NC State Park Passport

I mentioned previously that I am doing the NC State Park Passport challenge.  It was something to do while I pay off my travels from last year.  Little did I know it was going such a big expense!  It is definitely cheaper than spontaneously planning trips across the country 🙂 Anyways, it’s a little booklet that you can get from any visitor center in a state park.  You can also send away for it, too.  Every time you go to a park, you go to the visitor center and get a stamp.  Like a passport – get it?  😉

That’s why I started looking for all the information on camping and started getting out there.  I’ve got 13 stamps so far.  I never got the one from Hanging Rock, but I’ll get that on my way to camp at Pilot Mountain.  Every time you complete 10 stamps, you get some “stuff”.  For the first 10, I got a pen, a sticker, a bracelet, a tube of insect repellent, and a packet of sunscreen.  I’ll get something at 20, 30, and 40 parks.  If I complete all the parks plus a part of the mountains to sea trail in one year, I get other stuff.  I don’t remember what, but that’s part of the fun for me.  Now, you don’t have to complete it in a year.  It’s just a goal that gets me out of the house.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I also take pictures when I go.  I love to take pictures.  Basically, the only reason I started hiking was because I bought the camera 😀  I’ve started taking enjoyment in seeing all the little things along the hike.  Bugs, flowers, snakes, birds, everything!

I’m actually thinking of doing a series of posts about my hiking, but I discovered something – I DON’T HAVE ANY PICTURES OF MY FIRST STAMP!!  The HORROR!  I don’t know what happened!!  I guess I’ll have to go back to the Eno 😮 😉

Here’s a picture to hold you over while I get some thoughts together.  This is from Kerr Lake State Park.  It was the second park I went to for a stamp.

Kerr Lake

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Attempts at Camping Food

The biggest problem I have run into, surprisingly, is food.  You can find plenty of information on solo hiking food or solo backpacking food, but apparently no one in the world has ever posted about solo camping food.  It’s a enormous information gap.  I can’t even get those pre-made dehydrated meals because even those have 2 servings.  There are some with a single serving, but very, very few.  There’s nothing out there for making food for one.  Personally, I am not into just eating nuts and jerky for three days.

I thought about buying separate dehydrated or freeze dried ingredients to make my own meals, but since I’m not backpacking, that’s a HUGE expense.  I was really surprised at the price of it all.  Same with dehydrating my own food.  I think it’s a good idea if you backpack a lot, but I won’t be (for now).

That leaves a cooler and regular food.  Still, no recipes for solo meals.  Everything is for families and groups.  Well, ESCUUUUUSE ME for not having a gaggle of people to go into the woods with!!  It’s really quite sad.  How many people out there that are looking for solo cooking info and can’t find it?  It can be a little depressing to try and take this great big tasty looking recipe and make it for one!  I will not be deterred, though.  Screw you guys.  Hopefully I can help all the people out there who want to go camping on their own.

The only thing that can easily be adapted for solo campers is hobo packets.  If you’ve never made them, they are basically a protein, vegetable, some fat, in a foil packet that you throw on a heat source to cook.  Open and eat.  Easy prep, easy clean up, and completely customizable.

The other thing is canned soups and such.  I know canned soups are usually for multiple servings, but there are so few people that exist who actually follow the serving size on soup cans.  I mean, really.  Basically anything you can cook in the little pot from my last post can be an option.

I like to stock up on food that I think will be good to use with the pot and stoves.  For example, Bear Creek Soup is easy to portion out, light weight, and only needs boiling water.  I figured have that, with a can of chicken, maybe some cous cous?  The only thing missing is vegetables (I’m still researching different options for this).  Random canned soup.  Basically back up food.  Or food to use when I have to hike in and can’t necessarily bring in the whole cooler.

On my very first camping trip, I went with a friend, so it’s not exactly to the tone of this post.  I’ll write about that another time.

The second trip was the rained out one.  While that sucked, I still got to cook two meals – both on my portable grill!

First was a lovely dinner of asparagus and hot dogs.  I tried to make some flat bread, but I forgot how much water I needed and added too much.  I was disappointed, but also hungry.  I tried to salvage it, but it turned out to be like a tasteless pancake. 😛

 

CookingFriDinner

Oh!  And watermelon!  Almost looks like a normal dinner, right?FridayDinner
The next meal was breakfast.  I went with a hobo packet type deal like I mentioned above.  I portioned everything out at home.
SaturdayBreakfast2

I created a pocket and lined it with oil.SaturdayBreakfast3

In first was the potatoes and ham.  I added a little butter for flavor and a little salt and pepper.  I let that cook until it looked good to me.
SaturdayBreafast4

Then, I added the eggs on top and cooked to my desired consistency.  Then, I put the cheese on top, closed the lid of the grill, and turned off the heat.  Voila, breakfast
SaturdayBreakfast5

Add a book and call it good.  I would definitely make this again.
SaturdayBreakfast

I had a pre-made sandwich packed for the hike.  And as you know, I got rained out before I made any other food.

