Hi Friends! Hope everyone has enjoyed their 4th of July holiday. Devin and I took a few days off for a staycation. It has been a much needed few days to relax and check a few to-do items off our list.
A few weeks ago, we headed out to Shenandoah National Park. It wasn’t our first time there, as we went this past fall and stayed in a beautiful cabin that overlooked the valley. Now we wanted the true National Park experience, which means camping. We’re pretty lucky since the park is only a little over 2 hours outside of DC, making is very accessible for a weekend trip.
Devin did some research to learn about the camping options as there are a few campgrounds located within the park. We chose Big Meadows Campground and reserved 2 nights (a Friday and Saturday). It was going to be my first time tent camping and I was pretty nervous about 2 full nights! However, once we got to our campground and saw the view, I was sold! Devin found the most perfect camp sites, which overlooked the Blue Ridge. It was also around 85 degrees when we left the DC area. Once we were in the park, it was in the upper 60s, making it a really refreshing couple days. Our rookie status stood out when we started to set up camp. Don’t get me wrong, we had all the items we needed, we were just trying to set up the tent, make a fire, and cook dinner all at once and we were pretty darn hungry! That was our first big lesson. Pack an easy first meal. I think next time I will have sandwiches already made.
As we settled in for the night, making s’mores on the campfire, the campsite host came around and mentioned to us that bears have been seen on the perimeter and to be sure we pack up all of our food appropriately. Well that set the tone for the rest of our trip. Our tent was very cozy! Devin got us a 3 person tent which is perfect for both of us plus Sully. But, you can hear everything at night! The slightest crinkling of leaves or the snap of a twig. I thought for certain we had bears surrounding us each night! Second lesson: bring ear plugs.
Sully absolutely loved camping! We brought a stake so we could hook his leash to it and our hands could be free to cook, set up camp, etc and he could roam around our campsite on his own. He loved watching all the hikers – our campsite was about 15 feet from the Appalachian Trail. It was great to have him with us and he is probably the main reason why I was able to sleep a little bit at night!
My biggest concern for camping was “what are we going to eat!?” Ha, yes this may not surprise you. This is where my contribution to the camping trip kicks in. I did quite a bit of research on campfire cooking and easy camp meals. Two things I felt like we couldn’t go camping without were s’mores and hot dogs. I bought the organic Applegate farms hot dogs, which are probably my favorite, along with some of the Applegate Farms cold cuts to make an easy sandwich during the day. In my research, I also camp across an idea for campfire nachos. So I prepped some ground beef, black beans, onions, an peppers by sautéing them in fajita seasoning at home and then wrapping them in a tin foil pan. I was then able to place them on our camp stove to warm up and we topped the mixture with salsa, guacamole (the mini Wholy guacamoles were perfect for camping) and sour cream and scooped it all up with our Sieta chips. It was a delicious meal! Another success was making a kale salad. It can be pretty easy to go camping and not each a single fruit or vegetable, but a kale salad really solved that for us. Kale can be dressed for a few days and still be delicious!
Our camp chef stove and percolator were the two best cooking tools for camping. I honestly crave percolator coffee now – it’s very strong but delicious! The other item that made camp cooking easy was a collapsible bin. This made it simple to wash our dishes and not taking up a lot of room.
While with camping you are ultimately getting away from it all, there are definitely a few key pieces of equipment that can make or break your experience. We also really lucked out with weather! The evenings were cool for sleeping and enjoying a fire, while the sun came out during the day to keep us warm. Devin and I are already planning our next camping adventure – hello Dolly Sods (pun intended)!