Camping in Lost Valley

16 Nov

Lost Valley, Arkansas, is an AWESOME place to visit!

Following my handy camping checklist that I made last time, we had a lovely time and didn’t lack for any cooking/first aid tools.

The camping sites were a little close, so it was noisier and not as restful as some of our trips. The kids all helped set up the tent this time.

Our neighbor to the left had about six 11-13 year-old kids. What we heard from their direction all evening was: ” You guys come help me.” “I could use some help here.” “come ON, guys!”

Hopefully, with a little more experience, that Dad will learn to give specific job assignments/requests. Then he’ll have help.

Building blocks are provided at each campsite for your rich entertainment.

But we did have the opportunity to share our over-abundance of delicious dinner with the tent on the right, saving them from a disastrous dinner of hot dogs. **shudder**

I was tired of dutch oven recipes that featured Cream of *whatever* Soup and searched around until I found this baby. In one word, it was *mouthwatering*. We’ve made it at home since then–it’ll be a regular on the menu.

Dutch Oven Cheesy Chicken Italian-o
the recipe says that it serves 16. I think it accurately serves 8 hungry adults. I was too tired when I packed to do any math, so I made the entire recipe. My husband thought I was crazy, but it all got eaten 🙂 It was that good.


1 lb bacon (you KNOW this is gonna be good)
8 chicken breasts, cut into chunks– or do like me and just throw the frozen bag in the cooler for worry- free car travel. Even if they are still frozen when you dump them in the dutch oven, you can chop up with your spoon later in the process.
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 29 oz can diced tomatoes or 6 tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
4 cups Minute Rice

1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup Mozzerella cheese
1 cup Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Parmesan Cheese

I mixed up the sauce part (tomato paste through black pepper) at home and put it in a tupperware to save some space in the cooler and preptime at the campsite

Bubba and magpie helped with chopping veg.

The recipe directions included lots of steps–cook A, take it out, cook B, put in C and A, yadda yadda. That was way too much work for a camp meal. And before you raz me about the amount of cheese, I’ll have you know that is 1/3 what the recipe actually called for. That’s right the origional was 3 cups mozzerella, 3 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup parmesan. Can you believe it? We tried it that way and this way and there is no taste sacrificed by reducing the cheese.

Here are the lazy camper instructions:

Heat a 12″ dutch oven using 30 charcoal briquettes on the bottom. Chop bacon into 1″ chunks and add to hot oven. Fry until brown. Remove bacon from oven. and hide it between 2 paper plates. Try not to eat it all.

Pour out some of the bacon fat–reserving at least 2 Tblsp. in oven. Layer in all ingredients, except the cheese: onion, chicken, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, rice, and sauce mix.

Put lid on dutch oven and transfer 15 briquettes to the top. Take family on a hike to wait for food to cook–sort of like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

Find the Bear’s Toilet.

After 30-45 minutes, return to camp and the heavenly smells calling you. Lift the lid and stir in the cheese and the reserved bacon. Put the lid back on for five minutes to melt the cheese while everyone washes their hands.

Enjoy the most tasty meal you ever ate on a camping trip!

The next morning we set out on our hike to see the waterfalls and caves of Lost Valley.

We packed sandwiches, water bottles, and granola bars

None of the pictures I have capture the scale or beauty of the things we saw.

My favorite part of the hike happened when we stopped to eat our sandwiches

We stopped to eat our sandwiches in Cobb Cave (so named for the ancient corn cobs and other indian relics found there. We were happily eating our lunch, when suddenly we heard singing. A beautiful hillbilly love ballad, ringing through the cave–which was shaped like a natural amphitheater. I looked around and saw, clear across the cave on a heap of rock, a man, singing to his lovely lady. It was so sweet. They were far enough away that I couldn’t even really see their faces clearly, but the cave amplified the sound, so I could hear perfectly.

After teasing my DH a bit for not serenading me, we went back to our lunch. The song ended and then to the delight of the lovely lady and everyone else, our bold singer went down on one knee and asked her to marry him for all the world to hear–at least all the hikers at Lost Valley that day heard– because of that natural amphitheater effect I mentioned.

Happy Sigh.

The lovely lady was suitably ecstatic and after laughing, crying, jumping up and down and clapping her hands, she kissed her bold singer very enthusiastically several times. I went back to my sandwich in order to give them as much privacy as one can expect when one proposes in the presence of a family of 7, a large boy scout troup, and 3-4 senior citizens who got on the wrong OATS bus and ended up hiking Lost Valley instead of going to water aerobics at the YMCA.

Happy Sigh.


2 Responses to “Camping in Lost Valley”

  1. kate the great December 8, 2010 at 8:42 PM #

    I loved it when we went camping there! It is a great place! In fact, we took pictures by that same tree. And that dinner sounds amazing! I am very proud of your children that they will eat mushrooms and peppers. I can only hope that James can get there one day.

  2. Rebecca Adams December 8, 2010 at 10:05 PM #

    I enjoyed reading this post! My husband's family goes camping every summer and everyone is in charge of a night to make a meal. We do dutch oven dinners, so I might just steal the recipe you made and make it next summer! It sounds soooo good! 🙂

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