South Dakota

We just can’t get enough of the badlands apparently. After visiting the North Dakota badlands, we had to check out the South Dakota badlands.

South Dakota Badlands

We first visited the Black Hills National Forest. Like any American tourist, I wanted to see Mount Rushmore. Part of me suspected it may be a little overrated, but I can assure you that IT IS NOT. IT WAS SO COOL AND I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF LOOKING AT IT. First of all, as you are just driving through the hills casually looking out the window. Then all of a sudden, four president face carvings appear through an opening of trees. It is a delightful surprise. You quickly point it out to the driver, but they have already missed it (Sorry, Matt). Eventually, we did make it to the monument and awed at the creation. I found out that it was created to draw more tourist to South Dakota and to this day, it is one of the most popular sites in America.

Mount Rushmore

We also saw the Crazy Horse monument which is still under construction. Once completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world! To quote Matt upon seeing it, “Wow, that’s crazy….no pun intended.” It really is a remarkable memorial.

Crazy Horse Memorial
Our view from Black Elk Peak. The rock formations in the distance are called the Needles.

We also did a hike to Black Elk Peak where we met our new friend Blake and his dog Booker. Matt and I were confused at a fork in the trail and Blake walked up behind us with a map. He kindly directed us the correct way and we began chatting with him. Blake is also traveling in an RV like us except he has a dog and a job (he works remotely from his RV). He invited us to boondock* at a spot at the badlands of South Dakota. The campsite was amazing! We ended up staying there for four nights. We are forever grateful for Blake who hooked us up big time.

Matt enjoying our boondocking campsite!
Our view from our trailer
We woke up early to see the sunrise. Blake’s dog, Booker, posing very nicely in front of it.

We drove through the badlands and did two hikes. The Notch Trail and Medicine Root Trail which had spectacular rock formations. The biggest difference between ND and SD badlands is that ND has the Missouri river flowing through it. The river gives the ND badlands more vegetation and wildlife. The SD badlands have more of a desert vibe. This is purely from my observation and zero research has been done to corroborate it so I may be wrong. But I’d bet an ice cream sandwich that I’m right.

Medicine Root Trail
Notch Trail

We finally had to say goodbye to our new friend and to our epic campsite in order to make the long trek up to Glacier National Park. We took a picture and parted ways in hopes we meet each other again in the near future.

Us with Blake

(*boondocking means camping for free without any electrical or water hookups. Meaning we used our generators for power and we filled up our fresh water tank prior to getting to the spot. Our water tank can hold about 40 gallons of water)

Skillet Vegetable Lasagna

This was the first recipe I made from a cookbook while camping. I was SO EXCITED! Before we started our trip, I bought and read the Dirty Gourmet cookbook front to back. I couldn’t wait to make a recipe from it. Everything looked so interesting and delicious. I can tell the authors (Aimee Trudeau, Emily Nielson, and Mai-Yan Kwan) are really passionate about camping and cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (The grocery was out of zucchini so I used 1/2 bunch of thin asparagus instead)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I forgot to add this and the recipe was still delicious)
  • 6 cups marinara sauce
  • 8 oz lasagna noodles
  • 6 oz baby spinach (I bought regular size and it was still ok. Halfway through building my layers, I realized I probably should have cut my stems off though)
  • 8 oz ricotta
  • In addition to the above veggies, I also used: 1/2 medium yellow onion (diced) and 3 cloves of garlic (minced)

We are now boondocking in the South Dakota Badlands which is amazing, but also HOT because it’s early September. Even though the temperature was in the 80s/90s, I already bought the ingredients to make the recipe so I decided to go for it. I knew by the time I served, the sun would be down and a whole lot cooler.

My new copy of the Dirty Gourmet
Our set up at the SD Badlands
Preparing my ingredients

I set up my outside kitchen to cook at because remember it’s 85 degrees and I didn’t want to make our camper hotter. This set up basically consists of a collapsible table, an induction stovetop, and some indoor items brought outside. Also, more importantly, paper towels because I’m a hot mess sometimes. The only thing I cooked inside was I boiled the asparagus for 40 seconds so they wouldn’t be too chewy in the dish.

My Outdoor Kitchen
asparagus

Saute veggies with olive oil in the skillet for 5 minutes then remove from skillet and set aside.

Then, begin stacking your lasagna in your skillet. First, marinara sauce (1.5 cups). Then, lasagna noodles (1/3). Then, sauted veggies (1/3). Then, spinach (1/3). Then, ricotta dollops (1/3). Repeat 2 times. For the last layer, use pasta, marinara, and ricotta.

Built and ready to cook!

Once the lasagna is built, cover the skillet. The authors recommend cooking it on low heat for 20 mins. My husband was anxious about this instruction because he felt it wouldn’t cook in time. He convinced me to dial up the heat to medium. I did and checked it at 10 mins, it seemed to be doing okay. Eventually though, I did lower the heat and cooked it for an additional 10-15 mins. You know it’s done when you stick a fork in it and the noodles are soft. If the noodles are still hard, cover it back up and let it cook for a few more minutes.

