Camping in the Sol Duc Valley

 

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I truly believe that the state of Washington is one the best states to be in.  I can’t imagine a better place for Cupid’s Landing to end up.  There is so much natural beauty and serenity – wilderness, endless forests, awe-striking wildlife, mountains, and more.  I just returned from a five day camping trip in the Sol Duc Valley in the Olympic National Forest with my three roommates, Anna, Casey, and Connor.  I want to share some of that experience with you, including some awesome plant-based camping food ideas.

The Olympic National Forest is located on the peninsula in the northwestern region of Washington state.  Much of this forest is considered rainforest due to the large amount of rainfall every year.  So, needless to say, it did rain for most of our camping trip.  We still managed to cook over a fire at least twice a day, climb a mountain, and explore the fascinating ecosystems of the northern Pacific coast.

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I think it’s pretty unanimous that cooking over a campfire is one of the best parts of camping (maybe even thee best part.)  The smell and flavor of smoke, the warm fire, the crackling wood; all in the company of good friends.  There’s nothing like a warm, smoky meal at the end of a vigorous outdoor adventure day, or just a lazy day of lounging in the sunlight.  My camping comrades consisted of several vegan food enthusiasts, which made all of it so much better!  Here is a breakdown of the fire-cooked meals we enjoyed each day.

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Breakfast:  Pretty much all of our breakfasts consisted of buckwheat pancakes and/or some form of potatoes.  Anna pre-made some pancake batter at home, and then cooked them almost every morning of the trip.  I absolutely love the burnt parts of the pancakes – so smoky and crispy from the cast iron!  We also had potato and vegetable hash several mornings.  With just a little bit of time spent chopping up the veggies nice and small, this is a meal idea that will please everyone!  The trick is to heat up a cast iron skillet over the fire before putting the food on there.  Heat up a nice coating of oil (we used grapeseed), and toss in your chopped veggies.  We used potatoes, zucchini, garlic, onion, carrots, mushrooms, and rosemary.  Dice everything up nice and small, stir it in the skillet to coat with oil, and then let it sizzle.  Once the bottom has browned a bit, you can cut it into individual portions and flip it, or just toss the whole thing around and let it brown on the other side.   We added seasonings like salt, pepper, and spicy stuff like cayenne, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.

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On our first morning, we had overnight potatoes to go with our pancakes.  Anna sliced some potatoes and onions, wrapped them in foil, and then buried them in a cast iron dutch oven with some coals from the fire.  The result was perfectly soft and savory breakfast potatoes ready as soon as we woke up the next morning.

Most of our lunches consisted of leftovers or snacks like chips, fruit, and pretzels dipped in dijon mustard.  During our second day there it rained quite a bit, so Connor and I decided to spend a few hours exploring the nearest city.  Port Angeles is a small coastal city with the mountains of Victoria, BC Canada visible across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  While in the city, we visited a local natural foods store called Country Aire Natural Foods.  The store is beautiful, and a pretty decent size.  The fruit selection at this place had our mouths watering!  When I saw baskets of huge ripe figs, I could not resist.  We also found these funny looking grapes called Witches Fingers.  They tasted almost exactly like red grapes, but slightly less sour.

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In terms of food, the main event for this trip was definitely dinner time!  We went all out, making something different every night.  A few of our dinner meals involved lentils.  Lentils are the fastest cooking legume and don’t require any presoaking, which makes them perfect for cooking over a campfire.  On the first night, Connor cooked us lentils with veggies (all the same veggies as our breakfast hash).  On another night, Anna made a red lentil curry with white rice, and on the last night Connor made a lentil stew.

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These were all very simple meals, and easy to cook in a cast iron pot.  Just keep checking things like rice and lentils to make sure you don’t overcook!   Campfire cooking can be quite different from the stovetop, mostly because of the inconsistency of heat disbursement over the fire.

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One of my favorite grill or campfire meals is tofu skewers.  I like to use a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, fresh minced garlic, dried oregano, and salt.  So easy, and SO tasty!   Along with the tofu, we added zucchini and bell peppers to our skewers.

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One night for  dinner we cooked linguini and pasta sauce.  Super simple, right?!  Of course we dressed it up by sauteing some veggies before stirring in the sauce.

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As a side to our dinners, every night we grilled some corn on the cob.  This is probably the easiest and most universally well received food to cook outside.  Rub some oil on the cob, season to taste (we only used salt and pepper, but anything else works too!), and wrap it in foil.  When cooked on the grill grate, the corn does take a bit of time to cook through and char nicely.  We found that it went much faster when placed directly on the coals.  Once they were soft and charred, we squeezed some lime juice over them, and they were amazing!

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I won’t lie – a large motivating factor in our decision to drive an hour to Port Angeles on that rainy day was in fact to find vegan marshmallows, and that we did!  While at the natural foods store, we grabbed some Dandies vegan marshmallows, Endangered Species dark chocolate (several different flavors), and ginger snaps.  I first tried ginger snaps with s’mores earlier this year when I couldn’t find any vegan graham crackers.  Ever since then, ginger snaps are my go-to s’mores cookie.  Aside from being completely delicious, the are perfectly sized for marshmallows, eliminating the messy crumble of traditional graham cracker s’mores.  Ginger snaps are a bit “snappy”, but when placed on some aluminum foil over the grill grate for about a minute with the chocolate on top, they soften right up into a warm, melty, mouthful!

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Aside from eating, as I mentioned earlier we also spent our time hiking and exploring the coast line.  We climbed Mt. Storm King, which is a relatively short but steep hike on a small mountain.  The summit elevation is only 2,400 feet, but in just 1.9 miles we gained 1,700 feet of elevation!  That makes for a very steep hike, so steep in fact that even the sign pointing to the trailhead had to lean back a bit to point to it…

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There are areas of this hike that require climbers to use ropes to pull themselves up the steepest ledges.

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The views at the top of the mountain are indescribable.  Being above (as well as in) the clouds, seeing them whipping by right in front of us, and looking down on the most picturesque view of Crescent Lake made every steep step worthwhile.

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On our way back home, we visited Ruby Beach.  The beach is gorgeous, with giant mossy rocks jutting out of the water, miles of driftwood, and the intriguing sea life that is crawling over all of it is something that I never experienced while visiting New England beaches.

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