Matt Crossman loves to take his kids camping at beautiful Babler State Park in Wildwood. On a recent trip, he earned raves from picky eaters with a classic campfire dish. Learn what goes inside (spoiler alert: ANYTHING!) this tasty treat.

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

One bite and I traveled back to sixth grade. The sweet tang of the sauce, the quick spice of the pepperoni, and the comforting hug of the cheese all transported me to the mid-1980s. But this was no ordinary pizza. This was a hobo pie pizza. And I was not sitting on an ordinary table at an ordinary pizza joint. I was instead on a lawn chair, warming up next to a roaring fire at the Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park in Wildwood.

Babler State Park’s 75 campsites sit among 2,441 acres in Wildwood. A paved road that meanders through the park is popular with bikers because of its challenging hills. Hiking and equestrian trails show off great views of those hills, which find new ways to be gorgeous with each changing season. In winter, those views open up even more.

The park offered archery and orienteering classes the weekend we were there, and my kids have twice gotten so enthralled at the nature exhibits in the welcome center that we lost track of time. A trail ran into the woods and down the hill behind our campsite. The kids explored back there like they were Lewis and Clark. The dads turned into lumberjacks, returning heavy with firewood we found scattered on the ground.

But back to the food. A hobo pie is made in a cast-iron sandwich maker. You put two pieces of bread into it, stuff that bread with whatever you want, and cook it on hot coals. You can make pizza pies, apple pies, cherry pies, or any other combination of ingredients that sounds good. Based on the hobo pie another dad created on a daddy-daughter camping weekend last fall—peanut butter, fruit, and cream cheese— it doesn’t even have to sound good.

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

The perfect hobo pie requires an alchemist’s precise mix of art and science. You have to get the proper ratio of filling to bread, plus cook it to golden brown without checking it obsessively or burning your fingers on the clip that binds the two halves together. If you manage all that, your final task is to plop it onto a paper plate without making a sloppy mess, or worse, dropping it on the ground, after which the only proper response is to eat it anyway.

Ten years ago, I bought hobo pie makers and could not wait to introduce my girls to them. I buttered the bread, spread out the sauce, sprinkled the cheese, arranged the pepperoni, and cooked that first pie to perfection. I presented it to them like a precious heirloom. They took one bite and … ran off to do who knows what. Subsequent attempts to indoctrinate them were no more successful. I eventually stopped bringing hobo pie makers on camping trips. Worse, they told me after this most recent trip that they didn’t even remember those early failed attempts.

But on this trip, using hobo pie makers brought by another dad, my girls and their friends could not get enough. One of them was a foreign exchange student from France, and my heart danced with joy when she said, “Yes, please,” when I asked if she wanted another. I was so happy they finally liked hobo pies that I pretended not to notice when their version of these culinary delights consisted of an entire jar of Nutella and a bag of marshmallows.

Photo by Dan Bishop

I can only eat a pizza hobo pie at night. That’s why, as I sat in the dappled light of a cold winter’s day, I warmed up with a ham-and-cheese-and-mayo hobo pie. I never had that combination as a boy, but I knew after one bite that I was setting myself up for another food-triggered flashback. The next time I eat that combination, I’ll be transported right back to that campsite at Babler.

Haul out the hobo pie makers and plan your next camping trip at the Babler State Park web page,, where you’ll find details about accommodations, events, and seasonal limitations.