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The Annual Camping Trip… Gone Awry

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Everybody who camps has experienced the mishaps and horror stories that make us rethink ever heading out again on the open road.  These are the stories that are told for years with chuckles, shudders, rolling of eyes and gentle cursing.

Here’s my story…. for this year.

Each summer, for as long as I can remember, my family has headed up to Glendo, Wyoming for a convergence of the Deerslayer clan and various assorted friends and kids for a two-week long camping trip that includes boating, swimming, eating, napping and more eating.  I always look forward to this trip with much anticipation.

People come from Nevada, Colorado, Texas, and as far away as Alabama. Families take turns feeding the whole group.  I enjoy this part the most.  I usually prepare meals at home, freeze them and transport them in our Yeti coolers with dry ice.

The preparation for the trip takes weeks.  It requires lots of lists.  I love lists because they are a way to document what I’ve accomplished.  There’s a check-list to get the camper ready to make the long journey from South Texas to Wyoming.  It’s a two-day trip.  The truck has to be checked out, dieseled up, and tires and pressures checked.  The camper has to be packed with food and beverages for the duration, clothing, and magazines for reading in the shade of the cottonwood trees.

This trip was planned down to the last detail. We hitched up the camper and headed back in the house for a final cool shower before we headed off. It was over 100 degrees out!  Everyone grabbed their small overnight bags and jumped in the truck for the first leg of our long journey.

Except me.  I was so proud of myself for doing everything on my all my lists.  I was freshly showered and ready to camp like a boss.  About an hour down the road, however, I discovered that I hadn’t grabbed MY overnight bag, the bag that had ALL my toiletries in it, my necessities!  My magazines and laptop! In my haste, I set the bag on the sofa to grab something else and walked out without it.   My eyes welled up.  I stammered, whimpering.  How could I forget my own bag when I spent so much time making sure that everything and everyone else was ready to go?  It threw me for a loop. I knew we couldn’t go back.

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It took a while for me to regain my composure enough to get back in my camping frame of mind.  No sweat, I could swing into a WalMart to pick up whatever I needed to have an enjoyable trip.  And I did.  Bright and early the next morning, I scampered into the store and purchased my bare necessities.  $45 later, I had everything I needed, except for a nice cup of coffee.  I dashed into the conveniently located McDonald’s at the entrance of the WalMart.  Victoriously, I sauntered back to the truck and we headed off… WITHOUT MY CREDIT CARD.  Luckily we weren’t too far down the road when I realized it.  I called the credit card company, put a hold on my card, and called McDonald’s.  Yes, they had my card and would hold it until I got back to retrieve it, which I did.

All was well until we got about 20 miles south of Lubbock, TX.

 

A double blow out!  One rim was shot and the skirting was torn off the side of the camper.  It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the next day was Sunday.  Most tire shops would be closed.  We unhitched the camper and Deerslayer headed for town.  He arrived at the tire shop as they were closing.  They stayed open to honor our warranty and sell him two new tires and rims.  He replaced the tires and we were on our way…

until the axle broke.  Deerslayer had to remove the tire (on the other side of the camper) and leave the axle dangling like a severed limb as we located a campground with a pull-thru opening and creep over at 20 mph.  It was difficult finding an RV park that wasn’t full up since it was the 4th of July weekend.  We spent the night in Lubbock until Monday when we were able to find someone who could replace the axle by 4:30 that afternoon.

Eternally grateful to the owner of the axle repair place for making us his last repair before closing for the holiday, we hitched up and prepared to finish the trip…

until I accidentally extended the legs on the camper instead of retracting them once we’d gotten the camper hitched up to the truck.  It appeared that the legs had frozen in place and there might have been damage to the hitch itself.  It became very quiet… except for the prayer that I uttered in sheer desperation.  Junior Deerslayer suggested we try retracting the legs one more time…. and it worked.  God was surely shaking his head and pitying me at that moment.  Many thanks were given.

We arrived at Glendo two days late and pretty haggard.  At least we made it in time to see the fireworks.  Well, as it turned out, the fireworks display had occurred on Sunday.  We missed it.

After four days visiting with friends and family, getting some much needed R & R, and preparing our designated dinners for the group, it was time to pack up and head back to Texas…

after we removed the screw that had lodged itself in the rear passenger-side tire of the truck.

