My Holiday Tradition: Fall Camping, Food, Familia

When the sun rises gently over the trees in the first peek of the morning, the cool autumn chill grabs me and tells me it’s time to wake up. I’m an early bird when I am camping—though not so much when I’m working. At home in Shoreline, Washington, it’s usually a chore to even get up at 7 a.m. to slog through the endless days of emails and Zoom meetings. But when I’m in the fresh mountain air, it’s easier to rise with the sun. Outside, I’m up at 5am. Out there feels like home: the open space, the sounds of nearby water, the feeling of being somewhere but nowhere at the same time.  

That’s in part why, for the past 11 years, I’ve relished my annual fall camping trip with a group of close friends. We’ve made it a tradition to head “home” each fall for the trip, rain or shine (or, occasionally, snowfall). Our first order of business when we wake up together outdoors is always to put on a piping-hot pot of my version of “café de la olla.” I make it by adding freshly ground coffee beans and full sticks of cinnamon to the basket of my vintage percolator, and I finish it off with a can of sweetened condensed milk. I then pop open the galley on my homebuilt, teardrop trailer “Frida” and fire up the Coleman stove, knowing what’s on the menu for breakfast: my special chorizo recipe (more on this below).  

When my friends begin to emerge from their tents on the mornings of our camping trips, rubbing the sleep from their tired eyes, ready for coffee and chorizo, I am always reminded why we brave the cold and other elements to be here together each fall. It’s simple really: We all have a love of “familia” and consider each other to be that. We also share a love for Northern Arizona, where we all met and have ties, though now we all live in the Seattle area.  There are 14 of us, and we come from many different identities: Chicana, Sri Lankan, Eritrean, Black, white, Somali, Kenyan and Canadian.

Our group of friends met when we either worked at or went to school at Northern Arizona University. It’s why I am pretty sure each of us travels with packets of hot sauce when we go hiking and why we have come together as a Seattle family, so that even when we are far from home geographically, we have each other to call “home.”   

Because our group has grown and now includes little ones (our youngest is 5 months), we have shifted at times to a combination of camping and “glamping,” depending on the weather. We’ve rented homes for Halloween at Seabrook, where we’ve spent time exploring the Pacific coast. We’ve dressed up in the pouring rain to go trick or treating. We’ve flown kites in the whipping wind next to the Peter Iredale shipwreck in Oregon like a bunch of Goonies. We have stayed at a campground in Leavenworth for Oktoberfest and adventured out on short day trips for hikes or bike rides close to Seattle. One thing is always the central theme: food and familia.  

And no matter where we are, each morning starts with traditional hot drinks that we enjoy together: café de la olla, boona boona, chai or a good ole’ cup of black coffee. As we sip, we know that the chorizo is almost ready and on its way to our stomachs. There’s no place we’d rather be.  

Camp Chorizo Recipe

Mix together 9 ounces of chorizo and 16 ounces of pork sausage. Cook the meat in a pan with scrambled eggs and diced potatoes. Serve on a flour tortilla. They’re not quite the same as an Arizona breakfast burrito, but they hit the spot!    

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