Sometimes on a road trip, it’s the little things rather than the big views that bring you the most satisfaction. Upon our exit from a horrendously hot and demoralizing experience of backpacking in the Grand Canyon, we were fortunate enough to have an oasis of sorts to go home to, hang our Roo’s and have a cold beer. Our oasis wasn’t necessarily physical to start, but rather a couple sweet, sweet unicorns that were also road tripping around the southwest at the same time we were.
Our friends, Risa and Michael, offered some much needed comfort, some killer cooking skills, and just the companionship we wanted at that moment. Over the next week, we made our way up and out of Arizona and into and across southern Utah, zipping through all those Utah state parks that without fail cause a shortness of breath and the occasional tear. We caravanned through desert, mountains, and even took refuge from the heat in a pine valley, a cool valley of pines, happily accompanied by the name “Pine Valley”. We saw nature in full Kodachrome, constantly astounded by the colors flying by and taking shape as the sun laid down for another southwestern evening, putting on a show and casting golden hues across our smiling, satisfied and full faces.
Our friends cooked, and when we say they cooked, THEY COOKED! They made meal after meal, carefully crafted on cast iron, heated only by the fires we tended, maybe a stove or two as well. Regardless, we were healed through food, fixed through friends, and when the time came to part there was a palpable bitter-sweetness to leave our comrades. And so we did, on to Colorado separately, while our friends stayed to explore more of the Mormon wonderland by way of Moab and Arches.
Fast forward 3 weeks and 3000 miles. We had figured we wouldn’t see our dear friends for quite some time, but as fate would have it, South Dakota had a different plan and we were once again greeted by Risa and Michael as well as an evening of crackling lightning, deafening thunder, and rain drops so thick they sting with their weight. An evening soaked in fear and soaked in a tent, and we were left a little tired, but happy to grab some diner breakfast and continue on our separate journeys. We said our goodbyes (for real this time), and each moved on to newer, literally greener pastures along the rust belt, every day pushing a little further East.
Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Camille taking pictures in Bryce Canyon; Zion National Park geology; Risa at Bryce; Bryce through the pines; Desert tree; Bryce Canyon rock formations; Desert flower; The depth of Bryce Canyon; Ty walking into Bryce; Bryce Canyon big view; Ty at Bryce sunset with camera; Risa’s Bryce sunset; Home at Pine Valley, UT; Michael cooking a feast; Ty’s Bryce sunset; Glen Canyon view; Camille standing in Zion; Desert sage and cactus in Utah; Risa and Michael at Bryce.
Photos taken on Canon AE-1 with 35mm film and on Canon Rebel SL-1.
One of our favorite things to cook in cast iron is cornbread. This time we decided to try it out over the fire to go with an easy-speedy version of Chicken Gumbo. Now Gumbo Purists may scoff, but for a fast, flavorful and we think quite tasty stew cooked over a fire, this does the trick. The spice heats up your body real fast, making this great for a chilly night.
Chicken & Okra Gumbo
12″ Dutch Oven
cutting board or cardboard
medium heat fire
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2-4 tablespoons of secret Gumbo spice, depending on how spicy you want it
2 red bell peppers, chopped [tip: chop these, onions and garlic at home so it’s ready to go]
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt + pepper
4cups water or chicken broth
1 package (10 ounces) frozen, cut okra
1 package of smoked andouille sausage (precooked), chopped into half-rounds
1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), meat shredded – remove skin and bones [do this at home too]
Place the Dutch Oven in the fire, where it’s over decent heat but not ragingly hot. Heat up the oil then add the flour and a few pinches of the Gumbo Spice to make your roux, and keep stirring it constantly until golden (this happens quickly over the heat, about a minute or two). Add in the red peppers, onion, garlic and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 4 cups of water or chicken broth to the mix. Add the Okra in. At this point if you have vegans or vegetarians with you, let this cook for a bit (add more spice, salt and pepper to flavor), and then let them eat. Then add in the sausage, and let that cook for about 10 minutes to let the flavor set in. Lastly, add in the shredded chicken. Once it’s fully warm, dig in and serve with a piece of fresh cornbread (see below for recipe).
Click below for full cornbread recipe and more photos!
