Camping in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey

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Happy August! July has come and gone. I feel like I’ve had enough adventures this past month that I’ll be busy talking about them all August. I’ll start today with my birthday camping trip in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey. Originally I had planned on conquering this epic hike, The Great Range Trail, but I got some pretty gnarly blisters during a recent backpacking trip in Washington, so hiking was out. Then I wanted to go to Cherry Springs State Park, but the weather looked iffy and it was a bit far north. I called Saleem, my travel partner, and we together we decided on Wharton. This is the first time I’ve camped in Wharton State Forest and if given the opportunity, I would certainly do it again.

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Why You Should Volunteer

I’ve been volunteering my time quite a bit lately and as always, it feels wonderful. I’m republishing this post in hopes that you’ll research a new volunteering opportunity in your area and field of interest. If you have any experience volunteering or suggestions for others, throw them in the comments.

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Happy Monday!  Over a year ago, when Katie and I started this blog, we had intended for our Mondays to be inspiring.  We thought, what better to read on a Monday morning than something that will amp you up for the rest of the week or at the very least, make your Monday a bit better.  We’ve strayed a little bit from that scheduling because we realized we have so much to share in all spheres, but today we’re going back to our roots and inspiring you to help out a little. You know, volunteer a few hours or a few days, whatever you can. Today I’m sharing my two cents on why you should volunteer followed by a recap of my recent volunteer experience on the Appalachian Trail that includes a remembrance of our dear hiking friend.

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Visit Arches National Park & Moab, Utah

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It’s Wednesday, you’re half way through the week that means you deserve to procrastinate by looking at pretty pictures of Moab, Utah. I’ve only visited Moab once, but I have not stopped thinking about it since. People are shocked by my profound love of Utah, but if you’ve never been, you need to stop yappin’ and start packing. After all, a few of the most scenic national parks are located there.

The following photos were taken at Arches National Park. Standing in the midst of such vibrant colossal rock formations was surely grounding. Upon entering the park, I read the history of Arches then spent the next several days trying to imagine the landscape as it changed throughout the ages. I believe connecting with the landscape and witnessing earth’s transformation is a powerful conservation tool for current and future generations. Getting to know and appreciate the natural beauty in the world will surely encourage you and others to be an active participant in securing these spaces for future generations. If you haven’t visited Arches yet, call a few buddies or load the family into the car and experience history, geology and immense beauty this year.  Continue reading

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Postcards from the Rockies

If you’d like to see more of our outdoor adventures, here’s a post from another car-camping trip with the boys, and here are a few of the hikes we’ve documented.

This past weekend we went on a short one-night camping trip near Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and had such a great time. We didn’t do any major planning or packing, just a couple of hours Saturday morning, and then we started driving during nap time, and by the afternoon we found a campsite (more on that below), then we woke up Sunday and took off for a hiking destination that was in the direction of home, and we made it back to our house by late afternoon. It was a short but sweet trip that left everyone happy and tired.

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One thing that still overwhelms me since moving to Boulder is how crowded hiking and camping areas are in this area. I understand that it’s the confluence of living near a large urban area (with a high percentage of people that like to get outside) and living near some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (I may be biased), but wow – there seem to be crowds at every campground, on every hiking trail, and on every road. I’ll get used to it eventually. The problem is that it makes it hard for non-planners like us to go for an adventure on a whim.

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Dutch Oven Chili

We’re half way through JULY! I think Kate will agree, this is our favorite time of year. We’re both July babies so this month has always been special for us. Growing up, we would have joint pool parties together even though there’s a nine year gap between us! This year we haven’t managed to get together, but both of our Julys have been packed with outdoor adventure and ample family time.

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Last week, I took a family of Brazilians out into the mountains for the first camping trip of their lives. We had a wonderful time hiking, learning new skills, and hanging out at camp. I plan on sharing more aspects of that adventure in future posts, but for now I wanted to share a Dutch Oven Chili recipe that is perfect for a camping crowd. The way I make chili is incredibly simple.. So simple that it’s almost one of those recipes that’s not really a recipe, WTF do I mean? You’ll see..

Even though this post is entitled Dutch Oven Chili, you can also make it on the stovetop by following this recipe. If you’re making it in a dutch oven, you’ll want to get a great layer of hot coals going. Another option, and perhaps a more reliable one, is to light a couple dozen charcoal briquettes. For the first half of the recipe have the dutch oven sitting directly on a bed of hot coals or charcoal briquettes. The lid should be kept off while you brown the meat and cook the fresh veggies that way you can monitor the heat, ensuring you don’t burn your dinner. Once you add all the canned items there will be a good amount of liquid in the pot so you shouldn’t have any trouble with burning or sticking. Place the lid on the dutch oven, cover it with coals or briquettes and wait twenty minutes or so (this really depends on the condition of your coals and briquettes) until the contents of the pot comes to a bubble.

