I feel like we all have the special place where Life is Sweet Because We Find Inspiration. We never really can anticipate where the place may be or how we will find it. For some people, it may be somewhere soothing and beautiful. It may be a place where a great many people also find inspiration. For me, it’s an usual place that started with great loss and distruction. It became a place that I wan’t to return to and see throughout it’s rebirth. The regeneration of the flora and fauna of this area reminds me that great strife can be over come.
On May 18th, 1980, I was at a friends house playing outside, when an immense storm cloud began to approach. Being from the Midwest, a cloud like that could only mean one thing, Tornado. We ran inside to check the news and inform the adults that a storm was coming. Only then, did we discover that Mt. St. Helen’s had erupted in a cataclysmic event, sending ash and debris high enough into the sky, that is was heading our way. The next few weeks are something I will never forget. I’m sure anyone impacted by that day still has very vivid memories of the weeks that followed.
Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument
In 1982, the Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument was established to preserve and protect the area. This allowed the management of the lands that now have regenerated from a desolate waste land to an incredible young ecosystem where we can learn a vast amount. For me, it’s this regeneration that instills a sense of awe and inspiration.
My first opportunity to explore the Monument was when I was a young teenager. The experience was humbling, to say the least. I can still recall the tremendous sense of grief for the incredible loss of forestry, wild life, and human life. While I felt the loss deeply, I couldn’t help but feel that sense of something even greater would result from all this tragedy.
Inspiration Through Rebirth
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been back to the volcano. I know for about a 20 year span, it was at least annually. To return year after year and see the amount of growth and wildlife that have return, was nothing short of fascinating for me. I found myself eager to see the new changes like an Auntie eager to see a niece or nephew and how they’ve grown. Each time, there was an excitement in seeing what was new, what had the researchers discovered, and to see the trees grow taller and stronger.
Once my husband and I had started a family of our own, we were eager to teach them all about this majestic volcano right in their backyard. Our kids have grown up eagerly looking forward to returning to the volcano. They too, have discovered the inspiration behind seeing it’s recovery and the steady growth.
There is something about seeing and experiencing the evolution of such a rebirth. In the end, it all comes down to the reassurance Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument creates. To have seen it’s evolution from a bleak grey scape filled with silence, scoured hills, and felled trees, to gradually becoming a bright green forest filled with signs of life, fills me with a sense of optimism. Optimism that encourages me to be able to overcome life’s challenges.
Our Weekend Home Where Life is Sweet Because We Find Inspiration
So for this years visit, a couple of my daughters and I, pitched our tents at Seaquest State Park. Even though it rained off and on throughout the entire weekend, we greatly enjoyed the greenery and privacy of the site. It’s one of those campgrounds where each site is surrounded by a wall of lush ferns and vegetation, blocking out world around. Aside from the shooting range off in the distance, it’s one of the better campgrounds I’ve been to in a long while.
We arrived well after dark, so we didn’t actually get to see the campsite until the morning. What a welcome surprise to wake up surrounded by a lush green forest. We also woke up ready for a hearty breakfast that would get us up and running for the day. Having a great base camp is the key to having a create camping experience…even if it rains the whole time.
I love camping, hiking and cooking over a firepit. Being in the mountains is where my soul gains strength. It’s in the forest that my Life is Sweet Because We Find Inspiration. Listening to the forest, breathing in the air, seeing all of it’s beauty and being able to cook in the most basic way possible, over a fire. With a little practice, the amount of things you can create are endless.
Starting the days with a hearty jump start…
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. For me, it sets the mood and the pace for the day. If I scrimp on breakfast, I’m off kilter all day. A protein packed and flavorful meal, makes for a great day. With a little prep work, camping meals can be fairly effortless. So getting up in the morning is easier than most think.