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We made it back to South Texas without any problems.  It was good to be home.  It’s entirely possible that God had a hand in this odyssey.  Perhaps by encountering one delay after another we narrowly  escaped a much worse fate.

It’s the eventful trips that make the longest-lasting memories!  Nobody ever sits around a campfire and talks about the trips when nothing exciting happened.

Next year, we’ll have something to talk about.

Have you ever had a camping trip from Hell?  Share.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in camping, Uncategorized

 

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More Snakes! Grab Those Fabulous Snake Boots!

jerky, rattlesnake, roasting pumpkin 012In the two years that we’ve been hunting at the ranch in South Texas, Deerslayer has killed 4 sizable rattlesnakes, the one pictured being the smallest. Living with snakes is just part of life down here.  It was after finding the first and largest rattler that the fine line between fashion and function became blurred to include Cabela’s jaunty and ever-so-chic snake boots.  I’ve come to appreciate the rich earth tones, the fashion-forward suede and zippered accents, the fact that I can walk through the grass and not be killed by a snake bite..

IMG_1974The largest rattlesnake that we’ve seen on the ranch was as long as Deerslayer is tall, about 6’5″.  The shortest was about my height, 5’4″.  Spotting a venomous snake really brings to mind  thoughts of instinct, self-preservation, and survival of the fittest. The heart starts to pound.  Breathing becomes fast and shallow.  I found myself sputtering things like, “Run over it with the truck!  Run over it again!  It’s still moving.  Shoot it. Squash it with a rock.  No, use a stick.  Don’t get close.  It’s still moving!  Run over it again.  Shoot it again!  It’s still moving!”

 I suspect that in earlier times, I wouldn’t have been considered one of the “fittest”.  

Back to our most recent encounter, before Snakeslayer placed the slithering monster in the back of the truck, the head was removed. While I’m sure everyone knows this already, it bears repeating:  A dead snake is just as dangerous as a live one as long as the fangs are intact.  People have suffered serious injury and, I’m sure, even death as a result of snake bites from snakes that were already dead.  Don’t mess with the head of a venomous snake even after it’s dead.  The mouth can still open of its own accord.  Nasty business, just don’t!  That said, let me continue.

 The rattler continued to writhe and thrash about, headless, for at least an hour and a half. With the tailgate down, it slithered off the back of the truck.  When Snakeslayer decided to save the skin, there was quite an episode.  The decapitated snake thrashed, and wrapped itself around my beloved’s arms as it was being “dispatched”.  My job in the proceedings was to gesticulate wildly and suggest poking it with a stick or perhaps run over it with the truck, or shoot it again.  

It made for interesting stories to share at the hunting camp that night. I was asked by several of the other hunters whether I was going to cook up the snake.  I guess I better start looking for recipes.  Everyone had their own stories to tell.  Eyes got big, smart phones were brought out and pictures passed around.  Arms stretched in all directions to indicate size and length.  When referring to snakes, I guess size really does matter.  There’s just something about big snakes that reminds us of our place in the grand scheme of things.  Thank God for snake boots!

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What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger (or Surviving Bees)

What started out as an eagerly anticipated road trip to our hunting camp ended up as something that would’ve made even Alfred Hitchcock shudder.  That’s the way things often roll for the Deerslayer clan. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” “God never gives us more than we can handle”.  Well, we must be pretty damned strong by this point ‘cuz we’re not dead yet.  It’s the reason that Deerslayer always brings every tool he owns on any road trip, and several changes of clothes and a roll of toilet paper…. because you “just never know when you might need these things”.  I no longer question his logic because God has determined that we can handle quite a bit.

I used to scoff.  I would complain that we really needed to pack lighter for an overnight trip.  Over the years, however, after several blowouts on the camper on a single trip, unfortunate spills, dangerous burritos, rolling a pick-up truck on black ice, and rattlesnakes, I learned to trust my Deerslayer’s  judgement in the matter of packing for trips.

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The full extent of the bee situation wasn’t captured at the time. Abject fear prevented me from grabbing the camera at that moment! This is just a small remnant of what we encountered.

