Open Air Breakfasts

Biscuits ‘n gravy has never been one of my breakfast staples. I recently had the occasion to taste a pretty amazing version outdoors, under a stormy, cloudy sky. It might have been the location and timing of that particular breakfast, but I am pretty sure I would go back for third helpings of this dish anywhere.

Ready to paddle the distance of Boston to Washington, D.C. using just these two arms and my legs.

Ready to paddle the distance of Boston to Washington, D.C. using just these two old arms.

Several weeks ago I embarked on a personal adventure – kayaking (and hiking) the full length of the Salmon River in Idaho. After a tire blowout and unexpected valley-floor hike, we climbed 2,800 feet to where water dribbled out of the ground at 9,000 feet in the mountains outside of Sun Valley. From there, we hiked downstream about 18 miles through cataracts, bogs and beaver dams to where we could actually put kayaks in the water. That was day one. For the next 10 days we paddled, paddled some more and paddled harder when we hit rapids with cheery, inviting names like the Eviscerater and Bodacious Bounce. On our first water day, we started on four-foot wide Pirates of the Caribbean torrent that meandered through face-gouging willow thickets and under barbed wire cattle fences. Not one to prolong the pain, I waited a mere 300 yards before capsizing and wedging my boat crossways between the two banks, temporarily losing both paddle and seat to the current. By the way–the water … was … very … cold. As the day progressed, the river got wider, a bit straighter and a lot faster. And the scenery was worth it – we were surrounded by the breathtaking Sawtooth Range near Stanley.

It may look like I'm eating dinner with tools, but these folks are the real deal. As good as they come.

It may look like I’m eating dinner with tools, but these folks are the real deal; they’re as good as people come.

Day two was a 100-mile paddle punctuated by an ignominious dunking in an unnamed rapid followed by a sleety rainstorm. Did I mention: cold? That night, I pulled my sleeping bag under a nearby camper trailer and slept through most of the rain. Reward was around the corner though. The woman who ran the campground had mixed up a peppery recipe of gravy with big chunks of pork sausage for breakfast. And the best, lightest, fluffiest biscuits I’ve ever eaten. I had seconds and then I tried her homemade strawberry jam on two more biscuits without the gravy. Incredible. Some would argue I would have eaten shoe leather and raved. But I can still taste that savory creaminess and I know it would be good anywhere.

Not a bad commute on Idaho's gorgeous Salmon River.

Not a bad commute on Idaho’s gorgeous Salmon River.

Eight days later our crew had paddled 425 miles maneuvered 100s of rapids and ended our run of the River of No Return in Hell’s Canyon where it flowed into the Snake. We consumed 100s of Clif bars and ate some amazing meals, but it was those biscuits and gravy that stuck to both my ribs and my memory.

The ideal outdoor morning, bring on the gravy!

The ideal outdoor morning meal … now, bring on the gravy!