I’m up late Friday night making little foil packages of salt and pepper and squeezing condiments into tiny bottles. For a fleeting moment it feels like it’s Christmas Eve and I’m prepping milk and cookies for Santa.
The alarm goes off at 5.30 am and instead of Christmas, it’s the beginning of a weekend adventure. We get up, pack food and togs, the tent, camera and not much else into backpacks and head off down the creaky stairs and out the door. The Brooklyn streets are quiet and empty and it’s only when we dip down into the subway that we’re joined by other people awake in the wee weekend hours. Going to work, going home after a big night out, going somewhere.
Heading off from Grand Central we leave on the familiar MNR, bound for the Hudson Valley with a potential Mexican feast in our packs. Today is going to be an experimental culinary adventure of sorts; we’re those kind of gourmet travellers that like to eat delicious things, meanwhile being resourceful and mindful of wasting food, and of course limited by what we could carry.
The walk through Beacon to the foot of the mountain is decent; about 3 km but interesting in itself. The main street turns into neighbourhoods and we get a good glimpse into the local vibe.
The sheer climb up to Fishkill ridge gets the legs pumping and heart racing quickly, checking out casino ruins and remnants the world’s oldest incline railway trail. Climbing over big slabs of rock the trees change as we get higher and the world below pops into view in a dramatic way.
Dipping back down into the tree line again a track weaves toward a handmade wooden sign that marks our destination. Malouf’s Mountain, a hidden oasis in the trees.
This place has a different vibe that other camp spots- it’s relaxed, peaceful and, with a hike in only policy, devoid of any cars. Gus the German Shepherd greets us then goes off to play in the stream. The campsites aren’t close together and there is an ornate cabin-style bathhouse with all the luxuries like hot showers and dishwashing liquid. It’s roughing it, but in a glamorous way.
We build our tent, mill round drawing and reading and getting a fire going to make some delicious food. My little foil packages come in handy. We make a feast of Polenta fries with chipotle mayo, beef tacos and chilli lime salt corn on the cob for dinner, with a couple of tins. Gourmet camp food, with no left overs.
Backpack camping can be a bit about sacrifice; you may have to forego a camp mat in favour of a couple of beers. Or plates in favour of a book to read. A camera is more important than a lamp anyway. No pillows? no worries. It’s a good way of figuring out what you consider necessity vs luxury. But as soon as that fire is lit you don’t really worry anymore about what you don’t have. You’ve got that sweet orange glow which is the heart of the campsite, the kitchen and the congregational spot for stories and warmth.
The fire turns to embers and somewhere down in Beacon the local Baseball team is celebrating a win with fireworks we can see dotted through the trees. We realise we’re actually not that far away from civilisation.
Later over beers and stories under the stars with Dick Malouf, the owner, we learn that he bought this land years ago with a vision to build a different kind of campsite. That it is.
If you want to get crafty with camp cooking try some of the recipes we created, I’ve shared a couple of these over on The Outbound.
Polenta Fries and Chipotle Mayo
Smokey Mexican Beef Tacos and Chilli Lime Corn on the Cob