Even our “worst case scenario” packing strategy didn’t prepare us for what we encountered upon arrival to our hunting camp, after an eight-hour drive.  We got to the camp about 10:00 at night.  We opened the door of our camper, ready to make the bed and fall into it.  The floor was covered with something, though, something that crunched when we stepped on it.  Remember the part in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” where there was a sickening crunching sound as Indy and Short Round cautiously walked through the cave?  It was like that…. Except it was BEES!  About an inch deep and smelled like dead bees!  I have to admit that, prior to this encounter, I’m pretty sure that I would not be able to tell you what dead bees smelled like. Sadly, I’ll never forget!   I’m not sure what made me wade in with a broom into a situation that, at this point, hadn’t been assessed to any degree, and start sweeping frantically. It’s what I do.  It’s not like I was able to put any kind of dent in the layer of death and stink.  We were too tired to think about anything except sleep at that point but we DID realize that stepping on dead bees or live ones bare-footed would result in a sting.  What we didn’t realize was that, as we waded through the dead bees, we were stirring up the thousands of live ones that were inside the wall of the bathroom.  There was a buzzing that was faint at first, then grew increasingly louder   By the time we had a firm grasp of the situation (that there were LIVE bees, and that it was a possibility that they could be Africanized) we were scrambling to get out.  Our only saving grace, at this point, was that it was dark out and the temperature was lower than 40 degrees which slowed the bees down considerably.

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This is our romantic nest the next morning. We slept under a moon and stars that were so bright we almost couldn’t sleep and listened to coyotes and wild pigs at the pond.

A decision was made at this point to grab everything we had already brought in and hightail it out muy pronto.  Deerslayer decided to grab our memory foam mattress which had stiffened with the cold and refused to budge.  Once again, I questioned the logic.  While I’m known for being laid back, cool under pressure, and flexible in all circumstances (NOT), Deerslayer was not able to detect that I was beginning to freak out about the bees, dead and alive, with my Epi-pen at the ready.  After much work we got the mattress out without any swarming and threw it into the back of pickup.  We drove about 100 yards away from the bee sanctuary, covered the mattress with sleeping bags,  and attempted to sleep out-of-doors, in nature, as it were.

Now, I may be the wife of a deerslayer, one who cooks wild game with gusto, camps in a camper, and sips wine at the campfire.  But this outing was the first of its kind for me.  If I hadn’t been covered in bee residue (and afraid) it would’ve been very romantic.  I have to admit that I passed up an opportunity. God never gives us more than we can handle!

As of this moment, we have not resolved the bee issue.  I’ll keep you posted.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in camping, Hunting, Uncategorized

 

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What It’s All About (Camping for Non-Campers)

camping prep 020There are so many reasons that campers camp.  My first camping experiences were not the greatest.  Nature was not my friend. Nobody said there would be bugs or that I would have to sweat.  Veteran campers never brought up the whole “powder room” issue.  It REALLY should have come up at some point, although I’m not sure when would be an appropriate time.  In retrospect, I should’ve researched, bought a book, or read a blog.  Oh yeah!  There weren’t blogs when I started camping.

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After my first camping trip with my Deerslayer (and a very small junior deerslayer) I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel.  I’d had my brush with nature and was ready to call it a day.  My very handsome Deerslayer was very persuasive, however, and I headed out for a second, and then a third trip.  Each time, I learned a couple of things, wrote down things that I’d forgotten to bring (enough warm clothes, gloves), things that I didn’t know I needed until I was without them (eye drops, allergy meds, tissues, anti-itch spray), and determined which extras it would take to get a non-nature type back into the wilderness (a plastic stemmed wine glass and bottle of Prosecco). Each time I headed out with my tiny junior deerslayer in tow and the ever-increasing admiration of the Love of my Life, I was a bit better prepared, less cranky, and open to all that camping has to offer.

camping prep 029Over the years our camping trips have allowed us to have family time in beautiful laid-back settings.  The ability to sit outside watching the stars, telling stories of camping trips of years past is priceless.  Some of our trips have evolved into precious family reunions.  One of my favorite camping moments now is early in the mornings when those who rise early show up at our camper with (or without) a coffee mug.  camping prep 008After a while, the camper is full of the early-morning-coffee-drinkers talking in hushed voices (My Deerslayer is usually trying to sleep!)  We all head to the community campsite and carry on the coffee drinking and story-telling until mid-morning.  The teens start to stir, so appreciative when they realize that breakfast is underway on one of the propane cookstoves.  

It’s magical when three generations share stories, coffee, food, and enjoy just being together. The senior members of the group look forward to the annual camping get-together as much as the teens.  It’s what camping is all about for me.  It’s a part of my life that I almost missed out on.  If I hadn’t made the effort (and lists) I would’ve missed out!  

