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Fall Camping Destinations

Nothing illuminates the differences between camping styles like the onset of winter weather. Snowbirds of all types gather their sunscreen, packing up RVs, cars, and trailers for warmer fun in warmer places. Whether they like to hike, canoe, or relax beside trickling streams, they all prefer to do it in shorts and sunglasses. The heat calls them south, and south they stay. RV and trailer campers display great staying power, sometimes extending their camping trips into multi-month adventures. This is due, no doubt, to their unparalleled ability to cook and store anything they could want. Tent campers enjoy their mobility and scope out the most comfortable pitching sites. So long as there are no torrential rains, tent campers are happy to build their homes around their packs and camp stoves.

The shift in weather illustrates another curiosity – the fact that some campers actually go out of their way to find colder weather. It’s true. All over the northern half of the country, brave folks will head farther north, or higher into the mountains, in search of cold. They go looking for early snow, for frozen lakes on which to fish, and for the year’s first taste of winter camping. These are the rugged campers who only enjoy warming up after they’ve been thoroughly chilled to the bone.

Autumn campers whirl off in different directions, all in pursuit of their personal goals. They’re anxious, this bunch. They hoard up sights, sounds, and experiences like squirrels storing up nuts for the winter. Fishers go after that one last fish or head to their ice shacks in quest of the first catch of the ice-fishing season. Hunters too, feel that fall is a time to literally fill the larders for winter, a chance that won’t be had again. Fall brings a sense of urgency, a drive to get out there while the weather’s still mild.

Fall color is a fleeting thing – blink for too long and you’ll miss the whole show. The campers who pursue fall color, those that travel into the forests and mountainsides to watch the red, orange, and yellow display, are a focused bunch. They seek blazing foliage with a time-sensitive intensity, hoping to savor the beauty during its splashy, limited show.

Intrepid birders stand in the cold on blustery shores, wading into wetlands for the perfect glimpse (or maybe photograph) of their favorite migratory birds. Whether they’re looking for that one last species to check off their list or are simply taking in the spectacle, they brave the chill, knowing that this is a singular opportunity. The migration occurs on its own timetable, and if you’re too slow, you’re bound to miss it.

Snowbird or snowbunny, car camper or RV camper, we all share one crucial thing. We love the outdoors, love the smell of wind in the pines, love watching shorebirds by the lake. So whether you prefer to bring all the comforts of home to your campsite, or like to survive on as little as possible, take a moment to enjoy your personal camping style. We’ll look for you at the next campground.

Get Your Gear Summer Ready with a Little 'Spring Cleaning'

No need to get bored or antsy in between camping trips. There’s so much you can do to prepare for the next outing, or better yet, for the next year’s worth of trips. While you dream about hiking through the woods or sitting around the campfire, you can do a little spring cleaning to make your next series of trips more comfortable and successful.
Take Inventory
Now’s the perfect time to take inventory of what you have. Dig out your camping gear and take a good look at everything. What are you missing? Roll out your tent and even set it up partially, maybe in your garage, family room, or basement, wherever you find room. Do you have all the poles, pins, and stakes you need? Are all the zippers working?
Try out your flashlights and lanterns. Too dim? Great time to replace the batteries. Are your folding chairs still in good condition? If not, keep an eye out for sales at sporting goods stores. Look through your first aid kit. Is it still well stocked? What is it missing? Add whatever you may be running low on – bandages, antibiotic ointment, medical tape. And your water bottles – do you have enough? Fill them up – do any leak? Time to replace those.
It’s no fun to start cooking on your camp stove only to run out of propane. Make sure you have enough full propane bottles to last you through several trips. Speaking of food, how’s your canned goods supply? If you have a pop-up or any type of RV, it’s a good idea to restock your cupboard with chili, corn, new potatoes, fruit, and other canned goods. And don’t forget the can opener!
Clean & Shiny
I don’t know about you, but my family and I have a hard time getting our pots and plates fully cleaned and rinsed while camping. We wash everything in a large plastic tub, then rinse each item with clean water poured from a one-gallon water jug. Depending on where we are, we don’t always have much hot water at hand, so after a while our food starts to taste a little soapy. At least once a year, we haul in all our camping cookware and tableware – bowls, cups, silverware, serving utensils, measuring cups, everything – and give it a good, thorough cleaning in our dishwasher.
Same with the linens. To protect the cushions and mattresses in our pop-up camper, we cover them with sheets and towels. We find that these protective covers don’t need to be washed after every single trip, but at least once a year we throw everything into the washing machine.
Something Old, Something New
As you evaluate the condition of your camping equipment, decide what to keep, toss, mend or replace. If your sleeping bag has a tiny hole, you can probably sew it up. But if it’s hopelessly frayed, giving you air conditioning when you don’t need it, then it’s time to buy a new one. Also check your kids’ sleeping bags. Your children may have grown a foot since the last family camping trip, making their junior-sized bags suddenly obsolete.
Is this the year to upgrade or add on? What might make your future camping trips more enjoyable or functional? You may want to purchase a screen room, great for keeping bugs and critters out during meals or for the kids to play in. Perhaps getting a bike rack will give your family the chance to ride bicycles at the next campground.
Take a little time now to clean, inventory, repair, and replace. Come next camping trip, you’ll be glad you did.

