Is there anything quite so mesmerizing as a campfire?

Fall is now definitely in the air, and with it comes my desire to enjoy the cool breezes, see the leaves turn and give a sigh of relief that the heat of summer has come, and hopefully gone. It’s my favorite time of year, and since the first of October is my birthday, I always want to get away and do something outdoors to celebrate. And this year, I thought about how nice it would be to get away from the city, from the noise… from the computer, even…and go camping!

Now I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea or coffee, but we happen to like to camp…as long as it’s on our own terms, and that means a rather gourmet form of camping. I’m no longer in a frame of mind or of an age that I care to really rough it when I camp, but am completely on board with car camping as long as I can have the “necessities” close at hand! Usually I’ll do a fair amount of gourmet camp cooking when we’re camping, including egg sandwiches or omelets for breakfast and meat or fish and roasted campfire veggies or pizza for dinner. After all, I have a two-burner propane stove, camping pots and pans I keep in a pre-packed camp kitchen, a French press for breakfast coffee, glassware and plenty of coolers. We even have some champagne glasses dedicated for camping, naturally! And we do tent-camp. Ours is a “condo-like” spacious tent that you can stand up in and easily change your clothes. It accommodates our inflatable queen-sized pillow-topped air mattress and we have a ceiling tent fan with a light. We also have a boat—a traveling inflatable Class 4 Rapid, two-person kayak that we’ve taken on lakes, creeks, rivers and oceans. I told you it was gourmet camping!

The condo.

I guess the thing I like the most about camping is that you get to experience nature in a way like no other, up close and personal for the most part. We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife from hawks, owls, geese, ducks, eagles, egrets, herons and painted buntings to frogs, turtles, rays, crabs, whelks and amazing fresh and salt water fishes. And of course there’s the scenery, from mountain to shore. North Georgia provides many places close by that we like to visit. There’s Lake Winfield Scott, which I’ve mentioned before, and where we had a “Close Encounter of the Black Bear Kind” a few years ago in our campsite during a stay in June for my husband’s birthday. Yep, you heard me say it…a bear! A young black bear came into the site next to our tent to wish Dave a happy birthday, waving his paws, sniffing and drooling in anticipation of some sun-dried tomato turkey burgers cooking on the campfire (at least that’s what I think he was drooling over). Boy was that a surprise! But fortunately he ran away while we were running in the opposite direction…and all was well. He was a cute bear, but I don’t care to see one that close up again.

French pressed coffee and toasted bagels are a must, even in the middle of the woods!

Just happened to have some Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Drunken Fig Jam to have with that champagne. Love that stuff.

This time we decided to go to Lake Rabun, which is located close to several places where we enjoy taking day trips, and so that we could take out our kayak and possibly go for a swim. Since it was my birthday weekend, I chose not to try and cook very much while camping, and instead made and purchased some food in advance to take up with us so I could spend my time enjoying nature and the scenery. Some of the food highlights were my couscous salad—great for any occasion, Karista’s wicked Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Brownies...terribly addictive in the best kind of way, and my Kitchen Sink Campy Sloppy Joes for which you’ll find the recipe at the end of this post. And of course, some champagne!

This is a finger of the lake where we put in our boat with a view towards the main lake, which is around the bend.

The view in the opposite direction towards Seed Lake.

It turned out to be a cool and lovely weekend for the most part, a little too cool for swimming and only one day of sun, but great for boating and camping and there were very few people. The leaves were just beginning to turn, several festivals were going on in the area including “A Taste of Clarksville,” in the small artist’s community of Clarksville, Georgia, and the Sautee Jamboree Music Festival in Sautee. There were also some wineries in the vicinity which were open for tastings. We visited the relatively young Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards and enjoyed tasting some of their wine and looking out over the small vineyard while listening to live music. Tiger Mountain Vineyards and Habersham Vineyards are located in and around this area, too.

View towards the vines at Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards.

The Tasting Room at Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards.


For those folks who love the mountains, love nature, but don’t want to camp or cook, there are two nice places to stay around Rabun that I can recommend. The historic Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant has been completely renovated and now includes a spa and a very good chef. Sitting out on their porch overlooking the lake is definitely the spot for dining. And slightly south of Lake Rabun lies Glen Ella Springs Inn, known for it’s food, beautiful foliage and pastoral scenery.

A covered bridge just outside of Sautee, Georgia.

According to the sign it was once used as a set location for the 1951 movie “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” with Susan Heyward. Unfortunately it has become a target of graffiti.

The weather held for us to enjoy a nice long boat ride and some great sight-seeing over the weekend. After breaking camp on Sunday morning, we ended our trip with a drive up to Highlands, N.C., which is only a 45 minute drive from Lake Rabun. We spent a few hours there window shopping, and went to see the American Craft exhibit at The Bascom. The Bascom is a nonprofit center for the visual arts in Highlands, where individuals can come together to participate in studio art classes and public programs, share cultural experiences, and enjoy the synergy of art and nature. The complex is made up of several historic buildings amidst beautiful natural surroundings. If you’ve never seen HIghlands or The Bascom, I highly recommend adding it to your trip list. I’ve posted about Highlands before, and you can click here to see and read more about our trip there last year.

