We just went on one of the funniest camping trips of my life, and boy did I need it! Life has been unnecessarily stressful lately, and I realized last week that it is much more important to be silly and energetic than probably anything else in the world. Life is truly all about your perspective, and though you sometimes need a jolt, you can usually see that it is pretty wonderful just the way it is- especially when you have caring sweet funny friends surrounding you!
Our camping trip took place at Figueroa Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest. Aimee and Kismat have recently discovered this area and since they can’t seem to get enough of it, that’s naturally where Aimee chose to go for her birthday weekend. To make sure Aimee got a proper birthday celebration, 11 of us made the trek out to Los Olivos, with three dogs in tow to boot.
After getting settled in, we got to the important stuff – food. While grilling some vegetables in foil packets and sitting around the fire, we were all startled by loud screams. It was Aimee. She was running around jumping, screaming “there’s something in my pants!!.” I expected to see her pants come off and a small bug come out, but it was a lizard! She got it out and then sat in the corner crying for about 15 minutes, and though we wanted to help her feel better, we just all stood around laughing. That was just the start of the fun.
Saturday was a day packed with activities. We wrote down our agenda in a little notebook, which helped us avoid the typical wasted hours of “what should we do today.” I lead a yoga session and then Aimee lead boot camp. We had to drive to town next to get Adventure Passes for everyone in the campground, because FYI, they changed the rules so you don’t just have to pay a $5 ticket if you don’t have one- you have to pay $125! Then we came back, played some cards, drank some beer, and went on an afternoon hike. We hiked along the beautiful, wildflower-flecked mountain road looking down into the valley below. We ran through a field like The Sound of Music, played in a tree like monkeys, and raced to see how high we could run up a very steep hill (answer: about 10 feet). Then we forced our friend Kim to be the photographer for a dandelion blowing photo shoot that lasted close to a full hour (we got a lot of wishes out of it though!).
Our turnaround point was a little creek littered with banana slugs. I’ve been talking and hearing about these creatures for years but I’d never seen one before. They have a mild neurotoxin on their skin that causes your tongue to go numb if you lick them. I never imagined myself licking one, but I couldn’t help myself this weekend. I did it first, and that was enough to convince Mai-yan and Kim to do it too (though I do not suggest you do so, since I have no clue whether its actually a safe thing to do or not). First Mai-yan tried to pick one up, but freaked out crazily when she touched it. She had no problem licking it, but just didn’t want to hold it. I was laughing on the ground for about 5 minutes watching the process. Then Kim decided to try it, but was only ok with it after washing off my saliva. He licked the slug about as grossly as you could ever imagine for about 30 seconds.
Our evening was just as eventful including a game of Catch Phrase (who’s ever heard of the expression “chrome dome”?!?), Kim losing his wedding ring in the fire and most importantly, Aimee’s delicious vegan sausages made from scratch (recipe adapted from Julie Hasson and our good friend Wesley Nielson). As a meat eater, I can attest that these were better than meat based sausages (who want’s to eat chicken eye lids anyways?!). The texture and flavor were spot on, and they were very filling. Aimee made 18 sausages and we polished them all off but two. If you’re going camping, we highly recommend these. They are the epitome of camping food, ready in minutes (after prepping them at home) and you get to grill on the campfire.
Good times and good food, that’s how camping trips are supposed to be. That’s how life is supposed to be. I challenge you to go through your day and experience joy that exists around you. It’s everywhere, and if you can’t find it, make it! Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
Prep Time / Cook Time/
Activity GuideCar Camping
- 1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Several dashes fresh black pepper
- Cast iron skillet
- Large bowl
- Large pot
- Steamer Basket
- Cut 6 sheets of foil and have them at hand.
- In a large bowl, mash the pinto beans until no whole ones are left. Then add all the other ingredients to the bowl in the order listed and mix with clean hands.
- Divide dough into 6 even parts. Place one part of dough on a sheet of foil and mold into a log. Wrap dough in foil, twisting the ends closed, like a tootsie roll.
- Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a pot fitted with a steaming basket or rack, and place wrapped sausages in steamer for 40 minutes.
- Eat immediately or keep refrigerated until ready to grill.