Campfire Cooking, Fire Wood, and Magical Hikes in Maine

Acres of Wildlife Campground  sits near the small town of Steeple Falls, ME and is a three-mile drive on a dirt road (well maintained) just to get to the campground.  (A couple of times during that drive, which takes forever creeping along at 20 mph, I felt like there should be a sign saying “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter”. It just seems to go on forever, and you wonder if you’ll ever get there. There are encouraging signs though, which was kind of fun. “Don’t Give Up, You’re Almost There”, and things like that. – Lee) Once you get there the place is huge, with its’ own stocked pond, a small lake with plenty of kayaks, rowboats, paddleboats, paddleboards and canoes for rent, and large wooded areas.  There are numerous cottages to rent, a lake beach… they even have a pretty nice RC car track.  There’s an incredibly well stocked camp store, the best I have seen with a massive hardware store style selection of pieces parts for RV’s and campers. They also have a small restaurant with a bar and fresh-baked bread and pies for sale.  The bread was $2.99 and absolutely delicious.    We picked the Sunflower campsite which was on the outer edge of the campground away from the water and the more densely packed campgrounds, but Site 63 (electric and water only) on the water would have worked for us and we also liked 48 and 49 which offered full water views and E/W/S services.   Tons of activities throughout the day and night, the place was really hopping.  On the negative side, definitely insufficient bathrooms for that volume of people and the one I went in although clean had no soap.  Trash cans are also few and far between. Also, the campers weren’t as friendly as we have seen in other places.  As Lee says more stares than smiles. (Lots and lots of hostile stares, as opposed to the friendly smile and waves we see at other places. – Lee) 

They also misrepresented their access to Sebago Lake.  It’s inferred that it is a short hike away with easy access which is not the case.  Overall I give it  2 out of 5 pine cones.   

So let me be honest here; I struggled this week with the cooking.  I don’t know if it was poor preparation or just trying to plan for a full week versus a weekend, but I had several mini disaster meals this week and overall felt more harried with cooking than in the past.  The good news is we solved our wood problem.  We have purchased Kiln Dried wood at Tree Hugger Farms in New Hampshire which burns long and hot, (much like myself. – Lee)  and are supplementing with local “Abundle” wood we find on the roadside.  The kiln dried wood is hardwood, and not easily split into smaller pieces, and isn’t great to get the fire started so we use local wood to get it going and then the kiln dried pieces to last longer when we are just sitting around the campfire.  I worried that we would be questioned about it, but we have a certificate from where we bought it and it’s clear from looking at it that it’s “clean” wood (ie. no bark and 100% insect free).   We like to supplement with local wood because in most places its slightly cheaper than kiln dried and it’s fun to treasure hunt for the cheapest wood while your out and about running errands. If you see a sign like below, you’ve found some good stuff.


(Abundle wood is an abundant species found in areas with campgrounds. It’s pronounced “abb-un-dell”, I guess, as you can see on the sign. It is not to be confused with a similar, but completely different species, Perbundle. So when you’re out looking for wood for your campfire, make sure you get the Abundle, or in a pinch, Perbundle. It burns well, and is pretty cheap.  You can usually find it for between $2-$4 for each small, easy to carry package. -Lee)

So now that the wood problem was solved, onto the cooking problems.  Part of the problem is spices.  You try to pick recipes with relatively few ingredients but it’s tough and I never seem to have spices like cumin on hand.  Finally we put all our spices in a plastic shoe box container (which I love because it’s out-of-the-way unless I am cooking) and I broke down and bought some spices that keep popping up in recipes that I never have.  We also worked out the logistics.  i was trying to manage the campfire cooking and the inside cooking at the same time which was driving me crazy and frankly a setup for failure because you truly cannot be in two places at once.  i know crazy, huh, but I’m a slow learner.  I prepared the sauces and food for cooking on the fire in advance, Lee cooked those items, while I finished up with setting the table and cooking the interior items.  Voila!!  Worked great and we had a wonderful meal of Honey Chipotle barbecued chicken (with hand- made sauce), lemon pepper potatoes with sour cream sauce, and lemony green beans.   Lee declared it a winner and I was waaaay less stressed. See below for the recipes.



It’s my birthday today and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it!  We are going to try a 2 mile”magical hike” to Sebago Lake from the campground.  First time really getting out in the woods, so hope we don’t get lost 🙂  And Lee bought me a great birthday present, a beautiful spinning balloon to hang on the camper.  Life is really really good.


