Propane is For Yuppies

Camping is a whole lot of hard work and expense followed by a day so relaxing you feel like you could melt into your camp chair. And then a whole lot of hard work again. But man, I love it.

It all started Thursday after work, when we made a run to a sporting goods store followed by the grocery store. We emerged with two carts full and wallets significantly lighter. I was thinking, damn, marshmallows sure have gotten expensive! But it was more than just that.

There were graham crackers, too.

And firewood, and a new camp table, and air mattresses, and…well, it all adds up. A lot of these were one-time purchases. I’m sure our next trip will be much cheaper. That night we loaded the cars, as in plural. With the kids coming along, and a dog – Audrey’s new puppy – and all that stuff, there was no way we could all fit in one car. We hit the road a little after 6:00 Friday evening, and didn’t pull into our camping site – Cape Disappointment on the Long Beach peninsula – until about 8:45. It was overcast and chilly, and darkness was already settling in, so we started a fire and got our tents up right away. The kids were very helpful; they even got their own tent up without assistance, and I was impressed since this was only their second camping trip in a tent in…well, EVER. I have to say, we really enjoyed their company all weekend. With Rusty working a part-time job now, and Audrey taking care of a dog, they both seemed much more responsible than before. And it’s barely been a month since they lived with us! The weekend made me realize how much I miss them.

We ended up eating dinner around 10:30. I’d learned how to make “hobo packs” from scouting Pinterest; these were foil packets containing ground beef, sliced red potatoes, Walla Walla onions, mushrooms, and carrots, and seasoned liberally. You just cook them on hot coals for about half an hour, and they turn out tasting like miniature meatloaves. We all enjoyed those very much. It was after midnight before we crawled into bed, and the next morning we awoke to low clouds, fog, and mist. Unfortunately we never did see the sun, but it also never rained torrentially, so we couldn’t really complain. We walked along the beach, examined some tide pools, found a good sized Dungeness crab that we debated taking back to camp to cook, but ended up setting free. Only because Tara had all the ingredients for breakfast burritos, which turned out amazing. Those and bloody marys and we were really enjoying breakfast. The rest of the day was spent lounging around camp, exploring the beach and a nearby jetty, and lounging around camp. Oh, and also, we lounged around camp. Note: “lounging around camp” = “sitting on our asses drinking.”

H  E  A  V  E  N.

That evening we had country ribs cooked in a pan with beer, onions, and homemade barbecue sauce, along with corn on the cob and beans. And S’mores later on, naturally. At one point two women from the neighboring camp came over and we ended up chatting for nearly an hour. They were impressed that we cooked everything over a wood fire, while they were loaded down with propane stoves and portable grills. The first couple of times we went camping I asked Tara if we needed charcoal or a camp stove, and she scoffed at me. I’ve since learned to trust her, and it is pretty impressive how she’s able to build up a perfect fire every time, and we cook everything either over or in it. Feels more like “roughing it” that way. She did say she has never before purchased firewood, so that’s her one concession to “urban living.” As darkness deepened the mist returned, and by Sunday morning our campsite was wet and muddy. Rather than hanging around, we broke down camp early, and ended up at the Pig ‘n Pancake restaurant in Astoria for dungeness crab eggs benedict (hope he wasn’t the same one we set free the day before), sourdough pancakes, omelettes, and more. By that point we hadn’t showered in two days and reeked of wood smoke, so we ended up leaving the waitress a generous tip. We arrived back home at 12:00 noon on the dot.

Going back to work after such a great weekend is always tough. Hard to believe that a mere 24 hours earlier we awoke in a tent, the roar of the ocean in our ears and the scent of wood smoke and pine hanging in the misty air. Already, I can’t wait for our next camping trip. We’d love to go again this summer, but the weeks are flying by and our calendar is filling up fast. My brother is visiting this week, we have friends from Sacramento coming in for Labor Day weekend, and this little thing called a wedding in less than two months. Sadly, we probably won’t get another trip in until next year.

Fortunately, we’ve got memories. And photographs.

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Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

14 thoughts on “Propane is For Yuppies

  1. Mark, from what you shared in your words and through these faaaaaaabulous photos in your slide show, it sounds and looks like you all had such a great time!

    I don’t know whether it’s your photos, but I can’t get over how large those tents look. Wow…it looks like you could fit FOUR people in them comfortably.

    LOVE your daughter’s new dog. Love the name!

    The shot of the lighthouse and the misty morning on the beach photos are stunning!


    1. They’re not really as big as they look, Ron. They’re plenty large enough for two people, but with an inflated air mattress, there isn’t much room for walking around – you basically have to stoop over when getting dressed, etc. They make tents large enough for 8 people, but I swear, those are as big as my garage. These are pretty much the perfect size.


  2. As parents of an Eagle Scout, we have camped quite a lot as a family. Rocky Mountain National Park was my fave back country spot. A must have for campfire cooking is an iron skillet. Perfect for that bacon and pancake breakfast. Of course hobo foil packs are top choice for scouts. No bloody marys on those trips though.


    1. We do have an iron skillet, but kept that at home this time. We’re looking at purchasing a cast iron dutch skillet at some point in the near future. And yeah, I can see why bloody marys and boy scouts don’t mix. They’re probably much too spicy for the little tykes. Best to stick with beer for them!


    1. Ahh, but what is more natural than wood, my friend? That’s right: nothing! It’s a great sense of accomplishment to get away with firewood only. Propane? We don’t need no stinkin’ propane!


  3. You will appreciate propane (or white gas) the day that it pours down hard enough that you can’t (or don’t want) to start a cooking fire. Washington camping, and at the coast, is always at risk. But I agree that there is nothing quite like a meal cooked over coals. Go for the dutch oven. you’ll love that.


    1. You know, it rained for 17 hours straight last June at Panther Creek, and we still got by with just firewood. But we did have propane as a backup, at least. We’re definitely planning on investing in a Dutch oven!


      1. Please reconsider… white lace tents, mimosas from a collapsible plastic jug at breakfast, the ring bearer bearing the ring in a knapsack that opens up like a jewelry store ring box, guests sitting on logs, ushers armed with ribbon-decorated rifles to ward off predatorial wildlife, and the bride’s veil could double as a mosquito net!

        And where better than Canada for a great outdoors themed nuptialpalooza? There’s a place in Newfoundland called Wedding Pond and, if you had envisioned a more inland location there’s always Wedding Cake Island in the province of Ontario.


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