Camping,  Nature Journal

Summer is here, that means camping!

Sunrise at Bellows beach. (Photo by Hubby)


We spent the weekend with five other families camping at Bellows AFS, currently our favorite camping spot.

Our family loves camping and we were so thrilled to have our friends join us! They were all pretty new to camping, so I wanted to make their first time out a good one (so they want to come camping with us again)! I planned the meals, hoping to make it easy and fun for everyone. I also had grand plans (or maybe grand delusions) of having the children help out with the meal preparation, but the adults ended up prepping while the kids explored the wooded areas above our camp site. In hindsight, this worked better and was much more expeditious anyway so it’s all good.

For the sake of posterity, I’ll share our menu and links to the recipes and equipment used.


  • Turkey Chili – (NOTE: this is my recipe, although in the link, I normally use edamame in place of kidney beans, but some may find that odd, so I used cannellini beans, pinto beans, and corn instead.) I made two batches of chili. One I made the day before camp and it was stored in a Ziploc bag in the cooler and reheated in our dutch oven in the Volcano Grill 3-Fuel Portable Camping stove using charcoal. The second batch was made around 11 am, shortly before we had to leave for camp. I made it in my enameled dutch oven, brought it to a boil on the stove, then placed it into my Wonder Bag for slow cooking the rest of the day. When we opened it up to eat it at dinner, it was still hot!
  • Rice
  • Mac n’ Cheese
  • Foil Packed Veggies
Dessert over the camp fire:
  • S’mores


  • Camp Fire Crescent Dogs – We roasted these crescent roll-wrapped hot dogs over the fire. This is a Pinterest idea that looked simple enough but was not as easy to execute in reality.
  • Hamburgers
  • Vegetable Sticks w/ dip
  • Chips
  • Campfire Flatbread Pizza –  I had plans to have everyone assemble their own pizzas and grilling them in foil packets. In reality, the children were having way to much fun adventuring, so the adults assembled an assortment of pizzas, then grilled them.
Dessert over the camp fire:


  • Scrambled eggs and rice
  • Sandwiches – Turkey, ham, cheese — everyone will assemble their own sandwiches. (This was the plan, but in reality we had so many hamburgers and hotdogs left over, that we ate that instead and distributed the extra loaves of bread and unopened packs of cold cuts and cheese amongst the families.)
  • Chips
  • Veggie Sticks


There were 12 adults and 12 children (ranging in age from 4 to 10)  in attendance at camp. As an only child, my daughter was so happy to always have playmates present. She was always the first child awake each morning, ready to start her adventures with her friends. Waiting for them to wake up was the hardest part.

Although there was a beautiful beach just a stone’s throw away, the children preferred to spend their time in the wooded area surrounding our camp site. It was hot and the woods provided ample shade beneath the ironwood pines. Some kids collected milipedes and roly poly bugs, observing them and carrying them around as pets. Others concentrated their efforts on building a fort with fallen branches and leaves. It was so wonderful to see them interacting with nature and each other without a screen in sight! This is what childhood should be, getting outside, getting dirty, and breathing the fresh air! Our apartment living and busyness takes away opportunities for exploration in nature without a concerted effort, so I am grateful for these camping trips that offer a concentrated dose of outdoor goodness for all of us.

Our 7-year-old daughter remarked, “I wish we could live here forever!” 

Perhaps if we were independently wealthy, I’d consider buying an RV and going cross-country, camping along the way. Unfortunately, however, we need to make a living so weekend camping trips it is. But even these short stints away from home are enough to make a lifetime of memories, and we intend to make a bunch more for years to come, God willing!

We have two more camping trips scheduled for the next two months, and looking for the next opportunity to schedule a third.

As much work as it is to prepare, setup, cook, clean, break down, clean up, and pack away, it is so worth it. I never thought I’d be a camping enthusiast, but I totally am.

This meme I found sums it up for me.

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