Story and photos by Scott Johnson • El Paso, TX •
Camping means something different to all of us yet we all associate camping with what we love to eat on the trail. It might be the hot dogs we dangled over a fire when we were kids or the sandwiches we packed that rode in our backpacks for hours before we got to eat them. Regardless, we’ve all proclaimed the exact same thing. “This is the best_______ I’ve ever had!
Many of us have been so convinced of this that we came home and attempted to relive that magic, replicate what we loved in the woods. We have all suffered the same disappointment. It just doesn’t taste the same at home. As the Director of an Outdoor Education program for 13 years, I have squatted over many a camp stove and prepared many a crude quesadilla. That treat always met the same ovation. The cheddar cheese was roughly cut with my Swiss Army knife. It had come from a plastic that had been rolling around a bear can for a day or two. The cheese was a bit shiny by now and the bag had a fine layer of camp debris and pine needles on the outside. The pan I used was most likely cleaned the day before by an 8th grader with good intentions but cold hands. The tortillas, they have lived a rough life by now but they do the trick. In a attempt to keep them in tact tortillas were often packed last by students, right next to their rain gear and who knows what else. Each student carried tortillas for they were a staple item in the woods of Rocky Mountain National Park.
I learned over the years that a quesadilla “feast” was often best received late in the trip. That meal meant several things. Usually it meant we had a long day of schlepping our backpacks over a pass and to our next campsite, it also meant the leaders didn’t want to cook anymore. The spin I’d put on it was different, why don’t we eat all this cheese and all those tortillas so our packs will be lighter in the morning. Camping stoves have a funny way of getting your pan too hot for optimal quesadilla cooking so a burnt one may be passed along every once in a while. Still, as the students in my charge held out the lid of their Tupperware container, I slid this wonderful creation onto their “plate” and watched their eyes light up. Without a doubt, the best quesadilla they had ever had.
When we cook in the woods we must never forget this simple idea, it will always taste better than it would at home. It is the promise of nature.
To learn more about Rocky Mountain State Park, visit http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm