This easy one-pot dish can be added or subtracted to according to taste. Good at any hiker camp!
Easy Cheesy Ham Skillet
Grown up comfort food. No need to pre-boil macaroni.
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3-1/4 cups milk
- 2 cups cooked ham cubed
- 8 oz. macaroni uncooked
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup shredded cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, American, etc.)
Melt butter in heavy skillet or sauce pan.
Stir in salt and flour
Add milk little by little while stirring with a fork or whisk
Add ham and macaroni
Stir constantly while bringing to a boil
Cook until macaroni is tender, 10 - 12 minutes
Add frozen peas
Stir in sour cream and cheese to melt. Serve when peas are cooked through. Do not boil.
Have you seen it?
It’s my way of saying “thanks” for being a loyal reader.
About the manifesto
A Hiker’s Manifesto is a small eBook about the heart of hiking. It’s a call for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to fall back in love with and make time for exploring and enjoying the Great Outdoors.
Don’t worry. A Hiker’s Manifesto isn’t the trail equivalent of War and Peace. I kept it brief so you can read it in one sitting.
Grab your FREE copy here. (If you’re super motivated, scroll down to the bottom of the page to Also by This Author for a quick look at some of my other titles.)
Don’t forget to share. Help yourself. And tell a friend!
Baby, it’s cold outside. But Fido still needs exercise. And so do you. Here are ten top Grays Harbor trail options for both of you. In no particular order:
- Lake Swano Trail at Grays Harbor College
Distance: 1.5 miles RT
An easy, scenic loop trail around a quiet lake through a magnificent second-growth forest. The Lake Swano Trail is also a gateway to other trails through the forest, including the Poggie Trail, Coastal Forest Trail, Nice Creek Trail, and Alder Creek Trail. The trail and wooden bridges and observation decks may be slick in wet weather, so watch your step.
Park in the lower lot of the campus near the Bishop Center.
Discover Pass required.
Johns River Wildlife Area cover more than 6,700 acres, managed in 15 units located near the Pacific Coast on the Olympic Peninsula. The local portion is 12 miles southwest of Aberdeen off Highway 105. It includes two hiking sites a few miles past Aberdeen: the River Dike Trail and the Cemetery Trail.
The Johns River Dike Trail is an easy, paved trail of about .57 miles one-way. It’s just off Highway 105 and Game Farm Road.
Located just past the Ocean Spray cranberry plant.
The Cemetery Trail is about four miles, RT. Head out of Aberdeen toward Westport on Highway 105. The undeveloped parking area at the trail head is on the left, just past the sign for Markham. If you hit the Ocean Spray plant, you’ve gone too far.
About three miles one-way, this is an easy asphalt walkway along the Chehalis River. You can pick it up at several access points, including off US 101 at the bottom of the Chehalis River Bridge near SR 105, and at the Bishop Athletic Complex.
Doesn’t exactly rank high on the “most scenic” hit parade. But if you’re looking for a quick trail without a long drive to the trailhead, this can be a good option.
- “Dog Marsh”
8th Street, next to Anderson-Middleton in Hoquiam.
A favorite with local dog owners, this graveled, short trail is marshy in the middle. It’s also likely to host flocks of Canada geese and other waterfowl, so stick to the perimeter trail.
This easy walk is within city limits but doesn’t feel like it. My good dog loves this place! (Pro tip: If you start near 8th Street and head east around the loop, you’re walking face-first into a sometimes biting wind off the water. Dress accordingly.)
Grand Avenue and Sunset.
Located in Hoquiam’s only nature park, this isn’t really a “trail” by Hiker Babe standards. You can cover it start to finish in less than thirty minutes. If you walk slow. But it’s a nice place to get off the road with Fido if you’re heading up the Sunset Memorial Park, Sunset Loop, and a good cardio workout. (I don’t recommend this site during the summer, as it sits smack in the middle of a mosquito farm.)
Be careful on this one. It’s easy to get confused. Leashed dogs are allowed on some Quinault area trails. It comes down to whether the trail is inside the national forest or the national park.
Leashed dogs are allowed on national forest trails – e.g., south shore side, like Falls Creek, Willaby Creek, and the Lakeshore Trails. Watch for fallen logs and other debris on the Lakeshore Trail. Also note that boardwalks on south shore trails are slick as glass when wet. Use caution.
But! Bark alert – dogs are not allowed on trails inside the national park, e.g., north shore trails like Irely Lake, Wolf Bar, Three Lakes, and Ellip Creek. Maybe that’s just as well, as these trails are more remote, rockier, and more challenging than south shore trails.