How To Pick The Right Tent

Camping gives you the chance to venture into the great outdoors to relax and unwind. But that’s hard to do when your tent leaks. To get the most out of your camping experience, get the right tent.

Your “home away from home” needs to accomplish many things. It should be easy to set up, and it has to fold up nicely to fit in yourvehicle. Your tent has to stand up to wind and keep you dry. It has to be large enough to fit however many people plan to sleep in it. In short, your tent should be lightweight but strong, sturdy yet collapsible, durable and oh so comfortable! Is this too much to ask?

Not at all. Technological advances in designs and materials have produced some pretty spiffy tents. Today’s camper has a wide selection to choose from. Ask yourself these questions before you pick your tent.

What climates will I camp in?

If you’re planning to camp during the summer only in warm or hot climates where temperatures don’t drop much at night, then a lightweight summer tent with plenty of airflow is what you need. Mesh is worked into the tent material for maximum ventilation. A summer tent typically weights 4 to 8 pounds. It protects you from bugs and gives you the sense of security that comes from having a roof over your head.

Three-season tents are also made for warmer climates, but they’re good for spring, summer, and fall. They’re built to stand up to rain and wind, and they can even withstand some snow. Typically they weigh 5 to 10 pounds.

All-season tents are even stronger. If you plan to camp in the winter too, you’ll need one of these. Designed for versatility, they have more zippers and removable components. For this reason they’re also called convertible tents. You can configure an all-season tent for added ventilation in hot weather or for greater protection from precipitation during rainy months. These tents weigh 6 to 12 pounds.

None of these tents, though, are built for extreme conditions. If you plan to camp in extreme winter conditions – for example, high up in the Rocky Mountains in April or in Alaska in November – then you’ll need a winter or mountaineering tent to protect you from heavier snows and wicked winds.

Who will camp with me?

Will you camp by yourself? With a friend? With your family? Where will everyone sleep? How will everyone fit?

If you’re going by yourself, a one-person tent will do unless you’d like to store some of your belongings in your tent. In that case, get a two-person tent. Likewise, if there are two of you, opt for a three-person tent so you have room to store your clothes and supplies.

A four-person tent for a family of four is do-able, but may be a little tight. If your kids are older, consider multiple tents – one for mom and dad, and one for the kids or teens. Or perhaps a large tent for mom, dad, and baby, and individual one-person tents for each of the other kids. Another option is a large multi-room tent. It takes a little longer to set up, but it accommodates a large family well.

How much room do I have in my car?

Generally, the larger the tent, the bulkier the package when you roll it up. If you have a small car, be sure you can fit your folded or rolled up tent and other camping supplies. Or, consider buying a small trailer to tow your camping gear. Just be sure your car has enough power to pull the load!

Will I be able to carry my tent?

