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Dutch Oven Peach Crisp at 11,677 ft

OutsideView:  Dutch Oven Peach Crisp at 11,677 ft (Columbus Basin, La Plata Canyon, Colorado)

Some friends of ours love to go off-roading in the Durango area. They invited us to join them for dinner at Columbus Basin, above 11,000 feet.  I wouldn’t say I’m a gearhead, but I also didn’t want to be the guy who bought a Land Cruiser just to drive the kids aroundvto school and soccer, so I said “hell yeah”.  I’ve been up and down this rugged canyon before…either trail running or biking.  With other activities in life (parenting, doctoring, etc.) I’ve become adept at acting like I know what I’m doing. This was no exception.  I pulled up next to our friends at the mouth of the canyon and gave a confident head nod. Translation: Let’s do this.  

The first 8 miles of the trail transitions from smooth, winding and gentle to slightly more rocky, jagged, and steep but nothing too difficult.  We took our time, enjoying the scenic views, splashing through mud puddles, and stopping for kiddo pee breaks, and to pick wild raspberries.  Then we turned toward Columbus Basin. Shit got real.

The rest of the trail is primitive, un-maintained, and exposed – with real consequences if you screw up.  It sure gets the adrenaline pumping when you’re shuttling your risk-averse wife and small children up a mountainside.  It was late, we were deep into autumn, and it gets cold real quick at altitude.

Point #1: always go ‘wheeling’ with at least one other vehicle.  This is a good time to practice ‘triangle’ or ‘square’ breathing (look it up).  We eventually arrived safely at the top of the trail with white knuckles and Sarah still grasping the “oh shit” bar for dear life.  Columbus is a cirque basin with Snowstorm Peak looming to the north at 12,511 feet, and majestic views back south toward Kennebec Pass.  The sense of remoteness, solitude and quiet are unbelievable while only being a few miles from our house.  The kids frolicked through the wilderness – jumping small creeks, scampering up rocks, and inspecting abandoned mining equipment before feasting on a wonderful lasagna dinner with dutch oven peach cobbler for dessert (recipe below). We were surrounded by echoes of laughter and the alpenglow of the mighty San Juan mountains.  Stuffed and smiling we slowly bobbed our way back down in the dark while the ebb and flow of the trail rocked our children to sleep.  What a night.

Dutch Oven Peach Crisp Recipe

Peach Filling

  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter chunked
  • 4 1/2 c sliced peeled peaches
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 egg for brushing
  1. Blanch about 8 peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds then shock in ice bath and peel
  2. In large bowl combine sugars and peaches, toss gently, cover, let stand 1 hour
  3. Drain juice into small saucepan with corn starch, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.  Bring to boil, cook and stir 2 minutes or until thick.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and butter.
  4. Mix into peaches and put in bottom of ‘greased’ dutch oven (10 inch)

Crisp Topping

  • 1 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 c melted butter
  • pinch of salt
  1. Mix dry ingredients together in bowl
  2. Mix melted butter into dry ingredients
  3. Spread evenly over fruit mixture in dutch oven
  4. BAKE: 14 coals on top, 10 coals underneath for 30-45 min or until “bubbly” (350 deg in oven)

Call to action:  Get to the highest point within 30 miles or so of your house (even if it’s a building) and eat outside with family or friends.