We awoke Thursday to the pounding of rain on the roof and raw, bone chilling temperatures. I decided this would be a good day to put my famous “camp chili” in the crock pot and warm up the cabin, as well. Prepared from scratch at home, I blanch and peel the plum tomatoes, dump browned ground meat (this year it was venison), onions, bell and hot peppers, chili powder, tomato paste and bay leaf into the crock pot for eight hours, adding kidney beans the last 15 minutes. Paired with corn muffins, it’s a camp meal for the gods.
It was, however, still in the freezer, so I had to improvise. Hearing pounding, Ron came out to find me banging the ziplock bag of frozen chili against the edge of the concrete porch. “That’s not gonna work,” he said, seconds before the bag broke in half. It was one of those “Ha ha!” moments. He just shook his head in continuing wonder at the ingeniousness of his wife in the wild.
It was then I realized that I had forgotten the corn muffins! Now, it’s just not chili without a big corn muffin. I’m terrible at baking them, and in past years discovered it was next to impossible to find corn muffins above I-80. Don’t ask me why. You can find blueberry, cranberry, banana nut, chocolate, bran muffins, but nary a corn muffin in sight! So, the past couple years, I have stocked up on them at BJs (the best tasting and value, IMO) in preparation for vacation, and I had 18 corn muffins — home in the freezer. Arggghh! I added corn muffins to the list of provisions we needed to pick up, hoping for the best.
We had to store-hop from Delullo’s Supermarket in Weedville to the Walmart and Giant Eagle in St. Mary’s to get everything we needed and, as I feared, no corn muffins. We settled for blueberry and returned to the warm cabin and a hot meal. There was a break in the rain, so we took our after-dinner coffee out to the porch. A skittering sound in the roof had us both turning to see what was “skittering.” Imagine our surprise when a red squirrel popped its head out of a hole in the corner of the porch ceiling! What the….?! It jumped onto the adjacent low roof, turned around, stared at the cabin’s newest residents, and took off.
“Can that thing get into the cabin?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer, I went inside and inspected the walls and ceilings, and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that the renovations done some years before basically made the original CCC exterior a shell over the tightly sealed new walls and ceilings. During our stay, this little guy and a few of his friends amused us as they entered and exited the two openings in the porch ceiling, popping their little heads in and out like a “Whack a Mole” game as we snapped pictures of them.
Taking advantage of the lull in the rain, we took a ride on Tyler Road, a dirt thoroughfare winding through the park, and spotted more deer than I’ve ever seen up in that area. Exiting Tyler onto Rte. 255 right above Penfield, we saw a bull elk. It is unusual to see elk that far from Benezette, but fellow campers told us that a herd of about 25 elk had recently migrated down to the Parker Dam State Park area.
Back at the cabin, we were lounging on the porch when our serenity was disturbed by a big pickup with a rack of running lights on the roof, which roared into the site next door to us. Two young women in long blue dresses disembarked, followed by a young man. They went into the cabin, retrieved a couple of coolers and got back into the truck, which roared away to the encampment below. We were surprised to discover that, while we were out shopping evidently, a congregation of Mennonites had moved into several cabins below us and next door. The site next door was being used as a “pit stop” and storage cabin, holding supplies and serving as sleeping quarters for a couple of young women, and an extra shower for the rest of their group. They held all their activities and meals on the other cabin sites. They were pleasant and their kids were respectful, but just as noisy as everyone else’s.
We were driven back inside when the rain started up again and kept on until dawn. We got into our comfy clothes, turned on the radio, played a few hands of 500 Rummy (I always win), and sacked out. (To be continued)
Ch. 1; Ch. 3; Ch. 4, Ch. 5; Ch. 6