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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Friday morning saw camping-buddy Lavon and myself heading out to the Olympic peninsula for a weekend of camping.  The plan was to spend two nights at the Hoh rainforest, with a roughly six mile hike up the river as our Saturday activity.  First things first, though; Friday was also an eventful day for our little town: the grand opening of our very own Trader Joe’s.  We stopped in on our way out of town and experienced live music, hula dancers, and something I’d never seen in a grocery store before: lines 15 people deep in which every person was cheerful and smiling.  We picked up some of Joe’s Spicy Chai Latte just-add-water mix, which turned out to be quite tasty and an excellent thing to take camping because it meany we could have chai without bringing along milk.

It’s 160 miles from my house to the Hoh, so we made a couple of stops along the way.  The first, at Hurricane Coffee in Sequim, is a stop we make nearly every time we pass by.  The place has a really nice atmosphere and some pretty delicious coffee and bagels.  Later, we had a picnic lunch (falafel with olives, capers, tsaziki, and tomatoes in pita) at La Poel, a small peninsula that sticks out into Lake Crescent, which, I learned on this trip, used to contain a truck stop with cabins and a tavern, but now just has picnic tables and fire pits.  No overnight camping is allowed at La Poel, but it makes a tranquil mid-day retreat.

As we passed through Forks, Lavon and I started planning an imaginary Twilight themed ice cream shop.  We had fun thinking up flavors to go with books we’d never read until we came to the turn off to get to the Hoh…  where we were stopped by a ranger.  He informed us that there was a mother elk that had just given birth and was charging at people, so they had to close the area.  There went that plan.  We turned around, made our way back through the Twilight Zone–I mean, Forks–and headed to the coast to camp at Mora, right across the Quillayute River from La Push.

There appears to be some force in the universe that is constantly driving me towards Mora.  I have camped there four or five times, yet only one of those times was intentional.  When other campgrounds are full or close, Mora is where I end up.  And I don’t mind, because Mora is actually my favorite campground of any that I’ve been to.

So we snagged site 31 at Mora, a cozy little site with a tent pad set back in what Lavon called a grotto made of vine maple and elderberry bushes.  Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent mapping out the campground, which took quite a while as there are nearly 100 sites between five irregularly shaped loops.  Loops C and D were closed because the campground wasn’t very busy, and A hardly had anyone in it, so we got to walk into a whole bunch of the sites to really get a feel for them.  #18, in loop A, had this really cool stump in it:

For dinner we had sausages with sauted onions and mushrooms and polenta (perfect camp fare: hearty and delicious), after which we went a mile further down the road to its end at Rialto Beach, where we watched the waves under a darkening grey sky.  Back at camp, my home-made fire starters worked reasonably well.  I wish I had taken the time to fill them up further with wax so they would burn longer, but they got the job done.

Sleep that night should have been easy.  There was a lovely chorus of frogs, and while our neighbor did snore, he was far enough away not to be a nuisance.  The rain that started around 11:30, on the other hand, was a problem.  Our lovely little tent grotto sent large drips hammering down on the tent’s rain fly, making a terrible racket.  The noise, along with my constant worry that all our stuff would become soaked as it touched the edge of the tent, kept me awake, though I know I did get some sleep, and probably more than I thought.

The rain was still going come morning, though by that time it was more of a heavy mist.  After breakfast, when we had saturated a towel mopping up small puddles in the tent, we decided to cut our losses and pack up.  When I lifted my sleeping pad off the tent floor, I discovered a small lake waiting underneath.  By some miracle I had remained dry for the night, but I doubt I would have remained so for a second one.

We made our way home, tired and damp, but still glad we had gone.

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Hello internet-land.  I don’t have a lot of information to impart to you this week, just a few rambling thoughts on how we’ve been getting ready for camping season.

This morning Lavon and I went down to the laundromat in downtown Silverdale to wash her sleeping bag.  I’ve seen various recommendations regarding washing sleeping bags, ranging from be careful to it’s really not a good idea and breaks down the pile (fluffiness) of your bag.  But even REI, who was in the latter camp, admits that if your sleeping bag is getting dirty and gross you’d be better off washing it and being clean.

Well, Lavon’s bag wasn’t gross, but it was dirty, and had lost a lot of its pile, so we packed it down to the laundromat where it could take a ride in one of the big front loading washers, since the absence of an agitator would be gentler on the fabric and stitching.  While it was washing we popped next door to have breakfast at one of my favorite places to get camping rations: Pip’s Bagels.  They make a nice variety of bagels there fresh every day, as well as their own flavored cream cheeses.  My favorites include pesto bagels and sundried tomato bagels, and I love their spinach-artichoke cream cheese.  If you like sweet bagels (I’m not a big fan myself), the orange cranberry poppy-seed are also quite good.

After breakfast it was back to the laundromat and about an hour in the dryer at low heat with some tennis balls (for the sleeping bag, not me–I don’t think the attendant would have liked it if I’d gotten in the dryer.)  I don’t know how much good the tennis balls did as they didn’t have a lot of room to bounce around.

The sleeping bag is now a lot cleaner, and it looks a little fluffier, though it’s kind of hard to tell.  I’m sure it will be nicer to sleep in now either way.

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Hobo Stew

Somebody finally found the Spring Switch and flipped it.  Whoever you are—thank you!

So, this afternoon, as I sat on the porch with Lavon, eating leftover fish and chips and drinking a beer, our talk turned to camping food.  What new things could we try this year?  What dinners could we make that might be a little more “gourmet?”

I suggested that we could probably come up with all sorts of more refined a delicious dishes using the foil packet technique, where you seal food in aluminum foil and cook it in the hot coals of your campfire.  Perhaps we could try salmon with mushrooms, or fresh veggies.  We might even be able to do rice this way.

So many options, and they all go back to one dish that holds a special place in my camper’s heart: Hobo Stew.

I first learned to make hobo stew at Tall Timber Ranch, the summer camp I attended for eight years growing up and later worked at one summer in the kitchen.  We would make this simple dish in the lodge and then take it down to the banks of the White River to light campfires and skip rocks while our dinner cooked.  Now I can hardly go on a camping trip without having my favorite all-in-one, easy cleanup meal.

Hobo stew is really an ill-defined dish, made up of pretty much whatever you want sealed in foil and cooked over a good set of coals.  Here are the traditional ingredient options as I learned them at Tall Timber:

ground beef

tater tots

frozen mixed veggies

shredded cheese

ketchup (I don’t normally like the stuff, but it adds needed moisture and somehow tastes good in here)

salt and pepper

anything else you can pull out of the fridge that you think might taste good in your stew

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