A Long Post about Fort Bragg

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As part of our adventurous trip to northern California to visit my dad, we drove over to the coast to Fort Bragg. This could also go under my travel advice posts, but seriously Fort Bragg is one of my favorite places. Ever. It’s partly from all the memories of blackberry picking and camping with family as a kid, but the whole rocky coastline nestled in the redwood forest is really gorgeous and peaceful. The kids had a blast at the beach with Grandpa Wunsch, even though (as you can see in the pictures above) Elira got smacked in the face with a bunch of sandy mud when Andrew was flinging it around with his shovel. We had really good luck with the weather again, and unlike its normal cold, foggy and gloominess, Fort Bragg was warm and sunny. The only downside to this was that it disproved my previous theory about catching red tail perch. Actually, the eternal quest for red tail perch is so characteristic of my Fort Bragg experience that I think it should be documented here. Those not in the know of the wonders of red tail perch may want to skip the next three paragraphs.

When my sister Sara and I were growing up, we spent nearly every summer with my dad and we always went camping in Fort Bragg. Every year we went to the same beach to fish, which we call Short Beach, though no one else calls it that. First you have to hike like a quarter mile, climb down the rocky cliff to the tide pool area, pull mussels off the rocks, slice out the lip thing of the mussel to use for bait, search for little pearls in the leftover mussel parts (Yes, there are pearls in mussels. When I was 12 I got in an argument with a man about whether there were pearls in mussels. As I had found them every year as far back as I could remember, I knew he had no grounds to convince me otherwise.), hike back up the rocky cliff, then walk over a ways to the cliff that leads to Short Beach, hike down that cliff, bait your hooks with the mussel lip things and begin.

You cast your line in and then you sit by my dad and wait, and you listen to him tell of the glory days when he and my mom were still married and they would catch 20 fish in just a few hours. He tells you how you would have two or three fish on your line right after casting it out. My dad is really a creature of habit, so you have to listen to the same story every time and how things just aren’t the same and there are no more red tail perch to be caught, since his life has been in shambles since then and he can’t even manage to catch a fish. (His life hasn’t been that bad, but he likes to add drama to the story.) Anyway, you freeze, because like I said, it’s usually cold and gloomy in Fort Bragg. And when your sister can’t take it anymore and has bored herself with torturing the one fish you did manage to catch (by making it fly around out of water and putting “lipstick” i.e. sand on it and making it “kiss” i.e. bang into the side of the bucket) you give up and hike the quarter mile back up the hill and go back to your campsite. We never really caught many fish all the times we went there, but red tail perch are good good eatin’, so it was a celebration when we caught any.

So my previous theory about red tail perch involved it being nice and sunny. The year Sara went to Fort Bragg without me, because I was on my mission, the fabled stories came true. Sara and my dad caught the legal limit of fish in no time. The fish were big and you even could get more than one on your line. At first my dad blamed me for always being bad luck before, but the next year it happened again. We caught more red tail perch than ever before and celebrated by sharing with our whole extended family back at the campsite. So my dad couldn’t blame me any more. I figure if Heavenly Father wanted to bless my family for me serving a mission, the best thing he could do for my dad was let him relive his fishing glory days, and then he couldn’t let me be blamed for our previous misfortune as I was actually the cause of our prosperity.

So anyway, back to the part about my fish theory and it being sunny…it just so happened that both those years in which we caught a ton of fish we happened to be in Fort Bragg on the few days of summer that actually were sunny and warm and nice. When taking the kids this year, it was beautiful, and I had high hopes of proving my sunny weather = lots of fish theory correct. But alas, there were no red tail perch to be had. The scientist in me needs to tell you that it wasn’t the best experimental test of the theory though. We didn’t actually use mussel as bait and we didn’t actually go to the Short Beach. Since I was pregnant and we had three little kids in tow, we just purchased some bait and went to a more accessible beach (granted that beach was only a few hundred yards north of Short Beach, but it wasn’t the exact same).

Sorry, that turned out long.

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