The idea of camping divides many city folks. There are the “hell yes, let’s get out into nature” types; and the “hell, no, are you crazy?” people. Our family is the former, and worse than that, we like to do winter camping. Yep – it’s hard core camping in the cold. Call us crazy, if you like…
Over the June long weekend, we went camping with ‘the cousins’ at Barrington Tops National Park. We had lovely weather, ie no rain, and had a nice camping spot near the Gloucester River. That part of NSW is delightfully beautiful, with plentiful wildlife, even lyrebirds and platypus (not that anyone saw one of those shy creatures). Although the children were hoping for snow, we were not so fortunate. Or unfortunate, depending on your perspective. The kids idealize snow. I’m not sure they’d be quite so happy once they realize how cold it would be.
For those readers who are wondering why we took such a drastic action, there are some advantages to winter camping. Hear me out.
It’s quiet, relatively
So many people are put off by the cold, but the campsites tend to be empty. We often get the place to ourselves, and can spread out. The kids can ride their bikes, and run wild, without fear of upsetting any neighbours. We can talk late into the night without worrying that other campers might be wanting to sleep. It’s just us, and nature. Sure, when you add in our kid’s cousins, there are eleven of us, so it’s not exactly peaceful. The benefit is that it’s just us. Our noise. Our mob and nature. No random strangers to consider.
Several years ago, we went camping at Myall Lakes and it was the worst experience ever. It was summer, the lakes were flooded and the air was thick with mosquitoes. There was no escape. Even the strongest bug spray only kept them almost at bay. They would find the tiny gaps on your skin and attack. It was dreadful. And to cap it off, a dingo stole our soccer ball. Right out of the middle of the campsite!
Winter camping has no bugs. It’s too cold for them, so no need to slather yourself in bug spray and hope that you’ve covered every piece.
This is the best reason for winter camping. In winter, there are no fire restrictions in place. Although on this trip, we did have the excitement of seeing an out-of-control grass fire at the neighbouring farm as we drove towards the campsite. The rural fire truck sped past, and we were able to see all the action. In a National Park, you aren’t allowed to collect firewood, so we brought our own. We built a giant campfire, and spent most of the time sitting around it. We cook on it; the kids roast marshmallows (smores – if you are American); and generally relax around it. And in the evenings, Bismarck gets out his guitar and we sing enthusiastically into the night.
One evening on this trip, we played the campfire story game. Each person tells one line of a story and passes it on to the next person. These stories can take weird and wonderful adventures. This story went something like this:
There was a rainbow tree fairy.
It was so tiny, smaller than an atom.
I like dogs.
The rainbow tree fairy monster ate a carrot.
It grew and grew until it was a…
The fairy monster midget rainbow lived in a huge oak tree.
This is the complication. Someone cut down the tree. (says No3 who is learning story structure at school).
The saw went right through the middle of the tree rainbow monster fairy, cutting it in half.
Everyone was splattered with rainbow blood and became immortal.
For lunch one day, I made campfire bread in the camp oven. It’s a basic bread recipe; very easy to cook. I used the bread to make bacon sandwiches.
Campfire bread and Bacon sandwiches
- 3 cups flour
- 1 sachet yeast
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 1 tbsp butter (softened in the warm water)
- Some rosemary
Mix the bread ingredients together and knead into a nice dough. You can either mix the rosemary through the dough (which I did), or if you want just a hint, sprinkle it on top of the dough. Leave next to the fire for an hour so it can rise. Not too close. You don’t want it to cook, just be warm enough for the yeast to work. Take a camp oven, and line the bottom with tinfoil. Place the dough onto the tinfoil, and cut a cross in the top. Put the lid on the camp oven. Place some coals to the side of the fire and put the camp oven on the coals. Shovel some more coals on top of the camp oven. Leave for about 30 minutes. Rotate the oven at 15 minutes, otherwise the side near the fire will burn and the other side will be underdone. I must have left mine a bit long on one side, as it was a touch burnt on one side, but still edible.
While this bakes, cook some bacon in a fry pan. I used a camping gas cook top, but you could do this over the fire too. When the bread is done, remove from the fire and take out of the oven. Slice the bread. Butter one piece and spread aioli on the other. Put bacon on the buttered side, and lettuce on the aioli, then sandwich them together. Yum.