Salmon Connections


A funny thing happened on my way to New Zealand, my colleagues told me about the Pacific Chinook Salmon living in New Zealand. Whaaaat??

It seems that once upon a time when a young United States was expanding in the west, an energetic Livingston Stone was US Deputy Fish Commissioner, America’s Senior Fish Culturist, and ultimately the “father of fish culture on the Pacific Coast”. He zealously went about the western U.S. introducing non-native fish like striped bass into streams and the California delta where they harass dwindling salmon populations. (Thanks Stone.) He also shipped Chinook Salmon eggs around the world in the late 1800s.

Some of those eggs found their way to New Zealand and were planted on rivers in South Island including the Rangitata, Opihi, Ashburton, Rakaia, Waimakiri, Hurunu, and Waiau Rivers. Alas, the Kiwis also built hydro-electric facilities and irrigation canals that blocked the salmon’s access to the high mountain streams and the spawning grounds they love. Some remain.

Today you can fish for Chinook salmon whose ancestors swam in the Russian River on the two wild and scenic Rangitata and Waimakiri Rivers. I spoke with Barry Clark by phone, a fishing and hunting guide based in Lake Tekapo, and he explained that the salmon adapted well. They come back after 2-3 years at sea so they are smaller than California’s salmon. The wild stock are also fewer in number due to harsher conditions at sea–what with warmer sea temperatures and increased commercial fishing. Otherwise the life cycle is the same: spawning on gravel beds, and rearing on floodplain from fry to smolt, before going out to sea.

The story comes full circle as the Winnemem Wintu tribe in Northern California believes that the surviving salmon in New Zealand are genetically closer to their historic salmon that spawned on the upper McCloud River but were all but destroyed when Shasta Dam was built. They are lobbying for these fish to be reintroduced and NOAA is studying the genetics of the fish and considering the possibility. The tribe’s quest is detailed in an award-winning documentary. This is part of an ongoing debate over fish hatcheries–including the one named after Livingston Stone.

If you do find yourself in the Canterbury region of South Island in New Zealand, then give Barry Clark a call (6806-513) and he can show you the best places to fish for trout in canals and lakes year round or to fly fish from the first Saturday in November.

busy-beePostscript:  Not every introduced species is problematic. Another case in point is the bumblebee. Four species of bumblebee was introduced from Britain at the turn of the 20th century to pollinate red clover. None of the native bees had long enough tongue to reach inside red clover flowers, but the imported bumblebees could do the job. Red clover is essential to sheep and dairy pastures.  Over time, England’s bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus went extinct. Now beekeepers in England are working to reintroduce New Zealand bumblebees. The bumblebee also inspired a classic Kiwi toy.


South Island Lake Tekapo a Stunner


When you visit the South Island of New Zealand you find yourself saying “wow” a lot. It is hard after a while to be impressed. Places that would win most beautiful or special contests in other countries become average in New Zealand. So believe me when I tell you that you will find Lake Tekapo stunning.

As it says in the coffee table book in our hotel room:  “From the moment you cross Burkes Pass and first see the enormous, tussock-covered plain of the Mackenzie basin and encircling Southern Alps, you know you have arrived in a another world—a largely untouched world filled with wide open spaces, breathtaking scenery, and are so clear it feels, as Dame Ngaio Marsh once wrote, ‘unbreathed, newly poured out from the blue chalice of the sky.”


Pedestrian bridge links lake trail from village to Church of Good Shepherd; glacial “rock flour” turn the water vivid blue turquoise.

We landed in Christchurch around 8 a.m. and picked up our rental car. We drove south on Highway 1 then east on 79 for about 3 hours. Steadily the farmland and small towns grew in beauty and charm. Finally we pulled around a corner to be gobsmacked by Lake Tekapo and the snowy mountains that frame it.

We are still an hour from the tallest mountain in New Zealand–Mt Cook or Aoraki (the cloud piercer). We discussed driving to see it, but the weather has been rainy with low clouds and the odds are that it won’t be visible. Similarly we booked the 9:45 p.m. tour of Mount John Observatory but received a full refund from Earth and Sky tours when the cloud cover was 100%.


This statue by Innes Elliott honors all of the collies that assist shepherds–not just to James Mackenzie’s partner in sheep stealing crime: his dog Friday.

There is still so much beauty and interest.We walked to the Church of the Good Shepherd and the dog statue. This Mackenzie Country area is named for James Mackenzie, a sheep rustler with a strong constitution who also happens to be the first European to find his way to this special place. More sheep farmers flooded in from all over Scotland and England and carved out a life in this remote place. The population didn’t really reach any significance until the hydro-electric dams and facilities were constructed in the middle of last century. Now tourism rivals farming for economic eminence.


