interested in the outdoors.

Let me tell you, those kids could probably tie better flies than me.

It's not an easy art to master. Apparently, to be able to make money at it, you have to be able to tie at least 10 an hour.

 Kim shows the art of fly-tying

Well, I won't be quitting my day job any time, soon - it took more than an hour to tie one, as my attempts at parroting Kim's moves were pretty lame - and then only with a lot of patient help from Kim was I able to complete it. By the time she was done helping fix my fly faux-pas, it almost looked reasonable.

My fly - in all it's ... glory?
Yeah, I'd pretty much starve if I had to do this for a living.

But we sure were not starving when it came to dinner at the museum. They re-created a typical fishing camp meal for us, complete with steamed salmon, fiddleheads, fried potatoes, home-baked biscuits, corn bread and molasses cookies. And this was after we'd had smoked salmon and cream cheese canapés earlier.
It's a good thing they'd already caught the fish, 'cause if I'd had to rely on my fly to catch supper, I'd still be out on the river.

At some point, we're supposed to do some paddling, on the Miramichi; too, and I know I can do that, all right ... but for now, I have to focus on getting this fly-fishing stuff down pat.

Up next: We learn how to fly-cast...I just hope I'm better at casting than I am at tying.

Guess I'll find out tomorrow ...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Never mind the 'other' travel bucket lists - make your own!

So I'm sitting perusing through my Newsfeed on Facebook. I notice another post from a friend who uses the app called "The Travel List Challenge." I checked it and saw that I've only ticked off SIX (yup, 6!) of the so-called Top 100 Places to See Before You Die.

That strikes me as odd, since I am a travel writer, I've been to five of the world's seven continents and had wonderful experiences. I'm scratching my head, pondering this, thinking, "Jeez, I guess I haven't really been to all that many amazing places..." - and then it hits me: this is just someone else's arbitrary list.

Just because someone else thinks the places on this list are "must-do's" does not mean they have to be "must-do's" for anyone else.

So I sat down to write my own list. Except it's a bit different; it's My OWN Travel Top 100 List of Places to See/Experiences to Enjoy Before I Die - but it's split in two: Places/experiences I've already enjoyed; and places/experiences I still want to enjoy.
Making my list, checking it twice -
will my next trip be knotty or gneiss?

You may notice the latter list is a bit longer than the former. But hey, there are always new places, new experiences we want to try, so the list is always growing. Actually, both lists grow, since every experience gets shifted back from one list to the other once it's "in the bag" so to speak. It's just that thinking of new things to do always happens quicker and easier than actually experiencing them. And if you're really alive, you should always be adding new things to the second half of your list.

By the way, I almost hesitate to use the term "in the bag," as there can be a connotation associated with that term that I'm just bagging trips (similar to the "peak-bagging" mind-set of some amateur mountain climbers) to add to my list. These are all experiences I genuinely would love to enjoy while I'm still on this planet, though. Maybe I will, maybe I won't - but it sure won't be for lack of trying.

Anyway, here's my list:

My OWN Travel Top 100 List of Places to See/Experiences to Enjoy Before I Die

  1. Gone scuba diving with sharks in Maui.
  2. Rode a hot air balloon across the Serengeti, Africa.
  3. Seen gorillas in the wild in central Africa.
  4. Camped and game viewed in the Serengeti, Africa.
  5. Visited Machu Picchu.
  6. Seen wild parrots at clay licks in South America.
  7. Canoed the Okefenokee Swamp among the alligators and wonderful bird life.
  8. Whitewater rafted in North America.
  9. Whitewater rafted in South America.
  10. Whitewater rafted in Africa.
  11. Rode elephants in Asia.
  12. Seen orang-utans in the wild, in Asia.
  13. Mushed dog sleds through the Canadian Rockies.
  14. Taken an ocean cruise on one of the big cruise ships.
  15. Visited Mayan ruins in Central America.
  16. Kayaked the Florida Everglades.
  17. Ridden a train from one coast of Canada to the other.
  18. Paddled on multi-day trips in six of the 10 Canadian provinces.
  19. Rode down the Chao Phraya River, Thailand, on a converted rice barge from the ancient capital Ayuthaya to the modern capital Bangkok.
  20. Experienced Tiger Temple in Thailand.
  21. Paddled in the Amazon jungle (Ecuador).
  22. Camped and paddled (multi-day trip) in the desert (specifically, the Alberta badlands.)
  23. Snorkelled with wild dolphins in the ocean surrounding Hawaii (the Big Island).
  24. Gone for a submarine ride, Maui.
  25. Gone “sea-walking” (~ deep-sea diving) in Borneo.
  26. Seen grizzly and black bears feeding at a salmon run in Alaska.
  27. Gone deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys.
  28. Flown falcons and hawks in a “falconer for the day” experience on Vancouver Island.
  29. Paddled among alligators in Florida on the Econ River.
  30. Snow shoed in Gatineau Park, Canada.
  31. Hiked along the coast of Naikoon Provincial Park, Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C., Canada.
  32. Gone “glamping” at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, Sunshine Coast, B.C., Canada.
  33. Whitewater rafted through Hell’s Gate on B.C.’s Fraser River.
  34. Taken a multi-day horseback riding trip in the Canadian Rockies.
  35. Paddled to Grey Owl’s cabin in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan.
  36. Gone horseback riding in the Peruvian Andes.
  37. Spent a night in the Presidential Suite at the Shangi-La, Putrajaya.
  38. Visited the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
  39. Flown in an open cockpit biplane (just like the World War I flying ace!)
Got sharks?

