After breaking the frost off our blankets and tents, we cooked a quick, hot breakfast of hash, eggs, toast and oatmeal. Thanks to Tuscany Coffee, I had some amazing freshly ground Guatemalan beans. The smell of the beans in the car had been tempting us the entire drive up (the first time my bag came open and the scent wafted through the car, our friends exclaimed, “Who baked cookies!?!?”), and I finally brewed us all some delicious coffee. We set off for Boquillas canyon, for a leisurely morning hike. What we did not expect to find were the trinkets left on the US side of the canyon for sale by Mexicans from Boquillas del Carmen, and another Mexican (“Victor”) fishing by the Rio who serenaded us for tips. Winds from the canyon blew all the sand up to form a sand dune several hundred feet tall, which we climbed and “skied” down. It was pretty amazing.
After the canyon, we drove to the hot springs. Back in the day, there was an actual resort at Big Bend, with a store and bathhouses. Now, some buildings remain, and one of the springs still flows next to the Rio. By noon it was comfortably 70 degrees and we were pleased to be out in the sun by the water. But the day was getting on and we wanted to set up camp before the chill set in.
A park ranger recommended Camp Chilicotal. Well, to be precise, we asked about a site near the river and he asked if we wanted to die. Since the answer was no, he recommended the site, located in the back country and accessible only by 4WD. When we got out there, we saw why. The camp looks out toward Mount Chilicotal and over gorgeous desert land. We arrived and began the familiar routine – I began dinner while everyone else set up camp.
Dinner this time was a bit more difficult as in a backcountry site, all food (even trash and scraps) must be carefully packed in and out. Luckily, I had pre-chopped the veggies as in my chili entry. Tonight’s dinner was to be spaghetti with venison sausage – from a deer provided by a friend of ours.
After dinner proved to be an adventure. I suggested a late night hike, and we bundled into a chilly car for a windy drive up to a secluded canyon (all this should have set alarm bells off). We ignored all the warning signs (as well as the written ones and the GATE ACROSS THE ENTRANCE TO THE TRAIL), but turned around when we saw GIANT PAW PRINTS AND SCAT only to see a huge cat-like visage shining in our headlamps. Yes, this intrepid/idiotic explorer ran into a mountain lion hiking late at night. Never again, never again.
Spaghetti with a view
The nice thing about this recipe is the main components are dry – spaghetti sauce from a jar, and dried spaghetti. The bummer is that if you’re backcountry camping you’ll have to use some of your precious water to boil the spaghetti. I addressed this dilemma by pouring in only enough water to cover the spaghetti, then boiling until just done. You won’t be able to use the recommended several quarts of water – but you’ll probably be so hungry you won’t want to wait for that much water to come to a boil, anyway.
Prep: Chop an onion and some green pepper into a container. If you wish, you may pre chop some venison sausage or your meat of choice. Since the sausage is pre-cooked and vacuum sealed, I felt comfortable waiting and chopping it on site.
Equipment: You will need a large pot (the dutch oven mentioned before works well) and a colander. To handle the spaghetti, you will need tongs, and something to stir with. You can cook this on a camp stove or a hot fire. Again, don’t forget your soap & sponge!
Boil the spaghetti in a bit of water in your dutch oven until just done. Carefully pour out the water and save the spaghetti in a colander. If you are very anal about backcountry camping you may want to save your pasta water. Sautee your veggies and sliced meat. When veggies are done, heat the spaghetti sauce and add back pasta. Ding! Dinner is served. If you wish, you may use a cast iron skillet to concurrently toast some bread as I did 🙂
Flickr set from day 2 here!