A Camping Trip, A Birthday and A Blogging Anniversary!

Finished2 Happy Summer! 

These last few weeks have been filled with events—a lot of work, a little travel, a little cooking, a little hiking and some little cakes.

My posting has also been a little less frequent lately, so it’s time for a series of “catching up” posts on what’s been going on. Sit down with your favorite warm or cold beverage and come along with me as we explore some of the wonderfully wild and incredibly beautiful National Forests, Recreation Areas and State Parks of Northeast Georgia, United States.

My husband’s birthday was June 5th and he wanted to take a 3-4 day tent camping trip up to the mountains, which has become our ritual around his birthday. It’s a nice time to go because it’s just before the arrival of crowds, pesky insects and the super hot weather.

Full disclosure here: We have a very large tent that we jokingly to refer to as “the condo,” an inflatable queen-sized pillow-top air mattress, a clip on “ceiling fan” with a light, a two burner propane stove top, lanterns, chairs, a grill top for fire pits and an inflatable class IV rapid Sevylor two person travel kayak that we’ve taken out on lakes, rivers and the ocean. We only camp where we can car camp and there’s at least one “facility” close by. So before anyone says “I can’t believe you camp in a tent for fun and relaxation,” this is our version of “glamping!”

On this trip, we spent our time in and around Lake Rabun, camped in a National Forest Recreation Area close to the lake. Lake Rabun is the third of a series of six manmade lakes in North Georgia, owned and operated by Georgia Power who built damns in this area to create lakes that generate hydroelectric energy for Atlanta. Rabun is our favorite of these lakes and we always enjoy some of the small amenities in the area including a couple of restaurants and an inn or two, a grocery store, a marina and a local vineyard. It suits our glamping style quite well! On this trip in addition to swimming in the lake, we did something we don’t normally do up there while camping…trail hiking. As many times as I’ve been in that area, I had no idea there were so many beautiful trails so close by.

Of course the Appalachian Trail runs through Georgia and there are trailheads for it throughout our mountains, but in our case we were interested in smaller looped trails for short day trips. One we discovered that has now become a particular favorite of ours was Warwoman Dell. It’s a beautifully scenic recreation area along Warwoman Creek, featuring a small nature trail that leads to a waterfall surrounded by wildflowers and other fauna, and also access to the 37-mile long Bartram Trail, which runs through this area as well. We packed a picnic and hiked around through the dells along a small section of the Bartram Trail, then headed down the nature trail to the waterfall, snapping pictures as we went. It was so idyllic and peaceful…very “Middle Earth,” and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Here’s a slideshow of our Warwoman Dell adventure.

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I hope you’ll take a moment to follow the links associated with the name of each spot and find out more about these scenic areas…and maybe even check them out for yourself if you live in this area. I’ll be sharing the rest of our trip and some sights in the next post, so stay tuned.

We actually had so much fun hiking while on vacation, that we’ve now decided to take one hike a week, but not necessarily in the mountains. You see, we are blessed with such a diversity of ecosystems here in this state, as well as having a plenty of State Parks and National Forest areas. There are actually 60 hikes within 60 miles of Atlanta, and 30 of them are within 30 minutes of our house! We’ve been doing more hiking since we returned from this trip and I’ll share some of the best of those with you over time.

In addition to celebrating my husband’s birthday, last Sunday (the 15th of June) was my 3 year blogging anniversary! My goodness, what a full 3 years this has been. And while my posting has suffered a bit lately, let me assure you that I’m here to stay and I hope you’ll keep on reading and commenting with me for the next 3 years. Thank you for joining me on this wonderful blogging journey!

This post just wouldn’t be complete or true to the tagline of this blog: “Where all trails lead to good food,” if I didn’t share these deliciously quick and festive mini-cupcakes I made upon our return home to celebrate my husband’s birthday and my bloggiversary. This devil’s food is rich and dark, with the addition of coffee to really liven up and enhance the chocolatey flavor. And my easy Vanilla Buttercream frosting is a recipe I’ve made since I was a child. It’s a perfect foil for the devil’s food cake.

Cheers, happy eating and happy hiking!

Easy Devil’s Food Mini-Cupcakes with Easy Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Makes 32 mini-cupcakes or about 8 regular-sized cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 scant cup of granulated cane sugar
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup of hot brewed coffee
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-24 cup mini muffin tin and 32 mini muffin paper cups

For the icing:
1 3/4 cup confectioner’s (powdered icing) sugar, plus a bit more if needed for consistency 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2-3 Tablespoons of milk
1/4 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract, I use Madagascar Bourbon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your tin with 24 muffin cups, reserving the remaining 8 muffin cups for the second batch (I do this in two batches, but if you have two pans by all means do one batch.) Melt the chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly, then remove it when it is smooth and set aside. Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt together into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the coffee, sour cream and canola oil. Gradually whisk in the egg, then stir in the chocolate. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until smoothly blended. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Larger cupcakes will take 20-25 minutes.) Remove the cupcakes from the pan and allow them to cool upright on a wire rack, until they are completely cooled. If doing two batches, repeat the process with the remaining batter and cups.