I just made a reservation for next weekend for a simple overnight stay.  That’s going to pose some unique challenges of not over packing OR under packing.  I’m nervous and excited all at the same time!  Stay tuned for more food adventures!!

 

Throwing in the towel

See this spot?  This is where I was going to write some huge uplifting post about my first solo camping trip.  I’ll still write about it, but it was not some huge triumph or anything.  I didn’t stay the whole weekend.  I didn’t even make it a full 24 hours.  I got rained out.  Yep – beaten by rain.  I was hoping to be saved by the famous North Carolina sudden weather change.  I was not.  Sun shining, promises of warmth, that the rain was over, and BAM – the bitch poured on me.  Lured me into false comfort!!

It started easily enough.  I was hiking and saw the storm move in.  I got soaked – accepted it and moved on.  Got the picnic blanket and put it in my wet hammock and relaxed.  The sun was shining, birds singing (literally), and I decided it was the perfect time to do the dishes.  I put on the last warm thing I had and headed to the utility sinks.  Skies opened up and I started getting wet again.  Waited it out after finishing the dishes and finally walked back to the site.  Took all the doubly wet clothes off the fence they were “drying” on and threw them in a garbage bag.  Of course, it started to pour down rain again.  I got soaked.  Again.

I sat there, in my tent, after getting soaked the THIRD time, looking at the wet hoodie, I wondered what I was doing.  What am I holding out for in the rain?  Why am I still here?  What am I trying to prove?  There is no one with me.  There are no demanding plans I needed to get to the next day.  So, what was stopping me?  I’m only 2 hours from home!  A bit of pride, I suppose.  A bit of shame.  Expecting people to judge me if I left because of rain.  Would I be a failure because weather forced me home?

I finally said fuck it.  I’m miserable.  I’m not going to stay here, hiding in my tent, miserable.  I want camping to be enjoyable, not a chore.  So, I packed it all up (badly) and left.  Screw what anyone else thinks.  None of them want to go camping with me, why should they be part of my decision to leave??  Nope.  Not at all.  Now, if they had come with me, it would be a different story.  I may not have left.  We may have waited it out, maybe even been more prepared by having the tarp up.  But, until there are more people with me, I don’t give a shit what they think.  If I’m not “a real camper” because of it, then maybe I don’t WANT to be.

The sad part is that I even got a tarp to help protect against the rain.  I just never hung it.  Friday night was a race to get to the I got a tarp to hang up to protect me from the rain just in case.  I got all packed up (late, of course) and left.  I got there and set everything up.  The original plan was to get some hiking in on the first day, but I was so late, I just wanted to get camp set up.

That all being said, I did have a few enjoyable moments 🙂  I had a good hike.  I got to try out my hammock and my grill.  I got to sleep on my new sleeping pad.  I would say that it is definitely not the worst camping trip that can happen.  I’ll write about the food and the good things soon.

Last note: camping solo means you make ALL the decisions.  Never be ashamed to bail early.  If you are miserable, go home!  Who cares what others think?

Creating home base

Home base!  Basically the stuff I want to take on every single trip (excluding the kitchen box).  I had an idea to put it in a container (of course) and leave it in the car.  Then, I remembered I live in the south.  Not gonna happen.  It’s still in a container for ease of car loading.

One thing I want to (re)mention is that you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money at first.  See if you can get things on sale or get basic versions until you decide if you actually like camping or not.  Look into stores like REI that have a great return policy.  If you go once, decide you HATE it, you can take it all back.

First, a tent (obviously) – I got a 2-person tent for just me.  It has plenty of room for the sleeping pad, bag, and some other things.  Make sure the one you choose has some venting and mesh areas.  The mesh on the roof should be covered with a rain fly.  This should add ventilation when it gets warmer (to be determined on my second camping trip).
EssentialTent

Next, a sleeping bag (rated to the temperature that you will be camping ) – Depending on the time of year you go, you may be able to get away with just using a quilt or blanket.  Remember, you are only limited by the size of your car.  I decided to get an actual bag.  It was a really good idea for the first trip.  It was FREEZING at night.  The bag I bought is rated to 20 degrees.  Plenty low for NC……hopefully!!

A sleeping bag’s partner – a sleeping pad (helps to protect from cold coming from the ground and provides cushioning).  I really struggled with this.  I didn’t really think I needed one, but my online peeps convinced me to get one.  Let me tell you, I was SO happy I had it.  While it wasn’t thick enough for a side sleeper like me, it provided much needed insulation from the ground.  One night, I put one leg on the pad and one leg on the ground.  Even in the bag, there was a HUGE difference.  Get one.  Thank me later.  I actually ended up upgrading to an inflatable sleeping pad to provide more support so I can sleep on my side.

