Sunday, September 13, 2015

Camping on Mt. Charleston with a Dog and a Dutch Oven

Mt. Charleston, Nevada is about 40 miles from my front door and my favorite way to get away for a bit. The pleasant temperatures contrast greatly from those in the Las Vegas Valley during late Summer and early Fall. 
Mt Charleston Peak
Mt. Charleston Peak

Camping in this mountain range is my idea of a vacation!

The campsite that was left to us had a great view of the valley floor below. It happened to be one that I have used before and I thought it was convenient to find open, again. I could quickly set up camp as I had done in previous years. Open fire cooking is a must when camping in this area and is permitted in the campground. Our menu was predominantly dutch oven fare.

Driving Directions

The road is steep up to the camp, but is a manageable drive. It is important to do the speed limits and stay alert of deer or horses that may cross the roadway. My preferred campsite is at Hill Top Campground which is actually in the Lee Canyon area. Take the first road to your right as you travel the Mt. Charleston road where you see the first intersection sign. This is the Deer Creek Road. Drive about 5 - 6 miles up and look for a brown sign past Robber's Roost (great hike!) that reads "Campground 1/4 Mile" that is your marker. Slow down and turn right into that forked road. The fork to the left is the one you want. It circles around and up to the camp entrance. Pick up a pay envelope here and continue up to find an open spot. The camp has reserved and open sites. Stop and check in with the Rangers and say hi!

Camping Costs

The camping costs $21 a night and check out time is 1:00 pm.  Firewood is available on the mountain for $6 a bundle. That is all that is available here. Bring your own ice, water, and food. You will not find any markets at this altitude. There are two restaurants in the area, one at the Lodge up the Mount Charleston Road at the top and one at the Resort near the entrance to the recreation area. This is the only food available unless you bring your own!

Please, be aware that at this time there is NO WATER on the mountain. Snowfall and rain have been minimal, so be sure to pack in your own potable and wash water. Also, there are latrines, not bathrooms, so be ready to truly rough it. It might be a good idea to include toilet paper, sanitizing wipes and liquid in your camp gear. 

My Canine Camp Companion

small dog in camp site with turquoise sweater and leash
Wilbur standing his ground
Dogs at the campground must be on a leash at all times. Make sure that they have access to fresh water at all times and a soft place to sit. I folded two small blankets up for Wilbur a safe distance from the fire and used this for his sitting place and bed roll. My little guy even has his own bug out kit with supplies.

My neighbor at the campsite commented that her daughter thought it was really brave of me to camp out here, alone. I thought nonsense, but responded, "I drive cab in town, not much scares me." (Wink!) I really needed a getaway. This place is fairly public as there are many campers here with me. I did not travel completely alone, however. My camp companion was my little dog, Wilbur. He is an older dog, but I thought it would be nice to give him a run of fresh air and small walks along short trails. 

Wilbur did quite well, but was a bit of a rascal when it came time for me to set up and tear down camp. He wanted to wander and rightly so. There were so many new smells for him to investigate. This image is after I took the tent down. I think he wanted to stay!

I was concerned about him walking on the sharp rocks and rugged trails, but tried to find smoother paths to travel for his restroom breaks. He tried to sniff and smell everything and wander when he had a chance. Thankfully, I caught him on those occasions.

Journal Entry
When night fell, we stayed near the fire for about an hour then retired to our tent. The sky was amazing and I wrote a small piece about it in my journal. I so wish I could have gotten a picture of it!
Fire in a steel drum from a campground
Campfire bliss

The campfire smoke drifts skyward into the Milky Way. Starshine punctures the tar, black fabric of the night. I sit under this canvas and alternate admiring sky and campfire.  I stare into flames of gold and admire the blue base of the fire. This is my campout, my reason to be still. The precious away time I so desperately yearn for. 

I dearly wish I could share a photograph of my view of this sky with you, this quiet evening. I left the sun cover off of my tent so as to stargaze before I drive off to sleep. The display of constellations is mesmerizing. I scan the night scene for moving blips and shooting stars.  I have only seen one fall tonight.

It has been two years since a devastating fire tore through our beloved mountain. From my campsite I see subtle signs of the disaster.  Skeleton tree trunks scorched from the fire tower like markers of that sad day. U was heartbroken when it started. The fire covered nearly 65,000 acres of woods, brush,  and timber land. It threatened homes and the livelihood of many who live on the hills northwest of Las Vegas

I am grateful my beloved Hilltop Camp was spared. It is a miracle that it is untouched. I understand fire is nature's way of nurturing soil, but does it have to be so devastating?!  (See Mt. Charleston Memories for more about that fire)

Tips For Dutch Ovens or Dutch Oven Cooking for One

Dutch Oven, Barbeque grill, and coal starter units
Dutch Oven and Supplies

I bought a 10" dutch oven some time ago and was eager to try it out on this trip. The cooking is quick and easy in one of these handy pots. It does get sooty, but it is manageable if there are the right supplies with you. The important thing about any cast iron cooking gear is keeping it oiled. Use no water in cleaning and oil it down after use. If you have to use water in it, dry it on heat for a minute, then season once again with oil. 

I had, also, purchased a coal starter, but had not used it yet. My dad suggested this great tip that worked wonders for lighting the chimney. Place two or three sheets of news paper wadded up under the coal starter and fill the chute with charcoal. Light the paper and in about 20 mins, the coals will be ready. This method worked like a charm and I had no trouble with coal starting whatsoever. The first thing I made was O'brien Potatoes. This is a small mix of potatoes, onions, and green pepper.

O'brien Potatoes Recipe

  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1 potato - diced
  • 1/4 green pepper, sliced
  • 3 slices of onion
  • Salt and Pepper

  • Settle dutch oven on a half of a chute of hot coals. Cook bacon slices until slightly brown and remove meat from dutch oven.  Add onions and peppers, sauteing for about two minutes. Add the potatoes and cover for about 10 to 15 minutes. Check every 5 or so minutes to insure they are not cooking to quickly. When potatoes are soft, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    I had cleared some items out of my freezer to bring with me so I did not have to spend a lot of money on groceries when I hit the mountain. One of the things I brought were chicken breasts, which I got a little creative with. The result was the following recipe:

    Orange Gatorade Barbeque Chicken

    • 2 large Chicken Breasts
    • 1/4 green pepper - sliced
    • 1/4 onion - sliced
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1/4 C barbeque sauce
    • 1/3 C Orange Gatorade
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 1/2 C Water
    Set dutch oven on coals and quickly add olive oil. Saute onions and peppers and add the chicken when onions are clear. Coat the chicken in the veggie juice then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to coat. Let them simmer for about 5 minutes covered. Add the barbeque sauce and coat the chicken pieces. Pour the gatorade into the dutch oven and cover with the lid. Add about 8 coals to the top of the dutch oven. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Remove dutch oven from coals and take lid off carefully. Set coals from lid aside in barbeque grill or fire pit. Stir in about 1/2 cup of water when chicken is ready to loosen the sauce from the bottom for a good au jus. Serves 1-3 

    Go Camping!

    My wish is that you might get a chance to enjoy a trip to the great outdoors, someday soon. It is a great way to escape summer heat and blahs. If you are not in the Southern Nevada area, check the camping locations near you using the Recreation.Gov site!

    Images on this site are property of M Burgess unless otherwise indicated. Please do not copy. Copyright 2015

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