NOTE: I’d recommend not listening to your husband on this one, and instead, listening to the authors who like you know created the dish. My bottom noodles did get burnt and I think it was because of the initial higher heat. The lasagna was still amazing and thank baby Jesus the burnt noodles didn’t ruin the dish. I basically just served the lasagna pieces without the bottom layer noodle. No biggie. Next time I’ll probably just cook it on low heat, check the noodles in 20 mins. If they are still firm, I would then cover it back up and continue to let it cook.

Done cooking!

Once done cooking, remove the dish from the heat and set aside. Let sit for 5 minutes while still covered. (NOTE: Mine did look watery, but once I let it sit off the heat, the dish solidified.)

The lasagna was a big success!! Matt had three huge pieces in one sitting. The best part is that it makes enough so we have some leftovers that we can put in our RV fridge for future meals.

Check out the Dirty Gourmet Blog for more recipes or even consider buying their book!

If you want to follow along in real time as I make my recipes, you can watch me on my Instagram stories @thehungrycamper.

The North Dakota Badlands

Over Labor Day weekend, we camped in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We drove in from the East after leaving Minneapolis. Initially, it was all hills and grassland. Then, suddenly we hit the Badlands and I was totally blown away. The difference was striking. It was likely the strong coffee contributing, but I felt such giddiness in my heart as we drove through the park. Theodore Roosevelt described the badlands as a bizarre beauty and honestly, that’s the best description for them in my opinion.

River Bend Overlook – North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Um, also I’m going to take a moment to talk about Teddy because he was just a super cool guy. I learned that Theodore Roosevelt spent a few years in those Badlands before he moved back to New York to become President. He was a naturist and conservationist who was able to pass legislation to preserve significant land in the United States. Thanks to him we get to appreciate the national parks today and they are spectacular.

Badlands Overlook – South Unit Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We camped in the south unit of the park, and explored the area. We also did a three mile hike to the petrified forest. Petrified wood occurs when the organic mass of the tree turns to stone. It slowly fossilizes. When I saw it, it was probably the only time where I thought “Wow, it would be cool to be a geologist and study stuff like this.”

Hike to the petrified forest
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood

After that we continued to Elkhorn Ranch (Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch – or rather what’s left of it which is mostly just the stone foundation of his house). It’s very remote and not much to see so most people do not visit. According to the check-in book, only three people had visited that area earlier in the day besides us. It was surreal to stand in the same area as a former president and to imagine how he lived.

Site of Teddy Roosevelt’s Ranch

We then continued in our car to the north unit of the park (70 miles from the south unit). I absolutely recommend people check out the north unit because River Bend Overlook was the most beautiful view I ever seen (scroll up and look at the first photo). HOWEVER, I do not recommend going on a hike, then going to Elkhorn Ranch, then going to the north unit, then driving back to the south unit all in the same day. This is how we did it and it was way too much. That being said, the north unit scenic drive was enough to subdue my hangry attitude which developed as the day wore on.

Also, during our stay we saw so many bison. Initially, we were so shocked to see bison that we took an obnoxious amount of photos. Turns out the bison are everywhere and very comfortable around people. One evening a herd of about eight meandered into our campground and just grazed on grass to their hearts content. Everyone just quietly observed them with a mix of awe and fear. It should be noted as well that I saw my first prairie dog towns in the park and now all I want to be is a biologist who literally studies prairie dogs all day because THEY ARE THE CUTEST ANIMALS EVER. Maybe this is a sign I should make a career change…

Anyways, the Badlands should be renamed the Goodlands. Please sign my petition if you agree.

Turkey Burgers!

I’ve never been a big turkey burger advocate until my sister, Colleen, introduced me to her amazing recipe. Now it’s a staple in our meals that I make about once a month. They are delicious and simple to make. Also, pretty easy to clean up which is a huge plus while camping!

Turkey burger goodness

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground turkey (85% lean – no leaner or else they will fall apart!)
  • 2-3 green onions – chopped
  • half to full bunch of cilantro – chopped
  • 1 jalapeno – chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 or 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • A good splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Some good squirts of mustard (I like spicy brown mustard)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of cumin
  • Whatever other spices you want to add (oregano, paprika, tumeric, etc)
  • Hamburger buns
  • Cheese slices (if you like cheeseburgers)

Instructions:

  1. Combine all the above ingredients into a medium size bowl.
  2. Use clean hands and mash it all together. I hate (HATE) touching raw meat so I like to put on disposable gloves.
  3. Create 8 patties out of the creation. I just eyeball it and can get 8 patties. However, my sister weighs each patty to make it 170 grams (she gets 7 patties out of it). Making them the same weight allows them to all cook evenly. Eyeballing it is just easier and to be honest, I’ve never had a problem.
  4. Shape the patties with an indent in the middle of each (see my picture below). This helps hold the patty together while it cooks.
  5. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Place patties on it. Put in freezer.
  6. Freeze for at least 1 hour. Okay to freeze overnight.
  7. Heat up the grill.
  8. Spray both sides of each patty with Pam. Get another person to help you with this – it will go faster.
  9. Grill patties (add cheese if desired) and enjoy!
My sister (Colleen) with her two adorable children, Josephine and Francis.