As a way to kick off my being 47 we decided to try a “magical hike”.  We started calling them magical hikes because Lee would talk about them and I (remembering the downside of hiking) once said , “Yes honey it would be magical.”  There was a teeny bit of sarcasm in that statement.  So we starting referring to the magical hikes we would take, but instead have spent a lot of time just bumming around the campsite.  Since I wanted to start the new birth year in a positive way we decided to walk the 2 miles to Sebago Lake.  I don’t mind walking, as long as I end up somewhere, just not crazy about walking for the sake of walking.  Same reason I liked soccer and not track in school.  There needs to be an end game.  We were warned that the trail was not clearly marked, but what they didn’t say is not marked at all.  Lee used apple Maps and GPS though so we felt reasonably confident we could get there.  Hard to miss that big of a body of water.  

When we set off I had a bottle of water, Carmex, and my camera.   I pre-sprayed with bug spray and decided against carrying the bottle with me.  BIG mistake.  The trail is also a ATV/Snowmobile trail and the ruts had led to a lot of standing water which attracted…you guessed it…mosquitoes.  We were swarmed lol…Lee more so than me apparently he is tastier. (This is what I’ve been told, I see no reason why people would lie to me. – Lee)  The trail was relatively flat at first, but it was rough with many stones and roots on it.  I am sure this makes for exciting ATV’ing… not so much with the walking.  And unfortunately we saw almost no signs of wildlife.  We did get very excited when we found a print in the mud.  It looked like a cat which led me to hey there are predators in Maine and you have no weapon of any kind.  This feeling was not lessened when Lee spotted a chipmunk carcass pretty near the trail.  So again thinking big cat, and thinking well they are mainly nocturnal, and looking around for a big stick to carry.  


All of the conversation was wasted however because when we got back to the campground and looked up the print it turned out it was a dog 🙂   (A giant ravenous man and chipmunk eating dog, don’t be fooled. A distant relative of the equally dangerous camper-eating rock. – Lee) Overall the walk really wasn’t that magical.  It was buggy and rough on the feet and the only interesting thing we saw was a ginormous rock.  It was amazingly big but other than that not magical.


It would have all been worth it though for a great view of the lake.  I was expecting the forest to end at a secluded spot where we could do a little smooching and dip our feet in the water.  Instead we came out on a road and looked right at tons of cottages all of which had signs saying do not trespass.  In order to get the picture below I had to ask permission and walk to the water’s edge which was a big disappointment.

(Allow me to elaborate. It’s a 2.5 mile hike, along a poorly maintained trail, which is really just an ATV/Snowmobile trail. Lots of jutting rocks and roots, some pretty steep climbs and drops, and huge sections that were full of standing water. I wouldn’t cal it a technical hike, but for a 45 and 47-year-old, who smoke and are slightly heavier than would be ideal, it ain’t no stroll. And millions of aggressive biting flies. I think they are the Maine relatives of the roving rock gangs found in New Hampshire. The hike was not pleasant, and at the end, it dumps into a neighborhood, and then to a street. Across the street are private houses on the lake, with no public access. So if you want to go to the lake, find another way. – Lee)


We did walk down to the local convenient store/bait shop and buy some bug spray for the walk back.  Well Lee got bug spray (Deep Woods Off) and I bought a PIC electronic device to hang on my shirt that emits a high pitch noise to chase off mosquitoes.  They both made the walk back much better, but I think mine actually worked better.  (It’s true, the spray worked, but made my lips numb, and I hallucinated a little bit. And when you sweat, and it runs into your eyes, you go blind a little. It also stops working after about 15 minutes of sweating, so I had to keep spraying it all over me. I would have bathed in it if there was enough in the can. I would like the outdoors a lot more if it weren’t for the animals, the sun, the bugs, and the walking. – Lee) The best thing about the hike (which ended up being 5 miles round trip)  was that it burned 1,000 calories!!!   Overall not the best but I am willing to try again, we just need to do better planning next time.  (I’m so thin I’m practically invisible. A stiff breeze would blow me off my feet, so I can’t really afford to lose that many calories in one magical hike. When we got back I had to immediately lie down and take a very snory nap to recuperate. – Lee)

 Lessons Learned

  • Buy kiln dried wood but supplement with local Abundle or Perbundle wood
  • When cooking a campfire dinner don’t try to do it alone.  Enlist your hubby for help and avoid making yourself crazy
  • Use granulated bouillon for all those recipes that require chicken broth to avoid buying cans and wasting excess
  • Break down and buy spices and then store them in a clear plastic container that can be easily accessed
  • Magical Hikes require bug spray and some planning or they aren’t so magical. (Alternatively, just watch TV-Lee)
  • Balloon wind catchers are the best birthday presents ever!!!


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