I left off yesterday talking about the sunset but actually before that happened I cooked these zucchinis and Payam cooked hamburgers for dinner. Sadly, I didn’t take any other photos of camp-cooking but I wanted to include something about it here because cooking outdoors is one of my favorite parts of camping. I think its because my mom is a great camp cook. I have many fond memories of spaghetti, pancakes, hot dogs and potato salad etc… Sometimes we’d have those tinfoil packs with chunks of sausage, potatoes and carrots roasted over a fire. It was the best.
I’ve figured out that using a camp stove is the easiest. Fires are fun and great for atmosphere but cooking on them is a little to tricky for me. I love our little camp stove. It runs on tiny propane tanks and it’s just the right size for one pot or kettle of water boiling and one pan of food cooking. It works great.
Food though…. that was mistake number three. We packed a cooler full of ice, deli meat, hamburgers, sausage and hot dogs and loaded it onto the rack that Payam installed on the back of his truck via the hitch. The problem is: the rack is in back of the truck’s exhaust pipe. It sits about 5 inches away from it in fact. Neither of us thought about what happens when something is directly in line with exhaust. It MELTS!! We literally melted the bottom off of our cooler. I kid you not. When we got to the campsite and started to unload we couldn’t get our ice chest off of the rack because it had melted plastic stuck to the metal rack!
Amazingly, the inside of the cooler was still intact and still relatively cold. Can you believe it? What luck. Of course this was a bit upsetting to us and we were a bit leery of eating any of the raw meat that was now no longer frozen. We sniffed it and hemmed and hawed and ended up cooking the hamburgers anyway and guess what? We didn’t get sick! So I guess the inside of a cooler is made of pretty tough stuff if the outside can get melted and the meat inside is still good. Crazy, right?
I did end up throwing out the sausage and lunch meat (just because it sat too long without ice) but we ate the hotdogs and nobody got food poisoning. Not a risk I usually like to take though so note to anyone installing a rack to the back of your truck: Get an attachment for your exhaust pipe so the exhaust can be routed elsewhere!
Live and learn. That’s my motto these days.
The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn. That’s my usual mode of operation at home too. I’m always up hours before anyone else. I like it that way. I have time with my dogs, I have time to journal and just be quiet with myself. I’ve been such a loner in the mornings for so long, I don’t really like it when other people are up and interrupt my morning time. Funny how that works. I used to complain about it but now I savor it.
The dogs and I went exploring and found a path to the nearby creek pretty quickly. There weren’t any established paths but we wound our way around bushes and rocks and fallen down trees until we made it to the water. I thought I’d just let the dogs get a drink from the stream but Cody took one slurp and decided he’d rather swim. So he waded into the water even though it was still pretty cold and swimming was not part of my plan at all. What can you do? Water dogs gonna swim!
After exploring for a bit I made my way back to camp and brewed myself some coffee. I started a painting and journaled. (By the way, the best kind of coffee while camping is VIA. (not an ad) It’s so easy and it tastes just like regular brewed coffee. You just boil some water, empty your little packet into the cup and tah-dah: instant coffee.
By the time I was done with my painting and my coffee was nearly gone the rest of the crew started waking up.
We had breakfast (pancakes of course!) and got ready to venture down to the stream as a family. I had spotted a swimming hole and a water slide earlier and I was so excited to go back show them. We all got dressed in our swimsuits and headed off.
Woo hoo for swimming in the creek! Before we left, my Dad asked me if we were going to go visit Yosemite. (It’s about 90 miles or an hour away from Dinky Creek) My Dad was very keen that I should at least drive up to the entrance of Yosemite and look down but I told him we really didn’t have any other plans than sitting in the creek. And that is exactly what happened. When you are camping for only two days you should only have plans to relax in the creek! Who needs to jam pack your day with anything else? Not me! It was the most relaxing fun time we’ve had in years. I love a good creek swim/sit.
And so does Cody, obviously.
Cody was really weird this trip though. He loves the water but he was really stressed out and kept whining. I don’t know if it was because he wanted us all to be together and when one family member strayed farther than a few feet away, it stressed him out or if something more serious was going on. I thought maybe he had an ear infection but now that we are home he’s back to his usual happy self. I think we just really wore him out and he was grumpy but in a sweet whiney dog kind of way.
The dogs are VERY attached to me. Mostly because I spend the most time with them. I walk them everyday, I feed them, I give them treats, I play with them. I’m pretty much Queen Bee when it comes to these dogs. So they kind of stuck to my side most of the time. This was actually pretty great though when we let them off leash. We used to worry about them running off but they don’t do that anymore. They might get distracted and run after a squirrel but they quickly come back and stay by my side.
After a good long swim we headed back to the campsite for lunch. We figured out we didn’t really need lunch meat for lunches. It was just more headache trying to keep it cold. We had hotdogs for lunch because a lot of sun and swimming makes you hungry! Going forward I’m only going to pack food for two big meals a day and the rest can be snacks. Granola bars, nuts and chips are all anybody really wanted anyway. I might as well make life easier for myself!
After lunch we chilled in the shade and I finished a watercolor of the girls I had started at the creek. I hate my watercolor paintings when I’m doing them. I feel like I have so much to learn and improve on but years later, I always savor them so I’m not stopping doing them even if I don’t think they are very good. There is something about paintings done in places you love, they always bring back the best memories. I’m doing quite a few this summer and I intend to keep them in a tin for future trips down memory lane. I think my kids will really treasure them someday when I’m gone.
