Four-and-a-half hours crammed in a little Volkswagen Rabbit is a long time for a nine year old. But at the time, it was the only way to get to the fishsite. My mom, three younger siblings and I never spent the night there, either, so it was another four-and-a-half hour drive home later that evening.
Was it worth it? You better believe it! The fishsite was my second most favorite place on earth.
Fun snacks, silly songs, and frequent stops made the trip bearable and even fun. The poor kid smashed in the middle of the back seat even got some breathing room, since we took turns sitting in front. (This was long before the days of air bags and kids being required to sit in car seats ‘till they’re ten.)
The road stopped at the edge of the bluff. I could taste the tangy, salty sea air as soon as I stepped from the car confirming “We made it! We’re almost at the fishsite!” Before I could really consider myself at the fishsite though, I had to get down the seawall; the steep, sandy cliff that separated the road at the top of the bluff from the collection of boats, nets, and other fishing gear on the beach.
Walking toward the edge of bluff I’d try and guess how high or low the tide was. Sometimes it would be all the way out, and calm as glass. Other times the waves would be breaking right at the base of the seawall and we’d have to wait for the water to retreat enough for us to get down.
High above the ocean, I’d scout out my route. We always climbed down a gully of sorts, but it never looked quite the same from year to year. The trick was to find a route through the cliffy section of hard packed sand at the top and then run down the loose sand to the bottom. I always thought if I’d run fast enough, and take really big steps, maybe I’d get to the beach without my shoes full of sand. Never happened.
After greeting my grandparents, and whatever cousins were working at the fishsite that summer, I was faced with the BIG question. What should I do first? I had a gazillion fun choices and only a day to play.
Sometimes I toyed with the the near-freezing water, chasing a wave down the beach and then running back just out of reach of the next one coming in. If the weather was REALLY warm (barely 70) and if I was feeling particularly daring, I’d wade in.
The beach made a great sandbox. I’d spend hours making roads for toy cars, attempting the perfect sand castle, and digging little troughs and watching them fill with water. I also had a lot of fun covering myself with warm, soft, loose, sand, letting it trickle slowly through my hands.
Watching the “big” people fish was interesting too. They picked those slippery, flopping fish out of the nets and threw them into piles so fast! I quickly learned to keep my eyes open. I had to dodge flying fish, moving ropes, busy tractors, 3-wheelers, and guys dragging anchor… If I got in the way, I got yelled at to “MOVE!” Sometimes I tried to pick fish, but I’d just end up with stinky, slimy hands and sand in my eyes.
The salmon were pretty though, especially after they had been rinsed off. Some of them were blue and silver, some green and silver, and the ones almost ready to spawn were red. I made a game of choosing my favorite fish in each tote.
I also liked to climb up the stairs to the old cabin on stilts (used before the ramp and trailers). That scared me a little, because it was so high and exposed. They only had a railing on one side, and the deck didn’t have one at all! But I loved being able to look over the beach and the water, listening to the waves crash in the distance.
Another irresistible challenge was to climb to the top of the bluff and then jump and slide back down. We had contests of all sorts. Who could climb the highest? Jump off the biggest cliff? We all did this, even when we weren’t so little anymore. The fishsite dogs liked to climb the bluff too – chasing after tennis balls.
Time flew during those fun-filled days at the fishsite. Tractor rides, 3-wheeler rides, walks along the beach looking for pretty rocks… Before I knew it, Mom was saying it was time to head home. Already?
It all worked out though, because beginning the year I turned 13, my family lived and worked at the fishsite every summer. That’s when I really learned how to fish.