Estes Park, Colorado, Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. On our visit last Fall, I wrote a lengthy post about awe-inspiring scenery, the male elk that lined the roadsides and the food that I packed along for the stay in the cabin. Let’s see what Springtime in the Rockies holds for this trip.
Our last camping trip took us to Moraine Park in majestic Rocky Mountain National Park. Located about 2 1/2 hours northwest of Denver, we’re truly lucky to have such a beautiful and sought after vacation spot so close to home.
To get to RMNP we head north out of Denver to Loveland then turn west through Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park. Sound familiar? Some of you may remember that name from the tragedy, the Big Thompson Flood. On July 31, 1976 a storm dumped nearly 8 inches of rain in one hour, and up to 12 inches of rain in just a few hours, causing the event that claimed 144 lives and destroyed more than 400 homes. 30,000 cubic feet per second and more than 13 million gallons of water per minute swept through the canyon that night.
This was before I lived in Colorado. Vacationing the next year I drove through the canyon the very week it was reopened. I’ll never forget the devastation that was still visible. To this day when we make that drive, I solemnly look at the steep canyon walls with respect, look for the few homes and businesses amongst the rebuilds that survived, and feel heartsick at the horror all of those people went through that night. Just breaks my heart to think of how scared they must have been.
Most were vacationers. Many that survived were forced to climb those canyon walls to be plucked off the mountain top to safety by helicopter the next day. If you’re interested in more take a look at this website. http://www.casfm.org/papers/big_thompson_tom_browning.htm
Moving on. At the top of the canyon you putter through picturesque Estes Park and then arrive at the park. Before we get to some scenery shots, let’s talk about the food.
I am loving our camp grill. Don’t know how I lived all these years without it. And how easy is it to cook a steak at the camp site? Easy! Sprinkled with a little of your favorite seasoning, alongside a handful of asparagus, a head of romaine for my favorite Grilled Romaine Salad…and the hills are alive with the sound of music. Ok, I got carried away. Camping food ideas came easy with this new grill.
Add a little shrimp and some green onions, drizzle the romaine with the dressing and you’ve got yourself a campground feast! The one rib eye was enough for both of us.
Look who’s coming to dinner. This Magpie swooped in and right under our noses grabbed an olive out of the container and flew off with it faster than we could yell “SHOOO”. Not even enough warning to wave our arms in protest. Olive container was promptly covered. Still didn’t keep him from returning to peck at the lid in protest…sheesh, where is Campground Security when you need them.
One evening’s dinner was a grilled ham steak with a mustard glaze, which beautifully turned into some hash for breakfast the next morning. I parboiled two potatoes at home, then cubed them on sight, sautéed them with some onion, added in cubed ham, some paprika and seasonings and it turned out to be easy and delicious. Can’t have breakfast hash without two sunny side up eggs.
I love our French Press for coffee in the high country.
Next up, a few scenery shots and I’ll have you out of here in no time.
Just a little shot of the campground from our area so you can wrap your arms around the place.
Campground cook hovering over the warming grill.
14,259′ Longs Peak looms as a scenery perk from the campground.
A day trip to the Alluvial Fan area. Again, the scene of a failed earthen dam above caused boulders the size of cars to tumble down the mountain to create an alluvial fan effect in 1982. Interested in learning more? Take a look at this website. http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/colorado_nature_series/84172
This leads you up the famous highway, Trail Ridge Road which takes you over the continental divide and over and through those peaks that tower more than 14,000 feet high. Forget those bad seats in the arena…you are officially in the nose bleed section here.
Near the top, we’re looking down on the valley from where we came. To the left you can see that alluvial fan where the last photo as taken. Pretty awesome. To the right the switch backed highway that winds you up the hill. Feeling the altitude yet?
White knuckled and down off the highway in the sky, treat of the trip was to find a group of female and baby Big Horn Sheep grazing in a wet meadow. These treasures were closely guarded by Park Officials, so this was as close as I could get for a photo-op. How COOL is this?
Back at the campsite, clouds swirl around the sun to threaten an afternoon shower. Now I understand why we call it God’s country!
Looking for ideas for camping food?
Award winning cast and crew, Dan, camp photographer, Teri, French Toast Genius, Rusty and Daisy camp dogs, myself slider/salad queen, Zia and Chili, our camp dogs and Bob, Camp Somellier.
Food for camping trips need not be boring, need not be all hotdogs or bologna sandwiches and granola bars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but with a little preplanning and prep before you head out, you can enjoy some pretty delicious no-fuss meals at the campsite.
I mean afterall, doesn’t everything taste better outdoors in a lawn chair around a camp fire??
Before we get to the food, pull up your chair, grab the beverage of your choice, take a deep breath and take in this photo. Doesn’t your blood pressure instantly drop to about 26 over 12?
