Archive for the ‘Camping Stories’ Category

Camping Across the Country

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Camping Across the Country

By Jerry

Not long ago, my son and I went on a father and son campout on the other side of the state. Even though he was active in the Boy Scouts and we camped often with his troop, from time to time we took one of these “boys only” family camp outs just to try out our camping skills and hang out together for a couple of days.

On the second night of the camp out, all was going well and we were preparing our camp fire to cook some foil packs for dinner. As often happened, another camper hiked by and we exchanged greetings in a friendly way. He asked to stop and enjoy the fire for a moment and we agreed to the visit. But the story he told us of his adventures was one that peaked our imaginations for years to come. It seems he lived in the Seattle area and had recently landed a great job in Florida. So he had decided that instead of flying to the new job site, he would camp from coast to coast and use that method of discovering America and along the way experience some of the country’s great camp sites.

To be sure to attempt a coast to coast camping odyssey would take a very well prepared and experienced camper. Our family has camped for as long as a week so we know that to accomplish a feat of this magnitude would take some good preparation and ability to camp in all kinds of different situations and environments. But thinking of what our friend experienced as he camped across the country makes such a venture alluring to be sure. Because in his trek from Washington to Florida he would be able to…

• Camp on the beach of the Pacific ocean and experience its majesty and power.
• Camp in the mountains of the Grand Tetons and the phenomenal mountain expanses that fill the middle of the country from Colorado to Idaho.
• Camp at the Great Salt Lake, a truly amazing natural wonder.
• Camp near the phenomenal Mount Rushmore memorial and spend some time admiring that work of art before moving on.
• Camp on the banks of the Colorado river and perhaps enjoy some white water rafting as a diversion during his journey.
• Camp in the flat lands of Kansas or western New Mexico and see lands that seem to stretch on forever.
• Camp on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico adding yet another ocean to his list of wonders he had visited.
• Camp near the swamps of Louisiana and become a Cajun for a few days.
• Camp in the mountains of the great southwest and compare them to those he had experienced in the middle of the country.
• Camp on the shores of the Atlantic ocean, becoming a citizen of all shores.
• Camp on the tip of Florida and look out on the warm waters that would take his imagination to further camping adventures in South America or beyond.

You can see how easy it would be to get carried away imagining the sheer adventure and fun such an extended camping odyssey would afford an intrepid camper. We as Americans always have had a bit of the wanderlust in us and that love of travel and getting up close and personal with nature in many different environments never ceases to call to all of us.

Its hard to imagine the preparation and lifestyle issues you would face when setting out on such an ambitious camping adventure. Perhaps our friend had taken shorter but still ambitious camping ventures across certain segments of the country so he could be ready to take on such a challenge. For our family, just camping in a few camp sites across the state in one trip is a broadening experience. While we are always glad for the many experiences we have had on such journeys, our goals are clearly modest compared to the concept of packing every night on a continuous journey across America.

You can tell that to this day, my son and I have dreamed of being able to pull off a camping adventure of this magnitude. I suspect if you are a camper and have a love of the outdoor life as thousands in our society do, such a large scale camping exploration has a real appeal to you as well.

Who knows, my son and I may continue to dream of such an outing and never get to the point that we are ready to tackle such a feat. But if we do, and we are out there enjoying every mile of our journey to discover America, maybe we will find you setting camp and enjoying a nice camp fire. If we do, can we sit and warm by your fire and share our adventures for a while?

Brown Paper Bag Breakfast Recipe

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

If you want a simple no-fuss and no cleanup breakfast that everyone can make for themselves and that kids love to do, this one is it. All you need is a fire of glowing embers to cook the food over.

Ingredients Needed for Each Breakfast:
1 egg
1 strip of bacon
salt and pepper to taste
1 lunch size brown paper bag/sack
1 marshmallow fork or hot dog fork or long stick

Open the bag and lay the strip of bacon flat on the bottom. Break the egg over the top of the slice of bacon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Tie the bag shut with string and tie the string to the cooking stick; or fold the top of the bag down and poke the stick right through the bag which eliminates the need for the string.

Hold the bag over the fire for 10-15 minutes. You’ll hear the bacon sizzling and the egg bubbling. Don’t hold the bag too close to the fire though or you’ll burn through it.

Rip open the bag and eat immediately.

