Category "Hiking n' Camping"
May 15, 2005
California central coast trip
Our vacation along California's Route 1 highway was a beautiful tour of sea, sand, coastal wildlife, and very twisty roads. By camping our way up the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco, we had access to some of California's best beaches and parks on the cheap. This is definitely a "must see" experience!
This was the view from our solo camp site at Monta�a de Oro State Park, near San Luis Obispo. By far the best view we've experienced in our long years of camping.
Dining with a view... We've got this sunset all to ourselves. Interested? You can reserve it online (it's the Deer Flats site)
MdO also had amazing tide pools, easily accessible from their coastal trail.
Our drive up the coast was gorgeous... and hair-raising. Hwy 1 up to Big Sur gives new meaning to those yellow "caution: winding roads" road signs.
Monterey Bay is a spectacular and special place. We saw lots of marine life on our whale watch tour, including a huge pack of Risso's dolphins.
Lots of wildlife, big and small. This voracious snail was part of a large group that emerged after a long rain to snack on the lovely garden in the Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso.
Category "Hiking n' Camping"
May 10, 2005
BakePacker field test
Just got back from an amazing trip to California's central coast. I'll be posting some pictures soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd give an updated review. A while back, we purchased this cool-sounding camping gadget called the BakePacker that purported to cook -- and bake -- great meals in your camping pot with no dishes to do.
Our field testing resulted in mixed reviews. We used the BakePacker to cook meals we bought from Adventure Foods, which creates dishes especially for the BakePacker.
It turns out that cooking with the BakePacker is a bit of an acquired skill. The first night I think we had the burner flame up too high because a little hole developed in the bottom of our cooking bag, getting baked ziti sauce all over the BakePacker and pot. So much for the "eliminates dish washing."
The next night, we turned down the flame but didn't cook our Potatoes au Gratin long enough, leaving the grated potatoes a bit crisp. Both nights I think we added too much water (even though we followed the directions) because both dishes were pretty soupy. Both of these dishes were fairly good, just not as tasty as the stuff we normally bring camping (which is really yummy organic backpacking food from Mary Janes Farm).
But where the BakePacker performed quite well was, understandably, with the baked goods. We made some honey cornbread and a big potato pancake, both of which turned out pretty well, although they were a bit dry. All-in-all, the BakePacker was pretty cool, but it took some adjusting to get the desired results and I think it works best for baked items. Part of my disappointment was probably with the food we selected for the BakePacker and not the cooker itself. The BakePacker comes with some recipes and tips for experimenting, which I might try instead of relying on pre-mixes from Adventure Foods.
One last note: one item from Adventure Foods that was a total hit was the Mud Pie Bar. The web site says "Wow!" and it really is amazingly good. Just add a tiny bit of water to the mix, knead it a bit, and press it into a bar shape. It's a gooey chocolate, caramel, and nut slice of heaven. This is the one luxury you've got to pack on your next hike! (Of course, depending on your definition, you might label toilet paper a "luxury item"... but not me, babe, I'm not that gung ho!)
Category "Hiking n' Camping"
April 3, 2005
Cool gadget for making pizza, cakes, breads on the trail!
Our family does a lot of camping, and we're always on the lookout for cool gadgets and good vegetarian camp food. We recently stumbled upon a web site that offers both. How cool is that?
It all started when I saw a positive review of an Adventure Foods product in a recent issue of Backpacker magazine.
When I checked out their site, I was impressed with how many breakfast, cold prep, dinner, and dessert items Adventure Foods had to offer, many of which are vegetarian. Huevos rancheros, baked ziti, greek pasta salad with feta, blueberry pancakes, deep dish pizza...
Wait, pancakes? Pizza? On a camping trip?
Yes! Thanks to what sounds like a Ronco infomercial gadget, the BakePacker! Now, the site talks about the "heat pipe phenomenon" and it being a "self-contained heat exchanger" which may or may not be just infomercial-speak, I don't know. But when we read that we could make all this non-camp-food food in one pot with virtually no clean up, we were intrigued enough to buy one.
What the BakePacker looks like is a thick, round metal steamer (even though the makers insist that it's not a steamer) that sits inside your cook pot. The key to the no mess cooking is that the dry ingredients, spices, and water are mixed in a plastic bag (they recommend Reynolds oven bags or Glad freezer bags) which sits on top of the metal grid. You put some water in the bottom of the pot, loosely roll up the food bag, and let it cook on a medium boil. The food "bakes" inside the bag, and you have a flat platform, so you can bake breads, pizza dough, and biscuits, but also cook fish, rice - loads of stuff.
We gave it a try today just to see how it performs before we take it on a trip with us. The BakePacker comes with a small collection of recipes, but there are many pre-mixed foods at Adventure Foods that are especially for the BakePacker or have cooking instructions for the BakePacker as well as a convention pot. We tried Adventure Foods Mac & Cheese, and it was quite good! It really turned out like baked mac & cheese, although without the crispy crust - can't have everything. But no pot to clean! The portions were very large, no wimpy servings here! Most entrees come in 2-person or 4-person sizes. Our 2-person size yielded two huge plates of mac & cheese (more than we could eat for lunch).
Of course, mac & cheese wasn't really a test of this thing's capabilities, like pizza or chocolate cake would be, but I'm just getting used to the idea that we may be able to have those things on a camping trip, so I was setting the bar at a familiar level.
Some caveats to note. The cooking time is longer than regular camp food. Foods take about 15 minutes in the BakePacker, or a little longer for breads and cakes. The Adventure Foods packaging is a bit larger and somewhat more bulky than average camp food packaging. But a lot of this is due to the larger serving sizes and the fact that the noodles (or rice, etc.) is in a separate bag than the spices, dehydrated veggies, and what not. They get mixed together with the water right before cooking. This also means you've got a bit more trash to pack out, too. But a nice touch is that the noodles come in a BakePacker-ready bag, so you don't have to transfer or bring extra cooking bags.
All-in-all, I thought the BakePacker was a success and I'm looking forward to good food on our next outing!