Camp Cooking: Wild Onions and Scrambled Eggs

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I grew up in a family of hunter and gatherers. My father, brothers, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all hunted and fished. I am sure some of it was for fun, or the challenge of getting the “big one” but the truth is we relied heavily on the food they provided to feed us. In addition to bringing home meat from hunting, my father was always bringing home food he had gathered from the wooded areas he visited; berries, wild mushrooms, and wild onions to name a few.

My mom, being an amazing cook, always seemed to know just what to do with the treats my father brought home (of course I was too young to notice that my dad taught her what to do with all the crazy things he brought home). Every spring, when the morel mushrooms popped from the warming ground, my father would bring home wild onions. My mom would cook them with eggs and serve them to us for breakfast. Or she would serve breakfast food to us for dinner.

A couple of years ago, The Todd’s invited us to go mushroom hunting in the country. Sadly, we did not find any mushrooms but we did find a large patch of wild onions. Since then, Angie brings me a batch every year. Wild Onions have a flat bright green shoot, as opposed to wild garlic which has a tubular, hollow shoot. They are tender and sweet. They freeze really well, so I always keep a bunch or two tucked away in the freezer so I can enjoy this spring meal any time of the year.

Breakfast is a big deal when we are camping. Heck, who am I kidding; breakfast is a big deal even when we are not camping. But, breakfast during a camping trip really helps us get our day going and gives us enough energy to go explore and roam. Today’s post is about sharing with you my Wild Onions and Scrambled Eggs dish.

 


Happy Eating!

me

Indian Springs Family Resort

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” -Angela Blount

We never planned to stumble onto Indian Springs Family Resort. We never planned that the state park we were in route to visiting would call and cancel our reservations due to flooding. But they did and as a direct result we stumbled into Indian Springs Family Resort.

Midwest summers tend to either have too much or too little rain. At the time of visiting Indian Springs Family Resort we were having too much. Everything around us was wet and squishy. The skies threatened every day to open up and provide more but that was not the real threat. Anyone who lives on a river knows that not only do you have to watch what is happening around you, you also have to be aware of what is going on upstream from you.

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On Memorial Weekend 2016, upstream was getting a lot of rain and was threatening flooding. When we checked in to Indian Springs, it was obvious the river was at max capacity and the staff told us upfront it was expected to crest by 2:00 a.m. They were diligently watching the conditions and they would let us know if we had to leave quickly.  We kept the trailer hitched to the truck just in case Thankfully we were not flooded out. In fact, the second morning, we got a call that our original destination was back open so we only stayed here one night and moved over to our original destination.

Indian Springs Family Resort is located in Steelville, MO literally right on the Meramec River.  The new owners, transplanted Texans, took over the ownership/management a few years ago and have been working very hard to bring their vision of a family resort to fruition.  During our impromptu visit, it was easy to see how much work is going into this resort.

As the name suggest, there are two springs on the property.  The resort has a multi-unit motel, a two-unit cabin with a shared screen porch, a four-unit cabin, a seven-unit cabin, a two bedroom house, as well as tent and RV sites for camping. Currently some of the RV sites are under construction. The sites we were in were all grass and virtually level and needed minimal leveling. The owners were in the process of adding gravel pads to the sites we were in. The RV sites currently only have 30 amp service but I would expect this to be upgraded soon as well.

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This resort offers something for everyone. As it is located on the Meramec River there is canoeing, kayaking , or rafting trips  available. The owner of the resort explained to us that all float trips originate upstream and end right at the campground. If the river is not calling your name, you can still enjoy water in the resort pool. Our girls enjoyed splashing around in the spring. There is sand volleyball and hiking available as well.

The general store has been completely redone and offers your basics. They  even a frozen ice cream case but be warned you might find other things besides ice cream in the case!  Behind the general store is a large area that is unfinished. The owner has plans for a coffee bar and gathering place in the back of the store.

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Camping fees at Indian Springs are: adults are $10.00 per person per night with an additional $15.00 per night fee for electricity and water (children under 7 are free but kids ages 8-15 are $5.00 per person per night).

I like to keep it real here so I want to put out there that this resort has its fair share of negative reviews on the internet. We experienced none of the things I read about. The bathrooms were clean. Our 30 amp service was sufficient. The owners and staff were super nice and honestly bent over backwards to fit us in. This might not be a gem of the Ozarks just yet but we think the potential is there and we look forward to watching this resort, under new ownership, come into it’s own.

