Real Food Camping: Hobo Packs

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Camping is THE BEST summer activity.

There is nothing like getting outdoors, away from electronics, out exploring the world around you. Whether you tent camp, car camp, or stay in an RV or rustic cabin, camping is just plain fun!

One aspect makes camping fantastic is the food. Planning your camping menu is exciting and challenging at the same time. The excitement comes from the variety of foods and change in cooking method while camping. It needs to be portable, easy to cook, and nourishing (hiking can take a lot out of you!).

The challenge can be in avoiding processed filler foods and sticking to real foods that will keep your energy up. It would be easy to throw in a bag of chips for a snack, but how will that help you succeed on your epic hike? Cut up those carrot sticks and pack the hummus!

Our favorite camping dinner is what we call a Hobo Pack. It’s very easy to prep ahead of time and could be frozen if needed to last a couple days in a cooler. There is a lot of flexibility in the recipe. Be creative!

Before we head out, I chop up a variety of vegetables (onions, carrots, potatoes) and mix it together with some raw ground beef in a foil pack. Add some spices and butter and close up the packs. (I usually put the packs in a plastic bag as well just in case they leak.)

When you are out at the campsite get your fire going before dinner and let it die down just a little bit. Place your Hobo Packs on the coals and let it cook! You’ll want to rotate the packs around every five minutes or so for it to cook through. Your cook time will vary depending on how much food you have in your packs. I’d say 15-20 minutes and check that the beef has no more pink.

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Hobo Packs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 2-3 small potatoes
  • (other veggies as desired)
  • 2-3 Tbsp butter per pack
  • salt and pepper
  • favorite spices

Instructions

  1. Divide meat evenly onto 2 sheets of foil.
  2. Chop vegetables and distribute on top of the ground beef.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and desired spices. (I like Thyme or Savory. But any single spice or combination will work!)
  4. Add butter.
  5. Fold up foil to enclose the food. Add an extra sheet of foil around the outside if necessary.
  6. Place packs in a plastic bag for transportation or until ready to cook.
  7. When cooking over an open fire, you can use a grate if one is available or you can let the fire die down a little and place the packs on the coals.
  8. Turn the packs every five minutes until the meat is no longer pink and the veggies are at desired doneness.
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Super simple! You can eat straight out of the packs or divide up onto plates for the kiddos. Remember the foil is HOT so bring tongs and a hot mitt or towel to handle the packs.

Eating real food while camping CAN be done. It takes a little bit of planning and usually a little prep ahead of time. But it is well worth it. If you usually eat real food at home, you don’t want to switch it up just for convenience when camping. Everyone wants to have fun while camping so feed your body well!

What is your favorite camping food?

 

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Restore My Soul

 

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I have found that more often than not, spending a quiet walk in the woods refreshes my soul better than anything else. It may be in part my introvert personality or my love of the outdoors but whatever the reason I will relish the time I can spend walking in God’s creation.

After a particularly frustrating day yesterday, with a teething baby, power outage, and nothing on my to-do list accomplished, I was at my wits end. Today started out fussy, but mid morning I stepped out and noticed that it wasn’t sweltering hot. I quickly strapped Little Man in the baby carrier and out we went. He was extremely happy to get outside. He babbled on in the sweet way that babies do as we enjoyed looking at all the trees.

Eventually he fell asleep and I truly enjoyed the peace of the forest. There was enough breeze to make the trees rustle and plenty of birds making their sounds. It was a very much needed refreshment. I reconnected with God as I walked and I feel like He filled me with new strength.

I know our struggle with teething isn’t over and my to-do list is never ending, but God is gracious and will fill me when I need it most. Even if I’m not intending to seek him, he finds me. As my challenges have changed now that I’m a mother, I’m finding new mercies from God and blessings that I didn’t think possible.

This post is shared on Word Filled Wednesdays.


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Thursday’s Thoughts – Mushrooms

It seems I’ve become a part-time nature iPhoneographer. I really love finding interesting little bits of nature to photograph. And utilizing my iPhone is very convenient. Every time I go on a walk or even just wander in the yard I find something unique to take a picture of.

