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Road Food: Articles by Dennis Weaver
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Mountain Meadow Picnic

Burns Creek
Burns Creek

The granite walls that framed the little valley were ablaze with the late afternoon sun. The sun was low and shadows crept across the little meadow that bordered the stream. Wildflowers in the meadow sparkled in the sun and disappeared in the encroaching shade. Faintly, the babble of the brook could be heard above the gentle sigh of the evening breezes. Somewhere in the trees beyond the meadow, a squirrel chattered. All else was silent. There was no whine of distant cars climbing steep roads or the far-off hum of motorcycles on mountain trails.

On a rise above the stream, Merri Ann - my wife - had spread a picnic blanket. We were getting ready to eat, and plates were spread on the blanket. Most of the food was still in the bag. We spoke in nearly hushed tones as if not daring to break the solace of solitude and silence…

I pushed the vision aside and got up from my desk and my list of Saturday projects. It was afternoon and if we were going to find that mountain meadow, I needed to head to the kitchen.

I quickly grilled a couple chicken breasts (for my Mountain Meadow Salad) and then set them aside to cool. While they were cooking, I mixed a batch of blackberry peanut Rice Krispies treats. (Merri Ann can't eat wheat, and so the meal would be wheat-free.) It only took a few minutes. The bright purple-hued Rice Krispies treats were quite attractive, I thought, as I set them aside.

I washed and trimmed a bunch of spinach. I washed grapes and split them in two. I cut open a melon, sliced it, and chopped it into bite-sized squares. I pulled rice crackers from the cupboard for Merri Ann and Wheat Thins for me. I pulled a lime and deli cheese from the refrigerator. I filled a couple jugs with ice and water.

In the bottom of an insulated, soft-sided lunch box, I placed an ice pack. On top of that went a plastic container with the fruit and chicken, now sliced and cooled. Another container held the spinach leaves, separate so they would not get soggy in the juice. Salad dressing went into a smaller container, placed inside a plastic bag just in case the lid popped. The cheese slipped down into a void. We had plastic utensils with napkins and salt and pepper packets in sealed pouches, saved as extras from the local fast food store. The lunch box, jackets, treats, and water jugs went into a day pack and we headed to the car. It was almost three o'clock.

We live only half an hour from the foothills of the Big Hole Mountains in Eastern Idaho. The Big Hole Mountains are laced with trails, a hiker's paradise. The Big Holes are not as rugged as the Tetons to the east. Several roads cross them, and vehicular access is excellent. The canyon of the South Fork of the Snake River cuts across the south face of the mountains. When we reached the foothills, we turned and headed up the gravel road that follows the river.

The South Fork of the Snake is one of the mighty rivers of the West. Its river bottoms harbor the largest forest of cottonwood trees in the state, and the lava cliffs towering above make a dramatic backdrop. An eagle wheeled in the skies above the river.

We were headed for the Burns Creek Flats, nearly to the road's end. From there we would hike up Burns Creek.

Fishing was reportedly good in the river, and there were plenty of boaters drifting the river, enjoying a sunny August afternoon.

There are always ducks and often swans in the spring creek on the flats at Burns Creek. This time, there was a cow moose and her calf standing knee deep in the clear water. Cutthroat and brown trout dimpled the water in front of the moose. A mallard and her nearly grown brood paddled along the bank.

We turned up the short spur road to the Burns Creek Trailhead, slipped on the day pack with our food, and started hiking. The canyon quickly narrowed and the little stream rushed over polished boulders in the crevice of a canyon and pushed the trail high on the side hill where gnarled pines clung to the steep slope. The trail cut across rock slides that piled into the creek below. Three adventuresome riders slipped past us on motorbikes, the only people we would see on the trail.

We continued up the trail to Hell's Hole Canyon and took the trail to the left. When we found a little knoll overlooking the meadow on the canyon floor, we stopped to eat.

We were ravenous and snacked on the crackers and cheese while we arranged the salad on copper-colored aluminum plates. The fruit was still ice cold and the salad was sweet and refreshing after the hot hike up the canyon. Later, we lay in the grass and munched the sweet Rice Krispies treats, washing them down with water still floating with ice cubes.

When the shadows got long, we backtracked to the fork in the trail and then went further up the Burns Creek Canyon to Jensen Creek. The Jensen Creek trail cut to the left and headed for high mountains but it was late in the day and the beckoning peaks would have to wait for another day. Soon, we thought, we'll pack another meal and explore Jensen Creek.

We hurried back to the car through deepening shadows. Yes, we reminisced, we could have headed to town and a restaurant, but it would not have matched a mountain meadow meal in the shadows of the mountains.

The Menu, the Recipes, and Travel Resources ...More on Page 2>

Dennis WeaverDennis Weaver -- having burnt food from Miami, Florida to Point Barrow, Alaska -- is RTA's road food expert. He has logged thousands of hours on the roads, trails, and waterways of America including many of Alaska's wilderness rivers and has consistently been elected the trips' "chief cook and bottle washer." Dennis is currently general manager at The Prepared Pantry, a company in Rigby, Idaho, that produces ready-to-eat meals and baking mixes packaged in Mylar. Weatherproof, bug-proof, and critter resistant, they're ideal for both roadtrips and back woods camping. Dennis may be reached at


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