Chicken and vegetables over rice
Chicken and Vegetable Curry, served with rice.

We want to eat a healthy diet, so we make sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables. By eating the produce that is in season or on sale, we are able to keep our grocery budget low without resorting to ramen.  The vegetables used in this curry were a bargain! The produce market we frequent when we’re in the Phoenix area had a box of carrots in assorted colors-purple, orange, yellow and white- for only $2.  It was at least 6 lbs of carrots.  None of them were spoiled.  They were “ugly,” with some cracks and funny shapes, but perfectly fine.  Some of them went into this curry dish- the rest were sliced and cooked and sitting in the fridge to have tomorrow. We also picked up a 50 cent head of cauliflower, a bunch of asparagus for 99 cents per pound, and some yellow summer squash for 25 cents per lb.  Here’s what we did with them:

Chicken and Vegetable Curry

serves 4

1 can coconut milk

1 Tbsp curry powder

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 medium summer squash, sliced

half a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets

6 carrots, sliced

1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large boneless chicken breasts, sliced 1-inch thick

Your source of heat can be a camp stove, grate over a bed of coals, or cooktop in an RV.  As you can see from the photos, I cooked this in the RV.  It’s been too dry and windy for a campfire this week.

Oil a skillet and place the chicken slices in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Two cast iron skillets; one contains sliced chicken and the other, mixed vegetables

 

In a Dutch oven or pot with a lid, place all the cut-up veggies with salt and a few cups of water. Cover and steam.

In the meantime, gently shake the can of coconut milk, then open and pour into a bowl.  Add curry powder and chopped cilantro.

 

Bowl with a whisk and curry sauce

 

Once the chicken is cooked, cut the larger slices into bite-size pieces. (Cutting it too small before cooking can cause it to dry out too much during cooking)  Once the veggies are tender, drain off any extra liquid.

 

Carrots, asparagus, squash, and cauliflower in a colander

 

Combine veggies, chicken, and sauce.  If the sauce seems too thin, you can thicken it with some cornstarch.  Simply ladle about half a cup of the liquid into a cup or bowl and add a Tbsp of cornstarch.  Whisk it together until smooth, then pour it back into the pan and mix well.

I hope your family enjoys this chicken and vegetable curry as much as mine did! Feel free to mix it up using whatever veggies you like best. This is a great way to use seasonal vegetables and stretch your food budget while eating a nutritional and balanced diet.

 

 

 


There’s much more to camp cooking than hamburgers and hot dogs and s’mores. You CAN eat healthy foods while traveling! This recipe was a hit with all the little Tumbleweeds.

Spring Vegetable and Egg Stir-Fry

serves 4

1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded

1 head baby  bok choy, sliced

2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 oz white mushrooms, sliced

1/2 large onion, any color, cut into 1-in pieces

2 medium bell peppers, any color, sliced

3 ribs celery, sliced

3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

4 eggs

soy sauce

minced garlic

fresh ginger, grated

oil

Noodles, rice, or cauliflower “rice”

You need a heat source of some kind: a camp stove, campfire grate over a bed of hot coals, or the cooktop in your RV. In a large oiled cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, start cooking the mushrooms, radishes, and the celery with the ginger. I used about 2 tsp ginger, but but can adjust the amount to suit your family’s taste.

.Vegetables in a skillet

 

After the veggies start to soften, add the asparagus.

 

More vegetables in a skillet

 

Allow to cook for a few more minutes, then add the remaining vegetables.

 

At this point, I also add minced garlic.  We love garlic, putting it on “everything but ice cream” as my friend Corky says!  Since peeling and mincing garlic can be tedious, we use this:

 

Hand holding a jar of minced garlic
My favorite camp cooking time-saver!

While the veggies finish cooking, get out another skillet and scramble the eggs.  When cooked, mix everything together. We ate our spring vegetable and egg stir-fry over riced cauliflower, but you could serve it with rice or noodles according to your preference.

 

Vegetable and egg stir fry served with cauliflower "rice"
Spring Vegetable and Egg Stir-Fry, served with cauliflower “rice.”

General Tips for Camp Cooking

You can improve your camp cooking skills by learning techniques rather than just learning recipes.  The techniques used here can be adapted to make many other stir-fry dishes using what you like, what you have on hand, and what’s in season.  If you don’t eat one of the veggies I used in this dish, just leave it out or substitute a different vegetable.  You can also use thinly sliced chicken, pork, or beef in place of the egg, or extra-firm tofu cut into small cubes or strips.  You could stir fry just the vegetables, omitting the protein and rice or noodles, and serve as a side dish with a sandwich or burger.  

Sedona Red rock formations

Last spring, as we headed north from Phoenix to visit the Grand Canyon, we stopped to see Sedona, AZ.   We found easily accessible dispersed camping in the Coconino National Forest, within a reasonable drive of the many things to do in Sedona, but also near National Park Sites such as Tuzigoot and Montezuma Well.  We found so many things to do in Sedona, we stayed for 2 weeks instead of the couple days we originally planned!

