Friday, May 17, 2013

Steep Ravine

You haven't lived until you've eaten a s'more made with dark chocolate and a blue Peeps bunny melted to oozy caramelization over a charcoal fire.

Some statement, huh?

Last week, just before his 10-day trip back east, My Beloved and I drove out over newly-paved, winding roads to Steep Ravine to have lunch with our pal Jack, who was cabin camping there with an air mattress, a bottle of champagne, and a side of salmon for the grill. Jack does not travel lightly - he goes with most of the comforts (and luxuries) of home.

Jack and I started a fragrant wood fire in the iron stove on that windy, overcast day, then set about lighting his recalcitrant charcoal in the grill outdoors. Although it was supposed to be "match light" charcoal, it had apparently lost its pizzazz, as we tried newspapers, kindling, matches, threats, and prayers to get it started, all with no luck.  A charming second-grader from a nearby cabin, Liam, offered helpful suggestions but even his karma was not enough to light those coals. My Beloved was smart - he stayed in the cabin, admiring the view of the ocean and distant Stinson Beach, munching on chips and salsa, and drinking champagne.

We had all but given up on the charcoal when the camp host, John, a guy with smiling eyes, an impressive mustache, and muttonchop whiskers, noted our distress and offered to help. "Hold on a minute," he said, "I'll be right back!"  Good to his word, he arrived in short order toting what amounts to a homemade flame thrower, a small tank of compressed gas connected with a flexible hose to a metal rod the end of which was fashioned somewhat like a welder's torch. He fired that puppy up and applied the business end to Jack's uncooperative charcoal. Within about five minutes, we had live coals.


In addition to his fire-starting skills, John is an interesting guy, an artist as well as an inventor of flame-throwers. When asked about his art work, he said modestly, "Well, really, Mother Nature is the artist, I just shine things up a bit."

Once the fire was well and truly started, John packed up his equipment and went off to help some other hapless campers. Liam's mother and little brother arrived, asking to use our fire to grill their hot dogs and asparagus, as they had also had trouble lighting a fire. In return, after salmon and hot dogs, they invited us to share their s'mores.

They had brought toasting forks along, so there was no need to find a convenient twig in that windswept campground. We attacked the package of blue Peeps bunnies, heartlessly skewering them and roasting them over the dying embers.  Serious discussions ensued about the amount of caramelization required for the perfect s'more, as our bunnies blistered and sagged. Trapped between two Graham crackers and a slab of dark chocolate at the very last moment before they dripped into the fire, they were gooey, tooth-achingly sweet perfection. I'm pretty sure that blue dye will give us all cancer one day, but they were worth it.

Thus fortified for the drive home, we watched the little boys scampering over the rocks and rushing headlong to the cliff edge while their mother calmly watched. She was right to be unconcerned - although touchingly young, both boys were like little mountain goats and neither fell to his certain death before our eyes, as I half expected.

We hugged Jack goodbye - he had another night at Steep Ravine - and drove home, replete with salmon, champagne, and images of that lovely, wild place and the gentle giant who wields a mean torch.







12 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

Sounds like quite an adventure....well rewarded. Peeps in a s'more would never have occurred to me.

Friday, May 17, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Diane, me, neither! I don't think they will replace plain old marshmallows. Interesting, tho'.

Friday, May 17, 2013  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

What a lovely adventure! This is going into your book, I assume?

Friday, May 17, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, if I ever write that book, yes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Ho! All those years I lived in Mill Valley, and I never heard of Steep Ravine. What a fun adventure.

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Cookiecrumb, you might enjoy an overnight there. It is wild Marin, beautiful and rugged.

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Anonymous Janie said...

If I had known there was going to be s'mores, I might have made more of an effort to be there!

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Janie, you were missed! Next time!

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger kudzu said...

Zoomie: I once had Thanksgiving dinner at Steep Ravine! There were two families, and we carried everything already prepared, from Mill Valley. It was an amazing way to spend that holiday...eating turkey and trimmings in the tiny cabin, drinking good wine, then walking down to the beach. I'm glad it's still there, and open to more people than it was, then.

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

We had plenty of wild and rugged. We lived in Ted Kaczynski's cabin in Mill Valley.

Saturday, May 18, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kudzu, what a fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving! Well worth the trouble of toting all that stuff down there. It's still hard to get a reservation there - you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when reservations open six months ahead.

Cookiecrumb, wow. I knew he spent time in the Bay area but not that he had a house in Mill Valley. I learn something new every day!

Sunday, May 19, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Jane said...

Liam, Miles, and I were looking for Steep Ravine images, and you cannot imagine our delight to run across Liam's photo with Jack, the camp host, his torch, and the accompanying link leading to our sticky-sweet s'more and your well-told story!! Indelible memories for us all. Thanks for sharing your fire and our sweet feast!! Hope you're all well and adventuring still!

Saturday, March 22, 2014  

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