Campfire Tea Kettle

As cooler weather approached us, I began to lust after campfire tea kettles. I would linger by them in outdoor and sporting goods stores. My web browser somehow found its way to pages with tea kettles for sale or reviews on this particular camp cookware. Griff probably was tired of hearing me talk about them.

 

The tea kettle we chose

On a trip through Wall, SD, I found exactly the one that I wanted, but we did not have room to take it with us on that trip.  I wanted a tea kettle that was big enough to make several cups of hot drinks and something that looked nice. When we returned, I read thoroughly about it and decided that there really was not much that was going to change my mind. So, Griff and I placed an order and it was shipped to us a few days later. We are now the proud owners of a GSI Outdoor enamelware tea kettle.

 

Tea kettle over fire

Our GSI Outdoor enamelware tea kettle over the fire.

Using the tea kettle

We have only been able to use the tea kettle on one campout to date. On that cold camping weekend, hot tea and hot chocolate helped keep our spirits high and brought us much needed warmth. Griff and I happily added tea bags, cocoa mix and travel coffee mugs to our packing list for that trip. We had hot drinks even as we left the campground and headed on our 6.5 hour journey home.

The main issue that we had is that I realized too late that the lid had a groove at one end to keep the lid in place and I accidentally broke that groove off when I placed the lid on it the first time. We never tried to grab the handle without a pot holder or towel, but we assume that it was probably too hot to touch otherwise. The water did not take an exceptionally long time to boil and it poured out of the spout easily.

At the end of the camping trip, the pretty green tea kettle appeared to be thoroughly burnt. The tea kettle had been left on the fire when there was little water left in it which eventually left a residue on the metal that made it appear burnt. I sighed as I thought about how nice it was at the beginning of the trip but I supposed that all things rugged must look rugged. When I got home, I soaked the tea kettle in soapy water and then washed it with the dishes. Believe it or not, the tea kettle looks almost as good as new. It made me love the tea kettle that much more for being easy to clean.

 

The future of the tea kettle

We had considered camping this weekend, but it did not work out for us. Today, we discussed how nice the tea kettle will be on cold weekends like this. We also discussed how having a tea kettle opens up so many more possibilities for us while camping. We can now make oatmeal for breakfast, continue to have hot drinks and many more meal options. We also now have the option of hot water for washing dishes. We are making big plans for future camping trips with this tea kettle.

Prairie Days at the Shaw Nature Reserve

Shaw Nature Reserve Prairie Land

Shaw Nature Reserve Prairie Land

“Boys on the right, girls on the left. Sir, please move to the right.”

The woman leading the reenactment of prairie life in a teepee let all visitors know the rules as soon as they entered through the short canvas doorway. She told stories of what life was like on the prairie such as setting up the teepee, cooking inside a teepee, how to use two buffalo skin to make a bed, etc. At the end of her presentation, she gave the attentive kids a wooden nickel.

We meandered through the Prairie Days attractions, learning at some stops and entertained at others. It was a beautiful fall day at the Shaw Nature Reserve to take a walk. We learned about living in a sod house, what to cook over a campfire, dutch oven cooking, setting up camp with a horse, blacksmithing and much more about natural life on the prairie. At each of the stations, children collected wooden nickels that they would later get to spend at the trading post.

 

Blacksmith demonstration at the Shaw Nature Reserve Prairie Days

Blacksmith demonstration at the Shaw Nature Reserve Prairie Days

This event was family-friendly as the kids became involved with having their own currency and ability to purchase goods if they stopped to listen or participate in the attractions. The adults enjoyed activities such as the tomahawk throw, receiving free milkweed plants and history lessons.

Overall, we enjoyed the event and would recommend it to someone (especially families) looking for a fall event. We saw only a small portion of the Shaw Nature Reserve and plan to return for future events or just for a walk in nature. It is a hidden gem in eastern Missouri.

Wilma

“My wife…. She is as wild as they come. She is up on those rocks and I just can’t get her down.”

Griff, Fox and Fox’s family looked up at Courthouse and Jail rocks to see a woman easily navigate the rocks while occasionally stopping to take in the view. Looking back at the man, Fox’s brother and sister-in-law smiled and walked on toward the trailhead. Fox’s dad, the social one of the group, stopped to listen to the man’s story. Eventually, Griff and Fox walked on while the man continued to talk about his 86-year-old wife, Wilma.

Along the trail, we met Wilma and had an ever-so-brief conversation with her about what we could expect on the rocks. She was wearing the same shirt that just the day before I had bought in Sydney, NE. She looked comfortable and in-place with the surroundings so I knew that it was a smart purchase.

Hiking now will help us stay young at heart and hopefully keep our hearts healthy. This elderly woman is enjoying a moderate hike at Courthouse and Jail Rocks in NE.

This elderly woman is enjoying a moderate hike in Nebraska. We hope that hiking now will help us stay young at heart and have healthy hearts for a long life.

Over lunch, my dad told us about this couple’s age, how much they travel and their enjoyment of outdoor activities. With awe in my voice, I told my family that I aspire to be just like Wilma at the age of 86.

The next morning, in the hotel’s breakfast room, we were planning our day when Wilma and her husband walked in to eat. We were many miles from Courthouse and Jail rocks and surprised to see them, but my dad took the opportunity to converse further with this inspiring couple. Before they walked away, Wilma told my mom that they would see each other soon. Well, they did, when we all checked out at the same time. However, I really liked her attitude toward life and truly hope that our paths do cross again.

Wilma, if you are reading this, thank you for being such an inspiration. Your enthusiasm for life and the outdoors is everything I strive to be now, at 86 and beyond.