With many camp sites, you simply back in with your vehicle, pull the tent out, and set it up just a few feet away. But there are campgrounds where you have to park in a common area and walk a long distance to get to your site. You’ll have to carry your tent that distance. In this case, the lighter the tent, the better.

Is the tent big enough?

When you see the tent of your dreams set up in the store, never buy it without going in first. Remove your shoes and any sharp, pointy objects you might be carrying and carefully step into the tent. Lay down and stretch out. Do you fit? Is there enough room, or do you have to curl up to fit? You need to be able to fit comfortably inside, without having to stick your feet out the tent door.

What’s it made of?

Generally, tents are made of a lightweight nylon material. Tent poles are made of aluminum or fiberglass. Ask your sales clerk about the strength and durability of the tent of your choice.

How much am I willing to spend?

You can spend anywhere from $15 to $600 or more for a tent. Figure out your budget and your camping needs to narrow down a price range.

One more thing – before you leave the store with your brand new tent, make sure the sales clerk shows you how to set it up. It’s not rocket science, but it sure helps to watch an expert before trying it yourself!

Spring Fever Salads

Even before the first hint of spring warms the air, it starts to feel like salad season. After a long winter, our bodies crave the nutrients found in young lettuce leaves, fresh red tomatoes, and bright yellow peppers. You may still have snow on the ground outside your window, but there's no reason not to put spring on your plate.

Scour your local supermarket's produce section for whatever catches your eye. Look for bright colors -- the richer the color in the fruit or vegetable, the higher the vitamin and nutrient content. Also, try to get a mix of colors into your salad. Dark greens are high in iron while red and orange vegetables have high levels of vitamins C and A, and vegetables with a lot of crunch to them are high in fiber. Add in some nuts and dried fruits and you'll have an even more complete dish.

Not all lettuce is created equal. Generally, the darker the leaf, the more nutritious it is. Iceberg lettuce, for all its popularity in the food service and restaurant world, isn't actually very nutritious. Instead, look for dark Romaines, bright green butter lettuce, and mixes that include a variety of leaves from arugula to spinach.

Ingredients that add color
Follow your fancy when it comes to salad ingredients. You can choose the standard tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, and bell peppers, or go wild with dried cherries, jicama, orange sections, and walnuts. Fruit makes a fresh addition to salads, particularly when you add in-season strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and pears. Avocados are always delicious.

Try these satisfying salad recipes from


Creamy Spring Salad

Easy Spring Salad

Satifying Salads Collection

Have a recipe to share? Click Here

All About Chocolate

The origin of chili is a matter of great debate and there are many out there that have attempted to chronicle the history. For me it's not so much about where it came from or when, it's about what I will put into my next pot. Many lay claims to originating the stew we now know as chili. There seems to be no doubt that chili was a staple during times when meat was in short supply and the cook’s creativity was challenged. That challenge is alive an well today.

One of the most popular foods in the world, chocolate comes in many forms. From dark chocolate to milk and white chocolate, this delicacy blends well with almost every flavor -- caramel, peanut butter, mint, raspberry, cherry, orange, coffee, and nuts. You can drink it, eat it, sip it, and chew it. Whether you bake it into a cake or brownies, mix it with coffee for a mocha, or eat chocolates straight out of the box, it's one of the finest treats you'll find.

All chocolate is made with seeds of the cacao tree, generally using a blend of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. People have been drinking hot chocolate for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the 1800s that companies started producing the hard chocolate treats we're used to today. Pure chocolate (or baking chocolate) contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter, but no sugar. Sweetened chocolate includes sugar, milk chocolate has sugar and powdered milk, and white chocolate includes cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids. Semi-sweet, as the name suggests, has less sugar than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has been tauted for its health benefits because of the antioxidants it contains that reduce the formation of free radicals.

Cacao is originally from South America, where it's been cultivated since 1100 BC. Today, two-thirds of all the cacao produced in the world is grown in Africa, mainly in the Ivory Coast. The industry is dominated by three companies, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland Company, chocolate producers that distribute cocoa butter to all the various chocolate makers. Chocolate includes a small amount of caffeine.

