Clement Woodnutt Miller

08/31/2017

If not for a tragic plane crash in 1962 near Eureka, Calif., Clem Miller would have been 101 years old. I did not know him and still know little about him, but I do know that he was the congressman who introduced the legislation advocating for the formation of the Point Reyes National Seashore, thus saving us from freeways and condos. And though I knew about the big meadow with four large cabins and a main house not far from Limantour Beach that is named after him, I did not know his middle name was Woodnutt, which is a great name. Until this year, I also did not know what has gone on out there every summer since 1987.

In mid-June, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association hired me as camp cook at the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It was definitely a mouthful of a job title, so I eagerly accepted it. Every week during the camp season, 50 kids came out and stayed for five days. For many, it was their first exposure to wilderness and for some, it was their first time away from home. All were tentative and shy on Monday morning and loud and confident by Thursday breakfast. It was a growing experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. What PRNSA and 25 to 30 counselors do every summer is an amazing thing and I was proud to be a part of it. 

I harvested benefits as well. Cooking in the wilderness is highly underrated; it’s so beautiful out there, especially at daybreak. The resident raven greeted me and the bobcat looked like Brad Pitt as he stepped aside and watched me go by. A golden eagle soared high over the valley and a coyote in the meadow stared down a rodent hole or looked up at me as if to say, “Hey, can’t you see I’m workin here!” There were bunnies and quail everywhere, the babies looking like fuzzy golf balls with legs. 

One morning I was turning off the main road toward camp when I noticed the absence of quail. Instead, two bunnies were in the middle of the road. I came to a near stop just before they ran off, and realized they were doing it in the road. THEY WERE DOIN’ IT IN THE ROAD! Thankfully, at Clem, I had a C.D. of the White Album in the kitchen. I do not know what Clement Woodnutt Miller would have thought about it, but I know how it made me feel, blasting the Fab Four at full volume up the Limantour Valley: “Why don’t we do it in the road, no one will be watching us, why don’t we do it in the road!” If I hadn’t played it, the song would have been going through my head all day.

Dave Cook is the semi-retired chef and owner of the Coast Café in Bolinas and the host of KWMR’s “FishTales,” which airs Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m.