Camping Diary from Camping Trip To Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin, May 8-11, 2007

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Camping Trip Diary – Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin – May 8 to 11, 2007

Tuesday, May 8

Our plan was to leave early Tuesday morning in order to get to Devil’s Lake at the 3 pm check in time and still have time to go for a walk after setting up our camper, but the weather was so nice my husband decided he wanted to plant a little garden before we left which was fine but I had had so much to do over the weekend that I hadn’t packed anything.

After a frenzied morning getting everything ready, we were almost ready to go when I suddenly felt very ill and spent the next half hour in the bathroom getting sick. It wasn’t looking like a very good start to our camping trip but we managed to get out the door by 3 pm although I was still feeling pretty icky.

We then had to drop our dog off at my parents because we decided we couldn’t take her with us. She stepped on a piece of glass two weeks ago, slicing off most of one of the pads on her left paw. It’s healing nicely and the vet says she doesn’t need to wear a bandage anymore but it’s still hard for her to walk on it for long periods of time and dogs are only allowed on the trials and paved walkways at Devil’s Lake, things that all hard on her paws. The only thing she doesn’t mind walking on right now is grass and dogs aren’t allowed on the grass. So, sadly, she couldn’t go on this trip with us.

Since we got such a late start we decided to stop in Baraboo at the Log Cabin Restaurant for dinner instead of cooking at our campsite. By then I was feeling a little better and was hungry. I ordered a Moroccan chicken salad which consisted of: spicy sliced chicken breast (unbreaded), romaine lettuce, chopped pecans, shredded parmesan cheese, sliced strawberries, chopped granny smith apples, and chunks of pineapple. I had it with ranch dressing on the side. It was delicious! My husband had thinly sliced prime rib wrapped in a tortilla with a cucumber and tomato salad on the side. He enjoyed his meal too.

Then we headed to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few items our local store didn’t have (pumpernickel bread and Quaker rice cakes) along with a few things I forgot (soy sauce, honey, and a heavy duty grilling hot pad).

While I was in Wal-Mart I started to feel sick again, so my very nice husband did most of the setup at camp so I could rest.

We had a little problem when we got to the campground though. The office was closed and we didn’t have a start park sticker yet so we went to the self serve area but found all the self serve forms were gone. We then went to the camp host’s site but they were gone too so we just went ahead and set up camp, but turned our vehicle so it was facing inward so we didn’t have a warden waking us up in the middle of the night asking where our park sticker was.
We love pudgie pies so we thought we’d make a cherry pie one before we went to sleep. That’s when we discovered we had forgotten our pudgie pie makers and our marshmallow forks. Neither one of us has a clue where they are. They’re probably sitting at home somewhere in a conspicuous place, but we won’t find that out until we get back there at the end of the week. In the meantime, we’ll go back to Wal-Mart tomorrow or the next day and get one to use.
Instead, we played a couple of games of cribbage, read a little, and then went to bed.

I was almost asleep when I heard a train whistle. There’s an operating train tracks that runs through the park and it must be nearer to the campground area we are staying in than I thought because it sounded so close that I was half-convinced it was going to go through the middle of our camper.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Today it was really nice out. It was sunny and in the mid 80’s – a perfect day to be camping. My husband got up early, around 6. I was still feeling a little under the weather so I slept in until 9. At 8 my husband went to the park office and got our state park sticker. At 9 he asked me if I was going to get up because he wanted to make breakfast. Since he was cooking, I got up.

After breakfast I gathered all my shower things together and headed for the campground showers (we have a tent camper and don’t have any bathroom facilities in it). The showers were on, but the water was ice cold. After pushing the button to get water about 25 times, I finally realized it wasn’t going to get any warmer than “ice cold” and decided I didn’t feel dirty enough to stand under freezer water to get clean.

Instead I got dressed, programmed my new pedometer, and figured out how to work the new digital camera I brought along to take pictures of all the campsites to put on Then I made a marinade for the chicken we planned on having for supper and cut up some fruit.

My husband and I then walked around the campground area we were in (Quartzite), and got pictures of all the sites (or so I thought.) When we got back to the camper I realized I was missing some, but wasn’t sure which ones. So……we took a notebook and pen back out with us and wrote down the site numbers of all the pictures we took.

I thought I had a good plan worked out for taking the pictures. I took a picture of the campsite number, and then a picture of the campsite so I would know which campsite it was. The only problems were:
A – sometimes I goofed up and took a picture of the campsite before I took a picture of the campsite number and
B – I realized I hadn’t always pushed the shutter button down far enough on my camera to actually take a picture every time.
Two hours after we started we finally had all the pictures taken of the Quartzite campground and had walked about 1.75 miles.

