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“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir

Month

February 2016

Get The Motor Running

With the countdown on for my first steps on the CDT (65 days), there are a lot of details to get ironed out in preparation. All of my gear is finally coming together, so an updated list will be arriving shortly (once I figure out how to transpose a spreadsheet from my hard drive to this blog … anyone?). But, there is a lot more to consider than just gear. Lots of decisions need to get made, resupply boxes need to be planned, backup plans thought out, strategies considered, playlists and podcasts ready to go for those inevitable and pesky road walks, maps printed and routes studied…and how do I use a compass again? There is so much research, money to be saved and let’s not forget to stay in shape!

I can sit here behind my laptop tirelessly researching route options, resupply points, good and bad towns for zeroes, water and weather reports, must sees, must skips, etc., but in the end none of it is relevant once you are on the trail. Weather happens, fire happens; SNOW, lightning, water shortages, hard hitches, no vacancy hotels, no campgrounds; pain, fatigue, hunger, closed post offices and stores with funky hours. They all happen, and none of these things are part of the “plan”.

What I’ve learned is that the only plan you can truly make is to show up and hike (and always remember to hike your own hike!). The research will come in handy later, but trying to stick to a strict plan is simply bananas. I’ve seen hikers who overplanned their hike and I never envied their rushed nature. They always had to get to the next part of the plan and often seemed like they were missing out on the experience of the hike because of deadlines. Sometimes it forced them to skip something they didn’t want to because they were obligated to be somewhere else.

It all seems like a real drag to me. It sucks the fun out of the randomness of adventure, of taking a minute or several to enjoy a moment that you could have never planned on happening; an epic view or sunset, a prime swimming hole, a great camping spot, trail magic, encounters with other hikers or wildlife.

To me, those are the real joys. I remember times on the PCT where a 25 mile day turned into a 16 mile day because I just couldn’t tear myself away from a view, and I never regretted lingering in a special place longer than anticipated. Those moments would always breathe new life into my hike, often just when I needed them to.

So my plan is to be prepared, but to remember to enjoy myself.

Being prepared involves having the right tools to have a successful hike no matter what life throws at you. You have to be flexible and knowledgeable; able to make decisions on a moments notice, understanding that things will surface that you hadn’t planned for. Unpreparedness is foolish and often comes with risks to your safety and that of those around you. Not being an idiot is probably one of the best things you can do out there (and we’ll all do something stupid at some point).

I’ve worked a total of 5 jobs this winter, which I wrote about in my blog (The Cost of a Thru Hike). It has been very time consuming, exhausting and both physically and mentally challenging. No matter how hard it was, it was worth it. Not only did it prepare me financially for my hike, but it has strengthened my resolve and mental coping skills which will be invaluable on the CDT.

I really feel like I earned this hike. Really, really earned it.

Because of all that working, I hardly had any time to keep myself in shape this winter. Time went by in the blink of an eye, and all of my plans to go ski, snowshoe or hike went out the window, week after week. I got out a few times (and time isn’t up yet), but not enough to keep me in good enough shape to hike a long trail. Therefore, I have done the unthinkable and joined a Crossfit gym. It has turned out to be one of the best decision I’ve made in ages. Seriously, I feel amazing, capable and even more mentally prepared than ever. I’m really learning to endure the grit for the payoff. It’s incredible, and to me captures the essence of everything I’ve ever heard about the challenges of the CDT.

I’m also planning on taking an avalanche awareness class in Colorado in early April. I’ve never ever backpacked in the snow before, and that seems to be the hot topic among hikers in Colorado. The snow is one of the biggest challenges I’ll face out there, and it’s a brand new challenge for me! Instead of making the popular decision to change the direction of my hike, I’ve decided to conquer the unknown and face the challenge head on. I plan (there’s that word again) to go through the snow because to me that’s part of the experience. I’m actually excited to hike through the snow (remind me I said that in mid June when I’ve been postholing all day!). Seriously though, I’m out there to experience the new, the hard, the gritty, the seemingly impossible; the reward is always bigger when you face a challenge rather than skirt around it. At least in my experience.

So, in a nutshell that’s how I’m getting ready. I’m doing my best with what I have, and trying to make the most informed decisions possible. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done since the PCT, and I simply can’t wait to keep meeting the challenges I’m sure to face this summer.

