No feelings are hurt when I offer kisses, hugs or, at the least, heartfelt gratitude before gathering the Christmas morning loot in a bag and heading back to the stores to get stuff I really need.
For convenience, my family sometimes includes the return receipts in my packages.
Men and women who live for the outdoors are discriminating in their purchases because the difference between good deals and junk is a highly personal decision.
A woman called me earlier this month to ask what fly rod she should get her husband for his retirement. I said, “Get him any rod you want, but be sure to include the return receipt so he can go back and get the right length, weight, handle and other features he’ll need for the type of water and fish he’ll be pursuing.”
It’s damn confusing, even to the angler. I’ve had to buy a dozen fishing rods and I’m still not sure I have the right one in the closet.
Thousands of readers are dealing with the gift giving/receiving issue this morning. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of your windfall from returnable gifts big and small. Let’s start at the top end.
The big trip
Act fast on the card announcing that, through the generosity of some family member, you’re going on a Caribbean cruise. I know this might happen only once in lifetime, but you have only one life.
A week of house arrest and overeating on a cruise boat could kill an outdoorsman in a variety of ways if not from boredom.
Lobby to change the reservations to a fishing trip so you can take advantage of the huge salmon runs forecast for the 2015 seasons.
Keep the trip local here in Washington – the Columbia River and the Washington Coast are forecast to have another year of excellent spring, summer and fall chinook seasons – or go for more adventure in British Columbia or Alaska.
One of the best adult-family or couples-type saltwater salmon fishing experiences available is the Hook It & Cook It week, May 14-18, offered by Angling Unlimited in Sitka, Alaska.
The lodge offers world-class saltwater fishing with a world-class Seattle chef – Europe-trained Ludger Szmania. The package offers a delicious Alaska outdoor experience along with clinics on savoring it again and again back home.
Sitka offers the highest catch rates for king and coho salmon on the marine waters of the North Pacific, plus good fishing for halibut, lingcod and rockfish in the shadow of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano that sprouts from the sea.
You’ll see whales, sea otters and bald eagles during the daily fishing excursions, then return and clean up for the second highlight of the day. Sip a beverage in an intimate setting around Szmania, who prepares tasty samples of the day’s catch as he explains every step in the process.
If you doubt my word about the salmon fishing, read the Alaska Fish and Game salmon reports. If you question praise of Szmania, note that his Seattle seafood restaurant has been in business for a quarter century and is critically acclaimed in a city that suffers no fools in serving fish.
Cost: $2,345 per person. Info: (800) 297-3380; anglingunlimited.com.
Getting socks for a gift wouldn’t be an age-old joke if people gave FITS.
Several sock brands, including Thorlos, give admirable outdoor wear and performance, but none of the brands I’ve put to the test fits or even claims to wrap your feet like the American-made FITS.
The high-quality merino wool socks are 40 percent slower to knit, the company says, because of the complexity of the stitching. The company makes socks specific for hiking, hunting, cycling, nordic skiing and other pursuits that can torture feet.
Each moisture-wicking sock has a deep heel pocket that prevents sliding, a reinforced achilles area to improve durability, a contoured leg and arch that keeps the sock comfortably snug to the curves of your skin and an articulated toe cup that eliminates bulk by molding around your toes.
FITS are made at in the USA’s oldest operating textile mill, which has been kitting socks in Tennessee since 1902. Cost: $16-$20, fitssock.com.
Medal for your mettle
Climbing a high peak is worth more than the blisters and photos you brought back.
Although they’re not essential, GEO-SITU Benchmark Medallions and buttons, which replicate the USGS landmarks imbedded in summit stone, are made to commemorate high achievement. The medallions are complete with the peak name – such as Denali and Rainier, plus the elevation.
Cost: $9-$40, mountainclimb.com
Tickets to adventure
No gift to yourself keeps on giving like one of the vehicle passes required to get into certain parks, forests and wilderness areas. Among the top few to consider are:
• Washington Discover Pass, required on vehicles to access Washington State Parks and millions of acres administered by the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife.
Cost: $30 a year, discoverpass.wa.gov.
• Federal access passes include the Northwest Forest Pass ($30 annual), which is required to park at trailheads for some national forest backcountry areas of Oregon and Washington, including the Umatilla National Forest (Blue Mountains), Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (Eagle Cap Wilderness) and all of the forests in the Cascades and farther west.
However, if you’ll also be visiting national parks or refuges, consider getting one of the more widely useable passes through America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program.
These credit-card-size passes include a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, an $80 annual pass for the general public and – the best outdoor deal in America – a $10 lifetime senior pass for anyone age 62 and older. Info: 1.usa.gov/1sRL833.
Waders for women
Women don’t have to give up fit and function as they wade into gear made for the male-dominated sport of fly fishing.
The new Siren women’s fishing waders from Redington come in models to accommodate female anglers of all sizes. Sirens are equipped with all the technologies and extras of the men’s three-layer breathable versions.
Cost: $220, redington.com.
One for the birds
Of course, the gift giving season isn’t all about you.
You could give your windfall to a good outdoors-related cause and feel good about yourself – a nice gift in itself.
Here’s a thought.
Recent studies say that up to a billion birds are killed each year in the U.S. by colliding with glass, nearly half at homes.
For the price of returning a tie or ugly sweater, you can purchase products that help make window glass visible to birds so they can avoid it.
Translucent bird tape is an affordable solution that is easily applied, removable, looks appealing and lasts up to 4 years on outside surfaces.
It’s available at some stores that have bird-feeding supplies, or buy ABC Bird Tape online from the American Bird Conservancy.
Tests show the 3-inch strips or precut squares can significantly reduce bird collisions with glass windows or doors.
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