Camping with Suzi

Join me as we discover camping in our national forests.

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Archive for the ‘national forest campgrounds’ Category

What’s your idea of a perfect campsite?

blkh32

 

My idea of the perfect campsites:  A creek to sing me a lullaby at night and the racket of a dozen birds to wake me.

Find yours at US National Forest Campground Guide

Exploding Rocks

Speaking of signs (see 5/7/14 Blog), here’s one from the ladies bathroom at Mesa Campground in the Gila National Forest. And yes, rocks collected from around nearby Lake Roberts will explode when “cooked” a campfire. Why? Unknown, need to research further. Could rocks from other location explode? Maybe, and until I know the “why,” I’m not dropping any rocks in to a campfire.

sign

Another week on the road

dani

Dani’s mode of travel. Note she does have on a harness so if, there are any sudden movement, she is safe.

gas

Gas prices continue to increase.  $3.49 in Arizona and $3.89 in New Mexico.

cattle

One must be always be alert when traveling on a rural roads.

rig

Our campsite at Mesa campground in the Gila National Forest. Located north of Silver City, NM and overlooks the little 72 acre Lake Roberts.

sign

Here is a sign in Mesa campground’s bathroom.  Note the second line.  It is true!  The rocks you can collect around the lake will explode if heated in a campfire.  And the rock projectiles can do serious damage to anyone or thing in its way.

 

Butch Cassidy’s haunts near Hwy 191

Robert LeRoy, a.k.a. Butch Cassidy, of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid fame, may have been Utah’s first wilderness guide.  His outlaw life as a rustler and bank robber kept him on the move and spending time in a number of magnificent, isolated wilderness locations throughout national forest in Utah.

Castle Gate, near Price, is now a ghost town but when Butch and his partners pull a brazen, daytime payroll robbery of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, it was a busy mining town. The Castle Gate robbery provides some important insight to Butch’s thought process. Castle Gate was mining town, coal mining to be specific. Cowboys were a rare sight in Castle Gate but horse racing was a huge pastime in the community. To avoid attracting much attention Butch and his partner rode into town appearing be to horse racers. They rode saddleless horse and racing riggings with the plan of telling anyone who ask they were conditioning the horses for match races in Salt Lake City. The tall-tell was successful. Butch and his gang were able to get away with almost $10,000 from the town’s bank.

The escape route from this robbery took Butch and his gang around Price and back into the Robber’s Roost area. Price and nearby Helper become the center of efforts to apprehend Butch and his gang. Even with the concentrated efforts of the two communities, Butch avoided capture. While there is little in Price or Helper to remind us that Butch Cassidy was a major thorn in the sides of the residents, the area’s landscape testifies to the impossible challenge of finding the outlaw band.

Volunteer campground host positions

We have an extensive Volunteer Campground Host Position page.  There are somewhere between 250 and 300 openings listed.  See the left hand column for tab that links to our listing or click here.

 

Hosts at Dorr Lake, Ocala NF, FL

Hosts at Dorr Lake, Ocala NF, FL

Movie stars and skiing at Manker Flats in Angeles NF

Long before there were Vail, Heavenly, or Sun Valley ski mountains, the Angeles National Forest boasted it had a “Movie Slope.”  It was THE place to ski in the great Los Angeles area and many a movie star enjoyed a run or two down the hill.  In fact, today you can climb the slope and see the old rope tow engine used by cream of the movie culture.  That rope tow engine, a stone lodge, and Manker Flats campground are about all that is left from the heady days of yore.

Lost Dutchman State Park – alternative to Tortilla campground

During our stay at Lake Dutchman State Park, two features I enjoyed every day were the hiking trails and the number of birds.

The hiking trails ranged from super easy short connecter trails that linked various links to lung busting, thigh screaming trails and a few in between. The array of trails allowed me great variety in morning walks with Ralf and Dani and satisfying challenges in afternoon walks with Fred.

top of Treasure Loop trail

top of Treasure Loop trail

Although there wasn’t a reliable source of water to attract any feather friends, each time I was out and about, the sounds of birds in the surrounding shrubs and sudden darts of color confirmed this is a bird-friendly environment.  (Hope I’ve identified the birds in these photographs correctly.)

