Dinner With A View

IMAG0017We head out for our first backpacking trip of the year; mid morning in late spring. Throughout the winter we had thought of  that shameful day on the Long Trail constantly and were anxious to redeem themselves. We spent the long cold days when we couldn’t get to the slopes or out on snowshoes planning and trying recipes. We would test cooking on our new Snow Peak stove (bought on sale from REI – can not beat the bargains when you are a member!)  Graham was so excited for the new culinary adventure he bought the Microlite Dualist from MSR. A Cook pot, wash basin, 2 cups with lids and insulating liners, 2 bowls, 2 sporks and to top it off it fit your fuel canister and stove neatly inside.

Because of his career in the outdoor sports world and constant proximity to adventurers Graham not only has close access to fun gear to play with, he also has a bit of the inside scoop on where to adventure. This hike was just one of many spots that he has sourced, mapped and planned for us, never leaving home without a good sense of what to expect. Because of his thoroughness in planning we knew we would have a day of sun and possibly two of intermittent rain. Smartly we packed our rain gear and pack covers and made plans for a warm lunch on day two. We packed extra water containers knowing that our first night would be a dry camp (camping without the benefit of a close water source), wincing at the thought of having to haul the extra (but neccessary) weight.  But rain or no, scarce water or no… we were excited to be off.

We had driven up after work the previous night and slept in Cheryl’s Toyota Matrix camped at the trail head. (Yeah, thats right. Matrix. ‘Ol Trixie was an admirable adventure mobile after her own fashion.) That morning after parking Graham’s pickup at the other end of our hike we grabbed a hearty breakfast at a local spot and hit the Escarpment Trail head by the North South Lake Campground.  As we put our packs on we had to laugh. The heft was palpable. Cheryl’s hand-me-down Gregory was bursting at it’s seams and Graham’s 58 liter Osprey was full to the gills. These were certain to be 3 days with our backs bent and much grunting with each step. (Well in truth maybe only Cheryl grunts, while Graham just toils on for hours quietly suffering.)  The lure of dinner had us caught in its tasty grasp and the promise of our next meal put us on the trail and so we began to head uphill to get to the rim.

The Escarpment is a lovely little trail in the Northeastern Catskills of upstate New York that runs the rim of the Windham Blackhead Range. It skirts the North -South Lake with almost ridiculous payoff views of the Hudson River and seemingly endless mountains, when its not raining. Three hours from home and fun to walk because of its diversity in terrain and views, it is a hike we’ve returned to many times. Close proximity to civilization means that on some parts of the trail you will run into crowds but the flip side is that at the end of each day you typically find yourself alone in a park that allows you to camp wherever you choose, 100 feet from the trail, and have a fire – so long as its in an existing fire ring.

Camp along the Escarpment

Camp along the Escarpment

Late that afternoon, with every container we had full with water, we found ourselves on North Mountain. Our feet are tired, you bet our backs are sore, and you guessed it – we’re Hungry. Getting ourselves off the trail, we pushed through undergrowth to a clearing with great over look views and… found an existing fire ring, score! We set up our tent on nearby fluffy moss, gathered some firewood and hung our bear bag before making our way to a clearing about 100 feet away with yet another great view to cook our dinner. NO one wants rodent or bear company at midnight and one of the easiest ways to prevent that is to not cook or store food in your sleeping space. We don’t make camp  anywhere without hanging a bear bag to ensure that any food stuffs or personal hygiene accessories are suspended from potential bear reach and off of  tree limbs that rodents can access. Cook pots, food, toothpaste… its all in a SealLine dry bag suspended off a branch with para cord and every evening we snore peacefully without worry.

Cheryl in a North Mountain "Kitchen".

Cheryl in a North Mountain “Kitchen”.

We soon found that our dining room, while containing plentiful lovely views and many flat rocks for sitting and cooking, had one drawback. Gnats. Holy gnat fest! We must have timed it just right to hit the hour they swarm and we were swatting left and right. So now here we are – tired, sore, hungry and gnatted. Great. Pour me a glass of wine and pass the Advil… Fortunately for us, as dinner prep progressed, we found that if we turned our faces into the evenings freshening breeze the gnats would congrigate in the safety of the lee behind our heads, which really was as good as them being gone.

That night’s dinner proved to be the most tasty either of us had enjoyed on the trail to that point, and worth every grunting step. Baguette, hard parmesan cheese, savory dried sausage and pinot noir appetizers that were followed by… Salmon Penne with Peas. Hello protein, carbs & flavor! That vital third key ingredient that had been missing! Flavor!! We ate our fill and then some. And now what was this?! A bar of organic dark chocolate for dessert?! What delight! We toasted each other with smirks, cries of success and sloshing clinks of our wine “glasses”.  Oh sumptuous living! Oh luxury of flavor!! Oh my goodness… How are we going to clean this salmon up with out a ready supply of hot water?!!! Perhaps using two pots had been overkill, maybe fish on a dry camp night wasn’t such a smooth idea… We realized perhaps we still had more testing of methods to do.

Later that night after enjoying a fire the rain began to spatter on our tent, making that rhythmic pitter pat that no weary traveler can hold sway against. And we drifted off to sleep, despite sore shoulders and aching backs. We were cozy warm and dry with full bellies and no regrets.

Salmon PastaServes TwoIMAG0032

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 oz mini penne, or similar quick cook pasta
  • 4 oz foil pack precooked salmon
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • .25 oz julianned sundried tomato
  • .25 oz freeze dried green peas
  • .5 oz lemon juice in single serve packet
  • .5 oz white cooking wine
  • 1 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig fresh lemon thyme, picked & chopped
  • salt & pepper packets

Bring water and 1/2 packet of salt to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente. When pasta is 3/4 done add freeze dried peas and sundried tomato.

Meanwhile heat 1/2 your oil and sautee shallot until translucent. Deglaze with white wine and reduce heat. Add lemon juice, remaining oil, thyme and salmon. heat through and then turn off. Strain pasta reserving an ounce of the water, add salmon mixture, salt and pepper to taste, mix well and serve with a shaved parmesan garnish.

note: we used two pans for speed of cooking, however to save weight of both cook kit and fuel, this can just as easily be prepared with one. Cook the pasta first, portion it into your bowls and then top with the cooked salmon and shallots. Another hard earned tip – save this one for when you have plentiful water. We spent the next 2 days smelling salmon every time we opened our food bags.


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