Friday, July 13, 2012

Camping: It's All About The Food

When I go camping, I like to eat well. Not only is a trip to the great outdoors a time-honored family tradition that deserves to be celebrated in fine culinary style, but also, being outside all day long makes me very hungry. 

This past week, my youngest and I made the trek to the Pacific coast, to camp in our family's favorite and {usually} annual camping destination, Kalaloch Beach. Located in a remote stretch of wild coastline, within the boundaries of Olympic National Park, this little patch of heaven is a perfect playground for humans and animals alike. 

So in honor of my triumphant return from a week in the woods, I'd like to share with you some of the edible highlights of my trip.

To get the party started, we make a ritual stop in Aberdeen, Washington for Dairy Queen Blizzards. If Curt Kobain's hometown doesn't make us all scream for ice cream, then I don't know what does.


My long-standing favorite flavor is Butterfinger. I set it down on this table to wait while I gave Ranger a drink of water and got him settled down in the grass. When I returned to eat its delicious yumminess, I found that it had melted just the right amount. 

Bliss.

Another very important kick-off ceremony to any trip to Kalaloch is a bag of Bugles. Somenhow, over the years, our first sighting of the big blue Pacific has become the signal to rip open a fresh bag of these crunchy, trumpet-shaped corn snacks, and feast away. Maybe it's a last-minute carbo load before we set up camp, maybe it's a fond farewell to the comforts of home. I don't know. All I can say is that we never buy a bag of Bugles unless we are headed to Kalaloch, and we are not allowed to touch a single one until we see the ocean.

Sadly, we ate them all before I thought to take a photo

Once we get settled at camp, our days and meals fall into a predictable routine. Mornings are typically a  cool and damp affair, so warm food is a must. We are not big bacon-and-eggs types, so a hot breakfast usually looks this:


Yes, that's a cup of hot cocoa mix on the left, and a packet of instant oatmeal on the right. Maple and brown sugar = the best. 

Once we warm up and get moving, it's off to the beach for the day. Just a two-minute hike down through the woods to the beach, we pack up what we think we will need, but usually run back up to our campsite several times during the day to get more of whatever we need {food}.

The mid-day menu always involves bags of crunchy, salty, cheesey things. I'll admit it. I'm a fool for anything in a shiny, crinkly bag. Potato chips, popcorn, cheese puffs, corn chips - I'll eat any and all with relish. But there is a special place in my heart for these Quaker Oat thing-a-ma-bobs that I call Quackies.


They are my favorite road trip munchie and vacation indulgence, so to me, they taste of adventure. 

Yum.

At some point, our bodies typically beg for some balanced nutrition, and we decide to make sandwiches. My camping buddy and I took turns running up to pull together some turkey on whole wheat, wrap them in paper napkins, and bring them back down to the beach where we ate them together in the fresh Pacific breezes. 


Perfection.

Dinner is a more intentional meal, and it revolves around the campfire. Yes, I always bring my trusty Coleman two-burner propane stove, but why cook on a dinky little green box when you can turn yourself loose with a FIRE? 

{I love campfires. The bigger, the better. More about that in a later post.}

So all of my dinners are cooked over the open flame. 

Now the obvious way to go here is with the roasted hot dog. We are more of a beef bratwurst family, and happily, once I precook them at home, they are a snap to cook over an open flame.


My youngest put the ketchup on both of our brats with an artistic flair, but my mayo came out with a flop. Sigh. Luckily, it tasted better than it looked.

As easy and delicious as bratwurst might be, our favorite camping treat is the packet dinner. It's going to take a whole 'nother post to explain how to make these little gems, but let me tell you, they are worth waiting for. One of these yummy packets of steamy goodness is enough to make up for a lot of sand in the sleeping bag. 


Any self-respecting camp cook knows that the day isn't over till the s'mores have been roasted, so of course, that is part of our evening routine. It's hard to beat this classic combination of graham cracker, Hershey's chocolate and one toasty, gooey, sticky marshmallow.


Despite their name which claims you will want "s(ome) more," one of those devils is usually more than enough for me. We often toast more marshmallows and eat them alone, or mix them up with other foods to see what tastes good. This combination with pink sugar wafers was an interesting experiment.


After five days of this simple yet satisfying fare, we had eaten all our groceries and thus, it was time to go home. But just as we have long-standing food-related arrival traditions for our trips to Kalaloch, so do we honor some time-tested closing ceremonies.

Once our car is packed to the gills with dirty gear, sandy shoes, and a big wet dog, we head over to the little camp store for two purchases: postcards and ice cream bars. 


Choosing the right flavor can make or break a week of camping, so I take this matter quite seriously. This time, I opted for a Crunch bar, and I was not disappointed. 


Nothing beats a tried-and-true.

As we finally drive our sticky-fingered selves away from our beloved Kalaloch, heavy though our hearts may be, there is still one treat left in store. 

Along Highway 101, as it passes through the alarmingly commercialized streets of Port Angeles, we treat our culture-shocked selves to some Taco Bell.


The restorative powers of the Crunchwrap Supreme {with three packets of Hot sauce} are amazing. This little baby soothed my ocean-grieving soul, kept me alert for the long and harrowing drive home, and high-powered me through two more hours of unpacking, sorting, cleaning, and reorganizing. Also, he provided the closing chapter of another delicious trip to Kalaloch, and for that, I am grateful to him.

* * * * *


To read more stories about my camping trip to the coast, try:
             
                                          It's All About Playing On The Beach
                                          It's All About The Sunsets
                                          It's All About The Artistic Inspiration
                                          It's All About The Memories

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