Lake Whitney State Park
January 18-20, 2008

Lake Whitney State Park - Friday, January 18, 2008

Terry and I are off to another gathering of the NTXCA (North Texas Camping Association) group. They're a great group of folks to RV with. We've got several firsts for this trip:

I had also purchased a 12" Lodge Dutch oven from Amazon to start my collection of cast iron. The previous weekend in January, Steve, my best friend, and I attended our first DOG (Dutch Oven Gathering) of the Prairie Dog Chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society. After meeting all the warm and friendly folks and tasting the incredible recipes that were prepared we were absolutely hooked! Little did we know that our lives would be forever changed. The chapter's advisor, Bruce Bonnet and his wife Kathy, were also going to join all of us at the Lake Whitney campout. Steve and I were looking forward to learning from the masters of Dutch oven cooking.

Terry and I pulled out of Alamo RV Storage around 4:30 and headed south on Interstate 35 towards Lake Whitney. From the weather forecast, it was going to be a very frigid weekend with temperatures well below freezing in the early morning hours. I would have to keep our fresh water tank filled and our supply hose drained and inside during the weekend so we'd have water in the trailer. Otherwise our hose would freeze and we wouldn't have any water.

Since Terry and I had a big lunch we decided to skip dinner and just snack after we got the trailer setup. We arrived at the park around 6:30 with the temperature hovering in the upper 30's with a bit of sleet falling. The "girls", Leslie and Terry, thought we were crazy going camping in this weather, but our spirit wasn't to be dampened. Steve and I were up for the challenge of the weekend. Also for this trip, we brought our dog, Bandy, along with us. Hopefully he'll behave, we'll see. He hadn't been on a trip in a while and the change of scenery would be good for him.

Our RV buddies, Steve and Leslie, were already setup at the park. They called us to let us know that they had already put us in site #47 and they were in site #48. They also told us they would have dinner ready for all of us by the time we arrived. Normally when we're camping together the couple who arrives first shares dinner. This really helps when you're arriving off the road and you're tired after a long day's work.

Steve helped me get setup pretty quickly. He already had his satellite "zeroed" in so it was easy for my to mimic the settings and the direction. In no time our satellite was pin-pointed to the "bird in the sky" and we had a great picture on our TV. After finishing up our setup, we shared a wonderful dinner of Bubba burgers with all the fixings. We talked about playing a game of Mexican Train, but decided we were all too tired to make it through the whole round.

Terry and I headed next door and relaxed for the rest of the evening by reading and watching TV. Before turning in for the evening. I topped off our fresh water tanks and turned on the Arctic heater pack to ensure the tank wouldn't freeze overnight. I also drained the potable water hose and brought it inside so it would stay pliable.  Terry and I turned in around 11:00. It had already dropped below freezing. It was going to be a very cold night but our trailer was warm and cozy. Around 1:30 in the morning Bandy decided he HAD to go outside and wouldn't take NO for an answer. When I took him out for his walk, it was around 26 degrees....burr!

Lake Whitney State Park - Saturday, January 19, 2008

Terry and I slept so good under the quilt and all the covers.  Well, I was sleeping very well until Bandy needed to go out again at 5:30. He had "cabin fever" since he was cooped up in such a small space. Again he wouldn't take NO for an answer. I tried to ignore him but his whimpering wouldn't quit. I got up, put on a set of sweats and noticed the temperature outside was in the upper 20's with a brisk wind blowing. I was a trouper and took Bandy for a long walk. I was happy I had brought a "hoodie" with me. It was definitely cold. I made a note to myself to get a pot of coffee brewing when I got back to the trailer. Bandy was having a great time on the camping trip, he loves cold weather. I'm just like him, I'd much rather have cold weather than hot. When we got back to the trailer, Terry was still asleep. I was wide awake, so I decided to stay up, watch TV and read for a while. I started a pot of coffee. It was the perfect compliment to the crisp clear morning.

