Recently, we took our first family camping trip with our 9 month old baby. We weren’t sure if he’d enjoy his first camping experience, so we decided to camp for one night at Thomas Woods Campsite, less than an hour from our home. Thomas Woods is in the Marengo Ridge Conservation Area in Marengo, IL. If you’re looking to camp somewhere scenic and close to the Chicago area, I’d highly recommend Thomas Woods.
Marengo Ridge is just over 800 acres with five miles of hiking trails. Thomas Woods campground offers both car camping and hike in sites. On the early May weekend we camped there were only a handful of sites taken. We chose site 39, but there wasn’t a bad site in the campground.
We had a hard time keeping our baby on the blanket we laid out for him. At this age he just loves to explore and hates being confined (getting him into his car seat is a challenge). He spent a lot of time crawling around on the soft moss that covered the ground. He had a blast playing with the rocks, sticks and pinecones scattered about our site.
We took a couple hikes and spotted a good variety of early spring flowers. There were a few lookout points with sweeping views of the grasslands and surrounding farms.
We brought along our clip-on high chair and tray, which worked well with the picnic bench at mealtimes.
To our surprise, the baby slept better in our tent than he does in his crib at home. I guess he liked being snuggled up between us in our double sleeping bag.
We packed light for this camping trip and managed to fit all our essentials plus our pup Lacy in my Jetta Sportwagen. We did bring our huge sleeping pads to make sure that the baby got a good night’s sleep. We kept our meals simple as well. We made veggie quesadillas in our pie iron for dinner and egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast.
Judging by his smiles, I think our baby had a great time. We’re looking forward to our next family camping experience.
- Thomas Woods Campsite website
- Location: 3100 IL-23, Marengo, IL 60152
- Reservations: Call (815) 338-6223, ext. 1200 by 11 am on the Thursday before you camp, or register with the camp host when you arrive.
- Camping fees:
Non-Electric Site: $10 Residents / $15 Non-Residents
Electric RV Only Site: $20 Residents / $30 Non-Residents
Holiday weekend surcharge: $2 Residents; $5 Non-Residents
- Firewood: No outside firewood permitted. Good quality firewood available on-site for $5 a bundle.
- Things to know: Dogs are welcome, though it is not mentioned on the website.
Are you camping this Memorial Day weekend? If so, you’ve got to try this stir fry. It’s incredibly easy and healthy too. There’s no chopping of veggies involved, so the prep work is minimal. We made this last fall on our visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Another great thing about this recipe and my Campfire Pierogies is that the frozen rice and veggies keep your cooler cold. We had a long drive to the Smokies from Illinois, so starting with frozen foods helped keep the ice in our cooler from melting.
Start by heating up frozen veggies in a little oil. I used one pound sugar snap pea stir fry mix and one pound of broccoli.
Then add frozen rice and baked tofu.
Add teriyaki sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Camp Stir Fry
Serves 4. This recipe works equally well over a campfire.
- 1.5 cups brown rice
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 pounds frozen vegetables
- 7 ounces baked tofu
- teriyaki sauce (I used Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki)
- Large Skillet
- Spoon or spatula
- Cutting board
Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool, and then freeze in a plastic bag. Or skip the prep work and buy frozen rice at the supermarket.
- Preheat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet.
- Add vegetables and cook until heated through.
- In the meantime, cut tofu into 1/2″ cubes.
- Add tofu and rice to vegetables. Cook until heated through.
- Add teriyaki sauce to taste.
- Cook an additional 2-3 minutes and serve.
These campfire pierogies are an easy, satisfying meal after a long day of hiking. Plan on making this recipe on the second or third day of camping. If you store the frozen pierogies in your cooler, they’ll be defrosted by then. Wait until you’re at camp to slice the onions and peppers to avoid an onion-scented cooler.
Gotta love nighttime photography…
Here’s how to make them at camp.
You only need four ingredients, plus salt and pepper.
Soften the sliced onion in butter.
Then add sliced green pepper and cook until tender.
And finally, add the defrosted pierogies. Cook until golden. Season with salt & pepper and devour.
This recipe works equally well over a camp stove.
- cutting board
- big spoon or spatula
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion
- 1 green pepper
- 12 frozen pierogies
- salt & pepper to taste
- Thinly slice pepper and onion.
- Melt one tablespoon of butter in skillet.
- Add onions and cook until softened.
- Add peppers and cook until softened.
- Add pierogies, cook until golden. Serve with salt and pepper.