Cooking, cast iron, and dutch ovens

A while back Angie and I we're talking about what gear we wanted for living in the truck, and we got in to cooking gear. Last time I used an aluminum dutch oven, which worked pretty well, but it's a little small for two. Also, Angie gets a little anemic sometimes and was really enjoying the dietary Iron she's been getting from cooking in cast iron all the time. So, we decided what we really wanted was a 5 quart cast iron dutch oven.

Angie let a friend know and not long after that friend contacted her with a photo of this pot she found at an auction for ~$25.0


I couldn't believe it. It's an old Wagner... really old. It's light, and in basically perfect condition, and we've been using it as our primary pot since Angie got it.

Strictly speaking it's not a dutch-oven, since it lacks the flat lid with the lip on the edge, but it's plenty good enough and works very well for what we need. Even better than that, it's stable when you hang it from the bail, even when completely full of water, so it can used for cooking on a tripod. That's really rare in a cast-iron pot, and extremely useful. The antique ones are also far lighter than modern cast-iron, and smoother as well, making them really superior in every way for actually cooking in. I'd expected anything this good would've been way out of our price-range.


We're also bringing my antique cast iron pan, as well as 2 old aluminum backpacking/camping pots. My dad got the smaller one when he was in college, already used, and found the older one later, so those act as soup-pots for things like oatmeal.

We've been using this set of dishes for a while, since well before we hit the road (since we'd already gotten rid of the rest of our pots), and find it to be more than sufficient for virtually everything we cook. Notice the metal spatula in the first picture... I learned the hard way that this is key to using cast-iron as you can keep things from sticking with this far better than a plastic or wooden spatula.

If you don't know the secret to dutch ovens, the neat thing is not only can this be used as a pot, and a frying pan, it can also be used like an oven. If you bury it in coals you can bake bread, pizza, finish pancake, or virtually anything else.

Anyway, if you have a pot like this, don't let it go... or better yet, give it to me :).

Finally on the road again

A bit over a week ago Angie and I loaded up the truck and headed out. First stop was "Carnival" weekend at my Alma-mater, Carnegie Mellon. After hanging out with some good folks we headed out again and south to Georgia for Rivercane Rondezvous.

Our camp at Rivercane (we put up a tarp as an awning using treking poles and the truck later in the week)

Rivercane is a primitive skills gathering (or earth-skills as they call it). It's a week of hanging out and taking classes from some of the best herbalists, botanists, boyers, potters, tee-pee makers, trackers, flint knappers, birders, outdoors cooks, and survivalists anywhere.

This was Angie's first gathering, and she was a bit overwhelmed but had a blast. I ended up spending the week mostly going on plant walks and trying to learn more plants and trees. Though, I also picked up a bunch of tips for working buckskin and making centerseem moccasins, learned how to dig, dope, blend, and wedge clay for pottery (though I'm still a terrible potter), and took a couple of classes in improving my wilderness awareness. Angie took some of the basics like cordage and spent a lot of time on plants as well.

The classes on awareness really helped take me out of that super-focused mode I need for my work. On-call had made it very hard to really open up my full awareness, and it was great to finally get the chance. I was pretty high on it all week. I greated the sun with flute music many mornings and had a huge grin on my face.

The truck worked great for us. It drives wonderfully with the lift and 33" tires, and the roof-rack gives us enough space to have a few extra items, like fluids for the truck, and our climbing gear.

We just got back to Waynesboro for this trip day before yesterday. Although we'd packed the truck, we hadn't cleaned out the apartment, and the plan is to pull some other junk up to my parent's house on my trailer.

Drop hitch so the trailer will be level enough to be safe, with the truck lift and high reciever

So, we spent the last 2 days packing the trailer and cleaning the house. We just finished cleaning the carpets with a rented cleaner, and ate lunch "in the park" (well, next to it... actually we were sitting in front of a chemical plant, because the park is closed... oh well). So now we're in a coffee shop... We're OFF!

The trailer is going to wait a couple of weeks 'cause we want to visit Angie's friends in PA, and then do some rock-climbing in VA before heading up to MA with the trailer to see my parents.


Rock Climbing: Hidden Rocks

This weekend Angie and I decided to go rock climbing!


A while ago I bought a climbing guide "Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland", And I've been waiting for a nice warm weekend where we weren't otherwise engaged to give it a try. With all the rescue training I've done I'm quite confident in my ability to set a safe anchor and that type of thing. I've climbed outdoors before a few times, but I just haven't been the one to find organice a trip, find routes and that sort of thing.

We went up to "Hidden Rocks" Near Harrisonburgh and had a blast. We were climbing 5.4 through 5.7's assuming we understood the maps right. We arrived at the parking lot at 10:00am and got back to the lot to leave 5:45pm. We ran in to a few hikers, but only one other pair of climbers. We did 6 routes, and I think I ran 7 or so climbs... An amazing day. It was slightly overcast and a nice 50's-60's range of temperatures. For lunch we walked back to the car (about 30 minutes walk) and made up some ham sandwiches, giving our hands a bit of a break.

Above, for one of the routes we were slinging off of trees, and I was a little nervous about the size of the tree we were slinging with a wrap-3-pull-2, so we backed it up with a second wrap-3-pull-2 off a larger tree up the hill just to be sure. For a later route the only back-up tree was 30 feet back so I did a simple sling of 2 trees, but load-balanced them.

Here's a couple more faces we did. There are 3 seperate routes up this. left, center, and right, in increasing difficulty. The edge on the right doesn't have any cracks in it, so it's not a lyback, it's actually one of those you just spider up with tiny little footholds. Good fun, and a great reminder to me that climbing shoes can stand on truly minuscule little bumps when on real rock. The center climb has a really tricky bit in the middle where there just isn't much to work with.. Angie did both the left and the center. She's a lot less experienced, and was climbing almost everything I was.


We did the crack last, it's off-width for a lot of the distance, but in several spots you can get a solid knee-jam. I'm still a total noob at crack climbing. I know a few jams, but in practice I always feel like I'm just scrabbling my way up it, not smoothly climbing. This was a blast and a great workout!


There are tons more routes at Hidden rocks that I'd love to do. Next time I hope to do some 5.8's or 9's. Most of it is top-roping or trad. I only have a few nuts, so we toproped.

Overall it was an amazing day, both Angie and I had a total blast. We came home exhausted and happy, hungry for a big dinner.