After taking a break and having a snack, we decided to walk the West Bluff trail that is on the left side of the lake. The campground map said the trail’s difficulty is “medium.” I disagree. I think it’s really hard although I’m probably not the best judge since I’m still working on getting in shape.

By the time we were halfway up the north end of the bluff, I was puffing and breathing with my mouth open. A bug decided it was a great time to fly in my mouth. I started choking and threw up on the side of the trail – it wasn’t attractive.

A few minutes after that, we met a couple coming down the bluff. The very nice guy asked me if I wanted a walking stick. He had found a nice size branch on the trail and had used it but said he was done with it so I thought I’d try it out. I really liked using it so we brought it back to our campsite so I can use it tomorrow when we hike another trail.

By the time we got to the top of the bluff though, I was getting bitten by bugs so I asked my husband to get the insect spray out of our backpack. I started to furiously spray it on only to realize that it was sun block, not insect spray. But, since I had already walked to the top I wasn’t quitting and going back down without seeing the beautiful view from the top that so many people said we shouldn’t miss. I was fine until we started heading back down the trail. Then the mosquitoes were starting to come out and biting me and my husband, but me much more than him. I’m always the first person to get bit anywhere we go which sucks because I’m the one that has allergies to insects.

We finally got to the bottom and onto the trail heading back to the north end that runs between the base of the West Bluff and Devil’s Lake. It’s called Tumbled Rock trail but it’s more like Tumbled Boulder trail. The rocks are huge! It was a little freaky looking up the bluff and seeing huge rocks going most of the way up. By my husband and I wondered how they all stayed in place and didn’t come rolling down the hill.

While up on the top of the West Bluff we took some neat pictures of the view that we’ll post in a photo gallery on the web site, but unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of Tumbled Rock trail because the battery went dead and I had forgotten my spare one (Yes, I seem to be incredibly forgetful.)

We were almost back to our vehicle when someone drove past us in the parking lot, then suddenly backed up. It was somebody who was looking for a pen to fill out one of the “self serve” park sticker forms. They didn’t have one so I gave them a spare one of mine.

Then we headed back to our campsite. I felt so hot and sticky that I decided no matter how cold the water was I was going to take a shower. But, hurray, the park personnel turned the heat on for the water in the afternoon and there was hot water – actually almost too hot but it was a whole lot better than the freezing cold water that came out of the shower head this morning.

For supper we made the chicken kabobs and had a tomato and Vidalia onion salad. I’ll post both recipes in the blog. It was the first time we had either recipe. The chicken had a little too much lemon on the marinade so I’ll test it out using less lemon juice before I post the recipe.

After we cleaned up, we built a campfire and toasted some marshmallows. Then we headed inside the camper and played a game of cribbage. Then my husband crawled into bed. The camper kind of tilted on its side. My husband once again forgot to crank the stabilizing bars down. After some grumbling he got out of bed and did it because I told him I wouldn’t be able to crawl in bed and sleep because I’d be afraid that if I moved at all during the night the camper would tip.

It’s now 10:10 pm as I’m writing this. I’m tired, but I don’t think I’ll be getting to sleep anytime soon. My husband is snoring really loud. It’s the only thing I hate about camping – I can’t go in another room when he snores like this. I’m so glad he’s going in for a sleep study in a few weeks. But for now, I guess I’ll read and hope he stops snoring long enough for me to fall asleep.

Tomorrow we’re going to take pictures of the campsites in another campground area, go buy a pudgie pie maker, use our new Dutch oven for the first time to make a beef roast, and we’re going to walk the East Bluff trail. It’s going to be a busy day. I hope the weather is nice.

I wonder if there will be more campers at the campground tomorrow. It’s pretty quiet right now. There’s over 100 sites in the campground area we’re in, but less than 10 of them have campers in them. But, it is still early in the season. I know the “Northern Lights” campground area isn’t even open yet and that has about 150 sites in it. The third campground area in the park is “Ice Age.” We’ll check tomorrow if that’s open yet. It seems odd for it to be so quiet. This is one of the most popular campgrounds in the state and booked solid most of the summer. To get a site during any weekend of the summer months, people have to book several months in advance. For the really popular sites, people will call the reservation number or go online at midnight 11 months before (the earliest a site can be booked) they want to book so they can get the site they want – but even then they are sometimes too late because someone else got it a few seconds before they did.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We got up this morning, had breakfast and then went to Wal-Mart to get a new pudgie pie maker. We also got a better hiking daypack and a set of hiking poles for me. Hopefully they’ll make getting up and down some of the steeper slopes a little easier on my legs and back.

