Campfire Seafood Paella

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This summer we began the camping season with a trip to Nelson Dewey State Park. Located just outside of Cassville on the beautiful and mighty Mississippi River, this park has no shortage of stunning views and overlooks.

I’ve camped at the park before, but this time we were lucky (or proactive) enough to secure a walk-in ridge site. And holy cow, it was spectacular. Spectacular enough that as soon as we arrived we were talking about trying to come back every year. With a bounty of amazing sites to pick from in the state, that is really saying something. (More on the site later.)

To start the season, we decided to try some new recipes. Sometimes I find myself in a “campfire food rut” and tend to cook the same things again and again. I love a good burger as much as the next omnivore girl, but recently I’ve been itching to branch out and attempt something new. Who says recipes have to be indoor or outdoor only? I think that’s going to be a theme this summer, indoor classics cooked outdoors. Campfire-ified recipes!

Today I bring you Campfire Paella. I know, I know, you’re already saying it; traditional paella is already cooked over open flames! Bear with me, I’ve included a few camping elements to make this my own.

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Camping at Wisconsin’s Richard Bong State Recreation Area, Site 346, Spacious and Secluded

Recently I covered my experience hiking at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. While I only hiked at the park, there are many other outdoor recreation opportunities available. When I say many, I mean way, way more activities than most parks offer. Like a space to train your falcon. No longer can you use not having a training space as your excuse for not having a falcon! (Check out my previous post if you want to know more.) After hiking or completing whatever recreation activity you’re into, it’s nice to have a place to crash nearby, aka camping.

This park has two campgrounds, the Sunrise Campground and the Sunset Campground. Predictably and aptly named, the Sunrise Campground is on the east side of the park and the Sunset Campground is on the west. Between them, the park contains 217 campsites, 54 with electricity. The park also has 6 group campsites and a cabin designed specifically for people with disabilities. Both campgrounds have a shower building with flush toilets, along with some more rustic bathroom options. Both campgrounds offer a variety of sites, both in terms of tree cover and whether they have electricity or not.

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Wisconsin’s Richard Bong State Recreation Area, The Park that Almost Wasn’t

From jet fighter base to bird sanctuary, Richard Bong State Recreation Area is the park that almost wasn’t. Named for Major Richard Bong, Wisconsin’s own American air hero, it’s fitting that the park almost operated as a jet fighter base between metro Milwaukee and Chicago areas. And when I say almost, I mean 72 hours. Three days before the concrete of the 12,500 foot runway was set to be poured, the project was nixed.

Who was Richard Bong? Major Richard Bong was known as the “Ace of Aces” for his spot as the top flying ace during WWII. He is credited with the downing of a confirmed 40 enemy aircraft during his fighter pilot career. In December 1944, he received the medal of honor from General Douglas MacArthur. What a cool way to honor this local man.

This park is a state recreation area rather than a state park and boy, does it live up to the name. The park’s website lists a whole host of activities, including ATV/UTV, biking, boating/kayaking, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, off-highway motorcycles, picnicking, swimming, training hunting dogs/sled dogs/falcons, horse riding, and winter activities. The list also contains a “special use zone” which, upon further inspection, is it’s own list of potential air activities, including flying model air planes, rockets, hang gliders, and hot air balloons. The area that was flattened for construction of the runway remains for use of smaller recreational craft. Seriously, what can’t you do at this place!

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — The Best Way to See the Rocks, Take a Cruise on Lake Superior!

If you plan to visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, actually seeing the rocks in all their glory is a must do. Sure, you can see the rocks somewhat from lookout points and hiking trails, but taking a boat tour of the rocks is truly the best way to see them all and is highly recommended.

While there are other options in the area, Pictured Rocks Cruises is by far the most popular company. It leaves from the middle of downtown Munising so it’s easy to work it into any plans you have around town. They have a variety of cruise options at different times of the day, including sunset trips. We had a beer or two at By George Brewing before the tour, along with a snack from the Driftwood Deli, and dinner at Tracey’s after the tour. (I highly recommend all of these options.) The deli is located in the same building as By George and they “deliver” your food by bringing it do

We did the spray fall cruise, which lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — Miners Castle and Overlook, An Iconic Must See

If you’re planning a trip to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, chances are you want to see some of the pictured rocks. While the best way to see them is by boat, you can also see them through hiking and a few lookout points on land. No matter how you plan to experience the Pictured Rocks, a stop to the Miners Castle overlook is a must do.

As the name suggests, this overlook provides a variety of views of Miners Castle. This sandstone formation is one of the most iconic at the park. Like all the rocks in the park, looking at the layers is like looking at history. Let’s get geological for a minute with the help of NPS. The layers tell the story of different sources of sediment, weathering, and glacial events, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top. The color you see throughout the pictured rocks, is thanks to the minerals in the water. As water seeps through cracks and between the layers of rock, minerals are deposited in the soft sandstone and leave behind color. Blue and green colors are from copper, black is manganese; and yellow, red, and orange are iron.

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Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — Lower Hurricane River Campground

Wondering where to stay at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

Just as important as determining which trails to hike, deciding where to stay will impact how you plan your trip at Pictured Rocks. Unlike a lot of other parks, Pictured Rocks is big and the park extends for 42 miles up the coast, and several miles inland (6 miles inland at it’s widest point.) This means that driving from one side to the other can take precious time out of your trip. Deciding how you want to spend your time can help you determine where you want your home base to be.

There are options for lodging (cabin and hotel rentals) for the outdoor curious, but for our trip, we decided to camp. Pictured Rocks has three campgrounds and a total of 65 campsites, all of which require reservations. Like trips in the past, I relied on the park’s website and photos to determine which site was right. If the park’s sites are full, don’t fret! You can find other camping options at nearby campgrounds run by private individuals.

We stayed at the northernmost campground, Hurricane River. This campground is broken into an upper and lower campground. Our site was site #10 of the lower campground.

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