As I mentioned before, two of our closest friends are likely to move out of the state this year, so we have lately been making an effort to appreciate and explore LA and the surrounding areas. Previously, we went on a day trip to Solvang, where I had a surprisingly nice vegan meal at Bit O’Denmark. This time we planned a camping trip. We all agreed on woodsy camping and eventually Eric found Table Mountain Campground in Wrightwood, about two hours from our home. We estimated that the tent, sleeping bags, two coolers, four chairs, personal bags, and other supplies would not all fit in the trunk of a regular car, so we rented a Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab extended bed. This turned out to be a great decision because the truck gave us plenty of room for all of our luggage, but was also super comfortable for the ride to and from the campground.
I put a lot of thought into food that would be easy, filling, and easily made vegan for me. Before the trip, we bought a Coleman Matchlight 2-Burner Propane Stove. I thought that this would be really useful because, although each campsite has a grill, the stove allowed us to cook two things at once and allowed us to cook something warm for lunch without setting up the charcoal grill again.
We chose campsite #103, in the Zuni loop. It had lots of shade and a great view and was spaced pretty far away from the other campsites, giving us privacy. The only downside was that the bathroom was literally a short hike away. The hill we had to hike up to get to the bathroom, combined with the 7,500 foot elevation left us huffing and puffing every time we had to make the climb. Something worth knowing about Table Mountain is that you can reserve a campsite, but once you are there, you can change to any other unreserved site, so if you find one with a better view, you are free to move. Some sites are first come, first served, so this is a good way to get them. Overnight camping on a single site is $20 per night.
We left early on Friday afternoon and made it to the site with enough time to set up before making dinner. I knew that we would want something quick and easy for dinner after the drive and all the setting up, so I planned on burgers for everyone and Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties for me. We cut up tomatoes and onions at home and totally forgot to get them out of the cooler Friday night, so our burgers were pretty plain. I also cubed up a package of Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Tofu, Teriyaki Flavor, before we left. I wrapped the cubes in tinfoil and cooked it on the grill. It was actually a really tasty addition to my veggie burger, all on its own.
The next morning, I woke up really early (to use the restroom) and got a chance to see the sunrise. I decided to set up the propane stove and make some tea. I was so glad that we brought the tea kettle, because this was a nice treat. I then set up breakfast for everyone… we had cereal with soy milk as well as bagels and fruit. After a simple breakfast, we were ready for the day.
The great thing about camping in the forest is the hiking. During our two off-trail hiking adventures, we came across beautiful views, steep hills, fallen trees, and fleeting glimpses of deer running deeper in the forest.
After our hike on day two, we were pretty hungry, so we headed back for hot dogs. They had kosher dogs and I ate Lightlife Smart Dogs.
They taste exactly how I remember cheap hot dogs tasting. It was nice to have something quick and easy to grill. I put spicy mustard and chopped tomatoes on them.
That night, while they had grilled pollo asada, I had an awesome foil pack meal, grilled corn, and grilled veggies. Prior to the trip, I had done a lot of searching online for recipe ideas and really liked the idea of foil pack meals. I adapted this BBQ Party Pack recipe from Vegan Yack Attack.
I just made a few changes, though. Instead of chopped onion, I threw in some Pearl Onions from a frozen bag that I bought at Trader Joe’s. I decided to double the spices in the recipe. I also took Yack Attack’s suggestion and added chickpeas. I also steamed some tempeh, to get the bitterness out, then cubed it and left it in a container of the following marinade, then spooned out the tempeh pieces and added them to the foil pack right before grilling it.
- 1/4 cup liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves
I was really looking forward to this meal and for good reason, because it turned out delicious. The bell peppers and the tempeh were the best part. The only bad thing was that I should have chopped the carrots MUCH smaller because they took so long to cook. They never softened much and I ended up eating around them, mostly. The foil pack was simple and a very clever way to have a whole meal without a pot, also effectively keeping my food separate from the meat on the grill.
We all ended up with plenty of food. Get a load of my full plate!
A while after dinner we made s’mores (I used vegan ingredients).
We all got ready for bed and a movie. We brought a small camping table into the tent, set it up at our feet, and watched The Cabin in the Woods on my laptop. I thought it would be cute and clever to watch a scary movie set in the woods while we were camping in the woods, but it just made it harder to hike up to the bathroom that night!
The next morning, we expected to have chocolate chip pancakes, but the propane stove heated up so hot that the outside of the pancakes were burning before the inside had cooked. We abandoned that idea, just packed up early, and stopped for breakfast on our way home.
The lesson for me was that vegan camping is actually quite easy. Foods that are commonly eaten while camping are easily veganized.
I hope this post helps others plan for a dual dining camping trip!
A few tips for future campers:
- Definitely bring a tablecloth for your picnic table. I bought tablecloth fabric from a Joann’s near me that is relocating and liquidating all of their material.
- Go to a Dollar Tree or 99 cent store for the majority of your supplies. We found big plastic clips there that held the tablecloth down and attached the trash bag to the side of the table.
- Bring lots of water. For the four of us, for essentially two full days, we drank 6 gallons of water.
- Fill large tupperware bins 1/4 full and freeze in advance of the trip. Run warm water over the outside of the tupperware containers to release the ice blocks. They have less surface area than ice cubes and melt slower. Ours lasted us the whole weekend.
- Freeze all of your food that can handle it… it will work as ice packs as well.
- Bring reusable water bottles to drink from since you can also use them on hikes.
- Bring walkie-talkies for the hike to the bathroom at night – cell phones don’t always work in the forest!