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My advice to non-campers who might be thrust into a “nature experience” is to have a sense of humor (I did not!), write down what you need for “next time” (It will give you a subconscious mind set that I didn’t have!)  Following my advise will allow non-campers to skip the cranky phase of of the process.

Trust me,”it’s what it’s all about”.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in camping, Uncategorized

 

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Now I’m Cookin’!

camping prep 025Some women love jewelry.  Some can’t live without chocolates or perfume.  There are those who live for furs. And don’t forget the flowers. My Deerslayer   knows what tickles my fancy, blows my skirt up, sends me swooning.

For our camping trip to Wyoming this year, he presented me with a Camp Chef propane cookstove, a full-sized griddle, and carrying cases for both.  I’m starting to get light-headed just sharing.  Truly my hubby is the most romantic man on the planet.  Of course, in the same way that some men benefit from the gifts they give their wives, like lingerie, my Deerslayer realized that he would also benefit from the gifts he bestowed upon me.  The pancakes, tortillas, toasted hamburger buns, and don’t forget the bacon!  With my new gifts, there was enough love to go around.

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I’d been coveting the propane cookstove that I’d seen during last year’s trip.  While I knew that the coveted cookstove would again be present, I knew that the group would benefit from an additional source of heat.  (And I really wanted one of my own for the hunting camp.)  I also  realized, then, the need for a full-sized griddle as we struggled to make pancakes using a couple of cast iron skillets and a small stove-top cast iron griddle.  Our feeble substitutions simply were not up to the task.  The new full-sized griddle (ordered from Camp Chef) exceeded my expectations!  Pancakes and tortillas, up to ten at a time kept pace with our hungry clan. The entire surface could be covered with bacon, precooked and just needing a quick crisp-up!  Hurray!
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I couldn’t wait to show off my new stuff, flaunt my wares, if you will.  It was truly a red carpet event that called for something kinda special!  There were those who thought the shoes were a bit over the top.  To them I say, well, I won’t actually share what I said.  It’s how we roll at the Deerslayer Clan camp. (Actually, the shoes filled with sand and spiked me firmly into the ground but I looked amazing and the milestone was given the pomp and circumstance that it deserved.)

The first night that I was scheduled to prepare a dinner for 40, a huge wind storm erupted, which kept blowing out the flames on my cookstove.  My deerslayer and several other chivalrous gents set up a plywood windbreak around my cooking area.  They really saved the day!

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You may have noticed that my new new Camp Chef cookstove is emblazened with the the “Browning” logo.  True enough.  But made by Camp Chef all the same.  The “Camp Chef” logo is embossed on the right-hand side.  Mine was purchased from Bass Pro Shop.  Camp Chef model: $169.00, Browning model (identical except for logo): $99.00.  Mine works beautifully, does everything that I need done, and with the difference (and a little extra), my Deerslayer ordered the griddle!  I’m loving my new toys.  I’d really suggest ordering the special carrying cases for the cooktop and griddle, as well.  Everything stays together and packs more easily.

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This is what love looks like!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in camping, Hunting, Recipes

 

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Too Many Coolers on a Camping Trip?

camping prep 004Welllllll… the Deerslayer’s wife would’ve said, “Yup!”  I would’ve drawn the line at the 6 other Igloo coolers that we already own.  But these are Yeti coolers!  And they’re made in TEXAS.  Talk to any hunter about coolers and a distinct reverence is suddenly detected.  Mention Yeti coolers and hunters begin to cast their eyes down and genuflect.

I’d heard the talk, detected the reverence so I knew what my Deerslayer would get for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I gotta tell ya, I really thought it would be just another cooler, a really upper-end cooler, but another cooler just the same.  I hate to admit that even I now share the respect for these coolers.  After years of melted ice, and lukewarm, waterlogged foods I was amazed by what the Yeti coolers can do.  They keep frozen foods frozen for days, all the way to Wyoming from South Texas and several days after that as a matter of fact!  Now, this entry was not intended to provide advertising for the Yeti company. However, when I find an amazing product that can so dramatically improve a hunting/camping experience, I’d be remiss not to share with my readers. While the Yeti coolers are pretty pricey, they really are worth a look at www.yeticoolers.com.

