Volume 13, Issue 36 ~ September 9 - 14, 2005
Burton on The Bay
By Bill Burton

For our three-day stay, Jon and Alan’s menu was such that I figured George W. Bush was at nearby Camp David for the holiday weekend and would be dining with us.
Roughing It by Today’s Standards
Take only pictures.
Leave only footprints behind.

In this age of environmental awareness, those words are the creed among the more responsible who backpack or camp in public parks and forests. For utmost delight, travel light.

Now, meet Alan Doelp and my son-in-law Jon Boughey, whose creed is more like if it is moveable, take it with you.

You might say that if their houses flooded while they were camping, the only thing they would lose would be the kitchen sink. Everything else would be at the campground, where they could start life anew.

Me, I started my life on the trail cushioned by pine boughs to take the edge off the rocks beneath. Canvas draped over a clothesline was the tent, and everything including coffee was cooked in the same cast-iron pot hung from a pole nestled between two forked sticks. In the evening, the time was spent around the campfire swapping stories.

It was lights out (kerosene lantern and campfire) shortly after dark so we could rise early the following day to pick blueberries and other wild fruit to mix in with baking soda, flour and water to wind around a stick held over the morning fire for breakfast. Before we ate, we sifted the coffee boiled in the big cast iron pot through a handkerchief to remove the grounds. We thought we were roughing it.

But before my younger brother John of Salt Lake City got into the aches and pains of his 60s, he headed into the wilderness with truly bare essentials, which didn’t even include matches. He preferred flint to start a fire. There was always a can of beans, which made the first meal. The tin was needed to cook the next meals amidst a bright bed of coals.

Eating High on the Hog
Honest Indian, when we arrived at Cunningham Falls State Park and I heard Jon and Alan go over the menu for our three-day stay, I figured George W. Bush was at nearby Camp David for the holiday weekend and would be dining with us. Had he not been flying over New Orleans, he couldn’t have turned down the invite.

The breakfast menu read pancakes (with 100 percent Vermont maple syrup) fried eggs, bacon, fried potatoes with onions mixed in. Another day they served eggs Benedict including Canadian bacon. Their finale was French toast based on an apple/cinnamon strudel bread also under the syrup of Vermont maples.

For lunch one day was bratwurst, sauerkraut, homefries and caramelized onions; another day it was scrapple, eggs, bacon, home fries and leftovers. Dinners featured my Aunt MiMi’s beef casserol, potatoes, awesome gravy and pearl onions; good plain white onions wouldn’t do. Planned for the last night was stuffed pork chops, but that wasn’t to be cooked because …

Because no one was hungry, not after a late-afternoon snack of peach/blueberry cobbler with chocolate, vanilla and raspberry ice cream preserved firm in a cooler of dry ice. Nor was a Friday night meal planned at the campgrounds; too much equipment to be unloaded, and in downtown Thurmont is the Kountry Kitchen, where on the menu is broasted chicken and fresh-fruit black-raspberry milk shakes.

I’ll promise you this. Even if you travel without Alan and Jon, the drive to Thurmont is worth it just for a meal of country cooking, for the Kountry Kitchen serves more than 10 side dishes; also fried country ham. And the prices, well they’re about the same as enjoyed back in the days when gasoline sold for 30 cents a gallon at the pump.

Costs and Comforts
Speaking of gas, it cost Alan $69.10 to fill up his old Dodge Ram pickup loaded with gear and me to make the hundred-minute trip. But that was a bargain. By the time he got home, the price had risen another 40 cents. Jon, wife Heather, my wife Lois, and three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter Grumpy, a.k.a. Mackenzie Noell Boughey, arrived separately.

So tight were they packed in their new Nissan Quest van that Grumpy didn’t have room to play with her toys. She had to settle for watching kids’ videos on one of two DVD players perched on the top of the rear two seats. By today’s standards, that’s roughing it.

No room in either vehicle for Alan’s wife Carol Benner Doelp, who drove her own Toyota Avalon, wisely arriving later. She knows making camp these days is more than pitching a tent. Carol brought the things Alan forgot — plus her laptop computer. Via it, Grumpy could watch videos, we could breakfast to the songs of Ella Fitzgerald played on stereo and at dinner view the slides of our recent junket to the Santa Fe Opera.

Alas, Alan had left more than the kitchen sink at home. Missing was his computer projector, so down the drain went plans for movies by the campfire. We had the popcorn via a hand-operated popper over a propane stove (Alan’s stove had three burners). For movies, we could look through the trees where another camp party had hung a screen big as that in an old drive-in movie and were featuring Star Wars.

In this age of computers, there are more blogs at a campsite than logs, and Alan figured on that. He brought along an electric reciprocating saw to cut up deadfall for the campfire; chainsaws are not allowed. But his was an old model and not up to cutting logs. Jon and I did the lumberjacking with a bow-saw, the more modern version of the old buck-saw.

Firewood is sold at the park store, but it’s $3.75 for three-quarters of a cubic foot, and I’m of frugal Vermont Great Depression heritage. I can remember when firewood sold for $3.50 a cord. According to my calculations, Joe’s bundles of wood in clear plastic wrap sold for what would be $600 a cord, which is why we cut our own.

I’m too old for pine boughs, even air mattresses, so Lois, Grumpy and I overnighted in small rustic one-room cabins, as did Alan and Carol. Jon and Heather slept in a tent, and each day deer came to feed close by. Unfortunately, we missed seeing the bobcat reported sighted 10 days ago nearby. But we successfully prayed to miss coming across the copperhead seen at the amphitheater a couple of hundred yards away.

Missing also was George W, who would have found our digs on par with the White House. I’ve dined at both and consider it a toss-up. Enough said …

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