Church of Good Shepherd built by Presbyterians and Anglicans in mid 1930s. (photo: Rev. Sarah Clare)

We’ve enjoyed great coffee and toasted cheese sandwiches at Mackenzies, and a great lunch at the Tin Plate. Our hotel room at Lakeview Tekapo is super comfy with elegant and modern furnishings that all focus on the view of the lake and mountains. We are hoping for a clear night tonight because the area is protected from light pollution and the stars are rumored to be amazing. So glad this is where UK Sarah and I are spending the most time on our road trip.

Faffing Around St Heliers

Long time readers of this blog may remember that I absolutely love St Heliers in the East Bays of Auckland. In my book any day in this village is a good day.

When I arrived on Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. I picked up my luggage, my first flat white and caught a cab to a friend B’s house. I showered and dressed for church. We went to the 9:30 service at St Phillips. I finally learned that All Black’s had won the rugby match against Australia the day before.

B’s friend Joan joined us and we went to the boardwalk to enjoy a drop-dead gorgeous day in St Heliers. The pohutukawa trees were just starting to bloom. The sun shone brightly. It was Labour Day weekend and the beach was full of families enjoying the ocean and one another.


This gingerbready house sold for $3 million recently… guess I will have to win the lottery to own a home in St Heliers.

We walked to the large Morton Bay fig trees on the green and then turned back toward Annabelle’s for lunch. We were able to get a table outside and continue to enjoy the day. It was perfect.


Planning 2017 Bike Trips

It’s that time of year. Tomorrow the ISO will announce the official 2017 Tour de France route. Rumors are flying on Twitter and Facebook about some of the stages being more than 400 kilometers. Ugh. When will they learn from the Vuelta and the Giro that shorter stages are more competitive? The race is already an endurance test. As a fan, the main reason you should tune in to the route announcement is to begin planning your own adventure–especially booking your hotel.

You can cycle or spectate with an official tour, such as Trek Travel or Thomson Bike Tours. Or you can plan your own adventure. I recommend looking for places where there are starts and finishes close together. The Pyrenees are also terrific: beautiful, many viewing spots within reach, lots of hotels to accommodate teams and fans.

The catalogs for bicycle trips are also arriving. Trek Travel’s beautiful brochure arrived and I spent several happy hours looking at the possibilities. With Trek you know your hotel will be fabulous, the food fantastic and the guides/support reliable, and you pay dearly for this top of the line experience. The Adventure Cycling Association tour catalog also landed in my mailbox this month. These trips are less expensive, generally a bigger time commitment and a bigger physical challenge than your typical bike tour. Two people in my RAGBRAI 2015 group met while riding across the USA with Adventure Cycling Association and they had all positive things to say. You can select from fully supported, Inn to Inn, self contained or van supported rides (and more).

I’ve been dealing with some health issues so my goal is to work my back to the place where I can consider one of these adventures. My ideal trip in 2017 would include the start of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf, Germany in July. What destination is in your future?


Pie, Pie, Pie!

I was looking for something to watch other than sport or politics and I found A Few Good Pie Places on Most of the places they featured were east of the Mississippi. One of the exceptions was Ikeda’s in Auburn. How had I not heard of their pie before? Afterall, they sell 80-100,000 pies a year!

Meanwhile, my friend Dan Macon was also celebrating a milestone–24 of his photographs from his 365 Days of Sheep are featured in art show in the Auburn City Hall. I called my Mom and invited her to join me to taste the pie and see the photos. She added Machado’s to our list of places to go.

img_0691We went straight to Ikeda’s to enjoy pie. Surprise, they serve breakfast and lunch too. I had a delicious western chicken sandwich combo and my mom a burger. Then we shared a piece of wild blackberry pie (yum) and tasted the french apple (too sweet). There is also a complete store of fruit, vegetables and other delicious foodstuffs.

IMG_0693.JPGWe then proceeded a short distance to Machado Orchard. I bought a bag of Empire apples and a slice of classic apple pie. The filling was delicious but Mom and I agreed that the crust was doughy.

We were feeling ready for a nap! We pressed on to find the Auburn City Hall. Google seemed a bit confused. We parked at the beautiful courthouse in Old Town and walked the block to the City Hall. Alas, it is not open on weekends. We could see some of the photos through the doorway and we definitely will return.

Most people in the greater Sacramento area think of Apple Hill at this time of year for pie and fruit (east on Interstate 50). Auburn is about equidistant from downtown but east on Interstate 80. It has a growing number of small farms. October 9 is Placer Grown Farm & Barn self guided tour from 10-4.