Slowing down with a lakeside getaway and campfire chili

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Just about every other year, we take a camping trip to the North country. It’s only an eight and a half hour road trip, but it seems like worlds away.

We heard about this spot from a family friend and, always game for something new, we traveled there for a first time. We liked it so much, it became a tradition. We camp along the eastern side of Lake Superior in a sheltered bay with a 3 kilometer (remember, we are in Canada!) sandy beach.

We always make a list before we go so we know we have all of our equipment with us. The tent and the cooking stove are both necessities, along with sleeping bags, cookware and utensils, matches and a lantern. For myself, I always throw in a couple of magazines, three or four books, writing material, sunglasses and suntan lotion.

We breathe in, breathe out and already life starts to slow down.

We have also learned that a large tarp is essential because, on the shores of Lake Superior, the weather can change abruptly from hot and sunny to chilly and stormy. That’s one of the things that pulls us back: though the geographical landscape never changes, the view itself is constantly altered by the climate.

As we drive up the mitten of Michigan, the countryside slowly shifts from Midwestern farmland to northern pine and birch forest. And then we cross the Mackinack bridge which spans the bluest of waters where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. We know then it’s just a couple of hours and a border crossing until we reach our destination.

When we arrive that first night, we find our wooded campsite, park our car and immediately go down to the beach to get our first glimpse of the incredible view. We take our shoes off and our toes feel the warmth of the sand.

We breathe in, breathe out and already life starts to slow down. Then, we remember: its time to set up camp and get ourselves installed for the duration.

For one week, we live outside. Most days start with coffee and a good book on the beach, followed by a walk, leisurely lunch back at the campsite, an afternoon nap, more beach and reading time and supper. The day ends with a last look at the sun setting on the lake and sitting around a campfire, watching the flames dance.

We rise with the sun and go to sleep as the moon rises. Our bodies slowly adjust to no clocks, no cell phones or computers. We start out thinking, “What will do all week?” And by the end, we wish we could add on one more day.

When we finally tear up camp, we are new people. Rested, relaxed, in tune with nature and our own internal clocks, we are ready to return to a more “civilized” life.

During that week away from it all, my mind has time to catch up with itself. And I usually come back ready to go to work on my five year dream plan!

Here is an easy campsite recipe.

Rachel’s Chili
Makes a large batch. Serves 12.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. salt and pepper sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes ( I use Muir Glen)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 can of corn
  • 3 cans of kidney beans
  • 1 bottle of beer

Directions

  1. Fry meat until brown. Add onion, celery and spices and cook until onion is translucent.
  2. Add pepper and saute 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, corn, brown sugar and kidney beans and simmer until flavors combine.
  4. Add water if you want a thinner consistency.
  5. And for extra pizzazz, add a ¼ cup chocolate chips right before serving.
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