 

Free Camping in the Coconino National Forest

Right off  I-17, exit 298, is access to the Coconino National Forest. Dispersed camping is permitted for up to 14 days; try to choose a site with evidence of previous use, which shouldn’t be hard.  

We especially loved how dark the skies were at night.  There was minimal light pollution and we enjoyed having a clear view of the night skies.

 

Things to Do in Sedona

Sedona is well-known for its beautiful red rock formations and several so-called energy vortexes.  We decided to start with a hike around the Airport Loop trail, named for the airport sited atop a mesa.  Trailhead parking, which is very limited, was full already when we got there. We drove further up the raid and parked in a pay lot near the airport. The parking fee was cheap ($3 in 2017) and there were ports-potties there, affording everyone one last chance to go before we set out on our hike. There is a connector, the Sedona View trail,  from this lot to the Airport Loop trailhead.  We hiked clockwise around the Mesa, but were I to do it again I would hike counter-clockwise, starting across the road from the trailhead parking.  Altogether it was a little over 5 miles of hiking, including the connector from the pay lot.  If you get there early enough to park at the Airport Loop trailhead, you could save maybe a mile.  It was a very achievable hike for families with kids, since their elevation changes are modest, but probably not a good hike for an absolute beginner or someone afraid of heights. A significant part of the trail is close to steep slopes or drop-offs.

There is supposed to be a “vortex” along this trail. None of us felt or sensed anything out of the ordinary on this hike.  When I researched beforehand, I found references to trees on the mesa  that were supposedly twisted by the energy vortex.  We did see plenty of twisty junipers in a variety of places, but there are trees  like that at most elevated places, twisted not by mystical swirling energy, but the wind.

We also did some shorter hikes, but sadly I failed to record the trail names.  They were all fun and beautiful, though! There are so many great hikes in Sedona that I recommend buying a hiking guide if you’re going to spend more than a day or two. Normally I wouldn’t spend money on a paper guidebook that would just clutter up the RV later on, but you might order an inexpensive used one online before you go, and resell it or pass it on to another traveler when you’re done with it.

A “Red Rock” pass is required for use of National Forest lands in the Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon area. (See map) If you have a national park pass, such as the America the Beautiful pass, Every Kid in a Park pass, Access pass, or Senior pass, it will be honored.  Simply leave it in your vehicle’s display hanger.  A pass is not required for a brief stop to take a photo or look at a scenic viewpoint, but if you will be leaving your vehicle to hike, picnic, etc in the applicable area, you need a pass.  If you don’t have a national park pass, you can purchase a one-day Red Rock Pass for $5, a seven-day Red Rock pass for $15, or an annual Red Rock pass for $20. 

Things to Do Nearby 

While camping near Sedona, we visited several sites of historical significance. 

A single admission fee grants visitors access to both Tuzigoot National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument. Admission is $10 per person, with children 15 and under free, and is good for seven days, so you don’t have to rush to see both sites in a single day. Of course, if you have one of the national park passes, then your admission  is free anyway! 

Montezuma Castle  has a visitor center with some information about the Sinagua people, and a paved path leading to views of the “castle.” Not a castle at all, it is a well-preserved cliff dwelling.  In past times, Visitors were allowed to explore inside the dwelling, but to protect the site, visitors now must remain outside, down on the ground. A detailed model is displayed so visitors can se what the inside looks like, though.  The local schools were on break and it was busy the day we were there.  A ranger was available to answer questions and talk about the dwelling. I don’t know how many times we overheard someone ask him, “How did they get up there?”  

Each time he patiently responded that they had ladders.  One man retorted, “But what about the women and children?”

I was floored.  Never before had I encountered an individual who believed women can’t climb ladders!  Truth be told, the women and children of the Sinagua people were probably much more physically capable than this guy!

About 11 miles away, Montezuma Well is a limestone sinkhole, nearly 400 feet in diameter. Used a a source of irrigating water for over a thousand years, this body of water has a unique collection of life.  The water is too carbonated and contains too much arsenic for fish to survive, but a handful of well-adapted creatures have made a home there, some of which are found in no other known place on earth. Not only is Montezuma Well of interest from a geological and biological perspective, but it is a beautiful setting for a walk and some bird-watching. Guided birding walks are offered- contact the park or check the website for dates and details. Curly and Sparky, along with their father, went on a guided bird walk and really enjoyed themselves. The volunteer guide was able to accommodate a wide range of experience, and the other participants were friendly and welcoming.

Tuzigoot National Monument protects the ruins of another Dinaguan dwelling, a little different in style from the cliff dwelling at Montezuma Castle. The site was excavated and partially recontructed in the 1930’s.  Today the visitor center houses a fabulous little museum. A paved 1/3 mile loop leads visitors around and through the pueblo ruins. There is little shade on the path, so a hat, sunscreen, and water are recommended.