Get your fill of this sweet delicacy with these recipes from


Decadent Chocolate Fudge

Fudgy Brownies

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Have a recipe to share? Click Here

Naturally Delicious Wild Rice

Despite its name, wild rice isn't actually rice. It's part of the genus Zizania, a collection of wild grasses that grown in marshes, shallow lakes, and slow-moving streams all across middle America and Canada. In fact, you can find wild rice growing in such varied areas as Minnesota, Texas, Manitoba, and all regions in between.

In Minnesota, wild rice is harvested in the traditional way by the Ojibwe, by canoeing into wild rice stands and gently knocking the ripe seed heads into the canoe. It's critical that wild rice be harvested by hand, because the seeds that land outside the canoe sink to the bottom of the lake, germinate, and grow up to be next year's crop.

Wild Rice Fun Facts
Wild rice and maize (corn) are the only grains that are native to North America. This cereal is high in protein and dietary fiber, and it's naturally low in fat. Wild rice makes a delicious‚and colorful‚ addition to casseroles, stews, pilafs, and Thanksgiving stuffing dishes. offers up 2 great wild rice recipes this month. Try Cashew Wild Rice or Wild Rice with Rosemary and Almond Stuffing.

Have a recipe to share? Click Here

Truly American Foods

If you enjoy thinking about the first Thanksgiving and the foods the pilgrims and Native Americans might have put on the table, you might also like incorporating more of our native foods into your cuisine year-round. Many of the world's best ingredients come from North America, from herbs and flavorings to staples like corn, potatoes, and chiles. For your next dinner party, why not see if you can put together a meal that's completely native to our shores?

Food Staples
When European explorers first reached the shores of North America, they were excited to sample our local foods and take them back to their kings and queens at home. They returned to Europe with holds full of plants, bringing potatoes, corn (then called maize), tomatoes, peanuts, and avocados. While these foods met with mixed receptions in the European courts, it's easy to see that they caught on in time and became staples in European cooking.

A few hundred years later, Ireland was so exclusively planted with potatoes that when a blight struck, it caused a massive famine. European colonists took our warm-weather crops with them to their colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, where peanuts, hot peppers, papayas, onions, and tomatoes became so much a part of the cuisine and diet, locals would be shocked to hear that their distant ancestors had never tried these foods.

Read more about native foods and find recipes for a "native" American Thanksgiving feast on

Have a recipe to share? Click Here

Rich and Hearty, Mild or Spicy - Chili

The origin of chili is a matter of great debate and there are many out there that have attempted to chronicle the history. For me it's not so much about where it came from or when, it's about what I will put into my next pot. Many lay claims to originating the stew we now know as chili. There seems to be no doubt that chili was a staple during times when meat was in short supply and the cook’s creativity was challenged. That challenge is alive an well today.

Many states in this great land claim to have the best Chili. Texas, New Mexico, California, Cincinnati, Ohio, and even Mexico, would have you believe that they are the originators of authentic Chili and home to the best bowl. As the controversy rages on Chili cook-offs are held every year in ever corner of America. And every Chili cook knows that his or her secret recipe is - really the best. Attend any chili cook-off and I'm sure you'll agree - they are all good.

There are similarities to all the recipes - a combination of meat, beans, chili peppers - but it's the combination, the type of meat, the type of beans, the type of chilies and the spice combination, spicy or mild or somewhere in between that set off the differences - making chili one the home cooks all time favorite dishes. Many experiment with each batch - no batch being quite the same (I fall into that category), while others follow exacting recipes many perfected over generations.

Regardless of which camp you fall into there is no arguing that a steaming, hot bowl of chili with your favorite toppings is comfort in a bowl - just the thing to warm the body and boost the spirit on cold evenings.

So whether you make it spicy, mild, or somewhere in between, you can tailor your pot of chili to your particular tastes. Experiment and make something incredible!

Recipes offers up some great chili recipes this month. Try Black Bean Chocolate Chicken Chili, Dutch Oven Chili, Vegetarian Chili or Hot and Spicy Chili.

Have a recipe to share? Click Here


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