Bring it on!

The Anatomy of a Resupply Box

Many people have expressed interest in sending me a box along the trail, and for this I could not be more grateful. Anything someone wants to contribute to my travels is more than appreciated! I know these boxes come with a lot of instructions, but wouldn’t you rather send things you know I’ll use? I had a very well intentioned friend send me a box on the PCT that had all kinds of goodies in it, though many of them were too heavy or impractical to carry on trail. I hate to waste things, and I found myself carrying things that I didn’t need because someone was kind enough to send it to me. This time around, I’m going to make this whole process a bit easier for those of you with the initiative and kindness to actually go through with sending a box. (I certainly do not think you are unkind if you send nothing. Nothing is fine too.)

Here are some general things to keep in mind

  1. You are awesome for helping me! Seriously, I am so so grateful for things that come to me from friends and family on the trail. A touch of home feels pretty darn good after long lonely miles of trail. Thank you!
  2. If you send a box you have to let me know ahead of time. This is because I won’t think to ask for a box if I don’t know it’s there, and it’ll just sit in some lonely post office in the middle of nowhere until the postal worker is sick of looking at it and sends it back to you all beat up and unused.
  3. The timing of these boxes can be very important. If I’m expected to arrive in town on April 1 and the box arrives April 4, there are obvious problems there. Conversely, the post office will generally only hold a box for 2 weeks time. I will give you a week window for mailing the box though, so you won’t have to stress about timing. That’s my job.
  4. I need to have a general idea of what to expect in the box. That way I don’t double up on items I know are coming in the next town, and so that two people don’t send me the same thing at once. I also need to know if it is just a supplemental box or a full box so I can plan my meals around what you send. If you do send extra stuff, it usually gets shared with other hikers, so things rarely go to waste (especially homemade treats like cookies … wink wink).
  5. Remember that I have to carry these things on my back for long distances. Though certain items would be lovely to have, they are impractical (ie canned foods, non-dehydrated items, lotions, etc). Hikers measure ounces out pretty carefully in order to not carry too heavy a load, so please keep this in mind when sending things. Dehydrated foods are best (unless otherwise specified).
  6. If you own a dehydrator and are willing to deydrate some home cooked meals, I will love you until the end of days. The same old food found in grocery stores gets tired, and the joy of a box is the unique items it may hold. Have some fun, but follow the basic guidelines.

That said, here is a basic day of hiking food:

Keep in mind that I burn up to 6,000 calories/day … so look at calorie counts. The higher the better! Also, check the images for links. Otherwise, the image is there to give you an idea of what to look for in the grocery store…linked images are preferred brands.

Breakfast: Oatmeal (I eat 2 servings/day). Added calories are a bonus (freeze dried fruit is awesome to add to oats, as are nuts and protein powders). Also, VIA is probably one of my most essential items on trail. I go through 2-3 packets a day and I love each and every cup of delicious coffee on trail.

Love Grown Foods Super Oats, Nuts and Seeds, 12 Ounce

Nature's Path Organic Hot Oatmeal Variety Pack 32 PacketsTrader Joes Freeze Dried Fruit Assortment Bundle

Natierra, Nature's All Foods Freeze Dried Bananas and Strawberries, 1.8 Ounce

NONELord knows I love my eggs!

Starbucks Via Instant Medium Roast Colombia Coffee, 26 Count

Second Breakfast (oh, the joys of being a hiker!!): I usually stick to bars here. My favorite are Probars, as they are loaded with quality calories and taste good. I also like Larabar, Bonk Bars and though they aren’t a favorite, Clif bars do in a pinch.

Probar Meal Bar Variety Pack of 12

MEGA MACA CHOCOLATE

ALMOND BUTTER & HONEY

 

Lunch: This can be anything from foil packs of tuna (packed in olive oil for more calories) or chicken, nut butters and dried fruits on tortillas or crackers, protein bars (like Tanka), salami and cheese. I strongly prefer meats without nitrates in them and sustainable brands, but of course only when possible.