Tarp/footprint for under the tent – In conjunction with the sleeping pad, this helps to insulate the tent.  I think it also does something with moisture?  🙂  You could buy an expensive footprint or just get a tarp that does the exact same thing.  I went with a tarp.  A silver one.  Cause it’s cool……and because it was the only size that matched my tent footprint 😛  Since it’s calling for rain, I also got a large tarp to try and set up some cover so I can still cook.

Recently, I picked up a hammock, too.  I got an extra large rainfly just for it (see rain note above).  I am going to try it out to see if it’s an option for sleeping in the hot weather.
EssentialNoTent

Camp chairs – Get one.  Love it.  I have a few since they were going to be on the back porch, but I stopped going out there (it’s a whole other rant/story).  The ones I have include a cooler in the arm!  Perfect 😀  (There’s only 3 in the picture because one is still in the car :/)
EssentialsChair

Changing shelter – Ok, so this is a huge splurge, but nothing I could find actually told me how to change in the woods.  I mean, it’s a bit easier for guys – all they have to worry about is below the belt.  Us women have to worry about top and bottom.  The idea of changing in a tent REALLY didn’t appeal to me.  When I saw a lightly damaged one at the REI Garage Sale, I snagged it for a quarter of the price.  I may not set it up every time, but it’s damn convenient.  I think it could be really good for changing in the rain, but I need to check and make sure it isn’t a mesh top.
EssentialShelter

Rope – Essential for many different things.  I plan on using it to hang a clothesline and also hang up the cover tarp.  I could also use the stakes from the changing shelter (if I don’t use it) to anchor it.

Some odds and ends that I have: bug spray specifically for gear, solar powered light/charger (I also have a regular charger that is getting charged), single-player logic game (not pictured….cause….I’m, um, testing it out.  Yea, testing it out), book(s), duct tape, extra head lamp, flip flops in case I want to shower, and bite/sting kit.  I am not sure how practical the bite/sting kit is, but I wanted to give it a shot in case I get bit.  Those damn mosquitoes LOVE me.
EssentialsRandom

That’s the bulk of it.  I am sure that there is more that I am just not thinking of at the moment.  It’ll come out in the posts about the actual camping trip, I’m sure.  I hope this was all helpful.  Looking forward to more posts 🙂  Maybe food next?

For the love of camp cooking

I mentioned my kitchen box in my last post (I love my kitchen box) and I figured it might be a good idea to write a post about what is actually IN the kitchen box.

First, um, what to call it, cooking stuff?  Cooking appliances?  Magic fire thingies?  Anyway, in to eagerness acquire all I needed to camp, I rashly bought this tiny, tiny stove.  Honestly, I didn’t realize the size of it until I unpacked it.

TinyBurner

How the hell was someone supposed to use it?  Apparently, you need one of these.
BurnerAndTinyFUEL!  Who knew?  I still wasn’t sure how to use it, though.  I knew how to screw them together. ( 😮 )  But, none of my pans would balance on it or anything.  So, I bought this, too.
BurnerTinyPotA camp cook set!  2 coffee cups (one is in my car, don’t ask) and a pot that works perfectly with the stove.  I also decided to get a larger burner that would balance a more reasonable size of skillet and pot.
ComparingBurnersBy reasonable, I mean for little ol me.
BigBurnerAssembledThis definitely wouldn’t work for more than 2 people.  I think that I will be able to use both of these quite often….hopefully.

Next, dishware.  Now, I prefer to do my eating out of a bowl.  The problem?  The cereal bowls you usually see being offered just aren’t big enough for normal meals.  I didn’t want to take regular dishes because of the risk of breakage and weight.  I searched HIGH and low for something suitable.  Just when I was giving up hope, I found these.
BowlAren’t they pretty??  They’re plastic, so very light weight, but durable enough that there’s no worry about it melting with the hot food.  It came in a pack of 6, so I have some back ups if I ever need them.

