Classic Americana on Cape Cod | Day Out Catching Blue Crab off the coast of Massachusetts | Oregon Girl Around the World

Come Fishing for Blue Crab on Cape Cod

CATCH YOUR LIMIT OF KEEPERS

CLASSIC AMERICANA | FAMILY FUN OFF THE COAST OF MASSACHUSETTS

Come with me. Out to the Cape. Cape Cod that is. This is the East Coast. And it’s wicked awesome. Stick your toes in the big wide swaths of beautiful sandy beaches just beyond Boston. Swim in the ocean. The Atlantic Ocean. Stroll through darling little towns that will charm your socks off. Covet their classic flower-boxed wood-shingled houses. Have a lobster roll. Try the clam chowdah. Kayak through the wetlands looking for herons and egrets and turtles and otters. Spend the day crabbing for blue crabs.

CRABBING IS COOL FROM COAST TO COAST

Crabbing? Yes. Crabbing. You can here. It’s cool. As an Oregon Girl, I grew up crabbing on the Oregon Coast. On that side of the country, we hunt for Dungeness crabs. Under my family’s influence and with many opportunities to practice, my kids now know the ins and outs of how to fill bait boxes and pull up pots in bays all along the west coast. They can tell you the difference between a keeper and tosser, a male and a female and how not to get pinched by either. Most of the time anyway. But you don’t have to be an expert to catch crabs. On either coast.


RELATED: CRABBING ON THE OREGON COAST

Classic Americana on Cape Cod | Day Out Catching Blue Crab off the coast of Massachusetts | Oregon Girl Around the World
THE EAST COAST EQUALS BLUE CRABS

On the East Coast, you catch blue crabs. Before I moved to Oregon at the age of nine, my family lived in South Carolina for three years. We spent many weekends in and around idyllic Hunting Island seeking out crustaceans in the coastal estuaries of South Carolina. I remember tying chicken bits to a long piece of string and tossing in our hand lines with feet firmly in the warm shallow water. Slowly we pulled in the piece, hoping for a crusty crab with chicken in its clutches. Deftly and delicately with a swoop and a scoop, the crabs would be collected in our net. Winner, winner! Crab dinner.

My kids caught the blue crabbing bug on travels to Delaware when they were little. Cheap nets and frozen chicken offered hours of entertainment on a nearby dock of a bay. So when we learned you could find them around Cape Cod, we were hooked and dedicated a day to crabbing.

Their scientific name Callinectes sapidus, means “savory beautiful swimmer.” – National Geographic¹

CRABBING ON CAPE COD

Unlike their Dungeness crab cousins, who crawl along the bottom, blue crab are swimmers. See those paddles in the back? So to catch them, you need to find moving water. Their natural habitats are brackish estuaries and coastal wetlands. Lucky for you there are many around Cape Cod. You’ll need double-ringed dip nets or a long pole net to scoop up catches from a weighted hand line and chicken on the bone for bait. Make sure your nets have wide holes so the water rushes out.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED
  • Ring nets
  • Weighted hand lines or drop lines with a hook for bait
  • Bait (chicken on the bone)
  • Long poled net
  • Gloves to pick out crabs
  • Cooler with ice
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Drinks/Snacks

The equipment is not expensive and easy to find at tackle shops, hardware stores and some grocery stores all around the Cape.

Where to Find Blue Crabs on Cape Cod

This list is not exclusive. These are places where we found success. Ask around for the best blue crab spots at your local fishing and tackle store. Someone is sure to have a secret location that will help ensure success.

Double-ringed dip net with chicken bait secured
Crabbing off pedestrian bridge over Herring River | Bells Neck Conservation Area, Harwich MA

Checking for keepers

WILD ABOUT WETLANDS

Our favorite spot on Cape Cod for crabbing had to be in the beautiful and serene Bells Neck Conservation Area outside Harwich, Massachusetts. Find your way to the pedestrian-only bridge that spans the Herring River for a perfect place to plop in your nets. Turn off Bells Neck Road onto unpaved N Road. Park at the end and walk to the bridge. We dropped our double ringed dip nets over the side of the bridge into the deeper moving water as it emptied into the more shallow and calmer bay beyond.