When the cupcakes are completely cooled, make the frosting. Place the softened butter into a small bowl. Beat a small amount of the powdered sugar into the butter with a hand mixer fitted with beaters and on low speed, until well blended. Continue to add the sugar alternating with the milk until the icing is smooth but stiff enough to spread. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add more sugar if the mixture is too soft, or a tiny bit more milk if it’s too stiff. Use a small spatula to spread about a scant tablespoon of icing onto each cupcake. Serve with celebratory candles, sprinkles and ice cream! These will keep at room temperature well covered in plastic for a couple of days…if you have any left.

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23 thoughts on “A Camping Trip, A Birthday and A Blogging Anniversary!

  1. Wha stunning photos – and I love the approach you have to camping/glamping!! Congrats ont he 3 year anniversary and here’s to many more. Belated birthday greetings to your hubby too 🙂

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  2. I had been thinking I hadn’t see lots of posts from you lately. (I, myself, am soo overdue on my own blog….) I really enjoyed reading this! Your ‘glamping’ trip and hikes sound like such wonderful times. Thanks for the gorgeous photos!! And your cupcakes must be delicious – nice and chocolatey… plus ‘dense’ with the addition of the sour cream – yummy!!

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    • Hi Cecile, happy Summer! Yes, I have been overwhelmed with work these past few months, which is a happy thing because I’m self-employed. 🙂 But it does seriously cut into my time to blog and read blogs, so I am waaaaaaay behind on both counts. Thanks for your kind words. The mini-cupcakes were amazingly moist and light, actually. Maybe they just seemed light because of the small size! 😉

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      • I’m waaay behind with posting due to several factors, one being that I was away for a month on my trip, not long after I had to fly down to Florida ’cause my godmother fell & was in intensive care…not long after that I was in Philly for two weeks…. and, since my aunt fell, one of my friends found out she has pancreatic cancer, another friend has lymphoma and another just broke his hip ’cause he was flying around like a wild man on his ATV. AND… the day after I got home from Philly, I learned that a good friend of mine was killed in a car accident…. So, not only have I not been home very much.. I’m also trying to ‘be there’ for my friends. But I’m dying to get back to posting – Next Up – two super delicious and super easy no-bake summer pies!!

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        • Oh my gosh…your last few months sound like our last two years. It’s rough when we all start falling apart, so to speak. Hang in there and I hope this will be the end of your bad news. Am looking forward to your two no bake summer pies! 🙂

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  3. Congratulations on your third anniversary – I’ve just celebrated mine! I love your version of glamping and you certainly seem very well equipped. It’s always a treat if you can take a break before the crowds descend. Your cupcakes are gorgeous xx

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  4. Now that’s camping I may be able to tolerate! Particularly if there is wine as well. Happy belated birthday to your groom, and happy anniversary to your blog! Your trip sounds like the perfect way to celebrate such momentous events. The cup cakes look beautiful; I’m baking all day tomorrow for my recipe developer client.

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    • Hi Eva! Of course if one has a lake camp that’s even better, but we do enjoy the peace of tent camping. It’s very grounding in more ways that one! 😉 And yes, we had a couple of bottles of champagne and some wine along with us, for sure. Plus we had birthday dinner at the local restaurant in the inn that specializes in farm to table…quite good for such a small area. Thanks for your kind words and wishes and good luck with the baking.

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  5. Congratulations for your blogging anniversary. When you mentioned your tent and all of its accessories, I thought you were going to say that you had a mini oven and baked your cupcakes while camping. 😀

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    • Ha ha! That would be quite a feat, wouldn’t it? And would defeat the purpose of getting away and camping considering how long it takes to set up to cook and then take it down so the bears don’t come for a visit. (We had one come to our campsite a few years back on my husband’s birthday…the birthday bear!) Thanks for your good wishes and comment, Karen! 🙂

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        • Yes, we’ve made it our mission to discourage bears since that event…it was “beary” scary! (sorry I couldn’t help it) He was a baby bear up on his hind feet next to our tent about 20 feet away from where we were eating, so mama was close by somewhere. He ran when we got up and headed quickly for our car. I’d like to not re-live that experience if at all possible. 😉

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  6. Pingback: Camping and Hiking Part II, Fruited Farro Salad, and Grilled Za’atar Spiced Chicken with Peppers and Onions | bits and breadcrumbs

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