Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cooking Lunch in the Woods

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
This image and most on this post were taken by Julie Zickefoose.

The borders that were most likely to be breached having been thoroughly posted, Liam and I headed down the valley toward Beechy Crash. Beechy Crash is so-named because in 1992, when, with the ink still wet on the real estate papers, we first hiked this land of ours, we discovered a huge sandstone and shale ravine crisscrossed with fallen, giant beech trees.

An early spring hike to Beechy Crash a few years ago. One of these people is Sharon The Birdchick Stiteler.

Most of those fallen monsters are gone now, rotted back to the soil by the combined effects of time, weather, and the ravine's moist embrace. Just upstream from Beechy Crash is a flat spot where an old logging road once passed. This is the spot where our food cache was waiting, where there was plenty of firewood, and a fire circle of stones I'd gathered a few years earlier.

Halfway down the hillside, Liam and I met with the girls and Chet Baker, who initially barked at us gamely, as if he did not recognize us as a part of his roaming pack.

The kids raced down the hill. The parents proceeded more carefully.

Once the light bulb of recognition went off in Chet's head, he ran headlong for us and gave us warm dog kisses.
Chet Baker strikes a majestic pose.

I moved downhill ahead of the others, wanting to get the fire going. This day was mild enough that we did not need the fire for heat, but that is not always the case. Once last winter we went for a long, cold hike down this same valley with friends. The four kids (two from each family) all got soakers falling into the stream. A front blew in and the temperature dropped as we headed home, but home was a long way off. In a moment of clarity I forged ahead of the group and built a fire along the path—at this same spot where we were heading today. I'm not sure a warming fire was ever appreciated more by chilly hikers.

By the time Liam, Phoebe, Julie, and Chet arrived, I had this cooking fire going—at least slightly. The kindling on the ground was still a tad moist from recent rains, but with some newspaper we got things burning soon enough.

Out came the hamburgers, onions, frying pan, beans, cook pot, utensils, and we were cooking caveman style!
When I was a kid, growing up in tiny Pella, Iowa, sunny fall Saturdays when my dad was home, we'd load up the station wagon and drive a few miles out into the country for a picnic. Sometimes we'd invite another family along. We'd toss a football, or perhaps hike or fish a little. But the highlight was building a fire and cooking out. Hotdogs were a staple, but we'd sometimes add other dishes like corn on the cob, or my mom's potato salad. And always there were the s'mores.

Now I find it particularly gratifying to try to make some of this same kind of memory with my kids. Julie and I were laughing about my caveman like tendencies, loving the challenge of cooking a meal in some remote spot. She said "My dad used to take us out for long country rides in the car all the time. But we never got out of the car much, and if we did we certainly never cooked a campfire meal. This is WAY more fun!"

The caveman with his caveman meal cooking on the fire.

Caveman not able leave fire alone. Must poke it to make flame big. Fire good!

Liam, I do believe, has caught the bug, too. He loved stirring the beans. And his cooking "jones" has been documented before by his mom.

Of course we had to share our food with Chet Baker, who behaved like a perfect gentleman even though we were far from civilization.
Please dew not take pitchers of me beggin'. It ain't dignified, but I am helpless to resist hamburger.

Everyone agreed that the burgers and onions tasted fine (even without ketchup!) and the beans were nicely smoky. The s'mores were pleasingly gooey and messy.

After the meal was consumed, the paper plates burned, the gear washed and re-packed, the fire put out (by the Hotdog Brothers with an assist from the stream), we headed for home, stopping only once, to say hello to our old friend, the beech we call OK 1902.

This old tree has done well for itself in the 107 years since it felt the bite of a farm boy's pocketknife.

The sun was sagging behind the western hills now. It was time to get home and savor a day well spent.


On December 2, 2009 at 4:33 PM Robert Mortensen said...

Good job daddy! What a great family activity.

I really enjoyed your link to the Hotdog Bros post. My son and I have to get out and do manly things now and then because we are outnumbered by mom and three sisters.

On December 2, 2009 at 10:04 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

I love love loveity love this post.

On December 3, 2009 at 8:50 AM Anonymous said...

Yum. I can smell your meal cooking. Love this post. Thanks for sharing.

On December 3, 2009 at 10:28 AM B and B said...

What wonderful memories you are creating for your children.

On December 7, 2009 at 7:50 PM Iron Cooker said...

I really liked your story , very well well thought out and wrote. We spend a lot of time camping and traveling in the summertime. I do enjoy hearing of others that do to. Nothing like the old dutch oven or a cast iron pan on the open fire, if I may give a plug for my store. but this time im just writing to tell you that i really liked your article.
If you care to look at my site i carry cast iron cookware. but like I said, This is just me saying good job.

On March 23, 2012 at 8:35 AM Wallpaper said...
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On March 23, 2012 at 8:36 AM Wallpaper said...
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