Trail food and more….

The first time I did a section hike on the AT my biggest worry was about water. Where to find it, how much to carry and how to best filter or sterilize it. After a four day hike on the AT that time, I learned to put that fear away and have no worry about water on this section hike we are about to embark on in May.  In point of fact, if I have any worry about water on this trip it is about carrying too much water. Water as many know weighs…a lot….well, weight is weight. A liter of water is equal to almost 34 ounces of weight. That is nearly two pounds per liter of weight. Trust me friend, when you are trying to stay reasonably light, two pounds is a huge deal.

So what is the big worry this trip. Perhaps worry is the wrong term to use. Headache may be a more apt phraseology to wield. I have fretted over what food and how to pack that food on this trip more than any other I have ever taken. I suppose the main reason for that is the presence of my boy. The only male child I have. The continuance of the family line. Lord that was more grandiose than the law should allow.  Truth is I love my son deeply and I want this to be an exceptional experience for him. I’m trying to walk a fine line between minimalist packing skills and he shall want for nothing. We have spent a tremendous amount of time on this very topic. Packaged items

This is a group photo of the goodies we will share on the trail. Let me start, as most days do for most people, with breakfast.  We wanted something light. Both in weight and in intestinal volume, shall we say.  We don’t want to be spending an inordinate amount of time getting going. We wanted to be able to partake as we walked or broke camp or both. So we experimented with and put together this little concoction. BreakfastWhat you see here is a custom mix of super chocolate whey protein powder and instant decaf coffee. What we get from this is a big protein boost to start the day. Energy that should release more slowly through the course of the early morning hours and frankly approximates one of our favorites from Baskin Robbins…a Mocha Cappuccino Blast.  We both love the flavor and literally can do this for four days straight and not get burned out on the flavor profile.

Next are my supplements. Yes, I am old. Yes I have worked hard to lose weight, Yes, I have joints that tell the tale of a misspent youth. Way too many bike jumps into trees, ravens, and falling off the house doing a myriad of things both functional and foolhardy. Therefore, supplements to keep the engine running smooth and the joints properly greased.

Suppliments

I won’t go into details but suffice it to say there is a spark for the morning to get going and items to keep the metabolic engine firing and the joints less stressed. That with my normal water intake, on average a gallon + of water a day and I’m sure more while on the trail. All should be better able to handle the stresses of the physical trials of the trail.

I’ll skip lunch as frankly we are still working that out. Truth is, there are many times where we just aren’t that hungry at the noon hour. We eat to live more so than live to eat. Moderation in all things.

Snacks has been an especially interesting subject for us so here is a shot of the snack mix we threw together custom just for us.

Trail snackA blend of two different types of puffed snow peas, salted roasted edamame, salted shelled pistachios, vanilla and strawberry yogurt covered raisins, dried pineapple, dried mango, and dried blueberries. We are loving this mix and can change this format at a whim when we make another batch. Super simple and fun to make.

Lastly, the evening meal. This has been pretty basic in that we simply put together a box meal of our choice at home and then dehydrate that and package anew.

Evening meal

I use a manila envelope inserted for the dehydrated meal to rest in. All of these have a noodle or pasta of some type in the mix. These, when dehydrated, have a tendency to poke holes in the vacuum bags when sealed. The envelope keeps that from happening and if we want a camp fire that night we have fresh fire start ready to rock if needed.

There are other bits that we will take along. Some cheese crackers, some dehydrated spinach, carrots and mushrooms to add evening meal mixes as the whim strikes. Jelly beans for the sweet tooth not satisfied at the end of the day.

Each day’s mix will be sealed in its own bag to be pulled out each morning to start and work from through the course of the day. All in an odor proof sealed bag to keep the issues with toothy critters to a minimum. It’s really not the bear I fear as much as the raccoon, possum, armadillo and of course the mighty mouse. They are less likely to bother what they can’t or don’t smell. Still, hole can and may well be had.

I still have a multitude of things to clear from the prep list. Every day is an exercise in despair, followed by hope and a feeling of “we got this” only to be dragged kicking and screaming back to the perceived reality “wait, there’s more” and despair once more. The psychology of hikers preparation is an interesting thing to behold. Valid or not, perceived or real, the challenges will be addressed, adapted and overcome, and marked off the list. Now, where did I put that peanut butter packet?

Assessment and update….

