Logan & VA’s Good Night 2020 + Campside Latkes
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Over the weekend, Virginia and Logan rolled out with a couple of friends for their Good Night 2020 campout. Find the recap here alongside a photo gallery and an overnighter-friendly recipe for savory latkes, a comforting breakfast that’ll warm you up after a chilly night out and energize you for the ride back home…
Preface: We’ve been thrilled by the amount of people who are taking part in Good Night 2020 and getting out for an overnighter in the final moments of 2020. There have already been hundreds who’ve shared their campouts on Instagram, and we expect many more based on the sign-up numbers. It’s always nice to see a little idea that was conceived while out riding grow into something real and meaningful. We look forward to seeing more photos and reflections from rides all around the world!
Virginia and I decided to embark on our Good Night 2020 overnight campout this past Saturday, which was officially the first day of the challenge. We weren’t necessarily committed to that date for pomp and circumstance; it simply appeared to be our best chance for a rainless night—albeit not the warmest. Fortunately, and unbeknown to us beforehand, the weather that rolled through leading up to our ride made for a pretty magical landscape. Read on for details, plus find a recipe Virginia dreamed up specifically for this overnighter that turned out beautifully…
In keeping with COVID-19 safety protocol, we chose to simply pedal from our back door and meet a couple of friends out on the trail. Our ride was fairly simple. We charted a hearty 14-mile gravel and dirt road route that followed a portion of the Looking Glass Loop and then changed course to divert to another campsite—one that we identified ahead of time for its afternoon winter view and exposure to early morning sunshine, a key ingredient to a happy morning after a night of temps tumbling toward the low 20s (°F). The next day, we’d have several options to choose from in order to ride back toward town on a combination of singletrack, gravel, and pavement.
The southern Appalachians had experienced a weird spate of weather leading up to this trip. A massive front moved through on the 24th that bucketed nearly 2″ of rain in our immediate area. As the cold front passed, the mercury plummeted and the tail end of the system turned to snow for all of five minutes at around 9 p.m. In the wee hours of the next morning, temps dropped into the teens and literally freeze-dried everything. There was merely a faint dusting of snow around these parts, but the mountains to our north saw a few inches, as did some of the higher elevations nearby. Even so, our local national forest metamorphosed into a unique winter wonderland. Mossy, rocky seeps transformed into icicle menageries, and the edges of the frozen forest floor sprouted a most dazzling garden of needle ice.
For those unfamiliar, needle ice is a term used for columnar ice protrusions that “grow” out of the dirt in various thicknesses, shapes, and curls. It’s formed as groundwater is drawn from the earth when the temperature of the soil is above freezing and the air is below 32°F (0°C). The dramatic weather shift we had prior to our outing—a transition from wet to dry, and mild to extreme cold—led to a stunning show of these formations. Unfortunately, my few rushed photos below don’t quite do it justice.
We made it to camp just before the short day’s dusk and watched the light dance through the trees on the ice-covered face of Looking Glass Rock. The sun faded behind the mountains as we all scrambled to set up camp and gather wood for a small fire. Over the next few hours, we each cooked our own meals, had a fireside cocktail, and caught up about life, plans, and what’s changed since we’ve all been cooped up in our own bubbles over the last 10 months.
The waxing gibbous moon glared down as the evening gave way to a frigid night. And after the last of the spiked hot chocolate was sipped, we each reluctantly braved the cold air away from the fire and burrowed into our respective piles of down and nylon for the night.
Fortunately, as expected, the sun popped up on the south side of Looking Glass and quickly warmed up the hillside around us in the morning. We woke, rekindled the fire for coffee, and listened to a lonely sounding coyote in the valley below. The Good Night indeed gave way to a great morning.
Recipe by Virginia Krabill
Cheers to a Good Night and an Even Greater Morning (How to Win Friends and Influence Others “Bikepacking Edition” take 2)
It’s been a very long year. In the past month or so, as daylight has dwindled and temperatures have dropped, finding the opportunities to safely spend time with family and friends has become increasingly difficult. So, despite my serious aversion to the cold, I was excited to take on the Goodnight 2020 overnighter challenge with a couple friends.