Entrance to the Bascom. They had a huge fundraiser and silent auction the night before…normally there are no tents.

Lawn sculpture at The Bascom.

The Bascom Pottery Studio.

All in all a very nice getaway and great way to welcome a birthday!

Stirring the campfire.

So I have to ask you, do you like to camp? Have you ever done it?

Tell me about it!

Almost ready!

Kitchen Sink Campy Sloppy Joes
Serves 6-8

You can leave out the chipotle peppers (smoked and dried jalapeno peppers) if you or your kids can’t take the heat with the sweet, or use hotter peppers if you like more heat, to taste.

1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 1/2 to 2 minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet bell peppers (I use a mixture of green and red)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1-15 oz. can no salt tomato sauce
4 rounded Tablespoons of tomato paste
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (can use more to taste)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Onion hamburger buns, or your favorite

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Drain off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the chipotles, sweet bell peppers, onions and garlic, and stir over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, Chinese five spice powder, and salt. Stir for 2 minutes to cook the spices, then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and balsamic vinegar. Cook the mixture until it is thick and saucy over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from the skillet and serve open faced, spooning the mixture over toasted onion buns. This freezes beautifully for camping and reheating, or to save some for another quick weeknight dinner.

Great for campouts and camp-ins!


60 thoughts on “Campout

  1. I saw that cheese and knew immediately what it was. The Fog is good stuff indeed.

    Liz and I camped just about every other weekend this summer in Wyoming. Of course obsessed with food and drink, so we’ve developed our own system of gluttonous gourmet camping food. We had hoped to make a post about it all, but never got around to it…we were too focused on relaxing. 😉

    Hope you’re having a great weekend!!!


    • Hi Jed, would love to hear about your camping adventures, but being focused on relaxing is what it’s all about, so I’m glad y’all had fun. Just watched the F1 race in Suzuka tape delayed…always a good weekend when it’s a racing weekend! 🙂 Hope yours was grand, too!


  2. Thanks for taking us camping with you my friend – I’m more of a princess so who knows if I shall ever experience it myself 😉
    Lovely photos and happy birthday for October 1st 😀

    Choc Chip Uru


    • Thank you CCU, it was a good birthday! 🙂 I understand about being a princess where camping is concerned. We really don’t rough it, but I guess the love of the outdoors became rooted in me when I rode horses as a child. To each their own! 😉


  3. You are super-organised when you go camping. And you have all the necessities plus a few luxuries so that’s my idea of camping. I love how it looks like you have the whole campsite to yourselves. That must have been a wonderful birthday weekend. Happy birthday! xx


  4. I know you know my limitations of camping so I won’t repeat it, but I take my hat off to you! I have looked into ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) but it’s the cost of a four-star hotel so you know where I’d rather be! Think of me as Eva Gabor on Green Acres! Well, maybe not THAT bad.
    Your food sounds incredible!


    • Hi Eva, and yes I figured you weren’t the camping type, LOL! Nothing wrong with that and I’ve stayed in my fair share of 4 and 5 star hotels, too, around the world. I just love geting back to nature every now and then, but only if there’s a hot shower and a bath house close by! 😉


      • How rude if me not to wish you a belated happy birthday, Betsy. I hope you can take advantage of the month-long celebrations that go along with birthdays! Cheers!


        • No worries, Eva, and thank you very much for your good wishes. I tend to let birthdays slip under the radar…especially when they aren’t significant numbers, ha, ha! I do love the idea of celebrating all month long, however and for sure I’m stretching this one out into this week! 😉


  5. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a Sloppy Joe. Yours in the picture looks about as good as one can be — good and sloppy! This sounds like a great recipe for good birthday weekend, doing the things you love to do with your Spouse. Good, too, that there were relatively few campers to share the sights and grounds. I hope your birthday was even better that it sounds, Betsy.


    • Thanks much, John! It was a great birthday, and continued on into this week after we returned home with presents, a nice dinner out and some lunches with friends…can’t complain! This particular camping area is very nice and each site is secluded. We’ve been when it was crowded and not so pleasant, so I was glad the somewhat cloudy forecast must have run folks away. I’m sure this weekend was a zoo up there!


  6. I love that you take all your favourite foods and coffee press and things like that and i must say that- though I in fact am not a camper (I am rather fond of flushing showers and hot water) , -i know I am so boring but I have to say that your own tent looks mighty fine.. almost comfy. but i do like to be outside though.. happy birthday darling.. c


    • Well I guess I left out the fact that there was a bath house with hot water and flushing toilets in the grounds. I’m not that into roughing it, though did wilderness camp a couple of time in my youth! 😉 It was fun, and I think you might have enjoyed it, miss c. Thanks for the lovely birthday greetings!


