The Best Dam Experience

taken by Vinny Foley

When I arrived back to Seattle after months away, my calendar was full of fun activities catching up with friends. My friend Kelly organized a camping trip in Eastern Washington where the highlight purpose was running a 5K over Grand Coulee Dam. The campsite was a 4 hour drive from Seattle and Vinny, Kelly and I piled into the jam-packed truck. Anyone looking at us would have thought we were moving across country. Unfortunately David got “stuck” in England for a few extra weeks and missed out on the first camping trip of the season.

One bag of Sun Chips and Popcorn later, the three of us pulled into Sunbanks Lake and set up camp. Despite the unusual amount of junk food I ate, I was starving after our long journey over the pass and my road beers sodas left me parched, so I was eager to get a hot dog in one hand and a drink in the other. The two other couples, J-Bro & Don and Carey & Beth joined us soon afterwards, some quicker than others. Vinny was in charge of building the campfire, while the rest of us quickly set up dinner. The first night was a classic camping meal of hot dogs and beans. I made a batch of Boston Baked Beans a few days earlier, vacuumed sealed them and froze them flat. Voila! Hearty meal and an ice pack all in one. No one would know this was only my second time camping. The hot dogs of course weren’t just any supermarket dogs, they were handmade by Kelso’s Kustom Meats which is a family owned butcher shop in Snohomish, WA. I understand you may think that a hot dog is just a hot dog, or you may be one to pay a ridiculous price for Kobe Beef hot dogs. Being from Boston, Fenway Franks always held a special place in my heart. For Vinny, being the New Yorker that he is, Nathan’s hot dogs are close to his Yankee loving heart. Where Vinny’s and my loyalties used to differ, they now unite in the love of the same dog. These puppies are guaranteed to change your standards and they won’t break your piggy bank either. Thick quarter-pound links that are juicy, plump, and still fit perfectly into a bun. These aren’t the first homemade hot dogs I have had, but they will certainly be the last one’s I’ll try. If these hot dogs can bring a New Yorker and Bostonian together, think of what they could do for you. Vinny was quiet while he devoured the Boston Baked Beans that paired perfectly with the hot dogs. Even he couldn’t argue that this homemade duo was a match made in heaven. For another side, I made my families Italian Potato Salad and we sat comfortably around the campfire laughing and telling stories while we tried to make a dent in the abundance of alcohol that we brought.

Boston Baked Beans

Italian Potato Salad

Without giving it too much forethought,  I signed up for my first 5K run that weekend, not knowing that we had to get up at 5:45am for registration. Had I  been fully aware of the start time, I may have made different alcohol consumption choices the night before. Half asleep and shivering, I dressed for the “run”, which I quickly realized was going to turn into a walk. We piled in the trucks and drove to Grand Coulee Dam to pick up our registration numbers. We joined the other eager (some more than others) runners and I watched as they all diligently stretched. It took all my power not to curl up in a ball on the lawn and call it quits then and there. Once my headache subsided (probably from the freezing temperatures) and I pinned my number to my shirt, I realized I was wearing long underwear, a wool shirt, and thick wool socks. I clearly wasn’t prepared for my first 5K and was a site for sore eyes. Beth and I decided that we were officially in it for the view over the dam and the cool t-shirt. We walked the “race”, made new friends along the way and caught up on TV gossip. Kelly and  Carey ran past us right off the bat, while Vinny followed us in his truck, heckling us as only a New Yorker could. Beth and I walked over the dam, past the guards with their machine guns and took in the beauty and sheer scope of Grand Coulee. Kelly and Carey being the overachievers that they are, sadly, couldn’t say the same, ha!

Carey crossing the finish line (taken by Vinny Foley)

Beth and I piggy-backing it across the finish line. (taken by Vinny Foley)

Pre-race Photo. (taken by Vinny Foley)

We were back at camp at 9:30am eating bagels, yogurt and fruit around the picnic table. Considering I had already been up for 4 hours and walked 5 kilometers, I figured I deserved a mimosa. I realized we had no champagne, so I decided to forgo the orange juice and I just went with a Klipsun Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from JM Cellars which was the ultimate Breakfast Wine. The sun was out in full force, so after breakfast we played lawn games and laid out on the grass soaking up the sun. Eventually, all the ladies passed out took a nap, but we woke up in plenty of time for lunch. Carey and Beth prepared lunch that day and we feasted on jerk marinated grilled chicken in pita bread with shredded cheddar cheese. The simplicity of the sandwich combined with the overall flavor was an amazing combination and the perfect lunch. I realized after lunch that with this group, there was not going to be any novice camp food served.

Happy Camper (photo taken by Vinny Foley) … thanks Vinny.

Preparing dinner was a group effort while we munched on the cold cuts I brought. Kelly was grill-master and perfectly cooked steaks that went perfectly with the fresh corn on the cob (first of the season). The corn was so buttery without any accoutrements, and the steaks didn’t need anything either, but someone brought A1 Sauce, so I felt compelled to use it. J-Bro made baked potatoes with garlic, Vinny and Carey worked on the roasted vegetables and Beth and I served as bartenders and cheerleaders, keeping everyone’s spirits up.  When dinner was served, all seven of us (including the German Shepherd) sat around the picnic table in silence with an occasional moan here and there. After a few minutes, everyone came up for air and of course all we talked about was just how amazing the food was. We decided that this wouldn’t be our last camping trip together and started planning the next one. We chatted for a good part of the night and laughed so hard the drinks came out of my nose… literally. We ended the night as any good camper should with top-shelf Scotch and s’mores. Luckily I behaved myself that night and woke up feeling refreshed the next morning.

Taken by Vinny Foley

With the exception of the wood pigeons, everyone was sleeping when I woke up the next morning, so I put water on the stove for coffee and got out my book (Hunger Games) to read. I lured people awake with the promise of “breakfast” sausages from Kelso’s that were the size of little league baseball bats. People slowly made their way out of the tent and we started to cook again, even though it seems like we just cleaned up from dinner hours ago. Breakfast followed the same pattern as the previous meals and we had farm fresh scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and fruit. Reluctantly, I started to pack up my gear, not yet ready to go back to city life. The transition back from England wasn’t the easiest, but it’s weekends like this one that makes me grateful to call Seattle home and call my friends family.

“Breakfast” Sausages

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3 thoughts on “The Best Dam Experience

  1. it sounds like the ultimate camping trip & mini break. Kudos to you for making it through the 5km race, early mornings aren’t my thing and neither are marathons! Oh for tasty camping food and long summer nights, hurrah!

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