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Into the Wild

With the arrival of spring, comes the plans for adventure this summer; and a chance to try your hand at open-hearth cooking and meal prepping that would make a pioneer proud.

Last year, we couldn't wait to plan a camping trip. We picked a worthy destination, printed out a packing list, and got to work on a menu. There are some nuances to camping though that novices often forget, and list makers like us try to predict and outwit.

Pack like a pro: You may think you have this one down. Extra TP? Check. An array of warm socks? Travel First Aid kit? Check, check. However, when it comes to the cooler it isn't as simple as it seems. Layering food and ice can lead to a disaster when things melt. Draining the icy slush? Big mistake. The melted water is actually keeping your goods cold longer and reducing the amount you need to spend on tracking down another jumbo bag of cubes when you'd rather be hitting the trail. There are handy guides out there for packing tips but there are also deluxe cooler models out there that can make the job a whole lot easier (if you are willing to drop some coin).

  • Consider packing a separate cooler for drinks since people reach for those more often

  • Seal food in waterproof containers to keep things dry and keep them from getting crushed.

  • Pack food in layers with ice in between.

  • Keep the cooler as full as possible.

  • Don't drain the ice water right away! It helps keep things cold longer (seriously)!

Mind your fire. Open-hearth cooking is one of the oldest styles before stoves or even fireplaces were commonplace. The cook would start the fire early in the day, tend it until the evening, and prepare it for the next day's use. Remarkably, it isn't really the fire doing much of the cooking. It's the coals! Not just any wood will do either. Hardwoods work best like ash, oak, hickory, some maples, or dogwood because these produce intense heat and a healthy supply of red hot coals.

  • Pick the right location

  • Bring the right tools

  • Don't forget foil!

  • Have a plan to put out a fire if needed (sand, water, bucket or spray bottle)

Forage on the trail. the act of seeking out edible provisions in the wild has become increasingly popular in the last 10-20 years. No longer is it thought of as a thing the poor are forced to turn to. Instead, it is celebrated as a reclaiming of our ancestral histories as gatherers, striving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, and bragging rights for mastering the knowledge of your local flora and fauna.

  • If you aren't sure, don't eat it.

  • Learn the native plants in your area and what they look like in all seasons.

  • Avoid contaminated areas like near busy roads.

  • Keep a journal with your notes.

Honestly one of our favorite parts about camping is cooking outside. From the simple PB&J to the more elaborate skillet frittatas, there is something magical about using a campfire and cooking in the open air. There is no rush as time is literally standing still. All yours. Ready for the taking (or relaxing). A glass of wine shared around the fire or a Kentucky mule in a copper mug (complete with garnish) feels extra sweet while "roughing it" in the woods. Kicking back after a long day of hiking, swimming, and nature adoration is best enjoyed with friends. But never let that stop you. Solo adventures are just as important.

Don't forget a book or a deck of cards. Our family favorite is cribbage and it reminds us of our grandfather.

Below are some recipes for the trail and gear to make the experience better:

Still interested in learning more? Give this episode a listen.

Sunset on the lake

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