  7. What a beautiful place in the world! I love the way you camp 🙂 thanks so much for sharing my peanut butter bars! Love your sloppy joes, definitely making your recipe as the Bennett crew does not like my sloppy joes. 😦 hope you’re doing we’ll!


    • Hi Karista, and you’re most welcome for the share. Those bars gave us the energy we needed during our glamour camping, I’ll tell ya! They freeze extremely well, too! I can’t imagine your crew not liking anything you make, seriously. But if you do make the sloppy joes, I hope you all enjoy them. 🙂


  8. Happy Belated Birthday, Betsy. I love camping — all of my childhood vacations were camping vacations, mostly at Lake Shasta in Northern California: we had a ski boat, camped on the beach. My Dad cooked breakfast and dinner over a fire and we kids rarely left the water except for meals and sleeping. Every now and again I get invited for more luxurious camping (the kind that you describe). Because my (resident) brother does not eat beef, I make sloppy joes with ground turkey now, but may try your recipe for seasonings.


    • Hi Sharyn and thank you for the birthday wishes. It was a good one. We never went camping when I was a kid, my dad spent too much time in pup tents in the war, so he refused…I think that’s why I like being able to camp as an adult! Your experience sounds fun. Hope you do try the spices and like them in the turkey joes!


  9. I’m still trying to find good figs here for that jam! Happy Birthday, Betsy!! I couldn’t think of a better celebration! I’m a girl for Glamping.. I used to camp when I was a young lass.. but I need a few of the comforts of life. Your style of camping is just right up my alley! Plus you got to go to a winery!! What a celebration! I’m off to check out those brownies!! xx Smidge


  10. Happy Birthday Betsy!My birthday is on October first too! and that is indeed a wonderful way to enjoy a birthday!
    I love going on long walks in the woods and getting up close and personal with nature but only as long as there is sunlight. I am terribly scared of bigs and the like and the idea of sleeping amoung them is mot a pleasant one


    • Oh, Happy Birthday Sawsan! What fun that we share a birthday, and I sure hope you did something fun to celebrate yours. I’ll confess that one reason I like the way we camp is that we generally aren’t in a completely isolated area, and we now take extreme cautions to bear-proof our site, so mostly we hear crickets, frogs and birds at night. There can be the occasional raccoon or opossum. As long as you don’t have food, toothpaste or even lip gloss in your tent, they will not bother you. Still, it takes some geting used to! 😉


        • I know…it sounds ridiculous, but after we had our bear incident, we were informed by a professional that critter, and bears especially, will go after anything that smells like food to them and that includes toothpaste (upon which he sited an incident) and lip gloss. He said to never keep anything but clothes in the tent with you, and store any toiletries and especially food, outside the tent (in our case in the car).


  11. I have never been one to camp much but you might have just convinced me to give it another try. It does look so lovely where you camped and the time you had with your spouse sounds irreplaceable. Your sloppy joes look mighty fine too!


    • Hi Geni! Camping is really fun. You just need to take a few small precautions as you are in the wild, even in a managed camp site. Being under the open sky is really a lovely experience…especially when you have good food to eat and beverages to drink! 😉


    • Glad we are simpatico, Barb! It’s a fun way to camp and we’re so lucky to have a place to do it an hour away from the city. 🙂


  12. That’s a great post. I love camping but like you must do it “gourmet style”. It’s more fun that way! My newest goal is to try and read one new blog a day – I’m so happy that I clicked on yours. I’ll gladly be back for more reading and enjoying your photos! Love bubbly too!


    • HI Orange Bee, and thank you so much for your kind comments and for visiting me! Gourmet camping is really fun, I think. The challenge of bringing a gourmet touch to camping is creative and also sometimes much healthier than the traditional fare. I really enjoy it and hope we can camp again before the year is over. And now I’m coming to visit you!


  13. A belated happy birthday!! It sounds like a lovely way to celebrate, and I love camping, waking up in the morning, unzipping the tent andn simply watching and listening to the world is a treat! I haven’t camped for a while and like you th eolder I get the more I need! Have you heard of the expression “glamping” aka glamerous camping 🙂


    • Hi Claire, and thank you for your good wishes! Hope you had fun on your travels, as well. I’ve heard of glamping and we aren’t quite there yet…perhaps two steps below glamping! 🙂 I hope you get to camp soon, it is such a rejuvenating experience.


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  15. Looks like you had a lot of fun on the camp out.

    Not sure if I am a camping person, only done it a couple of times and missed my creature comforts BUT I am a HUGE fan of staying in wooden lodges deep in the forest, just you, your loved one, a wooden fire and a bag of marshmallows. Amazing.


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