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We will be forever thankful that Indian Springs took us in on a holiday weekend when we found ourselves without reservations. Our Memorial Day Weekend party of 13 unanimously agreed we would love to come back and do a float trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Spelunking at Onondaga Cave State Park

Occasionally all the parts come together in the right order and the right amounts and make something next to wonderful. Just one little alteration would change the composition and you would have a different outcome. I am not sure how, we certainly experienced more than our fair share of challenges, but our trip to Onondaga Cave State Park came together and will go down in history as one of our most favorite camping trips. We had a steady supply of laughter to balance out the frustration. We were just far enough from home that we felt like we were on a real adventure but close enough to make it home within a few hours. We had just the right mix of friends. We balanced a good dose of adventure out with some rest and relaxation. What more could you ask for in a camping trip?

Onondaga Cave State Park is located just southeast corner of the central region of Missouri. It is right off I-44 south of St. Louis and North of Rolla. From Kansas City it is 275 miles one way. We first heard about Onondaga Cave State Park from a RV friend, Jenni, who showed us breathtaking photos of Onondaga Cave. The state park has a campground with 68 camping spots (less than 50 with water and electric). We secured our reservations for this trip a long while ago, when most of you were out taking advantage of Black Friday shopping.

IMG_6854The camping pads were concrete. We had water and electricity for $22.00 a night.  We had sites 61-64 and in our opinion they were the best sites in the entire park. We had a wooded ridge on one side of us and behind our sites was a lovely tree lined creek.  Our girls spent hours splashing in the creek. On the opposite side of the creek was a large greenway that made a perfect dog-walking area. Except the traffic on the road in front of us, it felt like we were secluded in our private area of the campground. IMG_6856There was no cell service in the park but they did have wifi. I will not say it was the best wifi available but we were able to connect and be connected for periods of time.

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We have continued to teach ourselves how to geocache and by late Saturday afternoon we were ready to try and find one of the five geocaches located within the park. Out of the thirteen of us only four had even heard about this activity and half of those are still traumatized by the first attempt at geocaching. We set out to find the cache in the park amphitheater. Finding the first cache was challenging but once we found it several members of our group were immediately determined to go out and search for the next cache, even if it meant hiking steep hills and navigating some rocky terrain.  We never did find the second cache but we sure did put in the effort. We talked about that hike for the rest of the weekend!

 

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We originally desired to come to this park for one thing: spelunking or the exploration of caves. Missouri has over 6,000 caves and easily earns the title as The Cave State (hum, maybe we should be changing our tag line from The Show Me State to The Cave State).  On our second full day in the park, we made plans to tour both; Cathedral Cave and Onondaga Cave. Due to the size of our group, we were able to arrange group discounts to each cave; bringing the price down to $10.00 per adult for Onondaga and $6.00 per adult for Cathedral. I should mention that if you scoff at the cave tours and desire for something wilder, you can do that at Cathedral Cave. A group called Onondaga Friends Association offers Off Trail Wild Caving  a few times a year to small groups. If this interest you, be prepared to get wet and crawl around in parts of the cave not normally open to the public.I love spelunking but I am going to stick with the organized tours.

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Park staff lead flashlight tours of Cathedral Cave on the weekends; the tours require a short 1/3 mile hike to the cave. We had the most amazing tour guide who was informative as well as entertaining. Our guide checked for “critters” before allowing us into the cave; I did not realize at the time she was looking for snakes. Ignorance really is bliss! As we entered the cave, we were ushered into an air lock room, a large concrete room that allowed us to close the door to the outside before opening the door to the cave. This minimizes the amount of air allowed into the cave, therefore protecting the delicate ecosystem of the cave. We were greeted by “locals” in the air lock room; three rather large wolf spiders! Thankfully for us, they were skittish and kept their distance during our short time in the room.

 

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As we climbed the stairs down into the cave, another cave dweller waited to greet us, a cave salamander. Using flashlights, because the cave is not lit, you will see stalagmites, stalactites, columns, soda straws, Stromatolites (fossilized algal beds), and great amounts of cave coral.  We were lucky enough to spot two grotto salamanders in the creek that runs through the cave. Unlike cave salamanders, grotto salamanders never leave the cave. They are born sited and with pigment but as they age, their eyes seal shut and they lose their skin pigment (who needs skin color or eye site in a dark cave?).  By the time they are adults they are blind and colorless almost translucent.

 

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Deep into Cathedral Cave is a Seismic Station that is constantly gathering earthquake measurements and sending them to the Earthquake Center in Colorado.. Right after the Seismic Station, we went down a 65 foot switchback taking us to the curtain the cave is named after Cathedral Curtain.  We traveled approximately 260 feet below the surface during our tour of Cathedral Cave. My overall impressions of this cave is just how big it is. I never felt confined during any part of this tour. During the tour, the guide had us turn our lights off to experience the darkness of the cave. The depth of darkness is beyond any words I can find to describe it. If I had not been touching my daughters shoulders I would never have known she was standing right in front of me.

 

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After touring Cathedral Cave a lunch break was needed. It is down right amazing how hungry you can get hiking around in the Ozarks! I also needed time to recharge my camera battery as I ran out of camera juice in the first thirty minutes of being in the cave.