Discover Pass required.
Seventy-five acres hugging 6,000 feet of shoreline and open tide flats. Again, watch those boardwalks in wet weather. Leashed dogs allowed only during hunting season, from November through February (e.g., now would be good!)
- Dunes Trail (aka: Westport Light Trail)
About 5 miles RT
Trail end points: W. Ocean Avenue and Westhaven Drive
Discover Pass required.
This easy, paved trail winds through two state parks—Westport Light and Westhaven. On a clear day, snatch great views of sand dunes, beaches, the Westport Lighthouse, and the Pacific Ocean.
1813 Lake Sylvia Road
Discover Pass required
Five main hiking trails, 15,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, and all the cool scents your fur ball could ever want to sniff out! The park is quiet, restful, and thickly forested. A great place for you and Fido to explore!
One of the best things about this little park? It has mileage markers. So you know exactly how far you’ve walked. The one-mile loop is pretty, forested, and well-shaded. Cool on a warm day. And usually uncrowded. A great outdoor walk.
Kindly comply with leash laws and remember to clean up after your dog. Bring plenty of water to keep both yourself and your dog properly hydrated.
Don’t forget to dress in layers. Grab your Frogg-Toggs and wellies, if you have ‘em. Whatever works. Just don’t leave your canine companion cooped up all winter because the weather’s lousy. You’ll both feel better after a little outdoor trail time!
Another version of this post, by the same author, also appeared in Grays Harbor Talk.
Some combinations are no-brainers: Peanut butter and jelly. Whine and cheese. Politicians and… Okay. Let’s not go there.
When it comes to writing, however, I discovered a connection that is easily overlooked: writing and hiking. That’s right. Hiking. Think of hiking as Walking With Attitude. In The Great Outdoors. Under achingly blue skies. In soft mountain meadows marinated in wildflowers. In forests so dense and quiet, you can almost hear the trees grow.
I’ve been hiking since the sixties (I’m way too young to be that old. So don’t tell anyone). But I recently realized that some of my best ideas, inspiration, and peak productivity are connected with an outdoor sport I’ve been doing pretty much all my life: hiking.
Here are nine ways hiking makes me a better writer. Hiking:
- Slows me down. This may seem obvious, but there’s nothing like hiking a stretch of highway you normally whiz down in a car to press the point. I did that last spring, hiking a stretch of Highway 123 outside of Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park. The road was closed to vehicular traffic due to snow. But it was open to pedestrians.
I’ve traveled that highway a zillion times. Once I started walking it, I was amazed at how much I’d missed at 45 mph. Gurgling creeks. Nesting birds. Waterfalls doing the cha-cha. They’d been there all along. I’d been moving too fast to notice.
It’s like that with writing sometimes. Sometimes it’s best to slow down. Ruminate. Take the time necessary to revise. Edit. Rethink. Prune and polish. That doesn’t usually happen when you’re hurtling through a story at warp speed, trying to wrap it up quick. But it might if you slow down and Take. Your. Time.
- Broadens my perspective. There’s nothing like standing atop a towering mountain peak or a thundering waterfall to give you some perspective. It’s easy for writers to get so involved in their work that they lose this.
Hiking gives me a way to get away. Take a step back. Roll characters around in my head. Think about how I want them to connect. How I want my story to conclude.
- Reduces distractions. There’s no TV, radio, or email out on the trail. If you do it right there’s no cell service, either. No disruptions. No electronic distractions.
I carry a small notebook and pencil in a pocket so I can jot down ideas to flesh out later. But I am not missing the adventure because I’m buried in my mobile device.
See how this works?
- Gets the creative juices flowing. I don’t know what it is about forward locomotion, but whenever I’m moving, my brain is moving, too. Some of my best story ideas have fluttered into the ‘ole cerebral hard drive when I’m out on the trail. (See #3, above.)
- Boosts creativity. I have a theory that a restful mind is a productive mind. Without a zillion different projects, deadlines, assignments and what not to juggle and track, a writer’s mind can be free to roam out on the trail.
I prefer back country hikes that are secluded and uncrowded. Trails that are quiet. Give me time to think. For example, hiking into Indian’s Henry’s Hunting Ground at Mount Rainier is where I decided to put the brakes on a historical fiction project and focus on a memoir instead. Trail time featured prominently in the latter.
- Sharpens the senses. Looking for that perfect verb or adverb? A sensational adjective? A sharp turn-of-a-phrase? How about grabbing some inspiration from warbling wrens or bugling elks? Huge chunks of conifer-crisped air? Silvered mountains collared in clouds?
