We drove and we drove, down dirt roads until they got too gnarly, around in circles trying to find the spot that suited us, stopping, getting out, looking around, getting back in, and moving on. We eventually found the spot we needed, threw our gear out, set up the hammock, stripped down and jumped in; while it was still swimmable, it was cold, we could tell that the dog days were gone and they were taking summer with them.
We cracked beers and cracked jokes, lazing about on the rock rim of the Utica Reservoir (no boats this time), and when the sun started to fall, retreated to the insulated camp we had set up, protected from the cool breeze by a stand of trees and some boulders. Dinner was prepared, sweaters were donned, and we scarfed on camp fajita’s as the sun dipped into the water saying goodbye to summer.
As night came on and the fire gave us some warmth, we talked of how we hadn’t done enough this summer. We hadn’t gotten out enough, were too busy with work, with obligation, responsibility, and everything else, kicking ourselves in the ass as we watched our prime season slip from our grasp.
The Eel River holds our summer hearts. Each year the high wall and its deep pools and lone river beach draw us back for long, hot days of dozing and dipping and jumping and beer. The steep trek, loading down everything we can for our one night’s stay, all worth the mildly treacherous slipping and sliding so we can eat, drink and sleep. It’s summertime bliss on the river.
Sloppy Joes. It doesn’t initially make people’s mouths water. There’s a certain skepticism about the idea. Sloppy Joes? That’s what they served in the cafeteria. When they ran out of real food. Adam Sandler. It’s just bad. But we decided to try it anyway in our dutch oven, camped along our favorite spot on the Eel River, and guess what? It was damn good! And our friends even had seconds. So there. Recipe below.
12″ dutch oven
2.5 lbs ground beef
2 tablespoons butter
half a large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups of ketchup
1 cup of water
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt + pepper
Buns of your choice
A lot of this you can prepare at home so you have it ready to go to toss into your hot dutch oven. So at home dice your onion, green pepper and garlic and throw into a ziplock. Also at home combine in another bag the brown sugar, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Get your fire nice and hot with a good bed of embers. Find a snug spot for your dutch oven and get it heated, which only takes a minute, but make sure it’s not getting too much direct flame.
Melt the butter in the dutch oven, then add your ground beef and cook/stir it until it’s all brown. Try to drain most of the fat if possible. Then add in the contents of your onion/pepper/garlic bag, and let these cook until they are getting soft. Squeeze in your ketchup, and then add in the seasoning bag, salt + pepper to taste, Worcestershire sauce, and the water. Stir this all up and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
Now you are ready to feast. Toast up your rolls on the fire and top them with a helping of Sloppy Joe. Take a big messy bite, and enjoy!
There’s a place just north of San Francisco that used to be home to a fishing village of over 500 Chinese immigrants. Before that it was a dairy ranch belonging to a wealthy Irish-American family. And long before that it was the home and hunting grounds of the Miwok people for hundreds of years. After most of the Chinese fishermen left, the land was saved from potential developers, and turned into a protected state park for us to enjoy.
These pieces of land transfer from one hand to the next, serving different purposes for each. Who uses it best? Who deserves it the most? Who should it belong to? Now it belongs to the State, and therefore to all of the people, more or less. Although you can’t use it to farm your cows, catch shrimp, or fully sustain your life anymore, you can use it to enjoy the outdoors, and to be thankful that one more stretch of the Bay’s coast so close to the ever expanding city was spared. Happy Earth Day!
Day 2 – 17 miles – Pat Spring to Double Cone Summit and back to Pat Spring
Day 3 – 8.5 miles – Pat Spring to Bottcher’s Gap
Two women eager to tackle Double Cone. Seemed fitting. But when we read the tid bits of information online about the trail to Ventana Double Cone in Big Sur, the results were confusing. Some “reviews” told of an impassable, totally obstructed trail with zero water, while others spoke of it as a delightful hike with gorgeous views; the mileage was unclear. Per usual with internet findings you have to find the truth somewhere in the middle. Or by just trying it out for yourself. We found out pretty much for sure that there was water at our camp destination at Pat Spring, and decided to take on the potential challenge. How obstructed could a trail really be?
We doubted our negative informers, and we underestimated ourselves. The trail was longer than planned, and invisible at times, but we found our way to the top of Double Cone. And back down. We had nearly enough daylight left to take some photos, write in the mountain-top log book, and begin our 8.5 mile journey back to camp, with the last hour and a half in the dark. We didn’t listen to everything we were told by the internet, or the Eeyore-like ranger, or even those we encountered along the way. We took pieces of it all, said fuck it and went for it, and ended up with a true adventure of our own.
Saturday – 13 miles Rainbow Falls trailhead to springs
Sunday – 13 miles back to trailhead
Thirteen miles in a day is a long distance for your legs to carry you. But when you’re walking towards something so enticing, you seem to fly! A collection of pristine hot spring tubs in the middle of the wilderness is the greatest reward a hiker can ask for. Your muscles melt into the steaming water and the miles are far, far away.
Giving yourself a gift at the end of a hard day of work can really do a lot for you, even if you’re not in the middle of the Eastern Sierras – treat yourself daily! A good meal and a beer, a stroll through town, a jump in the ocean; anything that gives you pleasure that you think you can’t squeeze into your busy day – squeeze it in. You’ll see it can go a long way, and help take your daily stresses away…
Day 1 – Crabtree Trailhead to Y Meadow Lake – 7 miles
Day 2 – Meadow Lake to Piute Lake – 11 miles
Day 3 – Piute Lake to Crabtree Trailhead – 8 miles
Lakes Encountered: Chewing Gum Lake, Y Meadow Lake, Deer Lake, Jewelry Lake, Gem Lake, Piute Lake & Camp Lake
While hiking long distances and finding beautiful views is rewarding in itself, it’s important to take time to just lay back and give yourself the gift of enjoying your destination. Boots off, pack on the ground and snacks abound, swim in the lake, read the book you carried all that way and doze off…
When you have the time, the space and a lot of hunger, get your Dutch Oven out and cook up a feast. It truly does take time, but it’s the best kind of time – time deserved – spent sitting around the fire and enjoying the evening light while you await the best camping dinner you may have ever eaten. While kicking back at Stumpy Meadows Lake, CA we whipped this up, served with some grilled corn and lots of banquet beer.
– Barbeque Ribs Recipe –
Tongs of some kind, or a couple sticks
Rack of Ribs
Bottle of Ketchup
Salt + Pepper
Spice Blend (Chile Powder, Cumin, Nutmeg)
Apple Cider Vinegar