Making Plans Again

Our last trip to Coleman Lake was when we had the Aliner.

Our last trip to Coleman Lake was when we had the Aliner.


We gotta get out of this place

if it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Cause girl, there’s a better life for me and you.

The cold wave is supposed to hit tomorrow.  So we’ll be hibernating for a few days.

Since we need to stay close to home for doctors appointments, we figure as soon as it warms up we’ll head across the Alabama line to the small Coleman Lake campground in Talladega National Forest for a few days just to get OUT!

The Talladega National Forest is where I found the motherlode of chanterelles the summer we were there.

The Talladega National Forest is where I found the motherlode of chanterelles the summer we were there.

There’s not a lot to do there, but walking through the woods, lighting campfires and just being away from home will be enough to tide us over until we can go someplace more exciting.

Later, we are tentatively planning to go to Buccaneer State Park on the Gulf in Mississippi.  Unlike Florida State Parks, dogs are allowed on the beach there, so it will be fun for our furkids, too.

In closing, I’ll post a few pictures from the Buccaneer State Park website.  They are what’s keeping me going right now.  I am desperate for a beach fix!  🙂

A tent at Buccaneer State Park

A tent at Buccaneer State Park

This might be a little too much direct sun, so we'll probably choose a wooded campsite.

This might be a little too much direct sun, so we’ll probably choose a wooded campsite.

Another photo from the Buccaneer State Park website

Another photo from the Buccaneer State Park website

Doll Mountain

Our site at Doll Mountain

Our site at Doll Mountain

We weren’t sure whether or not we would be able to be able to go camping this morning.  The news said that there was flash flooding in Ellijay and East Ellijay, people were being evacuated, and some of the roads were closed.

Ron and Sheba.  The campground road is a series of hairpin turns.

Ron and Sheba. The campground road is a series of hairpin turns.

Ellijay is very near Doll Mountain.

So I checked the weather alerts online and they confirmed our worst fears.

But I decided to call the campground and get firsthand information.  The campground host said they hadn’t heard anything about problems with access to the campground.  She took my name and number and said she would check and call me back.

She called back with an all clear.  The flooding was south of our route.  And the rain stopped shortly after we left home.

A tent site

A tent site

So here we are in this beautiful, recently remodeled campground.

The weather has been perfect.  We’ve had our windows open all day with just the fan running.  No air conditioning needed.  Also, our campsite is in deep shade and there has been a nice breeze.   Amazing for August 1.

The area is a mushroomer’s heaven.  I found baby chanterelles at the back of our campground.  Only someone else saw them, too, and kicked them over and stepped on them.  I also found another one that was damaged, along with several other different kinds of inedible ones.

The late afternoon sun made this blowdown look like it was on fire.

The late afternoon sun made this blowdown look like it was on fire.

However, the terrain is steep!  The only level ground here is on the road and on the campsites.  I tried to check out the area behind our site and would have slid down the hill if I hadn’t been able to grab a tree.  Getting back up was an adventure, even with the help of my hiking stick.

But tomorrow is another beautiful day to explore!  It’s supposed to be partly cloudy, with no rain predicted!

We did have one mishap.  Somewhere on the way here we lost our lower refrigerator vent cover.  We didn’t hit anything.  The only thing I can figure is I must not have had all the little plastic screws in the right position and the wind caught it and ripped it off.  Only the lower left corner of the vent remains.

The missing refrigerator vent

The missing refrigerator vent

There are no RV repair places near here, and if there were, they would probably have to order the part.  So I called Casita.  Their parts department was closed for the day.  I left a message for them to call me first thing in the morning.  The camp host said I could have them ship a part here.

It’s supposed to rain day after tomorrow.  If it does, I will rig up an awning for the vent, taping a trash bag to the top of the vent and tying the bottom to rocks placed a bit out from the trailer.  That should keep the rain out and still allow air intake.

The uphill sewer connection

The uphill sewer connection (edited to add, I don’t think it’s a sewer connection after all.)

In the meantime, it’s just beautiful here.  We spent the evening sitting outside listening to the night sounds, mesmerized by the flame from our torches.  And wondering why an occasional bug will fly directly into the flame.

And why the Army Corps of Engineers installed our sewer hookup uphill.  😀

 

(on edit — I don’t think it’s a sewer connection.)

Really Yummy Foraging

A mix of golden and smooth chanterelles

A mix of golden and smooth chanterelles

I’ve been through photo files today until I a bleary-eyed.  I decided instead of posting endless photos of what probably looks like weeds to most people, I’d just post some of the especially delicious wild foods I’ve found.