There’s nothing like a walk in the woods to bring your senses alive. Bring them home to spice up your writing.
- Unblocks Writer’s Block. Every writer “hits the wall” eventually. The inevitable “blank screen” when you’re fresh out of ideas. When dredging up new inspiration is like trying to recover the Titanic.
When this happens, I hit the trails. Even if it’s just a jaunt through the neighborhood or a walk on the beach. There’s something about being outside in the fresh air that replenishes the writing well and ignites a fresh burst of inspiration. (It may take a while. But it always helps.) Remember those chunks of conifer-crisped air?
- Physical benefits of hiking are legion. According to the American Hiking Society, hiking can lower your risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking and walking can also help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Mental benefits of hiking include increased cognitive benefits and working memory performance, reducing depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, boosting creativity, and strengthening social ties. Hiking benefits also include increased happiness levels and an improved sense of well-being and peace.
What writer doesn’t benefit from all that?
As Bill Bryson writes in A Walk in the Woods:
Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. …
Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.
You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required of you is a willingness to trudge.
It’s quite wonderful, really.
So. Who’s up for a trudge?
Staying on the trails means staying strong, both mentally and physically. (And Ghiradelli’s. Lots of it. Nobody’s perfect.)
Here’s my version of 10 Healthy Habits to Cultivate for Hiking Strong (adapted from Amy Morin’’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do):
- Dive into Pity Parties. Mentally fit hikers don’t waste time feeling sorry for their blisters, sore feet, or lousy weather. They anticipate. Prepare. Flex when they can and say “No” when they should.
- Waste Time Trying to Impress Others. Know any door mats or flame throwers? People who work overtime trying to intentionally alienate or impress you with those $700 hiking boots? Neither is healthy. Don’t go there. Mental fitness means being kind and fair whenever possible while being able and willing to speak up when appropriate.
- Expend Energy on Things You Can’t Control. Recognizing that things like washed out bridges, weather, and downed trees the size of Rhode Island are often beyond their control, mentally strong hikers recognize that what they can control is their own response and attitude. And do. (And pop in to the nearest chocolatier. Works for me.)
- Feel the World Owes You Anything. Sorry, but neither our national parks nor The Great Outdoors rise and set on you. Instead of trotting out the “gimme, gimme dance,” mentally strong people hit the trail prepared to work and succeed on their merit rather than blaming others for their deficiencies. (The converse is also true.)
- Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Like when Cousin Elmer summitted Mount Denali. On his first try. Or Aunt Matlida covered your favorite trail way faster than you. Mentally strong people celebrate another’s succes. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed.
If you’re a regular Hiker Babe reader – or even a casual one – you know that my blog focuses on… hiking. Camping. Exploring and enjoying the Great Outdoors. Especially in the Pacific Northwest.
I’ve been trying to convince you to dive in to or continue what I love: Hiking. Exploring the back country. Breathing in huge chunks of conifer-crisped air. Watching the sun set from 7,000 feet. Hitting hiking with both feet and a coupla sturdy trekking poles. (If you missed that, see: 11 Benefits of Hiking (“Walking With Attitude.”)
I’ve been telling you about these topics for awhile. A few have engaged. Most haven’t.
Then I realized that not everyone gets itchy feet as soon as the trails melt out. Considers an alpine meadow marinaded in wildflowers a must-see. Or enjoys scrambling up a shale-strewn trail To. The. Top.
Call it a “light bulb” moment:
Walking is a natural activity with many health and mental benefits. So is hiking. Hiking offers all the health and other benefits associated with walking. Think of hiking as walking with attitude. In the Great Outdoors.
Here are 14 Pacific Northwest trail options to get you started.
Sheep Lake: About 4.2 miles RT. Climb for the first mile or so on this out-and-back trail, but the grade is gentle and not steep. A great choice for rookie hikers or families with young children. Just outside Mount Rainier National Park boundaries at Chinook Pass.
Anderson and Watson Lakes: About 6 miles RT. North Cascades, in the Mount Baker area. A series of lovely backcountry lakes surrounded by stunning North Cascade peaks in the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness.
Steamboat Rock – Central Washington, Grand Coulee. About 6 miles RT. This hunk of rock in Banks Lake is a distinct example of massive Ice Age floods 15,000 years ago. Explore the geology and admire the unparalleled views. Discover Pass required.
Quinault River-Pony Bridge-Enchanted Valley – 5 miles RT. On the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park. The trail to Pony Bridge begins at the end of Graves Creek Road. Moss draped trees, a rushing river. Keep an eye out for bear and elk. Lots of options for turn-arounds.
