Mosquitoes, Woodticks, and Bears, Oh My!

We’ve been on the go a lot lately and have a lot of changes taking place right now so I haven’t had much time or energy to write a new post. But I wanted to make sure and get an update in with this long weekend. 

M and I decided to go camping this weekend and we wanted to check off another state park from our list and there weren’t many that had any open campsites except for ones way up north. So we decided to go to Hayes Lake State Park Friday through Monday. I had been preparing for weeks on what to bring for vegan camping foods. Camping foods used to be lots of eggs, bacon, burgers, hobo dinners, hotdogs, popcorn, and corn on the cob. I was really worried we (especially M) would miss these camping staples and would slightly sour our trip. However, I didn’t have to worry about because I came prepared and we had fabulous food all weekend. Birthed of us had any long lost yearnings because we were full and satisfied with what I brought. Now keep in mind on the healthy scale it’s no where near the McDougall plan but it also wasn’t bacon. We think camping is a time to enjoy life and enjoy treat foods. 

We arrived at the park around 5:30 and as M went to check us in I rolled down the windows to take in the sounds and smell of the forest. I had the windows open for less than a full minute before the car was filled with no less than 40 mosquitoes. I immediately rolled the windows back up and starting slapping them away. Suddenly camping seemed like a terrible idea and we were now 3 hours from home. As we drove from the park office the ranger made sure to tell us, “hope you brought mosquito spray!” Yeesh.

We pull into our campsite, get out to look around, and decide the best placement for the tent. There were so many mosquitoes!! We quickly did a very light spritz of mosquito spray because we hate smelling like bug spray nearly as much as we hate getting bitten. As we started to unpack and settle in though we noticed we weren’t really being bitten. They were all over our bodies and in the air but for whatever reason didn’t seem to be bitting. We were able to set up camp including a rain tarp over the picnic table in no time. M did find two ticks on him in the time it took to set up and I was worried we’d be crawling with them by the end of the weekend but despite the early warning signs right off they were much like the mosquitoes and left us alone for the most part. 

We decided to take a break and make a fire and heat up supper. I had made tun-no casserole that morning to reheat on the fire. It was the recipe from Forks Over Knives but I added crushed potato chips on top 😬 but for the record I did that with the original tuna version too…I like crunchy things. It was very very good if I do say so myself. I will be making it again sometime but hopefully I can find something to replace the chips that is a better option.

Tun-no casserole…we give big thumbs up to this recipe

Next, we decided to take a driving tour around the park. We ended up down a long bumpy quiet gravel road near a secluded cabin and we were about to get out and walk around when we saw a black bear amble by! We took a video of it and when I turned it off then a brown bear walked by too! It was pretty exciting but suddenly I was no longer jealous of the campers staying in the private cabin on their own lake, (I’d be too nervous to go to the bathroom at night haha). 

That night around the fire we made vegan s’mores from cinnamon graham crackers, dark chocolate, and vegan marshmallows (side note, I’m so thankful we have a Natural Grocers in town to be able to find items like this).  They were super delicious!

It ain’t camping if there is t s’mores

Saturday morning was beautiful and we started the day with a walk around the lake and bog. 

Hayes Lake
Then we headed back to camp for a pancake breakfast. We had Arrowhead Mills Multi-grain pancake mix with bananas and pure maple syrup. After our meal we did th dishes, played cards, and decided a late morning nap would be perfect. We left Jackson outside the tent on his long line happily soaking up the sun and smells. After our rest I get up to find Jackson tangled in the woods laying in some tall grass. A half hour later we found big red dots on his belly and groin. Thankfully this has happened to him once before so I didn’t panic quite as much as I did the first time. But we needed some Benadryl which of course we didn’t have and the nearest town was almost an hour away. We had originally planned to head up that way the next day to visit another state park nearby so we just decided to go then and on the way stop for meds. 

After getting Jackson on the path to wellness again we made it to Zippel Bay State Park. This park had a beautiful beach and we were there just as the sun peaked through the clouds. We had a great time splashing in the shore and skipping rocks.

Super happy pup

When we got back to camp we started making supper which I was a little nervous about. Hobo dinner is my husband’s meal. This one of about three meals that he preps and cooks and loves. Usually it’s made with sliced potatoes, ground beef, onion, butter, and shredded cheese. M bought some ground veggie “meat” in place of the beef for his and since I’m not a huge meat fan to begin with I just skipped it. We had potatoes, carrots, onion, and mushroom as the base. Then we each seasoned it to our liking and sprinkled (because a little goes a long way) a bit of Mexican style Daiya on top. We did use some vegan butter as well so that it wouldn’t stick to the foil packet. Then we tossed them on the grill and hoped for the best. The result was really really good! I was actually surprised at how well the turned out. I can’t wait to have them again. I made some corn on the cob as a side which pair s nicely too. 

Vegan hobo dinners, our new favorite

The next day we woke up to nice weather but rain fast approaching. We decided to pack up and go home a day early. We were having a great time but I did not feel like packing up in the rain the next day, then going home and setting everything back up just to dry out again before packing it all away a second time. We just don’t have that kind of time this week. For that reason and a few others we decided to leave early but in exchange would take our time getting home and visit the remaining three state parks in the Northwest corner of MN. We are a quick breakfast of Panda Puffs cereal with almond milk and got going. 

First on the list was Lake Bronson State Park. This park was a bit more modern with paved roads and bike trails. They also had a fun observation tower and a dam in the park.

We did a bit more walking and driving around before heading to Old Mill State Park. This park had an old flour mill and home to see as well as some fun bridges and a beautiful picnic area. We stopped to have lunch and play a round of cards before moving on. 

Picnic lunch at Old Mill State Park

Lunch was soy dogs and brats with corn on the cob and homemade vegan potato salad. The soy dogs are ok, we need to try another brand before making our final verdict on them. The potato salad instantly became M’s favorite of all time. It has a lot of dill in it which he really appreciates. 

Vegan potato salad

Finally we swung through Red River State Recreation area in East Grand Forks. There isn’t much to do here except camp so it was a quick stop just to be able to cross it off the list. 

We are back home now and just getting ready for the week ahead. I start my new summer job this week and M is in the process of switching jobs as well. I just wanted to sum up by saying that if you are open to changes and you plan ahead vegan camping is just as enjoyable as non-vegan camping. And as we took in so much natural beauty over the weekend I was grateful to have learned and taken action in helping to preserve the environment by avoiding animal foods. Positive stuff!


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