Smooth chanterelle

Smooth chanterelle

I used to be an avid wild plant forager.  But eventually I got bored with just wild veggies and started studying mushrooms — mainly to add some variety to our foraged meals.  I’ve slacked off on my study since we got, first the Aliner and then the Casita.  There was just too much other fun stuff to do outdoors.

But now the desire to get back out there and get serious about learning new plants — and new ways to use them — is becoming a compulsion.

So I am really anxious for spring to come!

Golden chanterelle

Golden chanterelle

I did forget to mention using day lily flower buds in my last post.  You can boil them like green beans, or my favorite way is to batter and fry them.  I hope to get some photos of lots of cooked wild edibles for you from our camping trips next year.

Another thing that most people would like — simply because they taste exactly like little potatoes — is groundnut bulbs.  I boil them in salty water until they swell up and the top of the skins starts popping to expose the white inner flesh, then toss them in butter and serve.  A simple, starchy, fun, filling side dish.  I’ve read that in some areas of the country that groundnuts have a slight turnip taste.  I’ve never run into that, though.

Daylily flower buds

Daylily flower buds

And then there’s the foraging that EVERYONE knows about — wild blueberries and blackberries.  Here’s what I did with my blackberries when I didn’t want to mess with making jelly.

So much for the low-carb diet!  🙂

Groundnuts

Groundnuts

blackberry cobbler

Blackberry cobbler

with ice cream

YUM!

Groundnut leaves.  Groundnuts generally grow by streams.

Groundnut leaves. Groundnuts generally grow by streams.

 

On edit – At the request of one of my readers, I’m adding a photo of groundnut leaves.

Playing with Fire & Primitive Skills

My first DIY backpacking stove, built around 2001 or 2002

As much as I dearly love camping in the Casita, at times I truly miss backpacking and primitive camping.

The Pocket Rocket. (image from Amazon)

I’ve enjoyed making a lot of stoves over the years, from hobo stoves to tuna can stoves to various alcohol stoves.

I fell out of love with alcohol stoves while hiking back in 2003 when I was caught in a surprise snowstorm.  The wind was whipping, I was freezing, and was trying to get water to boil for hot chocolate.  Normally 3/4 ounce of alcohol would bring my little .7 liter titanium pot full of water to a rolling boil in 5 or 6 minutes.  But since I didn’t have a decent windscreen for my stove, I used up 4 ounces of my precious alcohol fuel and the water was nowhere near boiling.

A couple of days later I stopped into an outfitter’s and bought a Pocket Rocket stove… and it’s jet-like blast of high pressure isobutane fuel assured me of boiling water on demand.

But I hated having to worry about where I’d be able to find my next (expensive) canister of fuel.

Solo Stove — wood burning gasifier hiking stove (image from Amazon)

I was lurking at a hiking forum the other day, vicariously reliving the good old days, when I saw a new-to-me hiking stove mentioned.  It’s heavy for a backpacking stove — 9 ounces.  BUT you need NO FUEL since it burns sticks and twigs.  And in the East, that means a limitless amount of fuel is always available — free!  (Add an Esbit tablet, piece of wax, or Wet Tinder to get wet wood going.)  It has a fire grate up above a solid stainless steel bottom so you don’t leave any trace of your fire on the ground.  And it burns so completely that all that is left is white ash.

So I’ve got the Solo Stove in my Amazon cart…. until I can talk some sense into myself and delete it as the unnecessary item it is.  But man!  What a COOL TOY!!!!

And remembering the stoves and how much fun I had with them reminded me of all the fun

Primitive bread (like chapitas) with no yeast and no oven.

I had learning to do primitive cooking over coals.

Cooking directly over a fire gives you very little control over the heat — and it coats your pots and pans with a nasty layer of soot.  But I learned that if I built a small fire and let it burn until I got a good bed of coals, then moved the fire over with a couple of sticks exposing the coals, that I had a perfect outdoor “stove.”  A pan placed in the center of the coal bed would get very hot and quickly bring water to a furious boil.  Move the pot out from the center and I’d have medium heat.  And if I wanted a simmer, I just moved my pot to the edge of the coals.  And when you cook on coals instead of over fire, you get NO SOOT on your pan!

The first oyster mushrooms I found on our property

Thinking about all the fun Ron and I had building campfires and cooking over them naturally led to reminiscing about our adventures with wild edibles.  I got interested in studying wild foods in the late 1990’s.  It took a few years to become proficient at being able to make decent meals from foraged ingredients.