Cactus wren atop a Saguaro

Cactus wren atop a Saguaro

 

Another cactus wren on cholla

Another cactus wren on cholla

Phainopepla on a Jojoba bush

Phainopepla on a Jojoba bush

Maybe a warbler

Maybe a warbler

 

Bottomline is, until the Tonto National Forest re-opens Tortilla campground, Lost Dutchman State park will be our campground of choice.

Our Highway 191, A road less traveled, adventure begins

US Hwy 191

 

The first traffic light on US Highway 191, two miles west of Douglas, Arizona, looking south.  (The faintly seen mountain on the horizon is Mexico!)   Some might see this as the end of Hwy 191 but, for us, this is where our adventure begins.  With this sight in our rear view mirror we start heading north to the other end of 191 at the border of Montana and Canada.  Pretty exciting, in my book.   Check our Facebook site for additional pictures and news of our adventures.

 

Weber grille – my alternative to a campfire

The weather in my neck of the woods calls for the big old Weber kettle-style bar-b-que back in to service. It’s almost like camping but without leaving home. I can stare into those glowing coals and recall so many camping trips and adventures. Won’t be long now and I will be adding to my memories.

One memory closely tied to a campfire’s glowing coals are the first meal I made in the Great Out-of-Doors. The first challenge was getting that darn fire going.

Once you have your campfire going and the coals are grey and ashy, you might be wondering  about just what temperature you are working with. Using either an open campfire or kettle-style bar-b-que, there are two ways to approximate the temperature.

The first is to hold your hand or the inside of your wrist close to the cooking surface and counting one-thousand-one, two-thousand-two, and on until the heat becomes unbearable and you can estimate the temperature of your fire. Use this table to help:

Count = Estimated temperature
6 to 8 = 250 to 300 degrees F
4 to 5 = 350 to 400 degrees F
2 to 3 = up to 450 degrees F

The second way is to sprinkle a little all-purpose flour in a cold skillet and then put it on the heat. Let it sit for five minutes before removing from your fire. If there has been no change in color, the cooking temperature is less than 250 degrees. Pale tan indicates 300 degree, golden brown about 350 and dark brown about 400 degrees.

I have found, as a general rule of thumb, in my big old Weber kettle-style bar-b-que two charcoal briquettes produce 20 degrees of heat. So, for a “moderate,” or 350 degree, temperature I’ll start with 18 charcoal briquettes and add more when necessary.  Check Weber’s website for more recipe but here’s a link to my new favorite Beer Can Chicken.  Hickory chips aren’t critical but sure are good.

Beer can chicken – my latest favorite way to prepare chicken on my Weber

Building a campfire for cooking

For novice campers, one of the most daunting challenges on those first few camping trips is building a campfire. At least it was for me. I needed that fire to prepare dinner, to ward off the creeping damp cold, and provide a sense of security (there were bears out there!).  I have to smile now when I think of those early days and all the challenges but I never forget them.  It is those memories the make me proud of how my campfire building skills have improved. Click here for a primer on campfire building and safety made by a group of Boy Scouts. They did a good job.

Wood burning open campfires are the most primal, basic approach to cooking a meal when camping. You need dry wood, preferably from a hard wood tree species (pine burns hot and fast making it less desirable for a cooking campfire), a mound of “kindling”, usually twigs, leaves, needles, and paper (paper should be a last choice), and an assortment of wood pieces of graduating size.  And a starting flame; I prefer a wooden match but paper matches and cigarette lighter work, as do those fancy striker available in big box stores.

from www.camp-cook.com

The toughest part of cooking over a wood burning in an open campfire is probably temperature control. I think a “key-hole” fire design is probably the best for cooking. For a “key-hole” fire, place a mound of kindling in the upper third of the fire-ring. Stack some of the various sized wood on top, either in a log cabin or teepee fashion. Be sure to leave some space between the pieces of wood. Light a match and, carefully, ignite the kindling. A few gentle breaths might help the flame to spread. As the fire gets more established, add larger pieces of wood.

Once the fire is well-established, and there are glowing coals, pull some of those hot coals to the front of the fire-ring, that’s why they call it a “Keyhole” fire. Use these front coals to cook over, pulling more coals forward as needed, while feeding the rear fire with more dry wood so you always have hot coals waiting to be use. The back of the Keyhole fire is a good place to heat a large pot of water for later use like washing children and dishes.

Remember to keep a bucket of water and shovel or rake handy just in case some burning embers float away.

 

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