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It’s already been definitively determined that there is no such thing as too much bacon for any camping and/or hunting trip.  And while I haven’t discussed the fact, neither can there be too many enchiladas, gallons of beans or pico de gallo, pounds of fajitas or brisket or potato salad, (or Prosecco or beer)!  Our recent trip to Wyoming was for 40+ people who were extremely appreciative of my cooking, availability and willingness to prepare fresh percolated coffee, and my willingness to make pancakes for the many teenaged family members in the mornings.

While most camping trips won’t need to accommodate this many people, over the years, the Deerslayer and I have honed the art of safe food transport. I have to admit that we used every one of the coolers in the picture. There are several tricks we’ve learned over the years that really make a difference when keeping packed food cold and/or frozen.  Before a camping trip, we fill gallon jugs with water and freeze them.  The frozen jugs are then used to “pre-chill” the coolers prior to packing.  Starting with a pre-chilled cooler is worth the extra time.  The jug can also be placed with refrigerated foods so that they don’t end up sitting in water.  It’s always important to plan which foods will be prepared first.  Those items should be packed together so that coolers aren’t opened unnecessarily.  This year, we tried something new; we labeled the coolers so that we knew what was where, which prevented unnecessary loss of cold while rummaging through coolers.  This worked really well.

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The frozen fajitas and brisket were prepacked and vacuum sealed. They weren’t needed during the first few days of the trip and so were packaged together. Once the dry ice was added, there was no need to open the cooler again except to check the contents once or twice before thawing.

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All of these items except the tortillas were needed for the first meal. Once they came out of the cooler, it could be used for ice (a couple of trips to the ice house were needed for the non-Yeti campers.

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It saved so much time knowing what was in each cooler.

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I’m sure you’re getting the idea by now.

Two of the middle coolers, called “105’s” held all the frozen food we needed for 4 meals for 40 people. In a previous post, I mentioned that I freeze foods like beans and carne guisada flattened in one-gallon zip bags so they stack easily.   I added one block of dry ice, wrapped in a paper sack and kitchen towel to each cooler.  The bottom cooler  (a 125) held a week’s worth of iced beverages for four people.  The others held all of our refrigerated foods.  We used every single one and they performed amazingly.

Just an added note on how strongly the hunters feel about their Yeti coolers:  The Deerslayer’s sister and her spouse were recently on a trip to Italy.  Spouse received a text message (in Italy) that he shared. “Mike got a Yeti!”

Deerslayer’s sister asked, “Who’s Mike Gottayetti?”

It’s just a Deerslayer thang!

 
 

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Too Much Bacon on a Camping Trip?

bacon, lawyer 032 Don’t make me laugh! A vital part of the preparation for the much-anticipated Deerslayer Clan camping trip is deciding how much bacon to take. I have a previous post that explains how I prepare the bacon ahead of time and toss it on the griddle to crisp up once we get to the campsite.  The dilemma comes in the decision of “how much is enough?”.

This is a tricky question when it comes to bacon. Sure, everybody loves bacon and eggs for breakfast.  But let’s not forget BLT sandwiches, topping for burgers and baked potatoes, breakfast tacos!  Then there are the countless varieties available on the market.  Thick or thin cut, center cut, peppered, jalapeno, applewood smoked, cider-infused.

As for me, It’s gotta be thick-cut, maple bacon.  Granted, I’ve become somewhat of a “bacon snob” over the years.  There are PLENTY of wine snobs out there, those who turn up their noses at lower priced choices.  A box!?!?  OMG.  The way I look at it, If it suits your palate, and you’re with friends and family, drink it, damn it.  I love the research where boxed wine is poured into bottles from expensive vintners and is slurped up with gusto by the “experts”.  Bless their little, misguided hearts.  I truly believe that the quality of a wine is directly proportional to the quality of the company with whom it is shared.  Bacon is different.  There’s good bacon and exceptional bacon!

My deerslayer came up with a bacon-cooking idea the other day that I was eager to try.  I’ve been cooking bacon in the oven for several years now.  It allows me to prepare 10-12 slices at a time.  His idea produces perfect bacon.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

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Place a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a cookie sheet with a 1 inch edge.  I turn up the edges of the foil to catch the bacon drippings.  Place a cooling rack over the foil and lay 10 to 12 slices of bacon on top.  My deerslayer’s idea was to place an additional cooling rack atop the bacon to prevent it from curling.

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 The process was flawless as was the bacon.  Perfect slices after 20-25 minutes (depending on the oven)!

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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in camping, Recipes

 

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