Portland area: Holman Lane Loop Hike – 2.3 miles. Quick loop at the southern fringes of Forest Park.
Gresham: Jenne Butte Hike – 3.3 miles. Hike around a forested cinder cone with two summits.
Lake Oswego: William Stafford-Kincaid Curlicue Hike – 3.4 miles. Walk to the William Stafford Stones and then on part of the Iron Heritage Trail.
Fairview-Troutdale: Blue Lake Park Loop Hike – 2.0 miles. A pleasant loop in a popular park with a natural area on its west end.
Corvallis: Avery Park Loop Hike – Leafy loop around a bend in the Marys River.
Silver Creek Preserve – This easy, mostly level trail starts below the visitor center and meanders through tall, marshy grass, lush trees, and along Silver Creek. Keep an eye out for wildlife! The trail itself is longer than 5 miles, but has plenty of opportunities to turn around.
Roosevelt Ancient Cedars Loop – In North Idaho. A one-mile loop trail from the lower cedar grove takes you to vista points above the Lower falls where both Lower and Upper Granite Falls may be viewed. Continue another 1/2 mile and you will arrive at the upper cedar grove, home to cedar trees that are between 800 and 2,000 years old…
Mineral Ridge – the 3.3 mile Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail loop winds along the shores of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. Elev gain: 700 feet.
Fourth of July Lake – 3.6 miles. A moderately trafficked out and back trail nestled in the Sawtooth National Forest near Stanley, Idaho. Featuring a lake and a scenic meadow. Dogs and horses okay.
Silver Falls State Park – Located roughly half an hour from Salem, Silver Falls State Park is known as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Park system. It is magnificent! About nine miles round trip, the Trail of Ten Falls is a must-see, even if you just section hike.
Now. Who’s ready to lace up and get started?
Camping with a ravenous horde disguised as four teen and pre-teen boys is an adventure. I spent years scouring cookbooks, the Internet, and other sources for “quick and easy” meal options and healthy menus.
This page is dedicated to helping busy parents whip out quick and easy food for ravenous hordes without breaking your bank.
All recipes are “kid tested, mother approved.” Most can be made in advance, vacuum-sealed, and tossed in the freezer for storage. Once you reach your campsite, simply boil hot water in a Dutch oven or kettle, toss in the vacuum-sealed bag and heat.
Voila! Dinner is served.
Clean up is a snap. No need to spend your evening elbow-deep in soap suds. You can either eat directly out of the sealed pouch or use paper plates.
Be sure to discard any food items in a bear-proof receptacle, and NEVER store any scented items inside your tent.
Here’s our first recipe for your camp kitchen:
Hungry Boys Casserole
This old fashioned casserole combines meat, vegetables and a biscuit topping sure to hit the spot for the hungriest hiker!
- 1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 1/2 cup each chopped onion and green bell pepper
- 3/4 cup (6 oz. can) tomato paste
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tsp. each salt and paprika
- 1 16 oz. can pork and beans, undrained
- 1 16 oz. can chick pease or limas, undrained
- 1-1/2 cup sifted flour
- 2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives
Sauté in skillet beef, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic until vegetables are tender. Drain.
Add water, tomato paste, salt, paprika.
Reserve 1 cup for biscuits. Add beans and peas/limas.
Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until fine. Combine with milk. Add to flour mixture. Stir until moist.
Knead on a floured surface 12 times. Roll into a 12 x 9” rectangle.
Combine olives and reserved meat mixture. Spread over dough. Roll up, starting with 12” side. Cut into 1” pieces.
Place meat mixture in 12 x 8” rectangular baking dish or an 11” round baking dish. Top with biscuits.
Bake at 425’ for 25-30 minutes.
After baking is complete, wrap casserole dish in heavy aluminum foil to open at your picnic table or camp site. Or make casserole ahead, vaccum seal and freeze. Reheat at your campsite in hot water in a Dutch oven or kettle. Store biscuits separately or make them the day before, as they may not freeze well.
As far as exercise goes, walking is one of the healthiest and the safest activities around. No specializing training, expensive gear or fancy equipment needed. It’s also easier on your body, with less stress on your joints, than many other forms of exercise. Just find a method and destination that’s comfortable for you, grab a sturdy pair of shoes, and go. Some benefits* of walking include:
- Reducing appetite
- Burning nearly as many calories as jogging
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing bad cholesterol levels
- Reducing risk of heart attack
- Decreasing tension and anxiety
- Improving muscle tone
- Easy on your joints
- Increasing aerobic capacity
- Enhancing stamina and energy
- Slowing down osteoporosis bone loss
Walking can also be done in brief period of time and while traveling.