To do:
  1. See wild tigers from elephant back in Royal Chitwan National Park.
  2. Stay in the treetops accommodations at Royal Chitwan National Park.
  3. See wild African grey parrots in central Africa.
  4. Whitewater rafting in Asia.
  5. Whitewater rafting in Australia.
  6. Whitewater rafting in Europe.
  7. Ride camels across the dessert.
  8. Sail down the Nile on a felucca.
  9. Ride the Orient Express.
  10. Ride the Eastern & Oriental Express.
  11. Stay in the Somerset Maugham Room in Bangkok’s Oriental Hotel.
  12. See komodo dragons in Indonesia.
  13. Mush dog sleds on an overnight trip, anywhere.
  14. See wild pandas in China.
  15. Take an ocean cruise on a tramp steamer in the seas off Southeast Asia.
  16. Travel to India on an ecoadventure. Paddle in multi-day trips in the other four Canadian provinces and the three Territories.
  17. Paddle in multi-day trips in the other four Canadian provinces and the three Territories.
  18. Visit the backwaters of Kerala (India).
  19. Ride the Palace on Wheels in India.
  20. Ride with Rovos Rail in Africa.
  21. Ride the Royal Scotsman in the UK.
  22. Ride horseback in Mongolia, and, if possible, hunt with golden eagles.
  23. Have a drink in Rick’s Café, Casablanca, Morocco (yes, it does exist!)
  24. Ride the Indian-Pacific Railway in Australia.
  25. See the Spirit Bears of Princess Royal Island, B.C., Canada.
  26. Swim with wild manatees in Florida.
  27. Kayak the Vava’u Islands in the south Pacific.
  28. Kayak in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
  29. Paddle the Mekong River in southeast Asia.
  30. Stay at the Canopy Tower in Panama.
  31. Canoe the Zambezi in Africa.
  32. Safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa.
  33. Visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
  34. See the pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt.
  35. See the ancient Greek ruins like the Delphi Oracle and the Acropolis.
  36. Play baccarat in a casino, while wearing a tux and drinking a Vesper martini (Vegas or Monte Carlo, doesn’t matter).
  37. Go to the UK Spy School.
  38. Have a drink in the Kasbah in Algeria.
  39. Go storm-watching on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.
  40. Sail around the Caribbean (on a sailboat).
  41. Spend several days enjoying the outdoors at the King Pacific Lodge, B.C., Canada.
  42. Visit Stonehenge, UK.
  43. Visit Tintagel, UK, the purported birthplace of King Arthur.
  44. Visit Glastonbury Tor, the supposed original burial place of King Arthur.
  45. Take a Sherlock Holmes Tour of London, UK.
  46. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, live.
  47. Go to a New York Jets’ home game.
  48. Go to a Kansas City Chiefs’ home game.
  49. Visit Petra, in Jordan.
  50. Visit Wadi Rum in Jordan (Lawrence of Arabia was filmed there).
  51. See wild cockatoos in Indonesia.
  52. Have a drink at the Raffles Hotel, in Singapore.
  53. Hike the Black Forest, in Germany.
  54. Sail in a Viking longship in a fjord in Norway.
  55. Smoke a cigar and drink rum at La Floridita, Havana, Cuba.
  56. Go to a St. Louis Cardinals home game.
  57. Spend an evening at the Explorers Club in New York.
  58. Attend Oktoberfest in Germany.
  59. Visit the Canadian Canoe Museum, in Peterborough, Ontario.
  60. Visit the National Aviary, in Pittsburgh, PA.
  61. See a sumo wrestling match in Tokyo, Japan.

Machu Picchu: it took my breath - literally.

Now that you've read it, maybe you recognize some things you've done, places you've been to - and places/experiences that I've listed here that you would also like to enjoy. That's cool.

But more important than that - go out and make your own "bucket list" of travel places/experiences that you genuinely want to enjoy - and don't worry about what's on mine or on anyone else's list.

Then go out and do them.