Click here for a short essay on what it was like during our first winter teardrop overlanding. The tension was cut only by my being emotionally alone in the crisp air, black nights, starry skies, delicious landscape vistas and difficult weather.
Prepared with ingredients provided by Evans Knob Farm for the Morgantown Farmers Market on the occasion of a beautiful autumn day. Please note that this dish was prepared the way my mother cooks. No recipe, no measuring. I used "seconds," veggies that couldn't be sold at the market because they were too small or blemished. I seasoned to taste with my ingredient, because after all a dish served at our table reflects something of ourselves. You are encouraged to add your own flare to this recipe, using the ingredients that are available to you.
This dish was inspired by the fall harvest at Evans Knob Farm in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, which grows certified naturally grown produce. Notably, there is a fifty year old apple tree that stands next to the old family home. On my second day on the farm, I was wandering around and found this towering tree. It grows these greenish yellow, gray speckled apples. They are not the kind of apple you find at the market. Rather, these apples look like they come from a forgotten tree in the woods. My first bite was a fantastic surprise. The best apple I've had all year, if ever. I like bright, crisp, sweet apples. The next day, with Kathy's permission, I picked five bushels from the tree. We then made apple sauce, apple pie, and this topper for a delicious vegetarian entree or side dish. I hope you too find an apple that becomes the star of your autumn salad. And if it's October, may you find an apple that has been kissed by the season's first frosts. It will be sweeter than ever. Your "autumn salad" should look like the colors of autumn leaves changing. It will be a crunchy and sweet-savory way to celebrate both the squash and the late harvest apple. Enjoy.
1 large butternut squash
1 honeynut squash (optional)
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground pepper (optional)
Autumn salad ingredients:
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium peppers (choose one green bell pepper and another color such as banana pepper or chocolate pepper)
1 small jalapeño
1/2 a small red onion
2 granny smith apples
2 Tb flat leaf parsley
1-2 Tb apple cider vinegar
2 Tb olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Set oven to 375 degrees. Peel and cube the squash into bite sized pieces. Toss together with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread loosely in cast iron pan or baking tray. Bake about 15 minutes. Using a spatula, give the squash a turn. Avoid over mixing. Roast another 10 minutes and remove from oven. Should be soft but not mushy with some golden carmelizing.
Make salad, putting all ingredients in a medium bowl. Dice the tomatoes and bell and chocolate (or red peppers. Remove the seeds and pity from the jalapeño. Mince the jalapeño and red onion. Measure the ingredients for the dressing (adding more cider vinegar as desired) and put directly on the salad. Stir gently a few times.
When ready to serve: Peel and dice the apples. Course chop the parsley. Add both to the salad. Stir gently a couple times.
Spoon squash onto a platter. Spoon the desired amount of salad onto the center of the squash. Or, perhaps better served individually onto each plate and served right away. Squash can be hot or room temperature. Salad should be room temperature.
It's been eight days since I dropped Margaret off in Phoenix. In those days, I've conversed with Overlanders, spent time watching elk nibble grass and stood over canyons half a mile deep. But I was yearning for water. A flowing creek, lake or waterfall. Heading for Uncompahgre National Forest, I had hopes of finding a camp, hiking trails, at least one body of water and spending my last week alone with Teardrop and Jeep in an amazing spot to call home.
Unfortunately weather can have it's own mind. Roads washed out from a good Colorado winter made for finding my magical camp impossible. The road was closed due to repairs forcing me to spend the night at cute primitive site about half a mile down a side road. Morning came, I ate a lovely breakfast and I headed back down the road to a new, but unknown camp.
I found a lovely cafe, Happy Belly Deli in Norwood, CO that had homemade cinnamon rolls and good coffee. There, with some time, I found what could be a nice camp for a few nights with some hiking, streams and a lake. But it wasn't it. One good spot was taken by another camper and the campsites at the lake high up were still closed for the winter. Sadly this was a lovely spot and I could have enjoyed it for a few days.