This last camping trip took us to Northern Colorado to beautiful Pearl Lake about 25 miles North of Steamboat Springs and almost to the Wyoming border. A beautiful little spot.
So let’s eat. Since this shot is of early morning fog rising off the lake, let’s start with breakfast fare.
Breakfast: Ina’s Chicken Sausage Breakfast Hotdogs which I recently made at home and have already blogged about. Easy for a camping trip with the mayonnaise sauce premixed at home. While the grill is heating up, on the griddle start some of those packaged Southwestern flavored hash brown potatoes that you find refrigerated at your market. When they’re about half cooked, throw on the sausages, add some eggs along side the potatoes. Intermittent drizzles with olive oil cooked the eggs and potatoes perfectly.
The propane griddle is really handy but this could be done on a camp stove in a good-sized fry pan. Needless to say we were stuffed little piggies. A hike around the lake was mandatory and of course no need for lunch. Dan took these photos, love the empty plate shot.
Teri hit a home run on day two with her delicious French Toast recipe. I am telling you this is a WONderful recipe, whether made at home or at the campsite.
Orange French Toast
2 cups milk
1/4 cup grand mariner
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp orange zest
Mix well, dip Texas toast or French toast bread in (I let it soak a few seconds), then cook.
1 bottle pure maple syrup
1 stick butter
Grand Mariner to taste (I used about 1/4 cup or more)
Heat to boil then simmer while French Toast cooks.
This made about 16 pieces, or so. You can halve it or double for large groups.
Topped with Mandarin oranges and powdered sugar, served with some fresh fruit and bacon……unbelievable breakfast.
A breakfast fly over by an immature Bald Eagle.
A hike around the lake and throw in a day trip to nearby Steamboat Lake…and we’re ready for dinner.
I love this series of photos.
Grilled chicken is always an easy campsite meal. Partially cook your chicken pieces at home and you’re enjoying dinner at the campsite in no time. At the campsite throw chicken pieces on the grill and baste with your favorite grilling sauce.
While the chicken is cooking mix up some cole slaw using a pre-packaged mix from produce section, toss with the dressing that you made and brought from home, throw in one of those small boxes of raisins and you’ve got a delicious side dish in no time. And how easy is it to boil some water for corn on the cob. Dan grilled the chicken using his Mom’s basting sauce. Gotta get that recipe. Anyway, voila, you’re dining like a camping king.
Steaks or burgers are also an easy meal, especially if you have a camping grill. Cooking on a grate, on tin foil, over a campfire can be risky business. Too hot…too windy…embers too cold. Camp grills are the ticket.
For day two dinner I made This Orange Salad that I found in West Virginia over at Larry’s Blog, which had traveled from North Carolina from Sam’s Blog and now has made its way to the Rocky Mountains to my blog and a delicious camp site salad.
I threw in three large navel oranges and just peeled and sliced them on site. Had picked some fresh rosemary and parsley from the garden and transported them in a small baggie. Pre-mixed the dressing of 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil that traveled in a small mason jar, slice some rings of red onion, sprinkle with Kalamata olives and voila. Easy peasy and a fresh and delish side dish for the sliders.
Just make the little patties at home, transfer to a large zip-loc baggie, and lay the bag flat in the top of the ice chest. Pack a small can of pineapple rings, whip up the Chipotle Mayonnaise at home and transfer to a small Mason jar. Fire up the camp grill at the campsite and you’ve got a delicious meal in about 15 minutes.
Camping wouldn’t be complete without some easy appetizers while you’re waiting on the grub to cook.
Sliced pears and some fabulous Gorgonzola Dolce cheese paired beautifully with this delicious shiraz from Mollydooker.
Some guacamole for your tortilla chips…
So there you have it, delicious food with little fuss.
It’s What’s for Camping The Rocky Mountains.
Stick around for some scenery photos.
Pearl Lake is about 4 1/2 hours northwest of Denver. We stopped halfway to enjoy a picnic lunch at Red Desert Overlook at Wolford Mountain Reservoir.
Watching swallows nab bugs on the lake.
A day trip to Hahns Peak Historic Cemetery, the oldest public cemetary in Routt County, Colorado.
Plenty of time to watch the grass grow.
Another day trip took us to Hahns Peak Lake.
Dan picked wildflowers for the table.
After dinner we headed down to the lake to watch the full moon rise over the ridge.
And some up and close views of bats swooping all around us (not pictured, but trust me, they were there).
Thursday, June 25: We’ve been looking forward to and planning for our first camping trip for weeks. Our plans were to head to Turquoise Lake early Friday morning. Picturesque Turquoise Lake is about 2 1/2 hours west of Denver, near Leadville. An every summer destination. We love the trails for hiking, and the area is unique to add a couple of birds to our year list. Most years we find a Fox Sparrow in a marshy area on the North side of the lake and regular campground flyovers of Red Crossbills are always a treat. Continue reading