Campfire Fried Chicken

Call me a city slicker, but who knew you could fry chicken over a campfire?

When we arrived our first night at the lodge in Wyoming, we pulled up near the campfire area and saw someone tending a campfire with a giant iron pot on top.

Huh.  Cooking on the campfire.  This seemed like advanced camping cooking to me — I personally only trust newbie campfire foods, like marshmallows and hot dogs.  (My friends tried to make campfire nachos one trip — a nice idea, but they came out TERRIBLY…the random sticks they put on the fire made such acrid smoke that it made the chips taste disgusting.)

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of the campfire chicken… I was too busy trying to shoo a stray dog away from the fire.  The poor thing kept trying to lick the chicken greased lid of the pot, but not being too smart, it didn’t realize (multiple times) that the lid was hot!

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Basque doggy basking in the sun, hoping for a snack handout.

We found out that Basque sheepherders move through the area with their sheep, wagons (like wooden covered wagons/mobile homes!), families, and dogs.  This dog got separated from the group, but nobody decided to come looking for it, so it  hung around at the lodge/campground hoping for some food.

In the first Wyoming post, I mentioned we were a little fearful about the food situation.  An hour and a half+ away from the nearest grocery store?  New, unknown staff?  No electricity?  I was envisioning horrible lumpy biscuits and gravy, tough gross meat, and instant mashed potatoes.

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This is not your average camping dinner. Mmm! Dinner the second night, as described below.

Um, can I have a HALLELUJAH for our wonderful cook?  She was an angel.  She not only cooked for about 20-25 people (full breakfasts and dinners) but made lunches for everyone, cleaned up, did all the dishes, checked guests in, and cleaned cabins and probably a million other things I never saw.

Sadly, I don’t have pictures of the campfire chicken — curses!  I was shocked though.  I’m a lazy food snob — I don’t like most fried chicken (greasy and slimy) and I usually can’t be bothered with bones in my meat.  (I just want to eat.  Give me the delicious things ready to put in my mouth!)

It was -amazing-.

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One of the other guests’ dogs looking at our food. It was so cute, but unfortunately the dog had to suffer seeing a group of 12’s meals right by the window!

I did recover from my shock the next night and took pictures of dinner.  Holy.  Cow.

Steaks grilled over the campfire — SOFT and delicious and juicy, I can’t even comprehend how they did it over a campfire…it’s hard enough making a good steak on a stove in your house.  Sweet potatoes au gratin.  Herbed biscuits.  Sweet tea.  (Mmmm.)  Salad with fresh ingredients!  Grilled veggies.  Other things I forget.  TWO CAKES.

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Yummmmm. Cake. And yes, those are kerosene lanterns.

The only time they turned on the generator was to use their washing machine and dryer, to power the internet once or twice a week to check lodge email, and to occasionally use the lights to clean the kitchen.  I’m still in awe!  I’m so not used to living like that.

What amazed me was that people would wander in — hikers, fishermen, and more than once the forest service weirdos (in our three day trip…what???) wondering if they could buy dinner or whatever.  It’s not a restaurant, people!  The cook was so amazing though — she usually was able to accommodate these random people.

Moral of the story — praise your southern cook highly, and tip her well!  I’m usually hungry for snacks all the time — I was NEVER hungry between meals at this place, despite horseback riding and hikes and running after small children.  :)

** New theme, guys!  You probably wouldn’t notice unless you actually visit my actual blog, rather than the wordpress reader/RSS feed/etc. Any thoughts?  How do the pictures/layout look?**

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Wagons North!

Alright, so we didn’t take covered wagons, but it sure felt like it at some points…

[Edited to add… in my excitement, I forgot to mention this is the beginning of our Wyoming trip.  Whoops!]

My dad’s family is quite small — my dad has one brother, and my dad’s parents were both only children.  I’m an only child, and my uncle has four children.  The last time we all got together, I was four years old, and we went to an amazing dude ranch in Montana.  Horseback riding!  Berry picking!  Hiking!  Swimming in the pond!  Swinging on a rope in the mess hall!

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Me and my cousin outside the bunk house at Cheff Ranch, Montana.

This time, they decided we had to go back to a ranch/lodge that my uncle worked at one summer in high school.  I call this a ranch very loosely — usually when you think of ranches, you think of rolling landscapes covered with scrub or grass, in valleys or plains.  This was like…mountains with baby valleys.

My mom and I are the queens of preparation — so when we looked at the website of this place, and saw it was under new management, and they didn’t respond to emails very quickly, and they were still advertising for staff positions to be filled late in spring… we braced ourselves and stopped at a gas station for peanut butter and crackers in case nothing was edible.

We were a little worried — we knew the place had no electricity, and a communal bathroom/shower (like a campground).  Boulder (WY) was the closest “town” (a gas station) at an hour and a half away.  The closest actual town with a grocery store or medical anything was Pinedale, another 20 minutes down the road.

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My dad’s mother’s family. Mid 70’s, I’d say…at a cabin in Colorado. My grandmother is in the green shirt, my dad is reading the Cosmo. ;D

The road out of Boulder turned from blacktop into a very nice dirt road (we were still able to go about 65 mph!)… but then once we turned off onto the road up the mountain toward the lodge it was 45 minutes of bumpity bumping on a one lane dirt road — gaining 2,000 feet in elevation.   We were in a minivan, others had Suburbans… I can’t even imagine how anyone with a horse trailer or cattle trailer went on that road!

…oops, let me backtrack.

My aunt, uncle, cousins, and the associated kids drove from Pennsylvania.  My grandparents drove from Arizona.  Luckily, my family flew from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City (Utah), and my grandparents picked us up and drove the rest of the way!

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I just love the bears at any Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop! This one was at the Salt Lake City airport.

I guess the flight is a popular route, but not popular enough to warrant a large plane.  I think it was even a propeller plane!  We were crammed in with a large group of performers from the Polynesian Cultural Center (in Hawaii) traveling to Salt Lake City for a conference.  Most of the guys were from the Pacific Islands originally, then moved to Hawaii.  They did dancing, fire spinning, all sorts of cool things!  I felt bad — I’m tall, but they’re built like football players — I bet the plane ride was pretty uncomfortable.

After my grandparents picked us up, we drove towards Park City and slightly beyond to stop at a restaurant my grandparents have been to in the past that they found in Sunset Magazine.

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Road Island Diner, in Oakley, Utah. (Near Park City.)

The Road Island Diner — what a cool place!  It was originally a train car, on exhibit at the 1939 NY World’s Fair, then a diner based in Rhode Island.  After carting it across the US, it was plopped in Utah and opened in 2008.  It’s all Art Deco old fashioned, and they only have one guy running it.  What a sweet guy — Irish, wears a bowtie and old fashioned soda jerk outfit, and memorizes all the orders.

I had a burger and fries and a shake — mm.  Delicious.  Don’t go if you’re counting calories!

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After lunch, we booked it as fast as we could for Wyoming.  I was pleasantly surprised by the area around Park City — very green, fluffy grass and open spaces for horse farms.  Once we got into southern Wyoming though it was …sadly, sort of dull.  I’m used to the flat desert spaces of Arizona, and this was pretty similar, except not even any mesquite trees.

The ranches and farms of the flatlands were pretty, once you started getting higher in elevation.  I could see having a house there…in the summer.  ;)

Thankfully our GPS and mapreading skills were up to par — the directions weren’t amazing, but we made it to the lodge just in time to meet up with our family and settle in to dinner.

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Next Wyoming post — exploring the cabins, lodge, and the area + food and a hike!