A-Camping We Will Go: In the Woods

This weekend we are going camping for the first time since we were in Gros Morne in 2011.  The Pie and I have always loved camping – we find it so relaxing to have that forced disconnect from the bustle of urban living, where your only concern is how to fill the time between meals.

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Now, we camp with our car, and a bunch of stuff (see picture). While we *could* concern ourselves with weight allowances and space and shove everything we own into a backpack full of tiny expensive camping equipment, we choose not to. Camping for us is a holiday, not an exercise in survival. Still, even with the ability to shove everything you own in a car to keep it warm and dry you still have to do a certain amount of forward-thinking, and this year I wanted to carry that organization over into our meal planning.

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Normally we pick up groceries on the way to the campsite and kind of wing our meals throughout our stay. This leaves us at the end with a lot of bizarre leftovers: squashed, soggy hamburger buns, marshmallows melted into their plastic bag, huge jars of condiments, and cheese with elements of pine needle in it. We end up throwing most of it out, and we also get really sick of hot dogs by the end of our trip.

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This time I vowed things would be different, and that we would come out of it with as little waste as possible, while still enjoying high-quality meals.  It meant, however, that I had to plan – though if you know me by now, you know that this is where I excel, and I have the collection of wee containers to prove it.   So here I’m introducing a new category today: In the Woods, in homage to the great dishes I have already produced in the middle of nowhere.  Starting Monday, and for the next several posts after that, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the fruits of my planning.  And if you’re not a huge fan of the great outdoors, all of these recipes can be made at home, too!

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Raspberry Orange Crumble – In the Woods

What do you do for a potluck when you’re in the middle of Gros Morne National Park?  You make a raspberry crumble, of course!

Will.i.am and Caramía gave the Pie and me a Backpacker’s Pantry Outback Oven (available as well from M.E.C.) as a wedding present, and we’d had no opportunity to use it in the two years since.  When we found out we were going camping in Gros Morne over Canada Day weekend we figured that there was no time like the present.

The day of the potluck dawned and we considered our options.  Miss Awesome and Ranger P (formerly P-with-an-E) had come pre-prepared with felafel and crackers and cheese, but we felt we should contribute something of our own as well.  We had flour, oats (from instant oatmeal), brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter on hand — why not create a crumble?

The problem was the fruit for the middle.  It turns out that fruit is nearly impossible to come by in any of the communities within Gros Morne, and we didn’t have the time or the resources to stretch our search farther afield.  Fortunately, the fates shone on us that day (as did the sun).  Miss Awesome’s Auntie, whom we visited while in the park, happened to have a frozen bag of raspberries on hand, which she graciously gave to us and thus saved the day.

So now to the crumble. Of course, in the thick of things, I measured nothing, so I’m just going to guess here.

Because the berries were still frozen, I set them to thaw in a pot on the fire.  I thought about adding a bit of sugar to the raspberries but changed my mind.  There was enough sugar in the crumble mixture, in any case.  I think I had about 2-3 cups frozen raspberries in this.

We had a random orange floating around, so I grated the peel from that and chopped up the fruit into small pieces and chucked that in with the raspberries.

Miss Awesome persuaded me to add a few drops of Cointreau to the mix.  That’s her foot there.

In a bowl, I mixed up the dry instant oatmeal (about 1 cup instant oatmeal) with about 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup butter.  Add in 1/2 cup brown sugar and a liberal sprinkling of ground cinnamon and mix with your fingers until it’s all nice and crumbly.

Spread half the crumb mixture in the bottom of your outback oven.

Pour the raspberries (now thawed, but not stewed) on top and spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top.

Seal up the oven, placing the lid securely on the pan and the little tent-thing on top of that and bake for a while.  This of course depends on the strength of your camp stoveOurs only really has one setting — hot — so we had to keep turning off the flame and letting the thing cool down before starting it again in order to prevent burning.  Here Miss Awesome checks on her couscous while the crumble bakes.And the Pie relights the burner for the umpteenth time.  I can’t be trusted near fire.Keep checking that little dial!

After a while, when the raspberries were bubbling through the crumb top, I took the lid off and let the tent-thing help me crisp up the surface of the crumble a bit.  I think that had I used less gooey fruit and real oats instead of instant oatmeal it would have been a crisper thing, but it was sure tasty.

A Weekend in Gros Morne

Today is a holiday in Newfoundland — Orangemen’s Day — so I thought I would share with you what I did on my last long weekend (which was just last week, actually), when the Pie and Gren and I went with Miss Awesome and Ranger P (formerly P-with-an-E) to camp in Gros Morne National Park.  What a trip!

While not a fan of car rides, Gren was a trooper for the trip.

We were only there for five days, and two of those days were spent traveling to and from the park (it takes about 8 hours, with pee breaks, to get from St. John’s to Gros Morne), so our time there was short.  We were also limited in the places we could go, because Gren is still young and doesn’t yet have the stamina he will develop when he’s full-grown.  There are also places in Gros Morne that dogs are not allowed (like on Gros Morne mountain itself), so we had to choose carefully how we would occupy our time.  In addition, though the weather forecast predicted rainy days with a high of 15°C, we ended up getting full sun every day and highs nearing 28°C, so we were all hot and tired after even our short hikes.  None of us thought to bring shorts.  Summer just isn’t like that in St. John’s.