Around 7:30 Terry started stirring and waking up. She was happy the coffee was already made. We both showered and got dressed for the day. We had decided to have a late breakfast with Steve and Leslie. Steve was making a "Mountain Man Breakfast" casserole and I was making biscuits and gravy. We started preparing breakfast around 9:00 while the "girls" watched from the inside of Steve and Leslie's nice warm trailer. Steve and I put on a pot of "cowboy" coffee and the girls drank their "girl" coffee inside the trailer. We couldn't believe they wouldn't drink any of our coffee. Steve's blue speckled coffee pot had "character" and had been used on many Boy Scout campouts for many decades. This was the type of pot where the coffee was dumped in the bottom of the pot then water was added to make the coffee. The girls had to have "filtered" coffee.

Bandy, our dog, at Lake Whitney State Park
Bandy loving the cold weather at Lake Whitney State Park

Burr it was cold outside. But refusing to not be "manly" and give up we stayed outside and continued to prepare our Saturday morning breakfast. Of course since it was so COLD outside the biscuits and breakfast casserole took forever to cook. We didn't sit down to eat breakfast until 11:00, but we had triumphed over the elements and prepared breakfast in our Dutch ovens! Breakfast was delicious and it felt good warming up inside the trailer.

Our Pilgrim all setup Steve and Leslie's Durango
Backside of our trailer with satellite setup

Shortly after breakfast Bruce Bonnet from the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society arrived at the park to stay one night. His wife, Kathy, was going to arrived a bit later in the afternoon. She ended up having to go to the office for a half-a-day. We suggested Bruce set up his Dutch oven cooking area at Steve's trailer where we had already been cooking. We helped him unload and were eying all of his equipment and his numerous Dutch ovens. We were both making mental note, we needed this and we needed that. We knew the "girls" would not be happy once they learned what we had on our shopping list from Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop. We soon learned that we were going to be afflicted with a disease known as "castironitis". ("Castironitis" we'd soon learn is the disease of accumulating cast iron cookware.)

Steve and I were absolutely amazed at the amount of Dutch oven cooking equipment that Bruce brought with him. He even had a special cargo carrying rack mounted on the back of his trailer just for carrying the 1,500 pounds of equipment. Wow! We both learned what a "chuck box" was and started formulating plans on how to build one. There was a large regional DOG that was scheduled for the first weekend of March at Tyler State Park and we decided that we were going to be ready and equipped for it by the time it arrived.

We all spent the rest of the afternoon working with Bruce and learning from the "master". We also started working on our recipes for tonight's potluck. Steve was preparing a big pot of chili accompanied with homemade cornbread and I was preparing a Dutch oven Apple Crisp. Several of the NTXCA members kept stopping by to see what was going on and learn about the art of Dutch oven cooking. Patty Ewald brought her Dutch oven by for instruction and guidance on preparing her casserole, since she hadn't used her cast iron much. She ended up cooking with us.

Bandy spent the afternoon in the trailer because he wouldn't stop barking. Terry was getting ready to take him out for a walk when he saw another on our of group member's dogs and bolted out of the trailer pulling Terry out along with him. Terry ended up flat on her face and we all had to chase Bandy down. Needless to say, he ended up on Terry's "bad" list. Oh well, that's probably his last campout for quite a while. It's our fault, he's just not "socialized" like he used to be. Terry ended up with a scrape on her chin. Thank goodness she didn't break anything. Why can't Bandy be more like Steve and Leslie's dog, Winston. He's normally well behaved at all the campouts he's been taken on.

Around 4:00, Kathy, Bruce's wife, arrived and the "masters" started to work. They were preparing a homemade Stromboli for tonight's potluck. With Bruce's expert guidance, all of our recipes turned out perfectly. A little before 6:00 we drove up to the Rec center for tonight's potluck. From the looks of it, there were around 50 or so brave souls that were in attendance. It had stayed chilly all day long with the threat of sleet throughout the day. Everyone raved about our Dutch oven creations at the potluck. In fact everything was delicious. We've got some incredible cooks in our group.

