Season Opener: Besides April being the beginning of camp season (I don’t winter camp) it’s also my birthday month. The significance of birthdays have worn off for me years ago but this year I turned 40 and my wife wanted to make it special. She made me an amazing dinner on my birthday and planned a surprise birthday party at a brewery. To continue with my birthday celebration I carved out some time to go camping.
After a long winter it was great to get out into nature. As usual the weather was not ideal. In the last three years I think I have had maybe two trips when it didn’t rain. With the limited time I have to camp I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I was so eager to camp I packed most of my gear a week prior. Friday morning I packed up the food and hit the road as soon as the kids were off to school.
Unfortunately, in my haste to get on the road I made some rookie mistakes. One mistake I didn’t make was getting a new sleeping bag. I have been wanting a new sleeping bag since camping last April (then again at Panther Creek) and I am glad I got one. The sleeping bag I bought is the military sleep system. It comes in three parts: patrol bag, intermediate cold weather, and bivy cover.
With all folks making YouTube videos about camping it’s hard to come up with something different. I focus a lot on the food not only in an attempt to stand out but also to show that nobody needs to limit themselves. I typically have two food related goals when I camp: review a new freeze-dried meal and cook something unique. I think I accomplished those goals.
Friday: The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the wind was howling when I set out on my journey. I originally planned on camping at the same spot as my first video. This spot, called Lost Lake, is an alcove of trees facing a lake. The wind blew across the lake and circled around in the alcove; it was just too much for my camera set up to get good audio. So, I moved down the road to a more sheltered area.
Soon after getting camp set up I made Three Cheese Chicken Pasta by Alpine Aire. To be honest, I was not incredibly impressed with Alpine Aire’s pasta. The pasta contained chicken and zucchini in a cheese sauce. I’m not huge on zucchini so my review is a little biased. The zucchini flavor was overpowering. I didn’t care for the cheese sauce either; I thought it was chalky. They got chicken right. I don’t know what magic they used but the chicken did not have the spongy taste that usually comes with the freeze drying process.
It was after lunch I realized my first rookie mistake. I didn’t bring an extra fuel canister for my stove. I’m not much of an ultra-light camper and I like to have extra of everything. It all work out, though, the one canister had enough to get me through the weekend.
For dinner I heated up some meatballs in pizza sauce. What made this meal easy to prepare was I had made a large batch of meatballs about a month ago. I froze the meatballs in small portions in vacuum sealed bags. (I highly recommend getting a vacuum sealer. They are cheap and make food last a ton longer). So, making meatball subs at camp was a simple matter of picking up a few supplies: cheese (provolone & mozzarella), sauce, and bread. It was super easy to make.
During my time between lunch and supper I read a few chapters of Robinson Crusoe, played Dice City and Catan Dice, gathered more firewood, and took a short bike ride. I also did some extra filming for future videos on gear and solo-gaming. All my activities provided nice distractions from my busy day-to-day schedule. I cannot overstate how important it is to find some time to decompress and reset the mind. Stress can build up, even if you don’t notice it, and it can devastate our lives.
My evening started with dessert and beer. I picked up the beer at my ‘surprise’ birthday party. The ‘surprise’ part was ruined when I was asked for overtime at work. My wife had to tell me about the plans so I could get out of OT. The party was at MyGrain Brewing and the beer I enjoyed Friday night was Winter Jitters. It is a high ABV Coffee Stout although, I didn’t taste any coffee. It had a wintergreen taste on top of the usual stout flavors. I really enjoyed its uniqueness and how smooth it went down.
For dessert I made a variation of my Spent Grain Oatmeal cookies. Again, I made a large batch a few months ago and froze them in vacuum sealed bags. They turned out pretty good. In the future I will omit the cranberries and add chocolate chips.
I’ve seen a lot posts on social media (which I find ironic) about ditching electronics while camping. If that’s your thing then good for you (and I’m glad you’re able to use your electronic device to distribute the message). For me, I camp for pure enjoyment and part of that enjoyment is using my phone and tablet for entertainment. In the evening I used my phone to listen to a Doctor Who audio drama and a Steve Austin podcast while I sat next to the fire. Once I laid down in the tent I read a Transformers comic on my tablet. It was great evening with great weather, once I was shielded from the wind. Sometime during the night while I slept the temperature dropped and the rain began.
6 oz. stout
1 stick butter, softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup barley flour
½ cup oatmeal
½ cup cranberries
Saturday: Between the rain and the cold I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag. It felt good to take a few moments and just enjoy the sounds of nature. Camping, particularly solo camping, is a deep experience for me that I haven’t figured out the right words to explain. Peaceful, tranquil, Zen, are a few that come to mind.
Eventually my need for coffee pushed me into action. I brewed up some Santo Coffee Cubes. I liked the taste of the coffee and the simplicity of making it. My only complaint is it is too sweet for my tastes. The coffee has sugar (called Panela made from cane sugar) already mixed in. I have had Santo coffee in a small mug (10 to 12 ounces) and one cube was fine. For my ?? ounce tumbler I needed two cubes which made the coffee less cost efficient. My favorite combination was one mint mocha and one Colombian. If you’re not a coffee snob and are looking for an instant coffee with a lot of flavor options then this one is for you. Personally, I prefer BRCC brewed in an Aero-press. Not to say I would never get Santo coffee again, I did like it. Instant coffee is convenient plus, it cuts down on my pack weight.
I hate to admit this but as I sat in the cold rain I had thoughts of packing it in. The thought of riding back in the miserable weather led me to procrastinate about leaving long enough to change my mood. What helped lift my spirits was reading Robinson Crusoe. Reading how Robinson found ways to survive inspired me. I know being in the rain at a private beach club does not compare to being stranded on an island. Still, I felt like I was channeling Crusoe’s never-give-up spirit.
I got out of my chair and set to work. I wanted to save my firewood for the evening but I realized that I probably will not stay up as late as I usually do and I needed some warmth. I gathered some more wood then strung up a tarp. All the moving around got me perked up and I started enjoying myself again.
My second mistake was I didn’t bring enough water and I have not picked up a water filter system yet. That’s when I decided I was glad it was raining. I put my pot under one of the tarps corners to collect the rain water then I refilled my bottles. It worked out wonderfully.
For breakfast I had a protein bar. The rest of the day I grazed on snacks. I tried Quest’s protein chips. They were surprisingly good and I suppose healthy, at least compared to regular chips.
On a family trip to Disney during the Food & Wine festival at Epcot the Hawaiian booth was serving Teriyaki Spam. I started making a version of it as soon as I got home. It’s also been a big hit with my co-workers. This brings me to my third mistake, I forgot the Teriyaki sauce. I usually triple check my pack-out before I set off for a trip and for some explainable reason I didn’t even double check before this trip. Missing a key ingredient was disheartening. The Spam & pineapple was still good but the rice & veggies were bland.
I enjoyed another beer from MyGrain (the Stateville Stout) while feeding the fire. Once the fire burned out and the chill began to set in I retired to the tent. I burrowed into my sleeping bag and watched a movie. What started as a bad day ended up being as good as any.
Sunday: I knew it was going to warm up Sunday I just needed to wait it out. I made my coffee just outside the tent and had two cups before venturing out. Shortly after breakfast I headed for home. It ended up being a gorgeous day, unfortunately I had to work on Monday.
Overall it was a great start to the camping season. I’m already itching to get back out there.
according to the interwebs I look like Dax Shepard.