My most recent finds were some mushrooms. Mushrooms fascinate me. Every single one of them is different. There is a variety of colors and shapes and sizes. Here are the best ones I found the other day after a heavy rain.

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Really awesome patterns on the top of this one!

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This one is my favorite!

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There is my new collection of mushroom pictures! I saw a bright yellow one on the side of the driveway as I was pulling out this morning. If it’s still sitting pretty I’ll snap it tonight. I share most of my pics on Instagram if you are interested in following me. @heatherraye85

Enjoy the photos!  And think about the wonderful world outdoors. :)

Epic Weekend

This past weekend was Epic. Maybe epic is a tad bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not afraid to say it! We spent time with some wonderful friends, went places we’ve never been, and watched a very unique show underground. It went by way too quickly. Here’s the story:

We started off with a fantastic cook-out Friday night. Good food and great conversation shared with loved ones. It doesn’t get much better. Of course the best part, in my opinion, was sitting out on the porch in the rocking chairs shootin’ the breeze. I could live out there.

Saturday morning we left really early. It was a little difficult to get going, but the underlying excitement got us out the door. It was a nice chunk of driving. I think we went about four hours to get to our first destination. The Cumberland Caverns.

We started out with a tour of the Caverns. There were a lot of large rooms and a few interesting formations. Not the most amazing  cave I’ve ever been in, but there is something mysterious and intriguing about caves. It’s like a different world. We always enjoy exploring them.

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The cave entrance! Mysteries await!

For obvious reasons, cave pictures don’t come out the greatest. Flashes don’t help, and the dark shadows are just too much for my little snap and shoot iPhone. I did manage to make out this snap of the Chess Trio. From this angle it’s a little hard to tell, but the left stalagmite is the Bishop, the middle/back one is the King, and the right formation is the Knight. (His horse is a little misshapen.)

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Left is the Bishop, Middle is the King, Right is the Knight on a silly looking horse.

At the end of the tour we arrived at Bluegrass Underground. Once a month or so, they record a bluegrass concert underground in the caverns! Here is where they are sound checking and finishing setting up. Note the huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It’s an antique from some place in NY. It adds a unique look to the Volcano Room.

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The Volcano Room. Where the music magic happens.

Here is the bluegrass group Special Consensus. They were pretty good!

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Special Consensus.

We thoroughly enjoyed the music, but after freezing our tails off at the concert, the escape to the surface was welcomed. Three hundred and sixty feet underground gets pretty chilly! We were off to our next destination Virgin Falls State Natural Area. Not quite a state park, but a protected area that is free to the public. Our trek to our campsite was two miles, up and down through an enchanted forest. This is at the beginning of the hike. It had recently rained and we were all afraid it might storm later. We had to hustle to get to our site and set up before any more rain came our way.

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On our way we found a friendly little bunny. He didn’t seem afraid of my as I edged in close to snap a picture.

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A friendly little guy.

This was honestly one of the prettiest hikes I have ever been on. The colors of the forest and the scent of the flowering trees and the entire atmosphere made it magical. I was really amazed at this little corner of the earth, tucked away and protected so we can enjoy it.

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So amazing.

We passed Big Branch Falls on our way to our campsite. It didn’t look like much of a waterfall, but the next morning after it had rained and we were hiking back, it had a whole lot more water. My phone had died by that point, so no pictures. Here it is on our way in.

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Big Branch Falls. This one is not edited. The natural colors of the forest!

Finally we arrived at our campsite at Laurel Falls. We were camping BEHIND A WATERFALL!!!  Talk about an experience!  It was rather loud, but definitely amazing. It was nearing dark when we got there and so the ladies set up the tents and the men went to find firewood. Unfortunately the earlier rain made the wood too wet to get a fire going. We attempted it and eventually got the cave so smokey we could barely breathe! Our back up meal plan was to use our pocket rocket and make our dinner into more of a stew rather than…not a stew… (Hmm…how to explain a hobo pack…) Anyway we enjoyed our time hanging out around the lantern and trying to talk over the roar of the water. It was a pretty big cave and it was so dark once we turned the lights out. My brain didn’t know what to do! Obviously no pictures inside the cave, but here is the view when we first got there from the inside looking out.

