Living “at the edge of the continent” along the southwest Washington coast has its distinct advantages, not the least of which is the ability to get out there and “catch” your own seafood dinner.
Salmon, sturgeon, surf perch, oysters, crab, steamer clams and razor clams are all “seasonally available” here, and I’m not one to pass up the opportunity to enjoy them “so fresh, they’re still squirming in the skillet.”
But along with “the hunt,” there’s also the added element of utilizing various muscles (not to be confused with mussels, which are also plentiful here) that can often appreciate a new and/or different workout.
I’d been on my recumbent bike for almost two hours early one day in May when the phone rang unexpectedly.
“You’ve got your clam license, right?” my friend Eddie asked me.
“It’s two hours before low tide. How fast can you get over here?”
And so I hauled ass, as we locals are fond of saying, and pulled into his driveway less than 20 minutes later.
The Long Beach Peninsula boasts 28 miles of “drivable” beach, and we ventured out onto the sand in Ocean Park, and turned right. Allegedly the clams are bigger on the north end, but I’ve never seen much difference in size, no matter where you go to dig.
Eddie saw my unspoken question, and said, “I want to let Ernie run around out here, so we’re going up where there aren’t so many clam diggers.” Ernie is his rather “rambunctious” black lab.
Good luck with finding room to run. During “clam tides,” our beach becomes a virtual parking lot, top to bottom, and diggers are everywhere. Nevertheless, we did find a less-populated area, and headed out with our guns (Relax—it’s nothing more than a tube that is inserted into sand) in pursuit of the mighty (tasty) bivalve.
I’d forgotten how much work it is to dig razor clams. First, you literally stomp around until you see evidence of a clam “show,” in the form of a washer, volcano, or donut (all names for the telltale ring on the beach) which indicates a clam is pumping out sand and water while it’s nestling down deeper in the sand.
Then you work your gun down a good foot or more. Next, cover the gun’s “blow hole” with your thumb to create suction, bend your knees, and wrestle the gun upward. When it clears the beach (often accompanied by both a sucking sound from the beach and a grunt from the digger), lift your thumb, which releases the trapped sand inside. All that’s left to do is bend over and pick up your bounty.
Well maybe, maybe not. The limit here is “the first 15 clams, regardless of size or condition.” (You must keep every clam, even if you mangle it beyond recognition by dissecting it with the edge of the gun.) That’s 15 times you’re testing the limits of your back, shoulders, arms, and knees—if you’re lucky. Sometimes you miss the clam, due to it being a faster digger than you are, and sometimes you’ve got the angle wrong and it simply escapes.
On this day, I was grateful that the first 15 holes I dug yielded 15 nice, fat clams, and I came home none the worse for wear. All my muscles and joints still happily functioned, despite the fact that I’m 60 and hadn’t done this for awhile.
“Exercise” comes in many forms, and I’m inclined to count every little bit of extra-curricular activity as some form of calorie-busting and muscle-toning movement. Clam digging certainly goes on that list, particularly since I power-walked from the truck way out to the ocean at low tide and back.
(Note: I’m very competitive, and I wanted to hustle right out there to be the one to dig the first, the biggest, and return to the truck with the quickest limit, all of which I did, and even though Eddie will argue that his clam was fatter, it’s for sure mine had greater length.)
So it’s all good. As a commercial for arthritis medication claims, “A body in motion stays in motion,” and on this day, I logged in some definite creative fitness points, while burning quite a few additional calories.
But probably not enough to offset my delicious dinner of fried clams.