Cathedral Gorge 2017 Dutch Oven Cook-off

We certainly had a fun time at this annual event.   Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada was the location.  Though the cook-off was on Saturday (September 16, 2017), many arrived several days earlier to secure a campsite and enjoy the Park and its beautiful surroundings.

Most of our group arrived on Wednesday.  One by one trailers and tenters, arrived and set up camp.  We enjoyed a potluck evening meal then sat around the campfire.  Most of our core group had not seen each other during the hot summer months of the desert southwest.  We had left Las Vegas with temps still hovering around 100°F.

Mid September is normally the breaking point of the summer heat.  Weather forecasts were indicating this year would be no exception.

As we enjoyed the evening campfire and darkness set in we were blessed with a dazzling display of the Milky Way.  Twinkling stars were scattered across the entire sky.  Off on the horizon we saw flashing lightening.  A pending storm moving our way.

The evening meal dishes had all been cleaned up and we were enjoying the fire and conversation.  As our pile of firewood burned away the storm and clouds moved in upon us.  Suddenly there was a major temperature drop.  We went from short sleeves to slipping into sweatshirts to keep warm.  We all scooted closer to the fire.

Shortly after the temperature drop, a good breeze started up.  We watched as the sparks of the campfire danced away on the wind.  Odd how in many parts of the country there are active forest fires and campfire bans.   In our desert climate it is always dry and we often don’t notice.

With that breeze we knew the storm would be on us soon.  Over the past hour or two the lightening had moved increasingly closer.  We started gathering up things that were starting to blow around.

The rain started as a few taps here and there on the metal shade covers over the picnic tables.  Our queue to gather up our folding chairs that circled the communal campfire.  We all headed our individual directions back to our campsites for the night.  I made it about half way to mine when the skies decided to open up and the downpour came.  Can’t say we didn’t see it coming.  I was actually chilled from getting wet.   I secured things around my site and headed in to the trailer for the night.

The open desert offers up some spectacular views when there is an electrical storm.  Especially out away from any source of man made lights of the city.  This storm would last through most of the night.  (Wednesday night)

Thursday morning we were greeted with a cleansing damp smell that doesn’t occur in the desert often.  I always embrace that smell.  It is a calming peaceful feeling to close your eyes and take in a few long slow breaths.  Especially on a crispy cool morning, standing in the warming rays of sunrise.  This storm ended the long 3 months of desert heat.  The morning now required long sleeves to remain comfortable.

During the days of Thursday and Friday the weather was enjoyably cooler.  As evening sunset arrived each day, so did the dark puffy moisture laden clouds.  The lightening would start up and the rain would come.  It shortened our campfire times.  But we learned to heed that preliminary warning of the wind.   It would storm, off and on, both Thursday and Friday nights as well.

We were starting to get concerned the date of the cook-off (Saturday) might end up being a wet one.  The cook-off event often takes us up to 9:00PM, by the time we clean up, take down EZ-Ups, and get settled back at our campsites.  But the forecast was looking favorable.

Friday evening while sitting around the campfire, and before any rain,  we enjoyed the singing of several coyotes that sounded like they were close in to the campground.

Saturday had us all up early prepping for the cook-off.  The sky was blue and it was to be a beautiful day.  We would enjoy perfect weather throughout the event and into the next couple days.

Saturday was a long and busy day as expected.  Wagon loads of pots, food, utensils, coolers, chairs, etc., all shuttled to the picnic ground area of the park.

There was cooking all day.  Door prize drawings.  Raffle tickets and prizes announced.  Judging of the food.

Then the eating of some of the best food you could find.  I would put many of these cooks up against some of the finest restaurants.

Apparently many know of the free samples that will load up a plate.  It seems hundreds of people descend on the park about the time the food is done.  With 38 pots of food (Unofficial Report of entries), that is a bunch of food!  I hope to report the official head count of people showing up to eat.  I can tell you the food was wiped out, and many of the cooks that were serving never were able to sample any of the competition’s entries.

It’s all in fun.  The State Park has a lot of generous donors.  They provide a variety of excellent prizes and gift cards.  Some are for first, second, and third place wins for the various categories of foods.  Others are raffled off.  Sponsors/Donor’s if you are reading this please email us your Website link and prize(s) provided.  We will list your link at the bottom of the article.  Without you this event would be nothing like it is.

We would like to also thank the Nevada Parks Rangers and Staff that work their tails off on a weekend to make this event the best we have ever attended.  There is lots of, behind the scenes, work.  Transporting and setting up large cook tables, erecting tents, running power and lights, and setting up tables and the prize booth.

Then there are those nameless judges that have to taste all these food entries and determine what is best of the best.  That has to be tough!

I would also like to recognize the Cathedral Gorge State Park Rangers and Staff for the cleanliness of the campgrounds, bathrooms/showers, and the general grounds.  They are so well kept.  You can see the pride in everything you do.  This is the cleanest Park I have ever visited.

If someone would email a list of Rangers and Staff that worked to provide the fun, we would like to list those names here.  Email to   info@toponautic.com

We hope to post official numbers that the Park publish on headcount, Dutch Oven dish entries, and the winners of each category.  A shout out to the park for someone to email the info.  Email to   info@toponautic.com

Again, sponsors/donors please send us your website info (and prize donation info if you would).  We want to recognize and thank you here!  Email to   info@toponautic.com

If you were a cook and “placed” in any of the categories Please share your recipe.  Be sure to note what category you won, and whether it was first, second, or third.   Also that coveted “People’s Choice” win.  Also we would like to include any recipes used during the event that didn’t win.  We know they were all good.  But when there are 38 entries some don’t make the cut.  Please email your info and recipe to: info@toponautic.com

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