Last summer my husband Chris and I took a trip to Foster Falls, part of South Cumberland State Park over the Fourth of July long weekend.
Obviously, we had to put out a flag at our campsite. USA!
We had the hardest time starting a fire, despite me bring prepared and super excited with my new hatchet. The wood got wet during a sudden downpour, our lighter fluid ran out, and our matches wouldn't catch. It was rough, but we made it work by using all of the cardboard from our food packaging as tinder.
There's something so grounding about waking up in the woods. It felt great in the morning with the breeze coming into the tent. But it was still July after all and the air got really hot and humid as the day went on.
The second day was our hiking day, so we had a big breakfast skillet to fuel up... And also because *bacon*.
- Potatoes, cubed
- Red Onion, chopped
- Bacon, chopped
- Two eggs per person
- Salt + Pepper
Add potatoes, onions, and bacon to the pan and stir to evenly distribute then season. Cover with foil or a lid for about 20 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are soft before adding the eggs. Crack the eggs right on top of the other ingredients, then season the eggs. Cover again until eggs are cooked but not overdone, about 10 minutes.
The short hike down to the waterfalls was difficult and rocky. At the bottom of the canyon we realized that the waterfall may not be what we expected when there was no water under this bridge leading up to it.
So it turns out that we went to a waterfall in the middle of a drought and there was no waterfall. But the pool of water under where there normally is a waterfall was super cool and refreshing to swim in, if you don't mind swimming with fish! People were out with their dogs, and some brave souls were rock climbing on the other side of the pool.
Okay so here is where it gets interesting. The map we had was terrible and not marked with the same names of the trails that the trails were marked with. What was supposed to be a medium to easy hike to the lookout at the top of the falls was incredibly rocky and difficult because we went the wrong way. This could have been a little less bad if we had packed more water, hadn't been wearing shorts, and I had been wearing boots instead of Chaco sandals. We asked a rock climber what trail we were on and she convinced us that we were actually slightly off the trail and that if we hiked straight through the woods we would hit the trail and get back on the right path.. so off we go into the woods... in shorts and tank tops and I'm in sandals. Thorns, poison ivy, bees, and uncovered feet stepping into piles of leaves that could have had any number of critters underneath. BAD DECISION. After a mild breakdown we got back to what was, in fact, the trail that we had been on all along. We asked a different climber for help and he guided us to the right access trail to get on the easy path.. where I saw a copperhead! The whole ordeal was terrifying because I'm normally very prepared while hiking, but we didn't expect our trek to be that long or difficult at all.
Here we are, at the lookout on top of the falls very happy to be alive. Lessons learned: always prepare for a full day hike, wear actual shoes while hiking, and stay on the trail.
By this point I was ready to get back to camp and relax. I prepared some foil packs for dinner, stuck them on the grill over the fire, and in the middle of preparing our dessert rain came and forced us into the car. Thankfully the foil packs were done cooking and they were GOOD!
Shrimp Boil Foil Packs:
- Shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Corn on the cob, cut into 4 inch pieces
- Red potatoes, quartered
- Andouille sausage, chopped
- Sweet yellow onions, chopped
- Salt + Pepper
Foil packs are so easy: put all the ingredients on a sheet of foil, season with salt and pepper, fold up, and put either right on the fire or on a grill. You can even do this in the oven, but it will cook much faster since the heat surrounds the food in the oven. Since it's hard to check the ingredients, I always err on the side of overcooked, so you might not want to do this with something that dries out easily like chicken breast or pork loin. I cooked these for about 30 minutes over the fire and the andouille sausage seasoned everything else in the packet perfectly. It's really helpful to have a pair of tongs and/or heat proof oven mitts depending on whether you put these on the grill or in the fire.
After the downpour we got the fire going again and I was able to finish my dessert. This is called a grunt cake, which is basically a bunch of fruit with dough on top. The acid in the fruit doesn't really mix well with the cast iron skillet, and will stick and burn... so you can use a piece of parchment paper to line the pan if you want an easier cleanup.
Berry Grunt Cake:
- Muffin or cake mix
- Fresh or frozen fruit (I used some of each)
Mix your fruit into your muffin or cake mix and pour it into your cast iron pan. Top with sugar and cover for about 20 minutes or until the dough is cooked. Serve in a bowl topped with mascarpone (ice cream would be great.. but it's so hard to keep frozen while camping). Enjoy!