Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tree Train: Chinese Chicken Salad

Yosemite National Park is 7 hours away from our home in San Diego.  7 hours, in the car, with a toddler.  From the start we decided to break the drive into two days.

The problem?  There's practically nothing stop-worthy in between San Diego and Yosemite.  The Central Valley of California is great for agriculture, but not much of a tourist destination.  A call out to my friends yielded the fact that Mrs. Pirate grew up outside of Yosemite, and she suggested we stop in Oakhurst, about an hour outside of the park.

Doing a little research revealed that 14 miles from Oakhurst, between the town and the park, was an old Steam Engine, and our decision was practically made for us.  We booked a room in Oakhurst, tickets for the train, and started planning our trip.

Thatbaby, who usually falls asleep after moments in the car, was not cooperative in that respect on this trip.  He did finally manage to fall asleep, only to wake 5 minutes before we reached Oakhurst for the night.  And it was a miserable, tear-filled 5 minutes.

Luckily he perked up as soon as we made it to the hotel, which was full of bears!

And had fun roll-ey things to ride on!

We grabbed some much needed dinner, and found an ice cream parlor next door.  Thatbaby was back to his happy self very quickly.  Just in time for bed.

The next morning he awoke us bright and early and we headed to the steam train.  Of course, since we weren't planning on being in the car for very long, he went right to sleep.  Luckily he was able to nap for a bit in the car.  And when he woke up, he was overjoyed at the prospect of a CHOO CHOO TRAIN!

Shortly after he awoke, the engine pulled out.

And it's loud whistle TERRIFIED Thatbaby.

He didn't want to take his eyes off it, on the chance that it might sneak off the track and attack him.

But eventually he got used to the idea.  As long as someone was holding him.  And they stopped blowing the whistle.

He even calmed down enough to sit on the train!  As long as someone was holding him.

The train was an old logging train, from back when this area was being forested for wood.  The train took us along the track into the forest, through the trees, to a clearing where we were able to climb out and explore.

The adventurous boys crossed creeks and played on the felled trees.

And then we boarded the train to head back.  By this time, Thatbaby was comfortable enough to sit on his own seat.  And he only clung to me slightly tightly when the whistle blew.

When we got back, we grabbed some lunch.  Thatbaby is developing quite a taste for hot dogs.  And he was able to run around for a while before getting in the car and heading into Yosemite proper.

The food on this trip was hardly noteworthy.  I actually think I prefer REAL camping, with food cooked over/in the campfire.  So instead of regaling you with our meh meals, I'm going to share with you some of my summer favorites this week.  And I'm kicking it off with a salad.  We do salads for dinner year round, but there's something so refreshing about salads in the summer.  When it's too hot to eat anything that's going to sit in your stomach for hours.  Something that feels cool and fresh.  There's nothing really complicated about a Chinese Chicken Salad.  It's really lettuce, chicken, and mandarin oranges.  But the dressing is what makes it seem so much more than everyday.

Chinese Chicken Salad
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
juice of 1/2  a lemon
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 can of mandarin oranges in juice, drained
1 breast chicken, cooked and sliced thinly
1 cup chow mein noodles
  1. Combine rice vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl.
  2. Whisk in the sesame and olive oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, green onions, and green peppers.
  4. Top the salad with the sliced chicken, mandarin oranges, and toss with the dressing.
  5. Divide between plates and top each salad with chow mein noodles.


  1. Nice that Thatbaby likes this trip eventually.

    I like real camping too but have not camp since becoming a wife and not even thinking about camping after being a mum :p

  2. Aww poor ThatBaby being scared of the big train noises!! I would have been pretty freaked out also.

  3. I would have been scared too! We used to go to school by a train track...I would always jump when they came barreling through town! This salad looks delicious. We've hit another hot spell in Colorado so it might be a perfect choice for a weekend meal. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Glad he got to see the steam train! Looks like fun and this salad sounds delicious!