I originally wrote this article for Suite101.com in December 2000. I was camping much more in those days before my involvement with the El Dorado Western Railway.
December is the low point in my annual quest to replicate my last camping trip to the Alpine country of California's Sierra Nevada. Like many areas in the United States and Canada, a blanket of snow now covers all of its campgrounds. It's winter and everything is frozen. In many places -- especially our favorite campground at Woods Lake, near Carson Pass -- snow drifts engulf all of the good campsites.
Although I grew up skiing at Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park in the 1960s, I've always been drawn to the Sierra Nevada in its prime. The spring, summer and fall are my favorite times. Yes I enjoy the snow. But it gets in the way. You can't drive the forest roads when they're covered with snow. Nor can you fish or tent camp. Winter, for me, is a period of transition from fall into spring.
While I'd gladly camp at the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada, it's difficult to convince the family to join me. And with the pressures of work, kids in school and inclement weather, it's difficult to get away. So, I'm content to cook at home during the winter months.
Getting ready for the 2001 camp cooking season
What's a camp cook to do? I cook. And learn. Winter is culinary boot camp time for this frustrated camp cook. I concentrate on camp cooking -- in the front yard.
When I get the urge to hang a Dutch oven kettle over a crackling oak fire, I make for the front yard. My camp kitchen is centered around a in my granite-lined campfire pit. My camp kitchen is located in the front of our modest Shingle Springs home.
I use the winter to test new dishes for the family. Since I work as a food service manager, I'm always looking for new and exciting dishes to experiment with. Tonight, for example, I prepared Sauteed Chicken with Artichokes for my in-laws. Everyone loved the recipe. Sauteed Chicken -- doesn't matter what recipe you use because they've all good -- will be featured on our camp menus this summer.
January and February are also good months to get ready for the coming outdoor cooking season. It's time to take a look at your camp cooking outfit. Two weeks ago I took all of my gear out of the shed and dusted it off. I went through everything (especially the propane stove) and cleaned it. It's also a good time to inventory your cookware (and other camping equipment) and to plan for purchases during the winter and spring.
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