It’s difficult but well traveled and maintained as if it were a half mile loop in one of our national parks. Although you don’t necessarily see a ton of folks on trail, they’re in there, crawling around the tubs, waiting in line, calling dibs. To be honest, it’s off-putting.
Maybe we’re spoiled at this point having soaked all over the eastern sierra and elsewhere. Honestly, should we be feeling that because we do this all the time, we have more right to it than someone else? No way, these tubs aren’t ours, we didn’t make them and we most certainly do not own this land. So why is there entitlement seething beneath the surface and on the tip of everyone’s tongue upon the realization that you’re not the only one who came out here this weekend?
We all worked hard for this, we all dripped sweat up the steeps and felt our knees pop on the scree filled downs, we all jack-assed heavy packs with more food than we needed; we all did the research, made the effort, rounded up our friends and got here, didn’t we?
Maybe we should all just drop our attitudes and appreciate these places that exist for everyone to enjoy. After all, this isn’t the hip new bar your friends have been talking shit about lately.
Emigrant Wilderness – Out and Back – Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Lake
16 miles Total
Saturday – 7 miles in and creek side camp
Sunday Morning – A soggy mile out and back to Kennedy Lake
Sunday Afternoon – 7 miles out
The Emigrant Wilderness’s namesake stems from several groups of Emigrants (folks leaving one area to reside in another) that passed through this wilderness but eventually its use as a route was abandoned as the pass was too difficult and there were safer options. As we hike through fall fields walled in by sweeping granite mountainsides and side step small creeks meandering through the vibrant autumnal yellows, we can reflect on the people that made those difficult and dangerous treks through unknown lands and what that must have felt like.
The idea of leaving one’s home for another strange distant land, whether in search of wealth, opportunity, or community is baffling yet was and is commonplace. The essence of the unknown is a terrifying and at the same time enticing or exciting enterprise and so the mix of emotions that these people would have felt is mind boggling, and yet they did it; scared, unsure, nervous, and excited, they made it work and took that leap to the unknown. Their influence still holds true as there are numbers of us daily (young, motivated, inexperienced, and scared) making the decision to take the leap and see it through.
Climbing up the 10,856′ Mt. Hoffman, it’s hard not to reflect on those who made it possible for us to enjoy it now. John Muir first ascended Hoffman on July 26, 1869 nearly 150 years before us; it’s incredible to think that after the century and then some that has gone by, that what we experience can still be so similar when everything else in the world is so drastically different.
In May of 1903, John Muir and then President, Theodore Roosevelt met in the Yosemite; they rode, hiked, ate, slept, appreciated, and pontificated under the magnificent blanket of the unimpeded starry Sierra night sky. It’s common to say that Muir gave Roosevelt a mission on this visit, a mission with which our President was familiar, but a mission at that; one of conservation.
On his journey back to Washington, President Roosevelt made a speech in Sacramento, he ended with this, “We are not building this country for a day. It is to last through the ages.”
Sunday – 2 miles to Lower Canyon Lake for a dip and 8 miles out
There is just something about waking up a bit earlier to catch the stillness of the early morning light creeping through peaks and trees to illuminate the vibrant green and powder white of alpine terrain. Sitting on a rock, a stump, a blanket; stretching your arms and yawning, taking in your first cup of coffee. It’s as if the world isn’t spinning, eternity has stopped, and its just you and everything else; stone in a brisk mountain breeze, waiting for the sun’s tendrils to brush your skin.
“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”
– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)
Happy 4th of July everyone, this year leave the BBQ to your neighbors and do the most patriotic thing you can – explore and treasure your protected lands. (Or just combine it all and break out the Dutch Oven BBQ ribs over the campfire).
Lost Coast 4th of July – Black Sands Beach to Mattole River
South to North – 24.4 miles
Day 1 – 8 miles – Black Sands Beach to Big Flat
Day 2 – 6 miles – Big Flat to Oat Creek
Day 3 – 7.2 miles – Oat Creek to Punta Gorda
Day 4 – 3.2 miles – Punta Gorda to Mattole River
More photos after the jump of last years 4th of July backpacking adventure along the northern half of California’s Lost Coast.