Early on in my buying phase, I decided to get a thermal jar.
ThermalJarI had a bright idea of taking food on a hike and eating it somewhere cool.  To do that, I would need some silverware.  Not regular silverware, silly, it has to be special silverware!!  I got these.
SilverwareOf course it came in a two pack, but I really liked them, so in the cart they went.  They came in handy on my first camping trip so my camping buddy had something to eat with.  The long spoon is separate.  Why?  Um, because?  I like them.  Wait, I’ve got it!  They’re easier to use to eat out of the camp pot!  Yep.  That’s it.  😀

On to food prep.  Cutting boards are a must.  I grabbed all my old cutting boards while I got my kitchen some new ones.  I take a knife with me, too, but I don’t keep it in the box.  I need it in my regular kitchen.  I would like to find one to keep in here, though.  I’m trying to do all the food prep before getting to camp, but you never know when you might need it.  This is also where the extra bowls come in.  If I plan my food, I should know exactly what I’ll need when I’m there.  I also have a set of metal bowls for the same reason.  I’ve also got some latex gloves.  Nothing worse than handling raw meat and trying to wash your hands while camping.  I thought this would cut down on any cross contamination type thing.
BowlsGlovesBoard

 

Ok, I don’t want this to get too boring, so let’s wrap this up with the randoms

  • Handkerchiefs – wipe off some sweat, cover some hike/camp hair (like you just don’t care – heh), unfancy napkins
  • Kitchen towels – I kind of have an addiction to them
  • Long matches – fire.  heheheh
  • Grill tongs – that were the log tongs on the first camping trip that inspired me to get….
  • Log tongs – to move logs of course!
  • Paper bags and packing – to start fires.  It was really successful on the first camping trip, so I am hoping it continues to be
  • Dr Bronner’s – everyone’s favorite all purpose soap
    Random1
  • Plastic bin – I grabbed a normal one for the first trip and it worked out SO well.  Instead of taking up all that space, I splurged to buy a collapsible one.  I’ll be testing it out on my next camping trip
  • Tablecloth – just for a little fun.  I got the clamps after the last trip.  I haven’t tried them yet, but they seemed like a good idea
  • Hot dog fork – this is new, too.  Hoping to use it on my next trip
  • Skewers – ummm, just cause
  • Camping cookbook – not sure why.  I might leave it behind unless I am making things out of it.
  • Various sizes and types of plastic bags – trust me, you’ll use the shopping bags A LOT
  • Foil – also VERY useful
  • A larger plastic container – to hold all of the small randoms I may take with me including salt and pepper and tablecloth clamps.  I put the silverware in there, too
    Random2

Here’s how the box gets packed:
(There’s some trash bags in the lower right corner under the bowls)Packed1Packed2Packed3Packed4

All packed up with the items I didn’t pack on the side.  There’s still some room on top, but not much.
PackedUp

AAAND as I sit here writing this, I forgot the utility scissors!  It’s always good to have a pair on hand.  Not just for kitchen stuff, for any needs that might arise.  Moving on, this may not be the final configuration of the box.  I’ll adjust as my needs change.  That way, I can fit actual food in the kitchen box.  Or I can leave it since it all fits!!

Hope this was helpful!  Even if I did forget two items….it was barely noticable…..right?

 

 

Beginning Camping

I mentioned in my About Me, I just started camping this year.  This is a completely new experience for me.  I decided to camp because I am doing the NC Passport Challenge.  I want to do it in a year, but some of the parks are far away.  Instead of driving a couple hours to hike, I thought I would camp at some.  The next thing I know, I have 8 camping reservations. 😮  Don’t worry, all of the sites have indoor bathrooms close by.  😉

The hardest part is not having friends to go with that know what they are doing.  I asked online for some advice.  Don’t spend too much money until you know you like it was a big one.  Whoops.  Well, I have a tent, sleeping bag, two sleeping pads (definitely a must), hammock, membership to REI co-op, REI credit card, camping stove, etc.  Don’t ask.  I was very well prepared for my first trip.

I decided that I needed to stay close to home for the first one.  It’s only 15 minutes from my apartment.  That way, I could go home if anything went horrible wrong 😀  It was my “home” park so I felt safe.  I was car camping, so I didn’t have to worry about what I needed to carry in or anything.  I also bought an injection molded cooler *ahem* that I could leave in the car for all the perishables.  I also had a kitchen box and a regular box.  Did I mention I was well prepared?

I actually ended up finding a friend to go with.  She has been camping before.  It was not really what I expected, though.  I seemed to be more prepared than she was.  If I didn’t have my kitchen box, there would’ve been no food and nothing to eat off of.  I love my kitchen box.

My next trip will be on my own.  It’s a park I’ve been to, but never camped at, so it’s familiar territory AND new!  All at once!  I’ll tell you – the hardest part?  Figuring out the food.  All the sites assume you are with people or backpacking.  Like, I would love to cook over the fire in a dutch oven, but I don’t think I should be eating all that food on my own.  I got a camping cookbook, but again, it’s for families or groups of people.  SO!  Here I am, planning my food.  And it’s gonna be craptastic hot.  I was going to cook over the fire again, but I think it’s a mistake.  My current hurdle is to find a portable grill that won’t suck.  That’ll be my next post 🙂

In the meantime, here’s my last set up (I’m the green tent!)
Fav - Tent focus