Just about an hour and 15 minutes away from Pittsburgh in Youngstown, Ohio, you can spend the day exploring the trails of Mill Creek Metro Park.
We picked a beautiful fall day. Since it is Youngstown, I didn’t have high hopes, but was pleasantly surprised at the unique bridges, surprise rock formations, and the old mill, Lanterman’s Mill. The park wasn’t well marked, but it was clean and safe. The terrain was easy to medium level of difficulty.
While so many new people took up camping as a way to get out during the pandemic, we did the opposite. We were already having doubts that our bathroom-less Aliner was going to be with us for much longer and, boom! The RV market exploded. While normally numb to economic conditions, we posted it for sale on RV Trader, sold it in less than a week, thanked if for its service, and delivered it halfway to its new owners.
Our dog is getting up there in years. He is in good shape, but doesn’t quite get in and out of things as easily as he use to. With a lifelong preference for a human camp chair over anything else, I wondered what he was going to do now that he would have trouble getting in one without help. And besides, his trusty blue chair was falling apart. It just wasn’t going to make it through the summer. He needed a dog bed for camping.
After reading a few reviews, we quickly bought the K&H PET PRODUCTS Original Bolster Pet Cot Elevated Pet Bed on Amazon. It came quickly and was super easy to put together. It seemed sturdy enough, even though the legs and corners were plastic. We sat it in the kitchen and the dog only sat in it when he was promised a treat. Reluctance at best. A losing proposition I thought.
This handsome boy is about 75 pounds and we bought the large-size cot.
Then we took it to camp and placed a light blanket on it. After his initial sniffing around he strolled right over to it and plopped down like it was meant to be. He barely moved for hours. He went back to it every chance he got. Other dogs would pass by the site and bark at him, bikes would pass, kids would run and he never moved, sometimes barely looking up. This was good. This is how old dogs do it. This is camping at its best.
He really doesn’t like to get out of it. It has become the first thing out of the truck when we arrive and the last thing in the truck when we depart. It is easy to take apart and slide into the backseat on the floor. He even likes you to fold the bumper so he can continue to rest his paws and head on it in the truck. No problems after several uses. I have hosed it off and let it dry in the sun with no issues, but I was careful not to soak the bumper.
The dog votes this as the single best camping product of the year, perhaps his lifetime. Just so he has someone to shift it to follow the sun path, he is one happy camper.
While remote work is a thing, can you reliably get Internet access at Raystown Lake? We recently tested this using a Verizon MiFi for several days. Here’s how it worked…
It was a spur of a moment decision…feeling a bit stir crazy and knowing the weather was only going to be friendly to be outside for a short period of time, a Sunday discussion turned into a spontaneous remote work week. Our first step was to secure an Internet connection. We headed to our local Verizon Wireless store and walked out with a Verizon Jetpack® MiFi® and an unlimited data plan. Forty-eight hours later, our camper was packed with just our essentials and we headed out to one of our favorite spots, Seven Points Recreation Area in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, lucky enough to snag a reservation for a lake-front site.
With the sun out on a nice fall day, I settled in for a long day of online meetings in my old REI Zero-Gravity recliner (which didn’t make it home by the way) with a view of the lake.
We also had the table in the Aliner set up as a desk and between two of us, we moved back and forth between working spots based on noise levels and task at hand.
The day went off without issue! Two laptops stayed connected the entire day without the MiFi being plugged in. By 5 o’clock, it was ready to be charged. In the evenings, we were able to freely access streaming services.
Day two was a repeat of the positive experience including the wonderful weather.
Completely loved the change of scenery! It was a great mental health break from our walls of home and opens up lots of opportunities for spring. Now, about the packed parks and struggles to even get a spot… not sure that is getting better any time soon.
When looking for ideas, I came across a post and honed in on this one called Angel Pies. Being big Angel Food cake fans, this one is a perfect sweet treat with very little effort.
Brush pie iron with a little butter. Put two thin slices from a loaf of angle food cake. (The kind from the grocery store works best, as it is not as soft as the kind made at home from a box.) Use any of the following fillings:
cherry pie filling
sliced bananas with a little bit of caramel ice cream topping and some chopped walnuts
strawberries with a squirt of whipped cream
canned vanilla or chocolate pudding sprinkled with nuts
Put into pie iron and toast over campfire until done, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from iron and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar.
While crumbly cornbread is still good, it is kind of a love hate thing… you wish it just wouldn’t crumble so much. It gets all over the place you end up with a butter stain on your best t-shirt.
I tried a new cornbread recipe and it didn’t crumble, but was still very good. Almost cake like in texture, this stayed together and would be perfect for camp along side a pot of dutch oven chili. Or, for breakfast… I love cornbread spread with butter and topped with blueberries. Add a cup of coffee and it is one delightful camp breakfast. (While I forgot to photograph the baked cornbread, I did happen to remember to snap this.)
The recipe was from a copycat cookbook that I no longer have by Todd Wilber… and it turns out that after a simple search, he’s still at recreating restaurant favorites at home. Some of our favorite regular recipes came from his first book, so dig in and see what appeals to you.