With all these benefits, walking is a natural. So is hiking. Hiking offers all the health and other benefits associated with walking. Think of hiking as walking with attitude. In the Great Outdoors.
In our next post we’ll look at 13 Pacific Northwest trail options to get you started.
Stay tuned and happy trails!
*Adapted from the Sportline’s Guide to Walking
It’s mid-December. Jack Frost’s nipping at your nose. A trip to the beach ranks right up there with bah, humbug, right?
Hang on a sec. The truth is that winter may be one of the best times to hit West Coast beaches. Why? Because you don’t have to fight for a parking spot. You may have to bundle up, but you can walk for miles without encountering another sole or soul. Bonus points: Anyone with brains stays home.
To clarify: I don’t mean swimming – unless you’re part polar bear. But if you’re properly outfitted and are looking for adventure, here are a few Northwest options, followed by some Orange County and San Diego favorites:
Located in Grays Harbor, Bottle Beach is a 75-acre state park with with 6,000 feet of shoreline. Tip: Watch those tides! Dogs allowed from mid-October through February.
Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are among the most visited sites in Olympic National Park. Located along the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula, you can hike for miles along these beaches. Also great for bird and wildlife watching. Watch the driftwood, especially at Ruby Beach. The footing can be treacherous when wet.
Surrounded by the lush Olympic Peninsula, La Push perches on the northwest coast of Washington’s most westerly peninsula. It sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River, surrounded by Olympic National Park. Check out Rialto Beach for picnicking and hiking. Keep an eye on the tides!
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Over 700 acres of scenic, coast-hugging land on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Near the town of Sequim in Clallam County. For a quick, relatively mild hike along the water, check out the Dungenness Spit. You can almost hear, “O, Canada!”
Cannon Beach offers nine miles of walkable beach plus Haystack Rock.
Nestled between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park offers a network of trails that includes an eight mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail. Also Indian Beach, a secluded sandy beach popular with surfers and beach goers.
Located across Pacific Coast Highway from HB State Beach is the 114-acre Huntington Beach Wetlands, operated by the Department of Fish and Game. Great hiking along four multi-use trails into nearby Bolsa Chica State Beach. Pro tip: Check out Ruby’s Diner on the Huntington Beach pier.
The only beach in Huntington Beach where you can take your dog.
Nestled inside choice beachfront real estate in Huntington Beach’s Huntington Harbour, this network of five small, mellow beaches features playgrounds, grass, bathrooms, picnic tables, and warm, gentle water without big waves. Mother’s beaches are shallow, sheltered, and maintained by the city as part of its parks system. Just right for moms with little ones. Our favorites were Seabridge Park and Trinidad Island.
Great swimming, surfing and diving at this half-mile long sandy beach framed by cliffs and a rock jetty that forms the east entrance to Newport Harbor.
Seven miles of picturesque sand and surf located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Great hiking options!
There are no real “beaches” in Point Loma. But if you’re in San Diego, the Point Loma Peninsula is a must-see. Featuring Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, the Cabrillo National Monument, Shelter Island, Harbor Island, and stunning views of the San Diego skyline. A family favorite since just after the earth’s crust cooled.
If I had a nickel for every time I sailed or picnicked at Mission Bay, I could retire to the south of France. Tomorrow.
This is the largest aquatic park of its kind in the country. MBP has27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches with eight official swimming areas.
Known as “the Strand” by locals, this state beach perches on a narrow seven mile spit of sand that protects San Diego Bay from the sea. Swimming, overnight camping, bike paths, surf and sun.
The Cays is just down the road from the Strand. Six spacious beach acres with almost no trees. Includes a playground, baseball diamond and tennis courts. Nice option for a family picnic.
This reserve is one of the wildest 1,500 acres of land on the southern California coast. It remains pretty much as it was before San Diego was developed — including the maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon vital to migrating seabirds. Great ocean views and hiking along craggy bluffs overlooking the Big Blue.
“La Jolla” means the jewel, and this small beach tucked between sandstone cliffs is one of the best. Located in north San Diego, it’s also one of the most photographed beaches in southern California. Warm, crystal clear water with visibility that sometimes exceeds thirty feet.
The Cove is teeming with hordes and masses come summer. That’s why a winter visit may be just right. (Caveat: parking is at a premium on any sunny day – which is pretty much most days in San Diego. Either arrive early or plan to spend extra time trolling for a parking spot.)
The TRUTH about West Coach beaches? They’re some of Jack Frost’s best kept secrets. Just watch your nose.
What would you add?