Lively Little Campers: Simple and Delicious Camping Meals for Labor Day Weekend
Lively Little Campers: Simple and Delicious Camping Meals for Labor Day Weekend avatar

Jayco

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We love camping over a three-day weekend. It is amazing how much more fun you have— and how much more relaxed everyone is—when an extra day gets thrown into the mix.

They can also be a bit tricky for planning, though. We always want to pack in as much as possible without returning to work feeling exhausted and spent.

So simple and special is our three-day holiday principle, and we apply it on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and any other extra-long weekend we are blessed with throughout the year. When it comes to food that means I want my meals to be delicious without requiring that I stand over a camp stove all day and then spend the entire evening cleaning up.

I follow a pretty easy formula when meal planning for a holiday weekend: one make-ahead meal, one slow cooker meal, and one camp stove/grill meal. This means I have a meal ready to go when we arrive late on Friday, a meal that can cook itself in the crock pot while we play all day Saturday, and a special camping meal that we can enjoy on Sunday before returning home the next morning.

Here are some of our family favorites from each category. There are many wonderful recipes for each of these dishes online, and I often change things up to keep them interesting. However, in this post I am linking to versions that I strongly recommend.

Make Ahead!

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Chilaquiles: This Mexican casserole is so easy to make, and much simpler to serve than tacos. If I am really pinched for time I use a store bought rotisserie chicken. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare, and I bring along sour cream and salsa for toppings. Fruit salad is a great side for this dish.

Meatloaf: This did not initially seem like a great ‘camping’ dish to me until a friend suggested leftover meatloaf sandwiches and I was sold. This easy version only takes about 10 minutes to make and freeze. Throw a couple of pounds of baby red potatoes into the pan before cooking and you have a crowd-pleasing dinner.

Pasta Salad: I was never a big fan of the traditional pasta salad, but I LOVE pesto and once I started using that instead of Italian dressing, this became a favorite. I switch it up with whatever pasta and veggies I have on hand, always omitting the lettuce, because my children act like it is poison. This is a great, hearty meal to throw on the picnic table as soon as you arrive at camp.

Slow Cooker!

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches: This is Jeremy’s favorite meal in my camping rotation and it doesn’t even require a recipe, though there are a million out there. Just put a pork shoulder (or whatever cut you have) in the crockpot, add a sliced onion and few chopped cloves of garlic, pour over your favorite BBQ sauce, and cook all day. Serve on rolls with coleslaw and watermelon.

Macaroni and Cheese: Yes, there is a delicious slow cooker version of this, and it will make your kids swoon. If you are camping when the weather is cool, this dish will warm everyone right up. I do the requisite chopped ham and peas to make it a complete meal. The last time I served this, our friends said it was BBQ-joint quality mac and cheese. I promise you won’t have leftovers.

Salsa Chicken: You probably won’t believe how good this is. Simply place chicken, salsa, and beans in your slow cooker and I promise you will have a great filler for tacos. My boys will currently eat anything in a tortilla, so this is a go-to recipe for me. Add your family’s favorite toppings and you are D.O.N.E.

Camp Stove Cooking!

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This is when the burgers, hotdogs, steaks, and wings shine in all their glory. If you are looking to take it up a notch, check out Campfire Cuisine, my favorite camping cookbook. I make the spice rubs ahead of time in small ziplock bags, and then it only takes me a few minutes to get everything on the grill.

Thinking outside of the box? If you are celebrating the beginning or the end of summer (or any weekend in between) there is no better way to do it than with a Shrimp Boil. Easy, delicious, and perfect for a crowd, this is hands down my favorite summer campground dinner. All you need is a big pot and a burner. Try it once and I think you will be hooked.

We love bringing new meals to our camping table. Please share any camping favorites in the comments below!

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi blog about camping and traveling with their three young children at livelylittlecampers.com.

Posted in Campground, Camping, Campsite, Fun, Jayco, Lively Little Campers, RVing, Trip Planning | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lively Little Campers: 5 Awesome Hikes for the Whole Family, Acadia National Park
Lively Little Campers: 5 Awesome Hikes for the Whole Family, Acadia National Park avatar

Jayco

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With over 120 miles of hiking trails on Mount Desert Island, you could visit Acadia National Park many times over and never walk the same path twice. After three visits to Acadia (two of them with young kids in tow) we have discovered some amazing family-friendly hikes that will thrill both children and adults. All of these hikes encompass the best that Acadia has to offer, with sweeping ocean views, dramatic granite cliffs, and landscapes filled with cedar, birch, and spruce.

1. Ocean Trail 

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This easy four-mile round trip hike (also known as Ocean Path or Ocean Drive Trail) is the classic introductory hike to Acadia. Starting off at Sand Beach, the path brings you to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs, passing by one beautiful vista after another. There are many small turnoffs that can lead to dramatic views, and also dramatic drop offs. If you wander off the main trail, keep a close eye on your kids. There are also stretches where the path is right next to the road. Traffic can be fast and close, so hand-holding might be in order. Even though we enjoyed the scenery, this hike was crowded and usually is during the peak visiting season.

Reward yourselves after the hike with a swim at Sand Beach…just be prepared to squeal as you dive into the cold water.