For our first breakfast, I baked up some Breakfast Sausage Pinwheels. They are made the same way as Cinnamon Roll Pinwheels, just filled with a mixture of breakfast sausage, egg and cheese. Once the dough is rolled up, I wrap the roll in plastic wrap and freeze it. The more you can freeze ahead of time, less need you will have for ice. At the campsite, remove the frozen dough from the cooler and slice into 10 equal sized pinwheels. Lightly grease the Dutch oven and add the pinwheels. Allow them to bake under 350 degrees. This means, low coals under the first and 10 – 15 coals on tops. Bake them for 10 – 15 minutes and enjoy them hot.
Another simple camping breakfast that you can prep ahead of time is an Italian Sausage Breakfast Scramble. I like to use mason jars, but you can use whatever storage containers you prefer. Dice up one onion and store it in it’s own container. Peal and dice up russet potatoes and store in a water filled container, until ready to serve. Eggs can even be scrambled and stored in a jar or purchase a small carton of egg beaters. Brown the sausage in a large Dutch oven before adding the butter, onion, drained potatoes, garlic and herbs, salt and pepper. Allow them to simmer until the liquid is evaporated off and the potatoes are brown. Pour in your eggs and gently scramble. I like to add a bit of parmesan cheese to the top of the scramble for a little extra salty creaminess.
Other quick easy fireside breakfasts include oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts, Frittatas and variations of Avocado Toast. What ever you prefer, if you are planning a day of hiking in the mountains, you’re going to want to make sure and fuel up with carbohydrates and protein. If you focus on those two key components, you’re bound to have a great day.
Refueling with delicious meals on the trail and at camp
A good lunch break is more than just nutrition for your body, it’s a time to pause and reflect on a busy day. While your body needs nutrients, you also want to pause and just take it all in. Reflecting on your experience in nature is why you are there. So whether you are taking a break during your hike or heading back to camp for a hot meal, make food you enjoy.
Salads such as a Quinoa Salad with Mint and Dried Fruit are easy to prep ahead of time and make for a quick packed lunch when camping. It’s easy to pack and fill with everything a hiking body needs to keep going. The thing I enjoy most is that it’s not a sandwich or a wrap that is going to get smashed into a soggy ball of goo. Sandwiches are my least favorite hiking food, for just that reason. So, over the years I’ve looked for lunch alternatives. There are a lot out there, it just takes a little creativity.
A Dutch Oven Pizza is actually a relatively quick lunch to bake up, if you are looking for a hot meal. On those cool misty spring mornings, it’s nice to head back to camp, startup up some coals and put together a pizza. Another added bonus is that everyone can make their own slices. You can either bring a fresh pizza dough from stores like Trader Joes or Safeway. Or, if you’ll be camping on a cool day, there are also ready to bake doughs by companies such a Pillsbury. While I like to steer away from products such as these, sometimes it’s about just keeping it simple.
Fueling back up with a nutritious lunch is a great way to keep you going on a long extended day hike or help your body recover from a strenuous morning on the trails. Running out of fuel on a trail will quickly put a damper on your hiking adventure. Keep you day fun and filled with memories by making use you are taking care of you.
Ending the day with a satisfying meal
Try wrapping up your day with something more that roasted hotdogs and smore’s. Again, dinners can be easily prepped ahead of time. One Pot dishes are a great dinner option with little prep and little clean up. Pretty fantastic for the end of a long day of hiking. One example is this Italian Pasta Bake. I’ll dice up the onions ahead of time. I’ll even transfer the diced tomatoes to a mason jar, so I don’t have to worry about the trash. Rather, I end up with a container for leftovers. By prepping your ingredients ahead of time for a One Pot meal, dinner will take just a fraction of the time.
Life is Sweet Because We Find Inspiration in the strangest of places. For me, it’s in the rebirth of Mt. St. Helen’s, being in nature and cooking over a campfire. This weekend, was like hitting the trifecta. Coming home, I feel rejuvenated and ready to go right back out again…But this time, I might wait for a sunny weekend. Recipes to follow over the next few days.