Then I started getting bored with roots and veggies, nuts and berries, so decided that wild mushrooms would add a nice touch to my wild meals.  So I plunged into intensive mushroom study.  I was very fortunate in that David Fischer, author of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, was extremely approachable by email and cheerfully helped me positively identify photos of my earlier finds before I dared to eat them.

Chanterelles found in the Talladega National Forest

I used to like to hike out into a national forest with no food except salt, sugar, coffee, tea and a small bottle of olive oil, and eat only what I could forage.  The first day was always a little scary, but after that I would just keep finding good things to eat so the problem would be to not gather so much that it would be wasted. (Except in winter, of course.  I would starve to death then!)

There were also experiments with all kinds of primitive shelter building.  My most elaborate was a wickiup, pictured here partially built.  Since I didn’t have good thatching material on our property, I cheated and bought hay.  😀

Wickiup building in progress

I think that what has made all of those experiences resurge in my memory is the knowledge that, due to health problems, I won’t ever be able to backpack again.  I guess that’s something everyone has to come to grips with as they age.  Some of the good times are forever gone.

But it has reminded me that even if I can’t climb mountains or backpack anymore, I can still get out, build a campfire, and relish the satisfaction of being self-sufficient enough to cook without all the modern trappings of society.

And, in doing so, to capture a little of what our ancestors must have felt as they went about their daily affairs.

(NOTE:  Since this subject is so special to me, I am re-posting this as a permanent page so that it won’t disappear into my blog’s archives.)

Wild Chanterelle Article Published

Associated Content just published my mushroom article. It’s here if you are interested in how to find and identify wild chanterelles.

But you’ll have to wait for warm weather.  🙂

Talladega National Forest

our Aliner campsite

Our campsite

We just got back from a week at Coleman Lake Campground in the Talladega National Forest in the Alabama hills.

The sites are spaced pretty far apart in a heavily wooded setting, so we felt like we had our own little hideaway in the woods.  A short trail led to the lake’s fishing, swimming, and trail areas.

The plant diversity is astounding.  I took

primeval looking forest

Primeval looking forest carpeted with bracken fern

hundreds of photos of plants suited to many different environments… from low,  almost primeval looking fern swamps to steep, hilly hardwood and pine forests.

A small swimming beach was usually host to children and young people early in the day.  Later, when the people left, Canada geese brought their families out for leisurely paddling around the lake.

A few people rowed out on the lake to fish while we were there.   And one couple went

hilly trail

Trail through the hills

frog gigging and came back with seventeen bullfrogs.  Ron chatted with them as they were skinning and cleaning the frog legs.

Can’t say that’s my cup of tea, but it is nice that there is an area where those who enjoy such things can pursue their interests.

Past the swimming beach on the lakeside trail, we took a side trail and stumbled upon a beautiful little hidden grotto complete with small waterfall.  Screened by rock walls and a profusion of tall flowering shrubs and trees, we felt as though we had stumbled upon a secret hideaway.

hidden grotto with small waterfall

Hidden grotto with small waterfall

Coleman Lake swimming beach

Coleman Lake swimming beach

For the first time ever, we had camping equipment stolen this trip.  Saturday night (with the campground full of weekend campers) our Weber Baby Q gas grill disappeared.  We went into town Sunday to replace it, but couldn’t afford another Baby Q, and I didn’t like the cheap, flimsy model that Walmart had available.  So we returned to the campground without one.

Then Sunday evening the camp host stopped by our site carrying our grill!

“Bet you’re glad to see this!” they announced.

They had found it abandoned against a tree in the overflow parking area.  Another camper told them ours had been stolen, so they knew who it belonged to.

I had been pretty sick the first few days we were out, and the frequent rain was starting to wear on my nerves.  But I bounced back and felt a lot better so I could enjoy hiking.

And…. we found a huge amount of chanterelles!  And they wouldn’t have sprouted without all that rain.

I’ll save the chanterelle pictures for the next post.

pipsissewa

Sweet little pipsissewa (medicinal) was blooming all over the forest.

tiny islands

Little micro islands are forming on a submerged log in the lake

unknown showy white flowers

These strikingly beautiful shrubs with large, showy flowerheads were all over in the lower areas. I later identified them as Alabama's state wildflower, the oak leaf hydrangea. They are gorgeous!

common milkweed

Common milkweed were in full bloom. We only found one unopened flowerhead with the mild, broccoli flavored buds.

water arum

Water arum - wild calla

white bell flowers

Another small tree that I was not familiar with. The flowers are like small white bells. I later identified it as a sourwood tree.

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