Crabbing requires patience. Make sure you’ve brought drinks and snacks to keep your crabbers uncrabby. Exploring the boggy wetlands down the path beyond the bridge in Bells Neck offers a diversion along with a lesson in biodiversity and coastal ecology. But don’t tell the kids that. They just loved finding tons of funny little fiddler crabs past the long grasses and all over the muddy shore. Fiddler crabs are feisty and cool with their dominant right front claw.

Did you know that wetlands are essential coastal zones that mitigate carbon from local environments? Making sure that we conserve, prioritize and protect these delicate ecosystems from pollution and development will preserve them for future generations. Teach your people to tread lightly and remember to pack out all the trash you bring in. Be a good steward and remove any other rubbage you might find.

GOOD TO KNOW
MASSACHUSETTS STATE BLUE CRAB REGULATIONS
  • Crab season is from May 1st – December 31st
  • Crabs must be 5″ wide measured from spike to spike
  • It is only legal to keep male crabs
  • Daily limit = 25 crabs/day
  • No permit required unless using commercial traps or SCUBA

These rules are current as of October 2017, but be sure to check with the State of Massachusetts to comply with current regulations.

Small, but powerful. Watch your hands.
GOOD TO KNOW
  • Keep your keepers on ice in your cooler.
  • Do not put them in a bucket of water. They will drown as they need lots of oxygen from moving water.
  • Do not eat any crabs that have died before you cook them. Crabs have bacteria in their flesh that multiplies rapidly upon death and releases toxins that can make you sick.²
  • Cook crabs alive at the earliest convenience to kill bacteria and prevent toxin release.
  • The ice makes them sleepy and easier to plop in your pot.
  • Steam crabs over water or water/beer mixture for 7-10 minutes or until shells are bright red. Old Bay Seasoning optional.
  • Lay out newspaper and get your mallet ready to crack and pick and enjoy the sweet meat.

For more tips and tricks to stalk your own savory blue swimmers out on the Cape, check out this post from Affordable Cape Cod Vacations.

Did you catch your limit? I wish we had. Maybe not enough for a true Cape Cod crab feast, but we did have fun. For hours. Without phones. Or screens. Together. Outside. In a wicked beauty of a spot. A real reason to celebrate. Cheers to that.

 

Oregon Girl Around the World

Postcards from an American Road Trip | Western States

Let’s Drive From Colorado to Oregon

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The best way to experience the wide-open spaces of America is behind the wheel of a car. Take a road trip. It’s a big country. With many points of view and millions of viewpoints. I’m talking vistas, not politics right now. Call it escapism. Call it soul-searching. Call it what you will. There is freedom on the road. And beauty to behold. So much beauty. I’m feeling the call of the church of nature lately. Nothing fills my soul like a walk in natural wonder.

The Western United States has plenty of wonder on offer. I’d like to share a few of my postcards from the road. This was a road trip a few years back from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon. We had planned stops and room for impulsivity. This is the recipe of a darn good road trip. Follow along with me.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

B | MOAB, UTAH
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Our first stop on our road trip from Denver home to Oregon was in one of my favorite U.S. National Parks. Situated just outside charming Moab, Utah – Arches National Park was like nothing I had ever seen before my first visit. We have now been several times and I highly recommend it. Great for all ages and levels of physical fitness there is something to impress everyone here.

Red rocks like the landscape of mars dominate the discoveries. Start at the Welcome Center just outside Moab. If children are along, sign up for the Junior Ranger program – a small booklet to engage in learning about the geology and biology of the area.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
START HERE:

The park is open year round and the visitor center is open every day except December 25. Hours of operation change with the seasons. Current Visitor Center Hours: 9 am – 4 pm. Check website for current information before your visit.

TOP TIP:

The park is busiest March – October. Take care in summer months as temperatures can soar to 100°F (37°C) and shade is limited. Bring lots of water with you – limited facilities past the main visitor center. And remember sunscreen and wear sturdy shoes for hiking to get peeks at some of the park’s icons.

DON’T MISS:

Balancing Rock, Sand Dune Arch and Windows Arches. If yours are up for a walk – Landscape Arch is the longest natural arch in the park and the 5th longest in the world. There are thoughts that it won’t last much longer. Or plan for the 3.2 mile roundtrip (sections over slick rock with a 480m ascent) to see Delicate Arch with everyone else at sunset. So magical, the State of Utah put it on their license plates.

STAY:

Camping around Arches National Park
Unfortunately, the main campground inside the park at Devil’s Garden is closed for construction from March – November 2017. There are other campgrounds outside the main gates – you can find them listed here.