To make the night a success, I knew I needed to be comfortable. When I’m cold, I’m not a “happy camper.” After compiling a ridiculous volume of clothing, it was clear that a super-light set-up was out of the question. That’s when I decided to abandon reason and fully embrace the hedonism that is so often associated with the holidays. Out came the panniers and in went glampacking™ accessories, including fancy cocktail mixers, a tumbler full of ice, disposable hand warmers, and Christmas lights.
As the packlist grew, instead of dreading the long climb under heavy weight, I actually felt liberated. I wouldn’t shiver the night away; I’d live it up. And then, come morning, I’d make the whole affair even more extravagant by creating something special for breakfast. Inspired by Cass’ recent article, Friends United, I decided to take on campside pancakery myself, and, as did he, share the love with my riding partners. But, where Cass used all sorts of healthy grains and nuts in his recipe, I decided to stay true to my mission and this one night celebration of excess. I opted for savory latkes made with heart-warming but not-so-good-for-you half-and-half and real butter. To top them off, a dollop of full-fat sour cream.
For those unfamiliar, latkes are fried potato pancakes that are made with freshly grated potatoes, onion, flour, and an egg binder. They are topped with sour cream and, ideally, applesauce. I decided to make a more bikepacking-friendly version using dehydrated potato flakes and dehydrated onion. The results were delicious! So, for those of you who’ve got a little extra space in your packs and feel like luxuriating a little, please treat yourself to these savory delights.
What You Need
This recipe makes approximately 10 small-medium sized cakes and easily serves three people. Note that this version has a liquid component that was kept safe through Mother Nature’s natural refrigeration. We’ll soon be experimenting with a version of this recipe using powdered ingredients and will keep you updated.
- 1 ¼ cup (75 grams) instant mashed potato flakes
- ¾ cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp (8 grams) baking powder
- 1 tsp (7 grams) salt
- 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp (12-16 grams) minced dehydrated onion
- 2 ½ cups (592 mL) half-and-half, milk, buttermilk, or non-dairy (not vanilla) milk
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 green onion chopped (optional)
- 2 ½ cups half-and-half, milk, buttermilk, or non-dairy (not vanilla) milk
- Butter or oil for frying
- Sour cream to dress the cooked latkes
- Small frying pan; we used a small ~8″ aluminum pan that we had in the cupboard. It’s not ultra light, but it certainly cooks much better than the small pan/lid thing that often comes in a backpacking-specific cook kit. Next time we’ll remove the handle and use a lighter aluminum pot clamp.
- A significant amount of fuel; it takes a couple of minutes to make each latke, so if you are making enough for three or four people, bring a little extra.
- A small spatula or something like that. We used a combination of the GSI pot scraper and a plate to flip each latke.
- Plates. We recommend Fozzils. They weigh nothing and pack flat in your frame bag. Unfortunately, they are no longer available at REI, but you can still find them at the Big A.
- Mix dry ingredients together and store in a repurposed plastic bag or other reusable container.
- Mix together wet ingredients and store in seperate bikepacking-friendly container- a Kleen Canteen 27oz/ 800 ml stainless water bottle worked perfectly for me.
- Pack ¼ stick of butter and/or vegetable oil for frying (carry extra oil if using non-coated skillet)
- Pack sour cream in a separate reusable container.
- In the morning, mix the wet and dry ingredients together.
- Using a non-stick skillet, heat a small amount of butter or oil over medium heat. If you use a non-coated pan, you will need to use additional oil.
- Add a large dollop of mixture to the pan. If using a larger skillet, cook several simultaneously.
- Wait until you can see a couple of bubbles break on the top surface of the cake and the edges just become lightly browned.
- Flip the cakes using either a spatula (or a handy Fozzil). Cook for 1- 1 ½ minutes longer. Peek at the underside to see if they are browned.
- Serve latkes with a small dollop of sour cream.
- Sit back and enjoy.
**Please store dairy and egg products carefully. If you are using non-refrigerated eggs, you can transport them separately and mix them with non-dairy milk the morning of cooking. If you’ll be using dairy, it will need to be kept cold as will any refrigerated eggs.***
Cheers to everyone who is participating in Good Night 2020. And in case you missed it, there’s still time. We’re challenging everyone to camp with their bikes for one night between December 26th and the 31st. In the process, you’ll have a chance to win a bag from Rockgeist. Learn more here.