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The entrance to Onondaga Cave is  located at the Visitor Center. Out of the two cave systems in this park, Onondaga is the more visited, more commercial cave. Flashlights are not needed when visiting as the pathways are lit. I also noticed baby strollers on the paths, so I would say there is some accessibility but I also noticed part of the tour the path gets tight and involves a large incline/decline. There is a waiting area for those who do not want to go onto this part of the path, so I would say you could make your own decisions about accessibility. We had a 90 something year old man on our tour (he had previously visited the cave in the early 1940’s when he was a young teen) , walking the entire time.

 

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Just like Cathedral Cave, you have to enter an air lock room before entering the cave. The one at Onondaga is much cleaner than Cathedral (we were not greeted by wolf spiders) and it is equipped with red lights to help our eyes get use to the dimmer light conditions. Onondaga Cave is beautiful, you will still see the same cave features as Cathedral, but our overall impression is we enjoyed our time in Cathedral Cave more so than Onondaga.  Onondaga does have a lost river running through out it. The 90 year old gentleman on our tour told us he remembers his first visit (around 1942) he entered the cave by boat. At times the water seems stagnate but it is in fact running; a former cave owner even built a small waterfall to prove to the public that it was indeed running.

 

 

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Onondaga Cave has a few mentionable features: The Twins are duo stalagmites, The Rock of Ages, the King’s Canopy, The Queen’s Canopy, and the Big Room. Just in case you wondered we did learn some cave lingo: Stalagmites grow from the ground  and might reach the ceiling one day where Stalactites hang tight from the ceiling. When the two of those meet they create a column. Our favorite mentionable feature of Onondaga Cave was the Lily Pad Room; a room full of speleothems and water.

 

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During our tour of Onondaga Cave, we met a very nice lady from Rhode Island who was visiting Missouri with her husband. Their 21 year old son is currently stationed here and they came to celebrate his 21st birthday with him. We invited them back to our campsite after the cave tour to celebrate his birthday with an adult beverage and ended up getting a great lesson in how to play Bocci Ball from some folks who were really good. It was great to meet new friends while we travel and I do believe we are all addicted to the game of Bocci.
In a recent study it was found that in the last year campers preferred public campgrounds to private campgrounds two to one (this has increased from the previous year). Onondaga Cave State Park is a perfect example of why state parks are becoming more popular. Besides hiking, visitors to this park can explore two cave systems, or spend their time playing in the Merrimac River either fishing, floating, splashing, or swimming. The camping pads are top notch and you get water and electric for $22.00 a night. If you are needing a summer weekend get away, we would highly recommend giving Onondaga State Park a try.

Want some more, check out our video!

 

When Roaming With Friends Does Not Go As Planned

I am a planner. I love to research, organize and generally plan which is a valuable skill/trait to have when organizing camping trips for a group of people.. I would say that most of my planning leads to camping trips that go off as smooth as a babies bottom. However, some times even the best laid plans can be interrupted and we experience moments that are are rocky and full of challenges! Memorial Day Weekend 2016 was one of those types of camping trips.

Our plan was to travel 275 miles one way from Kansas City to Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, MO with four families, four diesel trucks pulling four campers and thirteen people.  Reservations were made way back in the middle of winter (Black Friday to be exact).  We knew about road construction and made alternative driving plans and secured a meeting spot. We were on our way by 9:30 a.m. Friday, May 27.

I did not plan to encounter a Non-RV Friendly WalMart:

Our first pit stop was scheduled for Sedalia, Missouri were we selected the Wal Mart to pit stop at because every RV’er knows that WalMart’s are camper friendly and we could access a variety of restrooms and businesses. What we would never have imagined is that the Wal Mart in Sedalia, Missouri is not  camper friendly.  They have large steel overhead barriers set at 12’6″ over every single entrance which is problematic if your fifth wheel is 13 feet. Imagine if you will: traffic backing up as you have to reverse yourself back under those overhead barriers that you nearly got stuck under. Then, imagine, if you are lucky enough to find the delivery entrance then you are left to maneuver rows of cars, pedestrians in a bustle to shop, or random stop signs strategically placed throughout the parking lot. Note to my future self: when planning a pit stop don’t make the assumption that all WalMart Shopping Centers are camper friendly.

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I did not plan for us to be impacted by flooding:

We stopped for a late lunch in the small town of Freeburg, Missouri. Freeburg is half way between Jefferson City and Rolla on Highway 63. We have been making the same food stop for the past several years because the small cafe has a really big parking lot. Big enough to hold four big trucks pulling four big RV’s and still plenty of room to maneuver.  Shortly after we ordered our food, cell phones began to ring with an automated message from the campground we were heading to:  “The campground closed due to flooding. Our money has been refunded.”

