When we think of where to go for our next weekend wilderness getaway, half the fun is selecting a menu. The nature of car camping allows you to turn blasé camp meals into gourmet camp eats, considering you can pack a cooler and don’t have to worry about weight!
On our recent weekend wilderness getaway, we packed the cooler with salmon steaks and picked a spot on the map. We left after dark with about five hours of driving time separating us from our final destination: the hot springs outside of Mammoth, CA.
We pulled into our campsite at about 2:00 AM in the inky black of a new moon night. The temperature had fallen a few degrees below freezing, which for us cold Californian wimps, felt like negative forty degrees. We did what any logical person would do and put on about five pairs of pants, seven jackets, three pairs of socks, and set up our tent howling underneath the Milky Way. Not our worst Friday night.
Any suffering we endured in the cold of the night dissipated in the morning’s sun. Our tent opened up to panoramic views of the eastern Sierra Nevada, and just 100 yards away, geothermal hot springs called us in for a dip. Refreshed and warm after a soak, we set out towards the Little Lakes Valley trailhead at Mosquito Flat.
It snowed only a few days prior, leaving chandeliers of ice hanging from the pine, spruce, and fir. Every now and then, a gurgling stream cut across the trail, crystalline ice encasing it from above, but alive and rushing underneath.
Every human we encountered on the trail had a similar glow about them, that same joy to be outside and alive in the crisp air. We too felt happy to experience nature unspoiled on such a perfect day, amazed that places like this even exist for our enjoyment.
However, our enlightened moments quickly devolved into Neanderthal behavior when the trail brought us to our first frozen lake. We stood at the shore and methodically threw the largest stones we could find at the surface of the lake, testing its strength. If it could withstand our onslaught, would it also support our bodies? Could we slide around on it?
Although our barrage of stones left the lake unharmed, (and we threw some heavy stones), we decided it wouldn’t be fun to practice ice rescue drills in the backcountry. Besides, we had a salmon fillet waiting for us to cook up back at camp, and the day’s adventure had left us ravenous.
We returned to camp, to reflect on our day of hiking, philosophizing, and acting like children. Then we whipped together a proper feast of brown rice, butternut squash, pan-seared salmon steaks, and veggies. Keep readin’ to find out how we did it.
Pan-Seared Salmon Steaks & Veggies
(serves 2 adventurous campers)
First things first, let’s get organized. You’ll need:
- Crates [great for packing non-perishables & cooking utensils]
- Cutting board & knife
- Cast iron skillet & oven mitt for open fire cooking
1 half pound salmon fillet
1 tomato, sliced into wedges
1 red bell pepper, sliced
½ medium yellow onion, sliced
3 leaves purple redbor kale, chopped
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
1 lemon, sliced to garnish
1 sprig basil, chopped to garnish
salt & pepper to taste
1. Chop all veggies and rub salmon with salt and pepper. Veggies can also prepped at home beforehand to save time.
2. Heat ½ of the sesame oil on cast iron and place salmon fillet on pan, skin down. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add onion, bell pepper, and kale to cast iron with the remaining sesame oil. Cook for 3 minutes. Add tomato wedges, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Stir as needed
4. Flip salmon and cook until the fillet flakes easily under a fork.
5. Garnish with lemon and basil. Serve over brown rice and butternut squash.
To make the most of your daytime adventure and minimize cook time, cook brown rice and butternut squash at home and prep the veggies, and bring them pre-cut in Tupperware containers, ready for the pan.