Taking a canoe trip? If you prepare, you can eat well

Posted July 06, 2012, at 12:04 p.m.

When you are out on a canoe trip, you don’t have to be restricted to eating freeze-dried food cooked on a single-burner camp stove in order to have a decent meal. The canoe enables you to explore remote areas in relative comfort and plenty, and if you take time to organize and plan, you can eat like royalty on your next trip.

I must confess that I leave the menu up to my wife, Ruth, when we are camping. For that matter, I trust her with our meals at home, too. I learned a long time ago that when someone is good at something, let them do it.

Someone has to be in charge of the food on your next canoe trip, and I suggest you nominate an experienced cook for the job.

My contribution toward organizing the meals on our camping trips was the construction of a camp kitchen. Ruth designed it, and I built it; it is awesome! Everything has its place and it fits in the canoe right in front of the middle thwart.

Cooking breakfast is my specialty. Bacon, eggs, home fries, toast and camp coffee are hard to beat. Camp coffee is coffee made without a percolator. You add one-quarter cup of ground coffee to 1 quart of cold water. Bring it to a boil, give it a stir, turn off the heat and let it settle. A fresh, hot cup of camp coffee sure does hit the spot when you’re on the trail.

Baking with a reflector oven can add fresh bread and pastries to your menu. My brother Mark and I were on a canoe trip down the East Branch of the Penobscot a few years ago. Mark brought out his reflector oven while we were sitting around the campfire after supper. I stoked up the fire while he made up a cake mix.

Mark dumped the cake batter in a pan and placed it in the reflector oven. While we talked, he turned the pan a few times and lowered the heat by moving the oven away from the fire a few inches. Half an hour later, we were eating a warm cake at Whetstone Falls. Now that was a treat!

Ruth and I canoed the Moose River Bow trip a few years ago with our good friends Otis and Betty Gray. On the last night of the trip, Ruth was in charge of the evening meal. Our main entree was native landlocked salmon dipped in egg and rolled in Italian bread crumbs and sauteed in butter. For dessert, she made shortcake in a makeshift oven on top of the Coleman stove. Warm strawberry shortcake with whipped cream on the third night of the trip was quite a delicacy. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Ruth’s “oven” is a fairly simple device using pieces of our mess kit. She places the large cover to our mess kit over the burner on the Coleman stove and then a small metal pot for a spacer on the cover. Next she places a round cake pan containing the shortcakes on top of the spacer. She then places the largest pot from the mess kit over the whole thing and creates an oven that is controlled by the amount of heat generated by the burner.

As you can tell, food is a big part of our camping trips. While in the backcountry, you just can’t run to the store to pick something up for supper. A well-thought-out menu with an experienced trail cook can make the difference between a so-so trip and a memorable adventure.

Did I mention that when you’re paddling most of the day, setting up camp, collecting firewood and lugging water, you build up a pretty good appetite? Well, you do, so pack extra-large portions for everyone in your group.

All this writing about canoeing and eating has me wanting to take a river trip. July is a great month to be out in the woods and on the waters of our great state. We in Maine are blessed to have one of the best canoe trips in the country in our own backyard. It is the Allagash Wilderness Waterway — the only National Wild and Scenic River in the state. Come to the Allagash and cook up a memorable adventure.

Waterway notes: The draft 15-year management plan for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is available to view and download from the Bureau of Parks and Lands website: http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/index.html

The public hearing locations and dates are listed along with the address for written comments about the plan.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

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