As beautiful and educational as those sites all were, our favorite part of our Sedona-area visit was the V-Bar-V Heritage site.  This petroglyphs site is gated and well-preserved. Open only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, a volunteer docent is on site to present information about the petroglyphs, and answer questions,  It was wonderful to be able to see the petroglyphs up close, rather than through binoculars while standing at a distant viewing point. There is a fee to access this site; either the Red Rocks Pass or a National Parks pass will be honored.  There is a kiosk in the parking area to purchase a Red Rocks Pass if you don’t already have it.

There are so many things to do in Sedona and nearby that a family could spend even more time than the 14 days we were there. We plan to go back again sometime and hope you get a chance to check it out as well!  

If  you’ve already had a chance to visit, what were your favorite things to do in Sedona?  Tell us in the comments!

 

 


 

As the August 2017 total solar eclipse approached, we realized we didn’t have time to get to Wyoming to see it, without sacrificing many of the other things we wanted to see on the way. We decided to put off the northern US run for another summer and instead to head south to get into the path of totality. 

We decided on western North Carolina and headed for the Pisgah National Forest, intending to find dispersed camping there.  I found references online to “designated roadside campsites” online and assumed they would be RV-accessible.  We got there, several miles down rough dirt roads,  to find that these campsites are for tents only.  There are pull-offs to park a passenger vehicle and a tent site with fire ring a short walk from the parking area.  It was late at night and we were tired, so we found a pull-off long enough to get our rig off the road and slept.  

Up early, we headed back to the paved road, which was the Blue Ridge Parkway, and looked for a viewing spot with room to park the rig. All the overlooks were crowded, but we found a place and got out the lawn chairs and eclipse glasses.  We had a long wait for totality and got to know some of the people around us in the meantime.  Curly was lying on her back in the grass looking up at the sun when something bumped into her. She jumped up and grabbed it: it was a little  snake not much bigger than an earthworm.  After we all oohed and aahed  over it, I suggested some of the other families with children might be interested in seeing it, so she showed it around before releasing it into the brush at the edge of the grass.

A small snake in a human hand
This little snake slithered right into Curly’s arm as she was on the ground looking up at the sky.

 One woman surprised me by remarking to me how “brave” Curly was for picking up the snake.  This snake was harmless and so little that I didn’t see any particular courage in holding it!

There isn’t much to write about the eclipse itself: if you also experienced totality, then you know what it was like, and if you didn’t, then no words will suffice. You’ll have another chance in about seven years!

After the eclipse we spoke to a ranger and confirmed that there wasn’t any dispersed RV camping in the vicinity.  We went and got a spot at the Mt. Pisgah campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Sites are $20/ night. ($10 with the Access pass) No hookups were available, but there were bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, a dump station, and water spigots.  Some sites are more spacious and private than others.  We stayed in A-27, which was nice and big, but there was no level ground except the paved parking pad, and even that was sloped. The campground was neat, clean, in good repair, and attractive. The camp host was friendly. We would definitely stay here again sometime!

Things to Do In and Near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest

We found lots of fun hiking in the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. Devil’s Courthouse was a steep but short hike with fabulous, multi-state views from the top.

A teenage boy and teenage girl, two young girls and a young boy, and a toddler girl pose on a rock with mountains in the background
The Tumbleweed kids at the top of the Devil’s Courthouse formation along the Blue Ridge Parkway

At Graveyard Fields, we hiked to the lower falls, not realizing that we would be able to get in the water.  We took off our shoes and waded, but the water was so refreshing, yet shallow enough for young children, that we returned dressed in our bathing suits another day.  

A toddler in a bathing suit and life jacket sits with her father on a rock in a shallow stream
The water below the lower falls was shallow enough for Tiny and oh-so-refreshing on an August afternoon!

We also hiked to the upper falls, a significantly longer hike, muddy when we were there, but with rewarding views at the end. 

The kids were able to complete both a Blue Ridge Parkway Junior Ranger badge and an Eclipse Explorer badge.  There are numerous visitor centers along the Blue Ridge Parkwa- the ones we stopped at had exhibits and information about the history of the parkway as well as the wildlife or the region.

We also drove into Asheville to visit the Western North Carolina Nature Center. The WNC Nature Center is a small zoo focusing primarily on the native wildlife of the region.  Visitors can see it all in one day at a leisurely pace, and the well-designed and creative  play areas spread throughout make it great for younger children. This zoo is a popular membership among families that travel, because the one membership entitles families to benefit from both the AZA reciprocal admission program and the ASTC Travel Passport program.

Asheville is also home to the Montrose Park Players, with a free theater-in-the park summer season. We were fortunate to be there to see a performance of Peter Pan. The production was fresh and imaginative: no “Chief Ugg-a-Wugg” in sight, but a strong and capable Tiger Lily as the leader of the “Neverland Natives.” My children particularly enjoyed it when the Pirates and Lost Boys came into and interacted with the audience at various times.  All I all, we had a great evening. Admission was free; concessions were available.  If you ever get the chance to catch a show, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

We really enjoyed camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest, and look forward to a return visit someday!