We were homeless for the night; except we were not. We were driving around with our home on wheels with no place to park them. We we found ourselves trying to finding a place to camp late Friday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully the good folks at the cafe allowed us to connect to wifi and the cell phones went into overtime.  By the end of our meal, we had secured four sites, in the same park, we were no longer homeless!  However, we never shook the threat of flooding, it hung around us all night long. The new RV park, despite granting us refuge, warned us that the Meramec River that ran through the property was swollen to its limits and was threatening to overflow. Which would result in the flooding of the campground.

I did not plan to find a new hidden gem in the Ozarks:

Because our plans changed so drastically in such a short time, we were forced to explore outside of our state park comfort zone. We found a potential hidden gem in the making. Indian Springs Family Resort is the type of tucked away quiet place we would like to camp at again and perhaps even enjoy a canoe trip down the Merrimack  River.

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I did not plan that we would not be able to enter the park:

Saturday morning dawned with no more flooding. We also received word that our desired campground had reopened. Excitedly we packed up and set about moving from one location to the next. Our excitement quickly vanished when we arrived at the desired park and learned their main entrance was still flooded and we would have to access the campground via  a secondary entrance. The secondary entrance consisted of a 90 degree turn with a dip between the blacktop and the entrance.

Lined up we took our turn attempting to make the difficult entry into the park. One camper made it through, the second lost a stabilizer jack, the third camper came inches from bottoming out, and the fourth camper did bottom out on the dip, losing a spare tire. After two attempts from two different directions, it became obvious to all that the fourth RV was not going to enter the park through this secondary entrance.  With the assistance of a park representative, we explored potential solutions. Quickly we eliminated driving through the flood waters that blocked the main entrance (it was estimated to be 5 to 6 feet deep). The only solution left was to drive that huge fifth wheel off the side of the road and through a muddy field, I wish I would have caught that on video! Instead, let me just say, it was a sight to see.

I did not plan to meet total strangers and invite them to our campsites:

We had selected Onondaga Cave State Park because we wanted to see the caves and since we were able to get tucked away all nice like in our camping spots, cave exploring is what we wanted to do. The first cave tour we went on required a 1/3 mile hike uphill, an hour long hike inside the cave, and of course a 1/3 mile hike back down the hill. It ended up being too much for one of our friends who gracefully excused themselves for the second tour. That lead us to meeting new friends who were visiting Missouri from Rhode Island. Their son is active duty military stationed here in Missouri and was celebrating his 21st birthday. We had such a great time meeting them that we invited them back to our campsites to have a birthday adult beverage. We never planned to get a private lesson on how to play bocci ball and share many laughs with our new friends.

I never planned for the trip home to take 9 hours:

Monday afternoon as we began our travel home, a few of our friends decided to leave early. The rest of us had planned to play on Route 66 a bit before we committed to driving north.  Just about the time we hit Cuba, Missouri and Historic Route 66, the text messages started. One of our friends was broken down along side the road. As we made our way over to him, our other friend texted us to let us know he was also broke down on the side of the road. Both of them were experiencing malfunctions with their turbo’s. When we reached the couple closest to us, Allen was able to diagnose that the induction hose had come off the turbo. He quickly fixed it and we were all three on the road. He called ahead to the friend who was broken down much further down the road and coached him on checking the induction hose. His had fallen off as well. Both vehicles were up and going and we were once again heading northwest towards home. However; the friend traveling with us, kept losing that induction hose and we kept stopping every 11 miles or so. When we reached Jefferson City, we pulled over and unhitched so we could go to an auto parts store for a new clamp. The new clamp did the trick and we were able to make the rest of the way home; going 60 miles an hour so as not to tempt fate.

I never planned to spend an hour at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Headquarters and locate an old friend:

The last place we lost the clamp holding the induction valve on was just outside Jefferson City. We pulled into the first place we could find that looked large enough to hold three RV’s and it was the Highway Patrol Headquarters. We camped out in their parking lot for close to an hour. They were so polite. The officers assured us they would rather we be broken down in their parking lot than on the highway. They allowed us use of their bathrooms. They even gave the kids (and maybe adults) a sleeve badge! And….I even found out that a dear friend of mine from college,  whom I have long ago lost contact with,  is stationed at that headquarters!

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Sometimes plans do not go as planned. Life is going to throw us curve balls. The best advice I can give you is to go with it, because sometimes life will give you a moment to remember forever, introduce you with a new favorite, create new relationships,  or strengthen old friendships.In the midst of challenging times you can still have a wonderful time.  Memorial Weekened 2016 was just like that for us (full of unplanned events and challenges) but in reflecting back, all thirteen of us agreed, it was an amazing weekend and none of us wanted to leave Onondaga Cave State Park.