Bug posed with my Little Hoo Goes Camping book. I’ve been planning this shot for a year now. It’s too bad I don’t have little kids anymore but Bug was happy enough to pose for me.
Then we decided we were ready to go back to the creek for round two!
I’ll finish that up tomorrow and even include a full body picture of me in a swimsuit! I know! Gasp! Talk about body confidence. Who am I these days?!
I’m going to write this camping trip post in sections because I’m trying not to spend A WHOLE day laboring at blogging. (Yes, I am guilty of that.) I do love blogging but if I want to write daily, I have to keep it short and sweetish. So let’s get started on this trip!
It was GREAT! Really great. Just what we needed. It was not without its challenges though. Traveling during a pandemic is nerve-wracking and every step of the way I worried we had made a mistake and should have stayed home. I kept hearing those social media voices from Italy, Just Stay Home. echoing in my head. But we didn’t. We ventured forward to where we thought we were safe and I hope and pray that we were. It turns out we were in more danger at home (A family friend who we are in relative indirect contact with has been diagnosed. Eeeek!) but we didn’t know that.
First mistake: I over-packed. I thought making a list and checking it twice was the way to go but it turns out being extra prepared allowed me extra time to over-think everything. I packed enough food for a week. We were only gone for three days and one of those was driving and we lived off snacks from the gas station. What’s a road trip without junk food?!!
It was a really long drive. Five hours. I don’t mind long road trips but for some reason in my geographically-challenged brain, I thought it was only three hours. After hitting a bit of construction traffic and sweltering at a few rest stops while the dogs peed, the trip there seemed extra long and laborious. You could say we were pretty tired by the time we finally got to our destination.
That was mistake number two. When I booked our campsite last year it seemed like the sweetest little creekside spot. It wasn’t close to the restrooms or the other campsites, which is what I like. What I didn’t realize AT ALL was that campsite itself was 100 feet away from the car parking spot down a STEEP dusty trail. It was no joke. On the map for some reason I didn’t see the incline. The hundred feet was vertical and only appeared like 50. Or something like that. I’m not really good at topography, obviously.
You saw the three big plastic totes and an ice chest we had strapped to the back of our truck? And the black plastic bladder thing full of sleeping bags and suitcases on top of the truck? I packed for a zombie apocalypse. We could seriously survive forever in the woods with all the gear and food I packed. The problem is, I thought we’d be close to the truck and I’d keep most of our supplies in the truck, only taking out what I needed as I needed. I had no idea I’d have to trek up and down a hill every time I needed a pot, spoon or a bag of pancake mix.
All that gear had to be carried down that hill. Did I mention that Payam recently had neck surgery and isn’t allowed to carry anything over five pounds? Before you gasp in dismay, please know that I am one determined mother work horse and I was not going to let a little sweat and tears ruin this camping trip. I grit my teeth and got to work, skidding down the hill and carrying totes that were way too heavy for me. Hear me roar silently, I am Super Woman.
Meanwhile, Payam, who doesn’t like to let a woman outshine him when it comes to brute strength, was sputtering madly. “What?!!! What kind of stupid #@$%$ campsite is this?!!!” He was so upset and disappointed to find that we had hours more work before we could rest. Not being the connoisseur of camping that I am, he thought we majorly got ripped off. The next campsite down the road had their fire pit and campsite a mere steps from their car!!
I, however, realized the beauty of this spot. It was secluded. It was remote. It was surrounded by trees and we could hear the stream nearby. It was perfect. Not another camper in sight. Actually, I take that back, there was one other campsite in the low meadow we were in but they were a half a football field away.
It was the most beautiful spot I have ever camped on and I have camped a lot in my lifetime. My parents used to take us every summer and Toby and I used to camp a lot as well. Having the perfect remote but not too remote campsite is a unicorn in the wild. They are really hard to find. So if anyone is looking for that perfect spot, book spot number 50 at the Dinky Creek campsite.
That is of course if you don’t mind a little bit of a trek from your car to your campsite. When I made the reservation, I kept wondering why it said zero vehicles when there clearly was a parking spot plainly marked. Now I realize it was a “tent campsite” and the vehicle was not part of the campsite. Live and learn.
I think I could definitely do it again and pack three times lighter. We didn’t need half the food I packed and we took a lot of unnecessary gear. But we didn’t know. Now we do and YES, I have totally typed out a new and improved list with those unneeded items nixed. I’m extra like that. Feel free to email me for a pdf copy.
The kids definitely helped out. That was part of our deal, knowing Payam couldn’t do his usual share of the heavy lifting. The kids carried totes and bags and didn’t even complain. Bug actually assembled their tent with a bit of help from Joon. I am so proud of my her. She might end up being the nature girl she genetically meant to be after all.
When we first got there we didn’t know how the dogs would behave so we leashed them to a big tree. Whiskey took up permanent guard dog status and Cody whined the whole time. He’s gotten to be so attached to me, he suffers if he can’t follow me around everywhere. I do love his dear little co-dependent soul but his whining was obnoxious.
Here’s a better view of both of our tents. Our tent is huge. The girls have their own three-person tent that is much smaller. We keep the dogs in our tent with us which is really nice. It has a divider down the middle that can be opened so the dogs have their space and be close to us while we are little separate from their dirt. Dogs + Camping = A lot of dirt.
We quickly set up camp and settled in just in time to watch the sun set through our own private little forest of trees.
It was perfect. Tomorrow: watercolors, streams and camp-cooking, oh my!