It’s soup season in Many Lost Ways National Park. The nights are cold and the days are gray, and the hearty winter campers are fortified by gallons of sturdy soup – freeze-dried chicken and rice, canned vegetable beef, and one very special batch of frozen, homemade split pea with ham.
It was brought by a young couple who, in a stroke of efficient genius, decided to use it rather than ice to keep their cooler cool. I watched them board the steam train at Salvation Point for a long Valentine’s weekend in the park: Two large backpacks, one tightly rolled tent, one sleeping bag, one large cooler on wheels.
They hefted it all up into the baggage car together, high-fived, stole a kiss.
They don’t know it yet but this trip will be their last as a young, carefree couple. Not long after they get home, she’ll find out, then tell him:
There will be excitement and fear unlike anything they’ve known before.
They’ll bump along through the not-easy process of growing a family, and they’ll know the immeasurable joy that comes with all that pain.
They’ll never have the time for each other that they do now.
They’ll think back on the life they have now – the seemingly grown-up-enough work of paying the bills and looking after each other – and wonder how they filled the hours.
They’ll have thousands of sunny days. Take dozens of family trips more fun than this one. Eat lots of extraordinarily good soup.
But they’ll never again taste anything like the split pea with ham they brought on that last trip when it was Just The Two Of Them.
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
16-oz dried split peas
1 large ham steak, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
6 or 7 carrots, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
Salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a large pot over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 2-3 hours, stirring regularly.
(Love ya, Nik.)