Our Great Smokies KOA Camping Trip + Campfire Recipes

Blake and I had the best time this past weekend!

My heart feels full and revitalized. Being in the woods makes me feel a certain way. It reminds me of all the power and resilience that is found in Mother Nature. In a world that can feel heavy, it is something special to immerse ourselves in unadulterated nature that is so full of hope.

People often ask - how do you remain optimistic in thinking about environmental issues? When everything seems so down and the challenges seemingly impossible to surmount?

Well, there are a few things I do - one of which is book time away. Hiking, camping, exploring. Giving myself time to be still in awe of nature.

The Great Smoky Mountains are so full of life. Blake and I stayed at the Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA Holiday. Wedged between the foothills of the Great Smokies and a the Raven Fork River, this KOA Holiday was honestly stunning.

We drove quite a way to be there, so the fact that we got to immediately walk into a cabin vs having to pitch a tent made all the difference. I was happy for it, to say the least.

Our cabin was one of the Deluxe Cabin and therefore had a full kitchen and bath. It was also quiet, secluded, and nestled away on a creek that branched from the Raven Fork River. One night we even saw a silver fox come up to the water! My background in camping being strictly tent camping, this cabin was a LUXURY for me! Haha!

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The first morning, we woke up to the sound of birds chirping. Thankfully, it was followed quickly by the smell of coffee. One of the perks of the Deluxe Cabin was having a stove top where I could heat my water for the French press!

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We cooked pancakes that first morning. These were easy and the perfect fuel for the hike we had ahead. We used my cast iron and the campfire for this, but you could have just as easily (actually more easily!) used the stove top in the cabin.


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Driving from our KOA in Cherokee to the trail heads was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. Every scenic overlook took my breath away.

Blake and I hiked the Andrews Bald trail. It is one of the most popular, but with it being our first visit to the Smokies, we felt we had to do it. We were lucky that the trail was not crowded at all. We passed maybe a handful of people.

The altitude of the hike got to me more than I’d like to admit… or maybe I just need to do more cardio workouts. Haha! But it was all totally worth it and made our sandwiches even more tasty!

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That evening, I made steak and potatoes in the cast iron and a quinoa salad. I don’t know why or how, but food cooked while camping tastes 10000xs better. HECK, you could be eating Oscar Mayer hot dogs and they’d taste gourmet.
This recipe does not have to be made on a campfire! It can be made in a regular skillet or in a cast iron on top of a grill! (The KOA Deluxe Cabins also come with a nice grill.) Whatever you have- work with it!

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Herbed Steak and Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pound flank steak, sliced into strips

  2. 1 yellow onions, sliced

  3. 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

  4. 1 cup potatoes, wedged

  5. dried thyme and rosemary


Method:

  1. Make a cooking fire in a fire pit. The goal is to cook over coals as opposed to a crazy flame. This means you make a fire and allow it to burn down until coals remain. This is what you’ll set your cast iron on top of.

  2. Once the cast iron is heated, add the veggies to the pan. (careful! Its hot!)

  3. Cook veggies down until they are almost tender to your liking. Flip and turn often. Cook time will vary depending on the temperature of the fire. Add about 1 tbsp chopped dried rosemary and dried thyme.

  4. Move the veggies to the side and add the steak. Allow to sear on one side and then flip. Cook until medium rare. Remove cast iron immediately from the fire or heat source using THICK oven mitts. The meat and veggies will continue to cook until you are ready to eat!

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Quinoa Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked

  • ½ cup cucumber, chopped

  • ¼ cup dried cranberries

  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

  • ¼ cup cashews

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Simply combine all of the ingredients together! Top with the cashews and season to taste!


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Of course, a true camping dinner MUST be followed up by s’mores! You can bet we ate our fair share.

We had to leave back home the next day - I certainly wish there was more time! Blake and I are already planning our next trip with our friends. We didn’t even get to take advantage of some of the other amenities that the KOA offered - outdoor and indoor pools, hot tub/sauna, fishing, bike rentals, and more. Next time!

Cheers!

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