Ok so here are some pictures of my ingredients. I do have a confession. I forgot to buy garlic and I didn’t have garlic powder. So I added the next best thing – onion powder to give it more flavor. It got the job done!

Combine it all in a bowl and mash it together.

Then create your patties and put in the freezer for at LEAST 1 hour.

Each patty has an indentation to help hold the patty together while it cooks.

Grill and eat!

THANKS FOR COMING TO MY FIRST RECIPE BLOG POST!!! OK BYEEEE! 🙂

Pure Michigan

Those Michigan advertisements were not exaggerating when they said Michigan was pure!! Every view is stunning. A true hidden gem in the Midwest. I cannot believe these amazing sights are in Indiana’s (my home state) backyard!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

We first stayed in Grand Rapids and visited Matt’s old buddies. Then, headed along the west coast of Michigan and drove through small adorable cities. We also stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, and Mackinac Island. My two former patients live and work on Mackinac Island for half the year, and they always invited me to visit them. Finally, I was able to! It was great to see them and get a local perspective of the island.

Mackinac Island (No cars are allowed on the island!)

Eventually, we headed up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the scenery is lush and remote. We camped in two state parks: Tahquamenon Falls and Lake Gogebic. We went on one hike in Porcupine Mountains Wildness State Park. At the trail head, when we realized we forgot to bring insect repellent, we looked at one another and shrugged nonchalantly. We confidently reassured ourselves it wouldn’t be a big deal. We then hiked to Mirror Lake where the mosquitoes rallied together and almost ate us alive. So, folks, always wear your bug spray on hikes especially in Michigan where the whole state is surrounded by water.

Tahquamenon State Park – Lower Falls
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Mirror Lake ( I probably had a swarm of mosquitos biting my neck as I took this)
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Finishing up our hike

Initially, we were very ambitious by only staying at campsites for one night, then packing up and traveling again. This was working well until we hit a wall and exhaustion set it. As you can predict, exhaustion plus travel is the fastest way for any couple to begin to bicker. We now have a new rule that we must stay at a campsite for a minimum of two nights. Currently, we are staying our third night on Lake Gogebic and it’s been great! Looking forward to getting a fresh start tomorrow and head to Minneapolis to visit some family.

View from our campsite on Lake Gogebic
Lake Gogebic State Park

New Beginnings!

After multiple Amazon orders, endless Internet research, and intense RV packing (at one point I definitely had a meltdown), we are finally done and ready to start our adventure! We plan to head to the Michigan Gold Coast and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Then, we will head out West. First stop is Grand Rapids, MI. Follow along on our adventure! You can also find us on Instagram @thehungrycamper.

Day 1: August 20, 2019

RV Set Up

After moving from Dayton, OH July 2019, we spent the last four weeks with our families in Northwest Indiana visiting loved ones and preparing for our RV expedition. Both of our parents have been a tremendous support in helping us prepare for our trip. They are very excited for us, but also probably think we are a little crazy. They fed us and let us crash in their houses while we figured out the logistics of our trip. We are very grateful.

Moving out of our house in Dayton July 2019

Downsizing our lives has been a very cathartic as well as overwhelming experience. It’s shocking all the items we accumulated over the last four years together. I do have to say though how wonderful it has been to purge nonessential items (like the large box of halloween costumes that I haven’t touched in years, but also you guys never know when I may need to wear this mermaid tail in the future!! … *reader gently pats Kelsey’s shoulder* “Yea it’s time to donate it, Kelsey”). This has been the most organized I’ve felt since moving into the freshman dorms at college and it feels amazing!!

Matt is way more organized than me and although it sometimes drives me crazy when he holds me accountable for my endearing chaos of clutter (AKA “The Kelsey Tornado”) – I have to hand it to him that his standard of organization is the way to go. Downsizing has forced me to examine each item and decide if its functionality makes it worthy of our RV nest. It’s brutal, but also freeing once the process is done.

Since the RV trailer is only 23 feet long, it is vital we keep it as clean and organized as possible. There are no extra closets or drawers I can throw random junk into. EVERYTHING inside has a space and a purpose, and if it doesn’t then it doesn’t come. This will be a great way to challenge my organization skills and see if I can maintain it the whole trip. Ask me in 6 months how I’m doing – I’ll either excitedly tell you it’s going great or I will get defensive and fight you.

Hello!

Thank you for coming to my blog and following along on this adventure! My name is Kelsey and my husband’s name is Matt. We are home grown Midwesterners who have decided to move out West. We recently quit our jobs and plan to travel the US in an RV for a few months. Our hope is to find a city out West we can relocate to from Indiana/Ohio.

I love to cook. I also love to share my experience of cooking on social media (because I’m a proud millennial!!). However, I’ve only ever cooked in a conventional kitchen where I have everything to my disposal. This trip will push me way out of my element. Like WAY out of my element. I’m already overwhelmed 🙂 Join me as I learn how to shop, store, and cook food while camping.

My posts will be about our experience with food as well as our travel adventures. You can also follow me on Instagram @thehungrycamper

Our Wedding Day 9/1/18
Hiking in Olympic National Park 2016
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