So anyway, a bit about the park.  Established as a reserve in 1973, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and then recognized as a national park in 2005, Gros Morne is the second-largest park in Atlantic Canada, and the mountain itself is the second-highest in Newfoundland, belonging to a branch of the Appalachians and dating back about 1.2 billion years.  “Gros Morne” literally translates from the French as “big sombre,” but “morne” is also understood to mean “large mountain standing alone.”  In Portuguese, “morne,” roughly translated, means bleak and dismal, and considering that the mountain in question is rather bald and often enshrouded in cloud, the name fits.

The park plays host to a number of natural and historical wonders.  The geology of the park is incredibly varied across the breadth of the park, and often serves as a benchmark for geologists seeking to understand the way the earth works.  Many geological features in the park offer supporting evidence for plate tectonic theory, while others provide clear examples of the process of glaciation.  In one afternoon you can go from barren desert to lush peat bogs to stunted tuckamore forests to glacier cut fjords.  All in one spot.  And if you’re lucky you might see a moose.  From a safe distance, of course.  And the flora in the park is just astonishing.  I saw so many plants that I had never seen before.

So now, our trip, in as few words as possible.

Berry Hill Pond

We stayed at the Berry Hill campground, near the wee village of Rocky Harbour.  On our first morning, the Pie and I took Gren on a morning stroll around Berry Hill Pond.  The trail is really not much more than a moose track, winding its way around the 2km circumference of this still pond, but in the quiet of the early morning, even the mosquitoes were tolerable as we got our first taste of the western coast of the province — which is as different from the east coast as another planet.I simply adore these rocky shores.Gren on the moose track, surrounded by crackerberries (not to be confused with crackberries).

Woody Point

We stopped here to have a bit of a wander and enjoy a quick picnic.  First settled in 1849, Woody Point displays to best advantage many historical buildings.  What’s neat is Woody Point is one of the many enclave communities within the park and yet separate from the park.It’s definitely a picture-postcard kind of town.

The Tablelands

From Woody Point we headed to the Tablelands, a section of the earth’s mantle thrust up to the surface.  We got to take a little GPS video thing with us.  You can watch it here.  Because of the chemical composition of the peridotite forming the mantle, it is hard to support life in that area.   Weathered peridotite is brown and rusty-looking, while unweathered rock is dark green and kind of waxy.

It is amazing, however, what can survive in the harsh surroundings.  These rare yellow ladyslippers are most commonly found in areas containing lime.Barren conditions mean that plants have to work hard to get all the nutrients they need.  These wee carnivorous plants were about the size of my thumb.

And let’s not forget the official provincial flower, the pitcher plant.

Creeping juniper is Newfoundland’s answer to the bonsai tree.Newfoundland Zen garden:

It was like being on the moon.  We were all absolutely gobsmacked by everything we saw. 

We went off-trail and followed a glacier-fed stream up to its fall point.

Gren tried to save us all.

And followed the trail into a canyon.  It was extremely windy.You should go there.

Norris Point/Neddies Harbour

Next day we headed out to Neddies Harbour, an offshoot of Norris Point in Bonne Bay, to visit Miss Awesome’s Auntie, who is pretty awesome in her own right.  She took us down past the Neddies Harbour Inn to a wee beach, where we enjoyed some sunshine.It was a very relaxing day, and after saying our goodbyes to Auntie Awesome, we headed up to the Norris Point Lookout to see the whole town.

Western Brook Pond

On this day we had to say goodbye to Miss Awesome.  She had to head back to Town to go on with her lawyer job.  It was just the dudes now, and me.  We had been told that Western Brook Pond was not to be missed, and, although we couldn’t afford the boat tour (nor did they allow dogs on the boat), we could readily enjoy the 3km hike to the dock and back.

The vistas on this trail, from the very beginning, were absolutely breathtaking.  We joked that we expected to hear the Jurassic Park theme playing while dinosaurs grazed in front of us.  The pond is in a fresh water fjord surrounded by peat fens and everywhere you look there is something beautiful.

Lush vegetation.

Everywhere.

Even in the peat fens.  These are dragon’s mouth orchids.When we got to the pond itself, Gren had a great time splashing about in the wavelets and rolling in the sand.  It was a great way to cool him down after the walk in the blazing sun.And then of course we all took pictures on the way back of things we’d taken pictures of on the way in.  There was so much beauty we’d forgotten what we’d already seen.

Lobster Cove Head

With some time on our hands after the short Western Brook Pond walk, we headed to the historical Lobster Cove Head and its teensy lighthouse, which guards the rocky and unstable shores in the area.  If you’re interested, the flags on the pole in this photo spell “SHIFT”.

The lighthouse grounds also play host to a miniature tuckamore forest, stunted balsam firs beaten (but not broken) by the harsh winds and the salt spray.And then we ran out of time, and had to go home.  You could easily spend a month in Gros Morne and not see it all.  We’ve got to go back.

You can check out more of my many, many pictures of our weekend on my Flickr site here.

For more information on Gros Morne, check out these links:

Encyclopedia of Earth: Gros Morne

Gros Morne: Wikipedia

Gros Morne National Park: Wikipedia

Gros Morne Teacher Resource Centre