First Time Feeding A Chipmunk

It’s been awhile since we’ve been camping.  My father-in-law was in town visiting and we missed a couple of weekends of camping. Since it was a short weekend, we decided to go back to the very first campground we visited,  Swanzey Lake Campground , and see how we liked it after all of our other experiences.  It was more crowded than I remembered, and noisier so I think I will be downgrading it a pine cone, but we still enjoyed our stay.

First off, we were out of practice.  The easy routine we had developed after the last couple of months was definitely missing, although once we setup things were definitely smoother.   The best part was we made friends with a very feisty chipmunk Lee named Ralph.  We had a bag of peanuts Lee was feeding him and he got so brazen that he was all over our campsite.  Lee is a videographer by trade and he put together this short video to show Ralph at his finest 🙂

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I also had read something about making my own fire starters out of pine cones dipped into paraffin wax and wanted to give it a try. Finding the pine cones, melting the wax, and then dipping was a very fun hour or so.  Not sure how well they will work but it was a fun thing to do and I felt very industrious and thrifty while doing it.  I hate paying what they charge for fire starters, so I hope these work.  Update:  They didn’t really work which was a shame because it was fun.  If you’re looking for a thrifty alternative to fire starters tortilla chips or Doritos work pretty well. 

My favorite part of the weekend( besides snuggling of course) was just hanging out and really relaxing.  It has been awhile since I have felt the particular relaxation that comes with camping and I missed it.  I also cooked three new recipes and they were all a big hit which is always great.  See below for the specifics if you are interested.  Next weekend a visit to the big RV show in Hershey PA to look at fifth wheels and the week of the 23rd it’s our first week-long camping trip, driving out to see our daughter in Minneapolis, MN and maybe our first experience with boon docking.  Stay Tuned!!!

Lessons Learned

  • Your experience in the same campground may vary from trip to trip
  • Dipping pine cones into paraffin wax is a fun and economical) way to make fire starters

 

Sausage Stuffed Biscuits with Country Gravy

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice sausage into 1/2″ patties
  3. Lightly brown each patty on both sides in a medium skillet over medium low heat (They do not need to be cooked through)
  4. Unwrap biscuits and gently separate into 2 pieces on sprayed cookie sheet
  5. Place a sausage patty on the bottom part of the biscuit then lay the top of the biscuit on the patty.  Gently mold the top biscuit half so it is around the patty. (It doesn’t need to be perfect)
  6. Cook sandwich in oven for 14 minutes
  7. Make sausage gravy per packet instructions
  8. Place sandwich on plate and cover with sausage gravy

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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.

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(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.

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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.  

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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.

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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)

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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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First Time Camping with Friends

Some friends of ours from Columbus, Ohio (our original hometown) were on a two-week camping trip through New England and we met up with them.   The couple have two daughters aged 12 and 8 and camping with kids is fun but a totally different experience.  We ended up meeting them in Acadia, Maine at the KOA Bar Harbor Oceanside campsite.   Just through good luck we ended up getting to the campsite within minutes of each other, which was great, and we all proceeded to set up.  They are in an ultra-lite, which I thought was very nice but took them very little time to set up, mainly I think because they were in the camping mode already, plus we had a new mattress topper for the bed (down alternative because feathers make me sneeze and VERY comfortable) which I had to wrestle into place.  I don’t really notice the lack of space on either side of the mattress until I have to make the bed and wrestling the mattress topper into place was a challenge to say the least.  At one point I was kneeling on the mattress and trying to lift it at the same time to slip the cover sheet under.. pretty comical I am sure.   Anyway, my point is that apparently I have gotten pretty darn used to my setup routine because trying to quicken the pace, to hang out with friends sooner was stressing me out 🙂  All self-imposed but it’s funny how quickly we can become used to a routine.

The campsite is different from any we have been to before, wide open with RV’s as close to each other as you can possibly put them.  Our spot faces a little spot of the ocean bay, though, and is on a corner which is pretty great.  They have some great  sites right on the water if you don’t need sewer hookup, but really the whole point is to use the campground as a jumping off point for going to Acadia National Park, so it’s not designed to spend tons of time there.  My major disappointment was the lack of the sound of waves crashing, because it is a bay it’s pretty sheltered, but the kids enjoyed walking down to the shore and picking up shells and they saw some crabs.  The bathrooms were very clean, the family uses the campground showers instead of the tiny one in the camper which they have turned into an additional storage area.  Pretty ingenious 🙂  and unfortunately the showers routinely had no hot water.  There were several complaints from both cabin users and campers.  It wasn’t an issue for us though and I have to say we had a great site 105 which has a great view of a little sliver of ocean.  There were some other wonderful sites on the water, but I guess they book up really quick and lots of sites where folks are seriously on top of each other with no view whatsoever.  The view from our site is below which was great.

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The people who run the campground were nice if a bit harried.  It was incredibly busy and because of the tight fits on the campground, every camper is escorted and helped to pull into the correct spot.  Lots of French Canadians at the site, and folks were incredibly polite.  Lots and lots of big dogs, we saw a couple beautiful huskies.  Overall I liked it. Don’t kid yourself, though, this is not ocean side camping like you are picturing in your mind, but for what it is (a place to use to visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park) it is a fair value.  The shower issue and extreme closeness of sites requires a downgrade though and I rate it at 3 out of 5 pine cones.

One of the best parts of camping with friends is getting to sit around the campfire with them. The 12-year-old and I spent a very entertaining hour trying to create the perfect toasted marshmallow  (she managed to pull it off; I was close but not quite) and we all chatted into the evening. For the first time I had to worry about when the quiet hours were, which was funny.  We never make any noise when it’s just the two of us.  This time we got to sit at the fun campsite!!

The next day Lee and I went to Acadia Park which although crowded was really fun.  This is a great place if you like biking as there are 42 miles of carriage paths which were changed into bike paths.  We also saw lots of little kids hiking with their parents as there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails.  Since we weren’t really into doing either, we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain (which is free) and took some great pictures of the ocean.

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Next we took the park loop road ($20 for a 7 day pass) and stopped at various scenic sites along the way.  Did you know that seniors 64 and older can purchase a lifetime National park pass for $10 that gains entry into all National Parks in the country??  Say what you want about our government but there are some things they do right.   My favorite part of the loop was when we stopped at Thunder Hole and got down on the rocks and watched the ocean come crashing in on the rocks.  It was great, and you could get as close to the water as you wanted.  All and all a lovely day.

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We also visited Bar Harbor which was pretty touristy but fun as the harbor was fogged in and seeing all the boats amid the fog certainly added to the experience.  A great family style steak dinner at night and more time around the campfire capped off the experience.  Great time hanging out with friends and we are now e packing up and headed to inland Maine and they are branching off to Cape Cod.

Lessons Learned

  • Walkie talkies are a fun way to communicate when you have two vehicles and it’s great for kids
  • When camping with a group allow plenty of time for folks to do their own thing, but make sure you meet up at night for  campfire and adult beverages

 

Perfect Lemonade

(Taste tested by an 8-year-old and declared pretty good)

  • 5 cups of water, divided
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar or Splenda

1.  Combine 4 cups of water and lemon juice

2.  Chill 30 minutes

3.  Peel lemons leaving inner white pith on fruit (reserve lemons for another use)

4.  Cut lemon rinds into strips

5.  Combine rind, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan

6.  Stir over medium heat until sugar melts

7.  Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes; stir frequently

8.  Let cool

9.  Mix with lemon juice/water mixture and chill 2 hours before serving

 

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