Elephant Rocks State Park

To take a giant leap or turn around and head back to the trail? That is a question that I found myself asking a lot when Griff and I visited Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.

Climbing on boulders can be great exercise and fun at Missouri State Parks.

Climbing on boulders in Missouri.

The park: gentle trails and giant boulders

The paved trails with easy inclines are nice for visitors out for a stroll, while giant granite boulders call to those looking for a more moderate hike. Along the paved path there is a braille trail with ropes leading to signs with short paragraphs that explain the history of the area and encourage visitors to enjoy the natural beauty in the park. Climbing on and around the boulders requires visitors to be more cognizant of their footing as slopes may be steep and it is important to watch for gaps as some are wide and/or deep.

 

One of the easy unpaved paths at Elephant Rocks State Park.

One of the easy unpaved paths at Elephant Rocks State Park.

 

There was a youth group visiting at the same time who jumped across the gaps of the boulders with ease and a carefree attitude. I, on the other hand, thought very seriously about the direction that I would take in order to make the smallest possible leap from one boulder to another. Although the choices that we made on the hike were less youthful, we couldn’t resist the urge to take silly photos with the rock formations. Griff also found ample opportunity to take other (more artistic) photos throughout the park. The maze created by these rocks provided a fun place to get light exercise and capture the fresh air before getting back into the car.

Watch your head! Fun photo opportunities at Elephant Rocks State Park.

Watch your head! Fun photo opportunities at Elephant Rocks State Park.

 

Elephant Rocks State Park offers opportunity to take silly photos with the giant boulders.

Elephant Rocks State Park offers opportunity to take silly photos with the giant boulders.

The history: volcano, granite and railroad

Granite built the area and is still a major resource for the community. For many years, the granite in Iron County, MO has been transported throughout Missouri to build some of the most admired buildings in the state. To transport the rock from the quarry to other areas, the railroad was once a major factor. A short detour trail in the park will lead to the old engine house. While the former engine house is in ruins, the granite walls are still a beautiful sight to see. It is easy to envision what this area must have looked like at the time with multiple former railroad tracks convening near the engine house. Griff and I definitely thought the sidetrack to the old engine house was worth the time.

The ruins of the Old Engine House demonstrates how beautiful the granite is from this area. This can be found on a detour from the main trail of Elephant Rocks State Park.

A slight detour at Elephant Rocks State Park leads to the ruins of the Old Engine House.

A wall at the Old Engine House in Elephant Rocks State Park. Trains carried granite out of Iron County to other areas of Missouri.

The Old Engine House wall along the former rail that carried granite out of Iron County to other areas of Missouri.

 

Visit Iron and Reynolds Counties

The granite and other large rocks formed by a volcano have left behind beautiful parks in the area including the nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins. Visitors to Iron County (Elephant Rocks) should consider visiting Reynolds County (Johnson’s Shut-Ins) if time is available. We heard that there are other parks and natural sites in the area that we did not have time to visit in 2014 but hope to in 2015. Visitors to Elephant Rocks, and probably other area attractions, may find the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park campground a convenient place to share stories around the campfire about their day at play in the great outdoors.

This boulder looks like a turtle that has come out of its shell.

Elephant Rocks State Park.

This boulder sits atop a hill of giant granite rocks at Elephant Rocks State Park in MO. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would try to crush people with my thumb and finger.

Ever try to crush someone at a distance with your thumb and finger? Unfortunately for these people, the camera angle and the giant boulder made it look like they were being crushed at Elephant Rocks State Park.

Outside at the Giant’s Causeway

It has been a year since we returned from our visit in the great emerald isle, but on this Monday I am dreaming about being back where many shades of green could be seen rolling along the countryside of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Although I loved the vibrant greens on our trip, there is one not-so-green natural area that is deserving of its own post. This area is the Giant’s Causeway.

Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway has this wall of natural columns formed from a volcanic eruption.

This wall of natural columns is the result of a volcanic eruption.

The tops of pillars at the Giant's Causeway formed from a volcanic eruption in Northern Ireland.

Exploring the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

One cannot understand how powerful and wonderful this bit of the outdoors will be until the trail is hiked and the causeway is in sight. Long before our time, a volcano erupted in Northern Ireland that left behind columns of varying heights perfect for climbing and exploring. Many of the pillars are clustered together to form something similar to natural stairs that are fun and easy to climb. Along the trail there are green pastures intermixed with many other interesting rock formations. These rocks are intriguing to view, sit on, stand on and photograph.

Interesting rock formation along the hike to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Taking a nap on the natural recliner after a hike to the Giant’s Causeway.

The day that we were there, it rained heavily most of the day and we were feeling disappointed that the rocks would be slippery and it may not be enjoyable to explore the area. We were on a tour and the bus driver said with a laugh “Don’t worry, Robbie (the tour guide) always has sunshine at the Giant’s Causeway.” Well, regardless if Robbie had anything to do with it or not, moments before we arrived, the sun and a rainbow appeared overhead. It was a beautiful afternoon to be along the water exploring this natural playground. A local band (I presume) must have had the same feeling because they were out taking photos on the rocks.

Band on top of pillars formed by a volcanic eruption in Northern Ireland.

Band on top of pillars formed by a volcanic eruption in Northern Ireland.

The volcanic eruption that left these columns must have been something spectacular, but the outcome is definitely something to be seen in person. The area stretches a few miles and has tens of thousands of the stone pillars. Unfortunately, it has been too long for me to remember all of the specifics, but it is a vision that I will keep with me for a very long time. If you are ever in Northern Ireland, get outside and explore the Giant’s Causeway.

The tops of the columns at the Giant's Causeway.

The tops of the columns at the Giant’s Causeway.