Well we are exactly 15 days and counting until we leave for our AT (Appalachian Trail) adventure.  I’ve been crazy busy at work since the last hiking post so I figured I better get at least a small update in the hopper.

The last I told you folks was that I was doing a shake down hike in the Sipsey Wilderness area of Alabama late last month. Well, it was a raging success. I learned a lot of good bits about my new pack. We did around 13 miles on that Saturday in and out of the gorges. A couple river and creek crossings and more blow downs than I’ve encountered in a long while. There were two different groups hiking. There were six in the group I hiked with but of everyone hiking in our groups that day I was the only one doing it with a full pack. To say I stood out a bit was an understatement.

We had a great hike none the less and as I said I learned a lot. The Gossomer Gear Mariposa 60 was really amazing. There is a lot of elevation change in this area so I tend to get some issues at the end of a long mileage hike with my shoulders and particularly my hips. There was no issue with my hips and my shoulders didn’t even start to get a little tight until right at the last mile we did. Otherwise, the pack rode very nicely. The weight in the pack was around 25 pounds. This is a full 5 pounds heavier than what my pack weight will be all in when we hit the AT that first day and it will only get lighter as we go through our food on the four day hike.

Speaking of food, we finally started dehydrating meals last night. I have to do some work on packing up last night’s meal tonight and then do another one later this week and finish all of it this weekend, but we are gonna be in really good shape for what we are doing. I found a great resource for dehydrated/freeze dried vegetables recently and will have several ounces of dehydrated carrots, spinach and mushrooms to add to the meals we have that are kinda base. The boy will be okay with the carrots. The rest is for me. If you are in the market for this or other DIY supplies for hammocks, tarps, backpacks, etc. take a  look at  www.MakeYourGear.com. Dutch is an excellent guy to deal with and has one of the best customer service records of any vendor I’ve ever done business with. He’s a stand up guy and you can trust him.

We also managed to settle on a snack/in between meals format for the trail. The last time I did a solo on the AT I had the CLIF bar deal and they were fine. Got a lot burned out on that and just felt in my head there was a better way to go that would get me a little more variety, get me the caloric intake needed for long days hiking with lots of elevation change, and not burn me out by day 2.5 or worse.  We managed an assortment of a couple cheese cracker formats, some simple Jelly Belly jelly beans for that sweet tooth, some homemade jerky that we’ll be finishing up this weekend hopefully and a custom trail mix. The custom mix is the most interesting part for us. It consists of Strawberry Yogurt covered raisins, Vanilla Yogurt covered raisins, dried blueberries, dried mango, dried pineapple, shelled roasted salted pistachios, and roasted salted edamame.  We put this together last weekend had some left over after packaging that we could taste test. Awesome sauce. I had to put the packaged mix up and as far back in the pantry as possible to keep the kids out of it. Otherwise, there would be none for the trip. This was a home run for certain. All off the shelf stuff we just poured in a big bowl, mixed it up good and packaged by weight. Now we have enough variety to keep it fun and the caloric intake will be what we were hoping for per snack.

There is still so much to do. Ordering last minute bits and bobs to finish out the boy’s kit and pack and then getting everything together, packing, unpacking, rechecking, repacking and hiking in my head to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything before we leave. Once we are packed for the final time, there is no turning back, adding to or picking up something. We’ll just have to survive without it.

We’ve had to get the boy’s end of year finals testing schedule adjusted but his principal was a huge help for this. Once I told him what we were planning to do it literally was less than 15 minutes and he had granted excused absences for the final three days of class, told every one of my son’s teachers to make it happen for him to take tests early, and told me if there was any hiccups or anything else I needed, just call him directly. He would clear the way for us. Who said principals can’t be cool? This one is a rock star to me.

Well that will do for now. I’ll post later about meal prep and anything else that comes up. The excitement is building slowly but steadily. So many firsts. So many memories to make and so much fun and wonder to be had. I love these moments with my son. I can’t say I’ve been the best father in the world, but I’ve managed to get some of it really right. Hey, the kid has to have something to tell his therapist some day, right?

Oh, one last thing. I mentioned I learned a lot on the shake down hike. I especially learn not to leave my hiking poles at camp with my camera still attached to them. Unattended, there were some interesting photos taken by my “friends”. You know who you are and you know you are truly too twisted for color television. LOL!