redneck retreat

Campfire.jpgGary and I decided that we would get back to basics and do a little “roughing it.” Since we were both out of practice, it’s taken us a couple of trips to work the kinks out and get our system down pat again.

Neither of us are able to hoist the packs and put miles under the boots as we once did, so now we are content with truck packing into new parks. This is just a quick glimpse of the last couple  of trips.

We went to Stephen F Austin State Park in November. It was a “back to basics” trip for me because my dog Chaz and I spent the night under a tarp rolled up in a fleece blanket. I spent most of the night trying to keep Chaz covered with the blanket because he is skinny and gets cold easily. Gary spent the night in his pickup camper shell and had a nice snooze. Unfortunately, my new camper shell didn’t arrive at the dealer until the day after the trip was over.

As often happens, the first trip centered around cast iron cooking and campfires. Gary has been inducted into the World Problems Solution Society and Coffee Klatch and holds the office of Exalted Feuermeister. The guy makes the best campfires going.

Emberlit stove

Emberlit stove

This is a shot of my Emberlit twig stove in action keeping the coffee water hot. This little jewel packs down into a flat envelope that is less than a quarter inch thick. You could use an alcohol stove inside if you wanted, but I usually just gather a couple of handfuls of twigs or pine cones when I decide to take a break. The only downside is that it is a very interactive stove. You have to keep an eye on it and keep feeding it twigs so that the water heats quickly.

I slide the dismantled unit down into my canteen cover so that I can brew up some coffee or tea when I’m out hiking.

IMG_1119In the background you can see our humble home where Chaz spent a lot of his time out of the wind and curled up in “our” blanket.

Here’s a shot of Gary doing his Bigfoot impression while keeping the fire stoked for some black iron cooking.

The weather was great and our only problem was an encounter with the park host gestapo. We were interrogated about our campfire and whether we had gathered our wood from the ground within the park. I must say that my encounters with State Park Hosts have been generally positive, but – as with people in general – an occasional abrasive individual slips through.

We spent our December trip at Lake Livingston State Park. The weather was a little chillier, but still nice. Only one really cold morning that kept us confined to the sleeping bags longer than usual. Gary was a little late getting there, so I got in a little fishing. You’ll notice I said fishing and not catching.

IMG_1152This trip was scheduled for four days, so we put a little more effort into setting up our camp. Our redneck chateau consisted of an EZ-Up with three side panels attached, a tarp floor, cots, air mattresses, and a locker to hold our stuff. The shelter worked great with the exception of one wind-fueled mishap. Some stakes and guy lines insured our comfort for the rest of the trip.

This photo shows our camp and the Dutch oven holding a pot roast for the night’s supper. That black iron pot led to one of our many ¬†lessons learned. It has been decided and decreed that we must either bring more people or modify our eating habits while camping. We devoured a two pound roast with potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and sweet peppers in one sitting. That’s not the kind of thing you want to do every night of a four day trip. At least, not if you want to get our of your chair from time to time.

IMG_1164Many of you know that Gary is a tinker and thinker. He developed a prototype reflector system to bounce the heat of the campfire behind us to keep us toasty while sitting out at night. He bonded reflective Mylar to a Tyvek backing and included sleeves top and bottom to hold poles and crossbeams. On the whole, the reflector was a home run. We decided on a few little mods to it, but it served its purpose well as is. We measured a 5 – 10 degree increase in heat behind us.

IMG_1161We were infiltrated by a fearless Ninja squirrel at breakfast on the second day. The little guy was fearless and sat next to me on the bench before he climbed up onto the table to try for his share of groceries. A few strategic swats and he retreated back to the bench. After breakfast he made his way over to the open chuck box to see what he could find.

We watched as he rummaged through the contents and settled of half a loaf of bread. Somehow he got his head stuck under the plastic flap and then make a dive for freedom. I was able to stab the loaf with my walking stick and bring his flight to a halt. I tossed the bread back into the box and he dove back in and tried again. We chased him out and closed the box.

After all of this excitement we made a tour of the park. An hour later we returned and found that he had gnawed the corner off of Gary’s cooler and had nearly severed the locking tab on the chuck box. The entire front of the box showed evidence of his efforts to get to the bread that he knew was inside.

IMG_1169We spent the morning of the last day reviewing lessons learned. The top lesson: less food or more people. Gary also decided that I am only allowed to cook one big meal each day. He doesn’t care if it is breakfast, lunch or dinner as long as I limit myself to one meal a day. The second lesson, which Gary mastered, was control of the fire for best cooking temps.

I think we made a heck of a team with our camping and cooking. We are looking forward to more trips in the near future.

Thanks for reading and we hope you have a very Happy New Year.


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