Urban Camping 101

I got a call from my best friend on Friday asking me to join her camping at Locust Lake State Park. My heart lifted at the thought of sitting in my hammock, making camp stew and enjoying the end of summer air in the great outdoors. Then a simple question deflated my happy camping thoughts, “Can I take the dogs?” The answer was no; the pet sites had all been filled. I had to decline.

As the weekend progressed I would pick up smells of campfires or grills in the distance (maybe it was in my head) and my yearning for camping flooded back. I had no choice. It would be a bold move, but it had to be done. I decided that I was going to go camping.

Urban camping. I made up the term, but it’s basically camping in town. I have a reasonably large yard, so invited a friend and explained how it would work. “Okay, I’m gonna set up my tent and my hammock in the yard and we have to eat everything outside over the fire. I’m not sure how we’ll make a fire legally, but we will and it will be great!”

I cleaned up any “gifts” from the pups in the yard and set up camp. My friend thought to use the Weber to create our roaring fire for the evening and we made ourselves at home…in the yard.

I had been craving my mom’s camp stew recipe that she learned in Girl Scouts – she used to make it for family dinner when I was growing up. Never around a fire, though – always on the stove (here’s a link to the recipe) – but it was a no-brainer that we’d be making that. We didn’t get around to making the stew until about 11:30 that night. As the peppers and onions sauteed over the smoky BBQ, I had visions of neighbors rolling in their beds wondering who had set up a kabob stand in the neighborhood this late at night.

Here is a step-by-step series of photos for the camp stew. I forgot to take a picture of the onions and peppers…but they go in right after the meat is browned.

The dogs slept in the kitchen…we slept outside in the tent (After a few Coronas and Miller Lites…for us not the dogs.). As the college kids walked home through the streets of West Chester around 2:30 am we huddled in the tent, fearful of the “urban grizzlies.”

At 9 am I was in my pjs preparing for breakfast and my neighbor came ouside. “A little early for a BBQ on Labor Day isn’t it?” he asked.

“Oh…no. I was just camping last night…in the yard. So…this is breakfast.”

“Oh…right,” he replied and kept walking.

We were so full from the camp stew at midnight that we waited to eat the s’mores for breakfast. But, I didn’t just want typical s’mores; I decided to go gourmet. I found Zebra marshmallows at the store, which are smaller and drizzled with a delicious dark chocolate. They browned quickly and made the perfect gourmet treat paired with Ghirardelli’s caramel-filled chocolates and mint-filled varieties.

With the leftover peppers, onions and cheese from the stew we also made breakfast paninnis. I toasted the bread, spread some cream cheese on one side and sprinkled cheddar on the other. After they melted over the flames I sandwiched them with some savory Southwestern scrambled eggs. A quick trip across the rugged trail (High street) to the country store (7-11), we grabbed some coffee and headed back to camp (yard).

After stuffing myself with Urban Camp grub I took my fire-smelly pjed self to the hammock, grabbed a puppy and curled up to enjoy the lovely outdoors. It was a perfect camping experience.

The Final Dish: The best part of Urban Camping is the clean up. You can air your tent and sleeping bags right on your laundry line. Well…wait…the best part is probably that you don’t have to pee in the woods.