Moab KOA
3225 South Highway 191 | Moab, UT 84532

With littles along, the rustic charm of the Moab outpost of Kampers of America (KOA) is a welcome respite. We rent a “Kamper Kabin,” that sleeps 6 in 4 bunks and a double bed. Bring your own sleeping bags or bedding. But the value here lies with a swimming pool to cool off after hiking through the red dust as well as a mini-golf course for late evening fun with the family.

EAT:

Jailhouse Cafe
101 N Main St | Moab, UT 84532

Best brunch in town. Check for opening hours and plan accordingly. Outdoor seating during warmer months. Delicious.


C | BRYCE, UTAH
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

The State of Utah has five National Parks within its borders. (The third most per state behind much larger Alaska and California.) Bryce Canyon is a little off the beaten path, but offers a vista like none of the others. Hoodoos – strange rock formations created by the unique geology here dominate the landscape. Quirky towers, striated with whites, oranges, and reds sit below you in the valley. When viewed from the canyon rim, it is not difficult to be impressed with this vista. But I recommend that you hike down in and see them up close and personal.

 BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
START HERE:

The visitor center here is excellent and offers talks and presentations as well as information on the local geology. In summer months – May to September – opening hours are extended from 8 am – 8 pm. During shoulder months April and October – open 8 am – 6 pm. Center closes at 4:30 pm in winter, November – March.

TOP TIP:

All Bryce Canyon hikes start at the canyon rim and head down to the valley floor. Be prepared with water and sunscreen and save energy for the hike back up. Horseback trail rides down into the canyon available as well.

DON’T MISS:

Thors Hammer and Wall Street on the Navajo Loop Trail. Or check out the Astrology Nights held at the Visitors Center affording views through the telescopes at the galaxy beyond. Because Bryce Canyon is isolated from population centers, it avoids light pollution and one has the potential to see the Milky Way and 7500 of the closest stars. Check website for details.

STAY:

Camping in Bryce Canyon National Park
North Campground and Sunset Campground both offer tent and RV sites. Only North campground is open year-round and on a limited basis.

Bryce Canyon Lodge and Cabins
Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce, UT 84764
Reservations 1-877-386-4383

Historic lodge with 114 rooms available from April through mid-November. Rustic cabins, a general store, dining room and other amenities available.

For lodging outside the park – check here.


D | ORDERVILLE, UTAH
ROCKS & GEMS SHOPPING

No American road trip is complete without curious and authentic places to stop and experience real Americana. Orderville, Utah is a beaut of a stop for anyone interested in rocks and minerals. And even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed rock hound, you might be after stopping at one of the iconic shops here on Route 89 between Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, where we’re headed next. I mean where else can you grab a geode, onyx, petrified trees, crystals AND fossilized dinosaur teeth.

DON’T MISS:

The Rock Stop

Fisher’s Rock Shop & Jewelry
400 W State St, Orderville, UT 84758


E | SPRINGDALE, UTAH
ZION NATIONAL PARK

People come to Zion to commune with angels. Heaven on earth. But no matter what your religion, this park will move you. Currently, it sits firmly in my top three U.S. National Parks for purveying epic and awe-inspiring landscapes. Of the five National Parks in Utah, Zion is the granddaddy. Greener than the barren martian landscape of Arches N.P., Zion sits along a slot canyon formed by the Virgin River. It is also one of the most popular parks in the Western States and sees an average 4 million visitors annually. Plan your visit here early summer or early fall to experience all of Zion’s majesty.

Nearby Springdale, Utah – like Moab – has become an adorable outpost for park visitors, hikers, adrenaline junkies as well as families. The Virgin River continues its course out of Zion and right down along Springdale. Great options for accommodations, restaurants and cafes here as well as many stops for the free shuttles that take you right into the park.

Zion NATIONAL PARK
START HERE:

Start at the Visitor Center to pick up a current park map and guide with up to date listings on trail conditions and shuttle stops. Excellent bathroom facilities, gift shop for sunscreen you forgot and places to fill up your water bottle with Zion spring water.

TOP TIP:

If you want to drive into the park – come EARLY. Parking is greatly limited inside Zion, and Visitor Center lots will fill by mid-morning. OR skip parking hassles and park in Springdale and grab free shuttles which run from March to November.

