Minnesota: Campfire Cooking for the Canine

Feed the Dog - Campfire Style

Feed the Dog – Campfire Style

So, you love preparing your dog’s food yourself.

Check.

And you love camping with your dog.

Check.

So how can you make sure your dog eats well in camp, hundreds of miles from home? This was the dilemma I faced during our recent trip to Minnesota, and plan to face lots of times down the trail. Our four-day trip provided ample opportunity to try things, take notes, and plan for the future. What did I find out? Everything that can go wrong did go wrong!

I started on the right foot by thinking everything through ahead of time (or so I thought). I wrote Molly’s meal plan on a sheet of paper (which I brought with me), everything from her meat to her veggies to her supplements. This was also a handy grocery and packing list.

I pre-packaged her regular supplements in zip-top bags and froze her meat ahead of time so it would stay chilled longer in the cooler.

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Molly’s usual supplements – zip-top baggies in front for travel

I also had the opportunity to try the dehydrator a friend loaned me. Five pounds of chicken … twelve hours … presto! The ultimate travel food for dogs. This, too, was frozen ahead of time and packed into the cooler. 

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Once in camp, it didn’t take long for things to go wrong. First, the campfire …

It looks so simple ...

It looks so simple …

While I’m an old pro with the wood-burning stove at home, turns out a campfire is a whole ‘nother can of beans. One night, it took me an hour to build the fire, and only ten minutes to warm up Molly’s meal. I could have invested in a portable propane grill, but why do that when the fire ring and the wood are right there at the park? Right?

My three take-away values:

  1. Lots of fire starters
  2. Lots of air circulating around the logs
  3. Maybe break down and get the propane grill 

While fighting the campfire was my biggest problem, a host of other annoyances popped up.

  • The melting ice in my cooler flooded the plastic baggie holding the dehydrated chicken. Keeping the chicken in the cooler was now a necessity to keep it fresh, and it ate up a lot of space. 
  • The baggie with the powdered supplements tore. Thankfully I’d foreseen such a possibility and stored it inside the bag with the pill supplements. 
  • The supplements in softgel form turned squishy in the heat and attracted the spilled powdered supplements. I could have stored all the supplements in my cooler, but I’m glad I didn’t, or they would have been swimming in melted ice water, just like the dehydrated chicken. 
  • I let a pan handle get too hot and accidentally melted a nylon hot pot holder and burned my hand. (Grrr.) At least I didn’t spill Molly’s dinner when I dropped it on the ground.

Solutions for the future: 

  • Improve campfire skills OR invest in a propane grill OR look into commercial dehydrated pet foods
  • Package foods and supplements in tear-proof, water-proof containers
  • Don’t store dehydrated meat in the cooler
  • Remember not to let pan handles sit right over the fire!

My goal for the next camping trip is to spend less time fussing over the fire and more time enjoying the outdoors with my dog.

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Minnesota, Land of the Vikings … and Special Doggie Museum Admission

Sunrise over Lake Carlos State Park, MN

Sunrise over Lake Carlos State Park, MN

Molly and I have just got back from our latest adventure, camping in Lake Carlos State Park, Minnesota. In addition to some good, old-fashioned camping, we explored Minnesota’s famous and controversial ties with Viking history. Molly’s heritage may be all German, but we both take inspiration from those dauntless Norse adventurers.

Our first stop was at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minnesota, home of the replica Viking ship that was sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Bergen, Norway in 1982. The crew consisted of 11 men and one woman. Hmm … should Molly and I try this sometime?

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Behind the Hjemkomst Center is another striking reconstruction—the Hopperstad Stave Church Replica. Molly was able to view the outside with me. The original church stands on the Sognefjord in Norway and was built in the 12th century. The replica here dates to 1998.

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Alexandria, Minnesota, was the closest town to our home port of Lake Carlos State Park—and by all appearance, its citizens firmly believe that the Norsemen adventured to the land of 10,000 lakes. Everywhere Molly and I looked, we saw signs advertising things like Viking Plaza, Vikingland Books, Viking Trail, Viking Sportsmen Association, and even Viking Speedway Races. A statue named Big Ole towers over Central Park. His shield says, “Alexandria Birthplace of America.”

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The highlight of our trip was our visit to the Runestone Museum, home of the famed Kensington Rune Stone. Discovered in 1898 by a Swedish farmer, the runes on the stone claim to be scribed by Viking explorers in 1362. Long decried as a hoax and still contested, there is nevertheless weighty evidence to support the thought that the Vikings really did wander as far as the interior of North America. Ja vell, vy not?

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The best part about the Kensington Runestone Museum? Molly was allowed inside! She only got to look very briefly at the stone, but she was welcome to explore the outdoor portion of the museum. Called Fort Alexandria, this museum consists of homestead buildings collected from around the area. The Miltona Stage Stop was our favorite.

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Just a few blocks down the street from the Runestone Museum and Fort Alexandria is the Scandinavian Gift Shop, where you could buy your very own Norwegian sweater, imported tableware, and trolls in all sizes. They even had dog chews made of reindeer antlers. How thoughtful!

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Our time in the outdoors at Lake Carlos State Park was another adventure all together, and another story for another time …

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