Dutch Oven Chili

Ingredients

  • Onion
  • Bell Pepper
  • Jalapeño (or a small can of Jalapeños)
  • 3-5 cloves Garlic
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 15oz can Kidney Beans
  • 1 28oz Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 jar of Salsa
  • Ann Schu's homemade Chili Sauce*
  • Chili Seasoning Packet

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking the ground beef over medium heat. Break up the beef into smaller pieces with a fork while it's still raw.
  2. Once the beef is cooking, begin chopping your onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and cloves of garlic.
  3. Add the vegetables to the meat as you chop.
  4. By the time the beef is completely cooked, the onions should be clear and the peppers a little soft.
  5. Drain off the grease if necessary - this is totally your call. When I make it in the kitchen, I drain the grease, when I make it in the Dutch oven I keep it because more liquid and flavor is better than less (usually it's a small amount anyway).
  6. Now it's time to work those arms - open all the cans: beans (drain off the liquid), tomatoes, jalapeño, salsa, and add them to the cooked beef and fresh veggies. Splash a bit of water in each can too, swirl it around, and add it to the chili mixture.
  7. Add your chili seasoning (or your own special spice mix) and mix well.
  8. If it's looking dry, you could add a splash of water or tomato paste and water to add a little liquid.
  9. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow the mixture to bubble before enjoying.
  10. If the mixture looks extra juicy, allow it to bubble a bit with the lid off, this should take care of some of the extra liquid.
  11. Serve over couscous or rice and top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  12. *Ann Schu's homemade chili sauce is obviously optional and most times I don't have it, but when I do, I receive five times the compliments!
http://liveseasoned.com/dutch-oven-chili/

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There you have it. Super simple. How do you make chili? Do you serve it over rice or couscous? Are we the only ones?!

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Camping with Little Kids

Want to see more of our camping posts? Click here to see posts with previous adventures and our gear suggestions. Or maybe you just want to come along with us on a day hike?

One of the things Calder and I are really looking forward to are camping adventures with the boys, but somehow we’ve had a hard time making time/plans for a trip this summer. Side note : since moving to Colorado, we’ve learned that you have to plan these trips in advance if you want to secure a site at a campground. Reservations are scooped up as soon as they come online! If you aren’t able to reserve a spot, there are some campgrounds that hold a few spots open for first-come-first-serve arrivals, but we’ve been too lazy to go through the effort of packing the car and taking the risk.  We know we could just head out into the wilds, but again, we’ve been lazy.

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As luck would have it, friends (hi Neha!) of ours were going on trip with a few other families, some sites opened up, and we were able to take one. Score! Alex is just a few months past his second birthday and Luc is four months old, so this was our first trip with both a toddler and an infant, and I thought it might be useful to share our tips/tricks for a super easy and enjoyable weekend camping trip. As you’ll see, we kept everything so simple for this trip. If you’re hesitant about camping with kids, I want to encourage you to do it and show you how it can be done without a lot of stress, tears, or baby gear. Of course, if gear is your thing, then pack on :-).

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Pack Your Bags : Van Camping

Hey there, we’re gearing (pun intended) up for a summer of travel and thought it would be fun to do a series of posts that focus on our gear. We aren’t highlighting the latest line of ultra-light-weight this or that. As you’ll see in this post, what’s important to us is getting out the door, so we try to keep the gear simple, functional, and relatively inexpensive.  I’m kicking off the series with the essentials that Calder and I keep at the ready for our road trip and van-camping adventures. Check back this afternoon and Sarah will share what’s in her camping pack!

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Calder and I love a good road trip. Alex? Not so much, but we’re working on him. Cash? He’s our primary co-pilot and sticks to the van like glue the moment he sees us start to pack.

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Early Spring Camping

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Surprise! We had to come back with a one-two punch, because what goes better with a maple syrup festival than camping?!

If you haven’t tried it yet, early spring camping can be a lot of fun. During our week-long road trip in early March, we spent almost as much time camping as we did sleeping indoors. Albeit our camping isn’t necessarily roughing it; the back seat of our van folds down into a bed big enough for the three of us (four when Cash curls up for a snooze). These were taken on the first morning in George Washington National Forest, just outside of Warm Springs, VA. 

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As you can tell, the morning air was freezing crisp and refreshing, with a beautiful layer of frost and ice crystals covering every surface. So first things, first, Calder made some coffee in the french press while I wandered off to check out the scenery. Soon I was back at the van, grabbing my coffee, and encouraging everyone to get out and watch the rising sun sparkle on the ice.

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