DON’T MISS:

Weeping Rock and Riverside Walk along the Virgin River. Then in warmer months – a hike up the Narrows in and out of the river is a must, but will be crowded. Check with Visitor’s Center for less popular trails with equally amazing viewpoints.

STAY:

Camping at Zion National Park
Zion has two campgrounds in the canyon. These are South and Watchman Campgrounds. Reservations can be made at Watchman online. Otherwise, plan to come early to try for a spot as most fill by noon from April – October. I told you it was popular here.

Zion National Park Lodge
Only in-park lodging with dining facilities available year round.

Desert Pearl Inn
707 Zion–Mount Carmel Hwy | Springdale, UT 84767

If you have one place to splurge on your road trip, save your pennies for a night at the Desert Pearl. After camping in Bryce it was a perfect respite. Ask for a family room on the Virgin River side and your spacious accommodation will open up onto a grassy area right along the shaded river with beautiful red rocks looming in the distance. The river is narrow and shallow here – a perfect place for kids to swing and float down the water a bit, then clamber back up the bank to do it again. Catch frogs. Swing from the rope right over the river. Too much nature for the day? Take a dip in the pool with views of the red rocks and watch the moon rise.

EAT:

Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon
1212 Zion Park Blvd | Springdale, UT 84767

Tex-mex with attitude. Fun decor and outdoor patio. Great margaritas and guacamole. Perfect after all that hiking!

Larsen’s Frostop Drive-In
858 St George Blvd | St George, UT 84770

Classic American road trip pit stop. Burgers, fries, milkshakes of every ilk. Make mine a vanilla malt please. A must stop leaving Zion on your way to Vegas. Yes. I said Vegas, baby.


F | LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
LAS VEGAS STRIP

Now a good American road trip is chock full of yin AND some yang. For all that nature, we have to create balance. One night in Vegas is usually enough to do it. And yes. I do believe you can take your children to Vegas. For a night. All that neon is fascinating to everyone.

START HERE:

The classic welcome to Las Vegas sign. You may have to wait your turn to get your pic, but come on. It’s an instant classic. Lucky for you the sign now sits in the middle of a median at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Parking spots available and paved paths lead to the sign.

TOP TIP:

If traveling with children, be aware that Sin City can live up to its name. Keeping exploration to daytime and early evening hours and specific sites will minimize concern. Many of the big hotels on the Strip have amazing pools that are a big splash with families, especially after the camping and hiking of previous days.

DON’T MISS:

The water show in front of the Bellagio, the Big Apple roller coaster atop New York-New York, shopping under Caeser’s Palace and the light show at the Fremont Experience.

STAY:

There are a million places to stay and something for every budget. If you prefer your lodging without the ding-ding-ding of a casino floor, check out these lists for non-gaming hotels. Here and here.

The Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino
129 Fremont Street Experience | Las Vegas, NV 89101

When in Vegas, baby. We went old school for our Vegas family experience and choose to stay at the iconic recommend the Golden Nugget for two reasons. It has a pool with water-slide through a shark tank. I’m not kidding. Hours of entertainment. And, second, it is part of the Fremont Street Experience – a huge LED canopy that connects several Vegas casino legends with a shopping mall and restaurants. Nightly light shows on the huge canopy begin at dusk.


G | HAWTHORNE, NEVADA
MINERAL COUNTY MUSEUM

Leaving Las Vegas – you could opt to continue your road trip west to Los Angeles. But we’re from Oregon – so we’re headed north. With a couple of the deepest alpine lakes on the map to round out our journey. Nevada is not a small state and transversing it takes determination. When Lake Tahoe is your target, believe me, its worth it.

But before we get to those gorgeous blue waters, we’ll cross through some wild, wild west. Tumbleweeds and sage brush and teepees and cactus. LOTS of cacti. And then out of nowhere is the peculiar town of Hawthorne, Nevada. It’s worthy of a stop. Home to around 3000 inhabitants, the local economy here is mostly providing for the local Army depot. A stop at the free Mineral County Museum gives a glimpse through time at what life was like in this part of America.

Don’t Miss:

Mineral County Museum
400 10th Street | Hawthorne NV, 89415


H | LAKE TAHOE, NEVADA/CALIFORNIA BORDER

Ahhhh. You made it. It was long and at times desolate. But Tahoe calls. Can you hear it? Whispers through the tall pines that line the surrounding mountains. Come to the lake.

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States and straddles the border of Nevada and California. Today, we’re staying on the Cali side, but both sides have merits. We drove far today and will set up camp and stay. For two nights.

TOP TIP:

Summer is beautiful here, but Lake Tahoe also has world-class ski resorts for those interested in winter action. Check out Heavenly, Diamond Peak, Squaw Valley and Mount Rose.

DON’T MISS:

South Lake Tahoe and beautiful Emerald Bay. On the Nevada side, take the lift up to the top of Heavenly for amazing views over the lake and a great restaurant at the top. Want to get out on the water? Take a turn on a sternwheeler that leaves from Zephyr Cove.

STAY:

Camping around Lake Tahoe
There are tons of places to camp around Lake Tahoe. For crowd-sourced reviews of specific campgrounds – check out The Dyrt.

William Kent Campground

We enjoyed the rustic campsites across the street from the Lake at William Kent Campground near Tahoe City on the California side. Easy access to Tahoe City for provisions or good restaurants, William Kent sites are wooded and semi-private. Bear lockers available and recommended for safe keeping of all your food stuffs. Yes. Bear lockers. Use them people. They’re there for a reason.

EAT:

S’mores around a campfire. Three simple ingredients. Pure American summer perfection. Marshmallows. I recommend Jet-Puffed mallows. Don’t believe that there is a difference between American marshmallows and other marshmallows? I am here to tell you there is. Believe it or not, but I think American marshmallows are less sweet than those I’ve found here in Denmark. Toast your marshmallow to a golden brown perfection where the middle is just perfectly melted and about to slide off your stick. Set it gently atop a square of Honey-Maid graham crackers and carefully insert one brick of Hershey’s chocolate. Squish together with a second square of graham and let sit a minute to ensure time for the chocolate to melt. Now taste. Ahhh. Smile. You’ll want some more if you did it correctly.


I | KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

Lake Tahoe is second only to Crater Lake, which sits a little further north in southern Oregon as the deepest freshwater lake in the United States. The crystal clear blue water sits inside a volcanic caldera created after the eruption of the former Mount Mazama approximately 8000 years ago. When we arrived mid to late June, summer had not yet hit Crater Lake, snow still closing down some roads and trails. Overcast skies did not afford the best blues the lake has to offer, but the park still impresses.

From Crater Lake, we made it home to Portland. There is much to explore in Oregon that I will share in further posts. But for now, with nearly 2000 miles (3200 km) under our belt in a week’s time, we need our own beds. Our own shower. And rest for our weary feet.

But our experiences from the road will leave watermarks of wonder. For a long time after. Get out there. Buy the ticket. Take the ride. Feel the freedom of the open road.

Suitcases and Sandcastles

Scenic McKenzie Highway – Road Trip to Sisters, Oregon

Oregon seeps under your skin, mossy and green. Like a salve for your soul. It is my from. If you’ve been playing along or you know me, this is no surprise. If you haven’t and you landed here today with this post – then first, let me say velkommen! Welcome! But you probably figured it out too. Right? The Oregon connection? It’s kind of obvious, hunh? Oregon Girl and all. Yep, ok. Back to Oregon. But what do you know about Oregon? I know some of you know a lot. But for those who don’t – here’s a tiny overview. Short and sweet and green.

One of the 50 United States, Oregon sits sandwiched on the West Coast (the best coast) between her more populous neighbors – Washington and California – both who can boast hosting a top 20 U.S. city, or two, within their borders. Both those states have their merits – a plenty. Believe me. As my husband and I both attended college in Washington, we have strong heart strings that pull us there. And he and his family call California their from, growing up in So Cal, all of them. But when I am outside of the States, I find that fewer people know much about Oregon, the West Coast’s middle sister.

As an expat currently living in Denmark, invariably the first question I get asked is: where are you from? And more often than not, people can quickly pick up my accent as soon as I answer and recognize that I am American. When I go on to say that I’m from Oregon – quizzical looks can follow. Ok – let me explain. Do you know where California is? Lights of recognition. Yes! Yes, I do! Of course. Everyone does. Go north. I say. That’s Oregon. And while California has many amazing things to share and offer both the resident and tourist alike, I like Oregon better. Sorry Cali. It’s me, not you. Don’t worry – I’ll still visit. (We did – post forthcoming!)

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