So off we went around the hill to Ouray. I stopped at 520 in Ridgway for a burger and a beer, which gave new hope. I found a new camp option along the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton. I asked Jeep to take Teardrop and me up the mountain and into the cold. This camp was basically part of the Alpine Loop and the entrance to Corkscrew Gulch. Although there were people coming and going, overall I had a great location, no neighbors, a good flowing creek and lots of forest.
I woke the first morning to 3"+ of fresh snow. I felt we might get some weather overnight and waking to the utter silence snow brings was a delight. I made coffee, put my chair in the sun and watch the snow melt faster than it had fallen. Teardrop was back in her element. I think snow softens her edges.
After a second night here, I decided it was time for some warmer weather. I managed my way southeast of Gunnison to a great creek, but not secluded spot off the road. Although beautiful rust-colored rocks and bronze grasses surrounded me, this wasn't my ideal location. Thankfully the road saw little use after about 8pm, I was in bed snuggled up by 7. Morning broke, I had a simple breakfast of eggs on toast (an Aussie thing I guess) and packed up in search of a grand location.
I'd never been to Crested Butte and heard it was a a quaint town, so I headed back through Gunnison for some fuel and up into the mountains. As Jeep, Teardrop and I made our way though town, cute as it is, I still needed to find a new camp. So I made haste up to Kebler Pass and figured I'd see what we could find outside of Glenwood. Fortunately we never made it that far. To my surprise, this was no ordinary road. Stellar view of mountainsides covered with snow. Aspen just starting to bud. Snow melting and creeks flowing. Flowers galore. It was amazing! I saw several "camps" but for some reason kept driving. We came across a side track and decided to put Teardrop into a nice pose for some pictures in the Aspens. After a few shots, we headed onward, but I kept thinking what a great spot we stopped at. After a mile or so, we turned around and headed back. Down a path we came across an amazing little spot in the middle of Aspens, grasses, flowers and snow-covered peaks in the distance. This was the place Teardrop, Jeep and I had been searching. We found home, at least for a few nights....
After finishing my weekend at Overland Expo, talking with so many people about their journey, thoughts of travel and of this community, I heard many consistencies in their stories and how our year long journey is so similar, but honestly very different as well.
Overlanding for a few is a lifestyle. It's something we wake to every morning. It's our means of travel, our destinations and most importantly our discoveries. Unlike the vast majority of people who consider themselves "overlanders," planning multi-day or -week long adventures, we don't have a destination at all. Though words like nomads or vagabonds might come to mind, this is not us.
With a hope and desire to see new vistas, discover forgotten roads and find a special camp under the stars we travel this way on purpose. Our journey starts at the end of a paved road. It's finding the unknown, the out of the way place. It's planning for the unexpected and being realistic when we should consider a different route. It's not about danger, it's about balance.
Seeing groups in their large vehicles, capable of going almost anywhere, I look at our rig and think how lucky we are to have this amazing combination that too can get us almost anywhere. By some standards, our choice wouldn't even be on the radar. It's too small, some consider incapable, and may even be insane to tow something for thousands of miles. But we live outside, not inside. When it's cold, we layer up. When it's windy, we move to the other side of Teardrop. And when the road gets steep and bumpy? Well Teardrop is right there behind Jeep. They have never failed us, and we have put all our trust in her and Jeep.
After four months, Margaret and I have discovered so many wonderful things along our path. Some of the kindest people in Tennessee. The largest bunch of Turnip greens I've seen and only $3.50 USD. Antelop, Deer, Elk, Bison, Armadillo, endless streams of waterfowl, butterflies and insects all over. Dark sky in Big Bend and incredible winds at Mormon Lake. These are but a few recent discoveries and we have just begun our journey.
So are Teardrop and Jeep the perfect duo? Who's to say, but for us it's exceptional combination. More importantly it's our home.