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Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Afternoon Merriment: Attempted Fine Dining in the Great Outdoors

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge img_3047.jpg
On a recent weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to combine two cherished San Francisco pastimes: camping and brunch. What follows is a series of journal entries depicting the trials we endured.


Saturday

8:00. 
We awoke earlier than usual this morning, needing to prepare for the long day of travel ahead of us. After a short breakfast, we packed our equipment, and readied ourselves for the journey to the place locals call “Mount Diablo” — Devil Mountain.

9:30. The wagon loaded up, we stopped to procure food and supplies at a general store on the outskirts of town. The place was was run by a mountain trader named Joe, had most everything we needed. To supplement what we’d carried with us, we purchased the following:

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE VANGEL
  • Photo by Mike Vangel

10:30. Well on our way now. Many other wagons out on the trail, more than I’d expected; it seems many other people had the same idea. Still, we’re excited for our first expedition together. I hope we have everything we need — glad I remembered the old cast iron skillet at least. As a boy, I can recall going out in the woods with my family, and dad would build a big bonfire and cook eggs and bacon over the open flames in a skillet he’d had since he was a young man. He spent years seasoning it to perfection, and taught me how to care for it. Or he tried anyway. I didn’t really listen. (But there are good instructions online.) Maybe this is why he didn’t pass down the skillet?

12:05. As we snake our way up into the hills, the fields of long grasses give way to desert scrub and dry red dirt. The sun beats down, hot on our wagon. We’re finally there: Mount Diablo. A ranger tells us we can’t build fire tonight, on account of the drought. This could pose a problem for cooking, but we forge ahead.

13:00. After setting up camp, we hiked to the summit. At the top, we encountered a lone ranger with black markings on his arms, who offered ice cream sandwiches to us hot travelers, $2.00 each. The temptation was great, but our pockets were empty. We departed back to camp, hungry.

14:30. Survived a rattlesnake encounter on the way down, feasted on a hearty lunch to celebrate.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE VANGEL
  • Photo by Mike Vangel

15:00. We are both fatigued, and the harsh desert sun makes it worse. We retire to the tent and hammock to rest.

18:30. Shit, how long was I asleep for? The sun is already low in the sky, we need to start supper now if we hope to finish before dark! And God I'm hungry. I would kill for a steak right now...

click to enlarge Camp Chili — Prep time: 30 sec	— Cook time: 10 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Open two cans of chili, and empty into medium-sized pot. Light camp stove, place pot on top. Ignore precariousness of set-up, but try to remain alert so as to catch the pot if (when) it falls. Cook 10 minutes until lukewarm, or until stove runs out of fuel. Serve with potato chips and managed expectations. - PHOTO BY MIKE VANGEL
  • Photo by Mike Vangel
  • Camp Chili — Prep time: 30 sec — Cook time: 10 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Open two cans of chili, and empty into medium-sized pot. Light camp stove, place pot on top. Ignore precariousness of set-up, but try to remain alert so as to catch the pot if (when) it falls. Cook 10 minutes until lukewarm, or until stove runs out of fuel. Serve with potato chips and managed expectations.

20:30. After our meal, we cleaned up and settled in to watch the sunset. Two boys burst into our campsite, one crowned with a gigantic floppy hat shaped like an elephant’s head. They offered to trade five dollars for all of our marshmallows. We realized we didn’t bring marshmallows; camp morale hit new low. I vowed to make it up to Lindsey in the morning.

Sunday

8:30. We rose from a good night’s sleep in fresh air. I got dressed, and set to work building a fire to make breakfast. Though we’re not allowed to burn wood, we can burn charcoal, and I am hopeful yet that I can cook for Lindsey, proving myself and making the old man proud.

8:35. We forgot lighter fluid. Oh my God, how did we forget lighter fluid?

8:45. There is still hope. Instructions on the charcoal bag suggest curling up newspaper and stacking charcoal on top.

9:05. Running low on newspaper. Fire pit littered with dozens of half-burnt matches. Lindsey boils water for coffee on her stove, not saying a word.

9:15. Could not Google ways to light charcoal, cell service spotty. I try using empty beer cans and remaining newspaper to light a few coals. They promptly extinguish. Situation looks grim.

9:20. Lindsey offers coffee, says she is just fine with granola bars for breakfast, it’s “not that big of a deal.” She is trying to be patient for my sake, I can tell. I am filled with shame.

9:32. The pine tree! A-ha! (There is a dead pine tree near our tent. Its twigs burn fast and hot, and get the charcoal going. We will brunch after all!)

click to enlarge Cowboy Potatoes — Prep time: 5 min — Cook time: 20-25 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Cut Yukon Gold potatoes into approx. 1 inch pieces. Slice onion and bell pepper. Combine on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt/salty seasoning. Wrap tightly, then double wrap in a second layer of foil. Place directly on coals, turning over about halfway through with something that is not your bare fingers, because no, even if you do it quickly, it will still be really hot to the touch. - PHOTO BY MIKE VANGEL
  • Photo by Mike Vangel
  • Cowboy Potatoes — Prep time: 5 min — Cook time: 20-25 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Cut Yukon Gold potatoes into approx. 1 inch pieces. Slice onion and bell pepper. Combine on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt/salty seasoning. Wrap tightly, then double wrap in a second layer of foil. Place directly on coals, turning over about halfway through with something that is not your bare fingers, because no, even if you do it quickly, it will still be really hot to the touch.

click to enlarge Pioneer Eggs — Prep time: 2 min — Cook time: 5 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Place cast iron skillet directly onto medium-high coals. Once it’s hot, drizzle a small amount of oil inside. Crack 5 eggs into pan and scramble; cook normally. Add salt, pepper, and ash to taste. - PHOTO BY MIKE VANGEL
  • Photo by Mike Vangel
  • Pioneer Eggs — Prep time: 2 min — Cook time: 5 min — Serves 2 — Directions: Place cast iron skillet directly onto medium-high coals. Once it’s hot, drizzle a small amount of oil inside. Crack 5 eggs into pan and scramble; cook normally. Add salt, pepper, and ash to taste.

10:30. Breakfast was delicious, Lindsey even said so, “Despite how long it took.” (It really wasn't that long). Not a scrap left over.

11:45. We took down the tent and packed everything up, then spent a little time admiring the view from the mountaintop. A successful first excursion, overall. We’re both eager for more adventure, knowing now that we can fend for ourselves and survive in the wilderness. Maybe we’ll try Pacific Crest Trail next weekend.

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Mike Vangel

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