Back to this cornbread. It is suppose to resemble Marie Callender’s “Famous Golden Cornbread”. I’ve never had Marie Callender’s cornbread, so I can’t tell you if that is true. I actually never knew it as a restaurant, but frozen food items. (I guess it is the same as Perkins… who knew?) For a denser, no-crumble corn bread, try it. While I made this at home in a glass pan, my next try is cast iron. I would probably make this at home first and take to camp, as I have very little luck baking things over a fire.
Marie Callender’s Famous Golden Cornbread with Honey Butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup honey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all the dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add the milk, shortening, and egg and mix only until all the ingredients are well combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into a greased 8×8-inch pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool slightly before slicing. Slice with sharp knife into 9 pieces. Serve warm with honey butter, if desired.
For the honey butter, use a mixer on high speed to whip 1/2 cup softened butter and 1/3 cup honey together until smooth and fluffy.
We set out on a road trip after landing in Seattle to drive the Cascade Loop. Our first stop on the first day was Wallace Falls State Park in Snohomish County, Washington near a small town called Gold Bar.
Arriving on a Tuesday morning in mid July before the park officially open, we set out following Wallace Falls Trail. The park was not crowded, of course, as it was only a little after seven in the morning. We were still on east coast time, so it felt like it was getting late in the day to us.
At the parking lot, you’ll find a well-kept restroom, a park map and trash canisters. You will need a Discover Pass to do this trail. These are $10 for a day and available at the entrance to the park or online prior to your visit. We got ours online and therefore could go into the park and start hiking prior to the visitor booth being open.
You start the trail down a long meadow-like opening along power lines. The first sight of the Cascades lets you see some key peaks. It is nice, but the power lines make a good picture impossible. Right after this, you start heading slightly uphill to the start of the trail which brings you through a maze-type gate to keep people from bring vehicles onto it. This is a foot trail only.
Climbing steadily along the Wallace River, the scenery is beautiful with dense forests, rocky banks, and rushing water at every turn. It is divided into three sections—the lower falls, the middle falls and the upper falls. By the time you get to the upper falls, you’ll climb about 1400 feet in elevation over about 4 1/2 miles. It is considered a “moderate” trail.
The lower falls lookout area is quite nice and gives you a great view of all three falls looking up the mountain.
Between the lower falls and the middle falls, you will encounter a section of quite a few switchbacks. But when you get to the middle falls look out area, you’ll be greeted with not only a gushing, powerful waterfall, but also a nice view of the lush green landscape capped by the far away mountains.
The hike between the middle falls and the upper falls is steep, but not very long. The upper falls is just that—the top part of the waterfall. You’ll find some large rocks to take a brief rest before heading back down.
Our take: This was a wonderful hike with moments of interest at every step of the trail. From lush ferns and mosses, to large spiders, and slugs and from rocky steps to amazing, gushing waterfalls. We loved every bit of this one. Allow about 4-5 hours total if you slow to take pictures and investigate nature like we do. We also found our new hiking poles very helpful on this one due to its rocky climb.
This trail is not suited for small children or small dogs prone to breathing problems, especially in the summer. It can also be hard on the knees for people who have known issues.
If you are short on time, consider going only as far as the middle falls. You’ll have seen the best parts of the falls, have had a great hike in, and saved yourself an hour or so.
Since it was our first trip to Hawaii and therefore Maui, we had a pretty packed agenda of things we wanted to see and do. One of these was to see the sunrise at Haleakala National Park. On the day we were leaving, we did just that. After all, we could sleep on the planes, as we had a long trek back to Pennsylvania.
We didn’t hike, we drove. The hike is too long to do at that time of the day and weather changes quite a bit on the way up. Driving wasn’t bad though. It is steep, but plenty of switchbacks ease the climb.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Seeing sun, water, clouds and rock from the beautiful summit is breathtaking.
Tips for visiting Haleakalā National Park for Sunrise
Get there early. It gets crowded. They do limit the number of cars and have two lots at the top, but it can be hard to find a great spot to view the sunrise once everyone has arrived.
Wear layers. It gets progressively colder as you go up the mountain and while standing outside, you will want a warmer jacket or sweatshirt.
Take your time. Everyone books it out of there after the sun has risen. Take advantage of your location by staying a bit longer to take photos and investigate the unique natural habitat.
Kipa hou mai.
Why is this a road trip? They only way to get up the summit that I know of is by car or hiking. Maui is a right for a rental car as the sites to see are far apart and along windy places of rock and water. While you probably have to take a plane first, once you are there, this is a road trip you’ll want to take.
If there was one good thing that ever came out of a smoking addiction, this is it. Back when we were young and invincible, a smoking habit led to the acquisition of the Marlboro Cookbook. This is one of the many gems in that book. And, although the smoking days ended long ago, we’ve been making it as our special “last night at camp” meal for many years. It is awesome.
You don’t need to reserve this for camp, although I’m convinced that the great outdoors enhances its flavor. It can be broiled or grilled at home too.