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View from inside the cave behind the waterfall!

At some point in the night or early morning, we heard thunder. I know it rained although we couldn’t hear it. The waterfall was much fuller and flowing louder in the morning! I climbed up and explored the area in front of the falls. There are other campsites and beautiful greenery.

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Laurel Falls. A really beautiful waterfall!

These rocks were particularly interesting to me for some reason. The entire area was full of large rocks like these. I’m thinking they may be glacial rocks from a long, long time ago. I’ve seen some similar, that I know are from a glacier, but these may be left over from shifting plates another long time ago.

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The most amazing scenery.

Now it is time to leave. Of course we look a little sketchy from camping and especially from camping an a damp cave. But here we are anyway, packed up and ready to hike!

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I managed to get one more picture of a caterpillar before my phone died. It is really pretty. I don’t see bright ones like this very often. We also saw some crazy bright orange salamanders, like traffic barrel orange kind of bright.

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Bright little guy!

After hiking halfway out we found a good swimming hole and took a jump in the cold water. It felt pretty good after hiking! We made it back to the car and made our way home. Thus concluding our epic weekend! It was quite an adventure. I loved spending time with good friends and sharing the beauty of nature together. It’s the best!

Thursday’s Thoughts – Get Outside

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Off the beaten path.

One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to get outside and walk. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

1. It gets you moving. For many people, most of our day is spent sitting. At a desk, in class, at meals, in the car, on the couch watching TV or reading a book. Some of those moments are necessary, but it seems that our bodies were made to move, not sit all day long. It feels good to stretch your legs and put one foot in front of the other. A sedentary lifestyle is not going to benefit you in the long run.

2. Enjoy nature. There are so many beautiful things outdoors. If you live near a trail or a park where you can walk among the trees, leaves, rocks, ferns, and hills. You are blessed. There is nothing better than wandering a trail through the woods. Walking a paved trail or hiking in the mud you are out there with the natural world. Seeing the trees first hand allows you to think about our world on a bigger level. It may help you care about our forests and natural resources. Because if you go often enough you can watch the changes in the season and the little details of the growth of a bush or the buds on the trees. It becomes your trail and your woods and your trees.

3. Breathe in the fresh air. If you live in a house and work indoors you are breathing a lot of the same, stale air. It get cycled in vents and swished around from opening doors and picks up a lot of dust and weird things from other people. Breathing outdoor air keeps you fresh. Sniff a plant. They give off that beautiful oxygen that we need to keep going.

4. Let the sun shine. The sun is not evil! Let the sun shine on your skin. Get a little color from the warmth of the rays. Our bodies are designed to greet sunshine with warm acceptance. We convert those sun rays into Vitamin D which we all so desperately need. You don’t have to go out and get burnt, but you also don’t have to slather sunscreen on your self every time there is a sunny day. You are probably doing more harm than good if you do that.

5. Leave your iPod at home. Music is wonderful. Talk radio and podcasts can be inspiring. But letting your thoughts wander as you look at the world around you is better than you think. Look at a tree and wonder how old it is. Think back on memories good or bad. Set some goals. Let the colors of the outdoors spark your imagination.

6. Slow down. Allowing yourself some time to walk in the morning/afternoon/evening gives you some time to relax. You can walk fast or slow, burn a few calories, make it your own. The simple act of taking time to get outside and walk gives you time to distance yourself from the busy-ness of life. Reflect on what’s important or just space out for a little bit. You can stop and smell the roses as you go. It helps you simplify and recognize what is important to you.

These are just some thoughts on getting outside and walking. My husband and I have committed to walking/hiking trails every weekend (weather permitting). We prefer our walks to be out on trails at local State Parks. It gives us time together and away from the stresses of work and home. We either discuss our lives in detail, or we don’t talk at all. We find peace and closeness when we are out among the trees. Sometimes we discover interesting things.

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Old cemetery. Dates go back to the 1800s.