Cooking with the "Dutch Oven Doctor"

Leslie getting a lesson from the "Dutch Oven Doctor" My new 12" Lodge Dutch oven ready to be broken in
Dutch oven cooking area all setup One of our Dutch oven cooking tables, beats being on the ground!
Bruce working on his Stromboli Fire in the hole!
Picture perfect cornbread Steve rearranging the coals
Good looking cornbread! The "master" checking for proper heat
Bruce's "chuck box" Looks like we've got stromboli!

 

After the potluck dinner, we relaxed for a bit and then cleaned up our Dutch oven equipment before heading to our individual trailers for the evening. I again filled up our fresh water tank and turned on our "Arctic pack" to keep our tank from freezing. Temperatures overnight were forecasted to be in the upper 20's, another very cold night. Terry and I were also making homemade cinnamon rolls for tomorrow morning's potluck breakfast. We needed to make them before going to bed so they could rise overnight. It didn't take us long to finish them up and put them in the Dutch oven for overnight proofing. Terry and I turned in around 10:30 and spent a very warm and cozy night in our trailer.

Lake Whitney State Park - Sunday, January 20, 2008

Terry and I both woke up around 7:30. It was nice that Bandy had settled down and slept through the night. I took him out for a walk.  It was COLD, around 26 degrees. At least, the wind had subsided. It really didn't feel too bad outside. I looked over at Steve and Leslie's trailer. Steve already had the "cowboy" coffee on and charcoal going for our Dutch oven cooking. Bruce and Kathy were already there with coffee cups in hand. This morning at 10:00 NTXCA was having a potluck breakfast. Yum, my favorite meal of the day. When I got back to the trailer, Terry handed out the prepared cinnamon rolls for me to take over to Steve and Leslie's trailer for baking. I was interested in seeing what Bruce and Kathy were preparing. I'm sure it was something incredible.

Frozen water filter Sunday morning

I arrived over to our cooking area with Dutch oven and coffee cup in hand. Steve and Leslie were preparing homemade scratch biscuits and Bruce and Kathy were in the process of preparing a Créme Brule French Toast Casserole. Oh my gosh, it looked absolutely incredible.

Sunday Morning Potluck Breakfast Preparation

The infamous "cowboy" coffee pot and Winston, Steve & Leslie's dog Leslie cooking sausage
Steve and Leslie's homemade biscuits
Our homemade cinnamon rolls! Créme Brule French Toast Casserole

  Créme Brule French Toast Casserole

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring until smooth and pour into a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.

Cut six 1-inch thick slices from center portion of the loaf, reserving ends for another use and trim crusts. (Baguettes can leave crust on.) Arrange slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing slightly to fit.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt until well combined, ladle evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring bread mixture to room temperature.

Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are a pale golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Turn upside down immediately after removing from oven.

Serves 4-6.

Our group's potluck breakfast was awesome. In fact, we both enjoyed enjoyed breakfast much better than dinner the night before. Bruce and Kathy's Créme Brule French Toast Casserole was absolutely delicious. Our homemade scratch cinnamon rolls and Steve and Leslie's biscuits went in a flash. There were a lot of hungry folks at the potluck. Cold weather has that effect on folks. We all pitched in and cleaned up and rearranged the rec hall since the park's staff had been so nice to let us use it at no cost. We took up a collection for a nice donation to the park's maintenance fund.

We all headed back to our trailers so we could pack up and get ready to head for home. Temperatures were hovering in the upper 30's. It was still cold but at least the wind wasn't blowing hard. A short time after noon, Terry and I had all our gear loaded and stowed away in it's proper location. We bid our farewells to everyone and headed for home. Even though it had been a chilly weekend, it had been a great campout. We were looking forward to the Dutch oven cooking trip to Tyler State Park in a little over a month.


Authored by Chuck and Terry Mencke

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"Lake Whitney State Park - January 18 - 20, 2008" was last modified: August 22, 2010

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Chuck and Terry's Pilgrim 281 RB-S Adventures