2. Gorham Mountain Trail 

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One of the more famous family-friendly hikes within the Park Loop, this trail also rewards its hikers with stunning views of Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs, and Cadillac Mountain. We enjoyed this trail with another family and all of the kids had a blast navigating the rocky terrain. The summit offered incredible ocean panoramas as well as a safe space for snacking and enjoying the view. If you are feeling more adventurous, take the Cadillac Cliffs trail spur. We avoided this on account of young Wesley.

One local mom we met on the trail recommended parking at the Gorham Mountain Trail head, hiking to Sand Beach, and taking the Island Explorer Bus back to your car at the trail head. The promise of a fun bus ride back to the car might do wonders to motivate little hikers.

3. Wonderland/ Ship Harbor Trails
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If you want to get away from the crowds clustered around the Park Loop, drive past Southwest Harbor to the Wonderland and Ship Harbor Trails. Both of these trails can be done independently, or you can do what we did: hike out to the water on the Wonderland Trail,  then head west along the rocky beach to the Ship Harbor Trail and complete a loop back to the parking lot.

Time for just one of these two trails? We think Ship Harbor is your best bet, offering lots of paths down to the tide pools and, of course, great water views. We hiked these trails on a weekend during peak season and saw only a handful of people. This is truly the quieter side of  Acadia.

4. Flying Mountain 

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We get much of our travel intel from the recommendations of other campers. A friendly hiking dad named Chris told us that the Flying Mountain Trail would be perfect for our family. He was right. This 1.5 mile loop was great fun for the boys, giving them a good challenge at the beginning with a steep ascent ending with beautiful views of the Somes Sound. The tricky descent kept them entertained, and there is a rock beach where the kids can play at the bottom. The hike ends with an easy walk via a fire road right back to the parking lot. Awesome hike. Thanks, Chris.

5. Great Head Trail 

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We wrote about the Great Head Trail as one of our favorite family hikes in a previous article on the Jayco Journal. This is another Acadian Classic that we have enjoyed both before kids and If you have a favorite hike in Acadia National Park, kid-friendly or not, let us know in the comments below. We plan on going back when the boys are older and tackling some greater challenges!

***

We used the following 3 books to plan our hiking in Acadia.

We strongly recommend them. Tom St. Germain’s A Walk in the Park is the best-selling trail guide for Acadia National Park for good reason. It fits in the back of your pocket and includes maps and concise descriptions of over fifty hikes.

The AMC’s Discover Acadia National Park by Jerry and Marcy Monkman also describes the park’s best biking and paddling. It includes a pull-out discovery map, far more detailed than the free one available at the visitor center.

We also recommend Best Hikes with Kids: Vermont, New Hampshire, & Maine, published by The Mountaineers Books. We have used this book in all three states, so keep a copy in your camper when traveling in New England!

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi blog about camping and traveling with their three young children at livelylittlecampers.com.

Posted in Camping, Eco-friendly, Fun, Jayco, Lively Little Campers, RV, RVing, Trip Planning | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lively Little Campers: The Perfect Day in Belfast, Maine
The Lively Little Campers: The Perfect Day in Belfast, Maine avatar

Jayco

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Over the last four years, we have had many wonderful days of camping, and a handful of perfect ones. Our first full day of vacation in Belfast, Maine was stunning from beginning to end. A perfect summer day if we’ve ever had one.

So here is our set of instructions for enjoying your own amazing day in Belfast, Maine.

1. Wake up early at the oceanfront Moorings RV Resort, drink in the view, and do your morning stretches.

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2. Head down to the rocky beach and do some exploring.

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3. Launch your kayak from the beach and enjoy the quiet, picturesque scenery of the Penobscot Bay. If you give your kids the camera, this will keep them entertained spotting loons, lobster traps, sailboats, and fish. Some of their pictures might even be pretty cool. Can you figure out which photo Theo took?

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4. Clean up and head into town to check out the beautiful playground at Belfast City Park. With water views and a design that ties into the landscape, this place will be appreciated by the whole family. Chat with the very friendly local parents and you will know exactly what to do with the rest of your stay in Belfast.

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5. Eat lunch at the Belfast Co-op Cafe to experience great food and local culture. The soups, sandwiches, and quesadillas were phenomenal. With everything from pizza to hotdogs to vegan burritos, there is something on the menu for everyone.

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6. Walk off lunch by strolling along the Harbor Walk. This path takes you through working shipyards and across the bay on a wonderful footbridge.

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7. Shop Downtown Belfast where you can visit an olive oil tasting room, a gourmet cheese shop, the oldest shoe store in the country, or one of the well-curated book stores.

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8. Return to the campground, where just a short stroll up the hill will land you at one of the best restaurants in this area. Papa J’s has all of the standard fare you might be looking for on your trip to the Maine Coast—whole lobster, lobster rolls, and a long list of seafood options. However, this place also offers so much more. The steaks are perfectly seasoned and cooked, and we could eat the scallops appetizer every day for the rest of our lives. Our waitress told us that the lobster pizza is a runaway favorite. We will have to return to try it. An added bonus is that all campers get a 5% discount. Thank you very much.

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9. Take an evening walk on the beach and watch the moon rise over the bay.

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10. Pile on the layers for stories around the campfire. S’mores will work just fine, too.

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Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi blog about camping and traveling with their three young children at livelylittlecampers.com.

Posted in Camping, Fun, Jayco, Lively Little Campers, RV, RVing, Travel Trailers, Trip Planning | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment
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