When we got back to the campground we decided to hike up the East Bluff trail. We decided not to do the whole thing, but to hike about three quarters of it and then come back on a trail that goes through the woods. It won’t be a really long hike – maybe three miles total – but I’ve been told the hike up East Bluff is harder than hiking up the West Bluff (and I thought the West Bluff we pretty hard)

After climbing uphill for over an hour, I was pretty tired. It felt like I had walked 10 miles but when I looked at my pedometer it said I had only gone .62 miles. I complained to my husband that my pedometer was broke but he just shook his head and said his pedometer said we had only gone of 6/10th of a mile too. And the worst thing was that we still doing quite a bit of uphill hiking even though I almost didn’t make it that far because at about 3/10th of a mile I nearly turned around and went back down the bluff.

I’m afraid of heights and there was a small section of the trail that was fairly narrow – less than three feet – with a sheer stone bluff on one side and a really big drop-off on the other. Plus, it wasn’t flat; there were several stones to climb up. But after about 5 minutes of telling myself I would be fine and that I could do it, I managed to make myself put one foot in front of the other and got past it. (I’m sure glad that my Mom didn’t tell me until after our camping trip that someone had recently died when they were climbing up the bluff and fell, but I later found out that person was illegally climbing up the sheer face of the bluff and not climbing on the trail. Still, it would have completely freaked me out though.)

When we about halfway to the top we met a couple that had passed up earlier. They said they were giving up. They had wanted to get to the other side and go down to see a couple of stone formations that are supposed to be pretty neat, but they had had it with all the climbing.

After we finally got to what seemed like the top, it was time to catch the trail going back that was in the woods. Then it was all downhill walking which is a little easier than going uphill but really just hurt my legs in a different way. Thank goodness for the hiking poles I had. They kept me from sliding on the loose gravel several times.

Partway down we met a couple climbing up (yes they were huffing and puffing). They asked how much father up it was. Luckily for them we were able to tell them it was only about another tenth of a mile but I didn’t want to tell them that that 1/10th of a mile was probably going to seem a whole lot longer.

When we were almost to the bottom we rested next to a stream. My husband decided to fill his water bottle from the stream, figuring that since the water was coming from the top of the hill that it was safe to drink. And since, we didn’t see any dead animals near the water we figured it was probably okay. The water tasted pretty good. Later, at the campsite, we tested some of it with one of the ph test strips we have. It tested pretty well – no hardness and a fairly high ph level.

When we finally got back to our campsite, about three miles and three hours after we started, I was completely wiped out. I managed a short shower while my husband started a fire for the pudgie pies. We made Reuben’s and cherry pie pudgie pies but I was so tired I only ate half a Reuben and half a cherry pie pudgie pie. Then I took some Benadryl because my allergies were acting up and climbed into bed at 8 pm. I didn’t even have the energy to stay up past dark and watch the campfire, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Friday, May 11, 2007
I woke up at 7 am, feeling rested and refreshed. I decided a long shower was in order; but when I got to the shower building I found there was only cold water again. I wondered if maybe the almost empty campground meant that the hot water was on only part of the day; but about an hour later my husband informed me that there was hot water in the men’s showers. Grrrrr………..

We had eggs, ham, and cantaloupe for breakfast; and then decided to pack up the camper. We were all finished by 10 am.

But, were still have a couple hundred campsite pictures to take and we didn’t need to be off our campsite until 3 pm, so we decided to walk around the campground for a few hours and get as many pictures as we could.

Because there were so few campers, we ended up taking pictures for 3 ½ hours, getting a picture of every campsite in the campground and tiring both myself and my husband out again because we walked a little over 6 miles in those three hours. Things worked out pretty well though. The picture I took of the very last campsite filled up my camera’s memory card and nearly drained the second battery I had taken with us so it was a good thing there were no more campsites to photograph.

I forgot to put on sun block though, so I did get a little bit burned.

By 2 pm we were on the road towards home. By 5 pm we were home and had the camper unloaded. I decided to do laundry and unpack suitcases on Saturday because I was tired and wanted to do nothing more than park my butt on the couch and relax because although it was a fun camping trip it was a tiring one too.

Our next camping trip will be to Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and then on to Peninsula State Park in Door County Wisconsin. We’ll be taking that trip at the end of May, right after Memorial Day.