SOCKEYE

 

Wild Albacore Tuna Packets image by AB

Sunbutter Sunflower Seed Spread,On The Go Pouch, Natural, 10-Count, 1.1-Ounce (Pack of 6)Justin's Nut Butter Natural Classic Almond Butter 10 Count Squeeze Packs, 11.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 3)

Tanka Natural Buffalo Bar Variety Pack Pack of 6

Snacks: Besides the obvious things like nuts (I like walnuts, cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts best) and dried fruit (I particularly like unsweetened mango or apricots and tart cherries from Trader Joes) or jerky (turkey, beef or bacon!), I like Epic Bars, plantain chips, gummy bears, snickers, peanut M&Ms, chocolate covered espresso beans, sesame sticks, pretzels, macaroons and other calorie dense sweets, dark chocolate bars with chili pepper or cayenne in them are a favorite too. I like to mix salty and sweet, so a good balance of these snacks helps (both in the same snack is always a win). On the PCT my cousin found these amazing dehydrated tangerine pieces covered in dark chocolate that were holy smokes good! Haven’t seen them since, but if you find them, please send lots!

Epic Bar Sampler Pack- Bison, Turkey, Beef & Lamb (1 Bar of Each)

1-6 Trader Joe Dried Pitted Tart Montmorency Cherries Fruit 8 oz. each Kosher

BASIL & GARLIC

72% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & CayenneCHEDDAR

Dinner: This is the trickiest and also the best chance to be creative. I never get sick of dehydrated beans and salsa, add some fritos and it’s a meal (seriously, I never get sick of this)! Standards include quick cooking rice, couscous or noodles (note: I cannot ever eat Zatarans red beans and rice ever again … ate way too much on the PCT and now it makes me gag. Also, way over quinoa unless it is heavily seasoned), dried soups, Idahoan potatoes (individual packets), Knorr rice sides (I like the cheddar broccoli, tomato based and fiesta sides best), Ramen, mac n’cheese, freeze dried or dehydrated vegetables are great to add to meals to boost nutritional content, and jerky rehydrates into most soups really well. If you have a dehydrater, any homecooked meal is going to be my favorite: fajitas, lasagna, stir fry, curry, be creative and I’ll love it (and you).

Fantastic World Foods Instant Refried Beans

Please send veggies!!

 

 

Other things: Throwing VIA out there again because it is really important, protein powders, electrolytes, individual mayonnaise and hot sauce packets, unscented wet wipes, a roll of toilet paper, tea (turmeric is great because it is a natural anti-inflammatory), crossword puzzles, notes and letters, postcard stamps (if you send these, you automatically get a postcard!), dental floss, ziploc bags so I can repackage everything, town treats (things I can consume while in town but won’t carry with me: little 1 oz bottles of booze, a one use razor, sample sized shampoo, cookies, etc).

UNFLAVOREDElectrolytes will keep me alive in the desert.

Navitas Naturals Organic Coconut Water Powder, 5.8-Ounce Pouches

ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi Tea Turmeric Ginger 18 Count

Buy Miniature Spirits

Tapatio Picante Hot Sauce F03-3502801-1100 - 7 gram hot sauce in individual size packet. A convenient travel size for on the go.Best Foods Mayonnaise F01-0401000-1100 - 3/8 oz mayonnaise  packet, individual size.

 

Kraft Parmesan Cheese F01-0700302-1100 - 6 gram 100% grated Parmesan cheese in individual size packet. Marconi Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil - packet F01-0851202-1100 - 1/2 oz Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in individual size packet.

Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Hands & Face Wipes, Travel Pack Extra Gentle/Fragrance FreeOral-B Essential Floss- 54 ydPurell® Instant Hand Sanitizer Flip Top Bottle, 4 oz.

If you have read this and still think you want to construct a box, that is amazing! Let me know if this is the case and I can assign you a town with the number of days I’d need food for. If you don’t want to commit to a full resupply box (completely valid!) it is always nice to get a few harder to come by items at a time (like VIA, epic bars, dehydrated beans which are surprisingly hard to find in all grocery stores, and a few bare essentials). If that is all you want to send, that’s great! Anything is helpful and all is appreciated!

Other helpful links or websites for food ideas:

This guy has everything in one neat little place (though I strongly prefer to limit mountain house and backpacker pantry meals, usually just one per resupply is good): http://zerodayresupply.com/tour

Fruits, veggies, nuts: http://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/

Condiments and spices: http://www.minimus.biz/

Great ideas and strategies: http://www.adventurealan.com/best-backpacking-food/

Dark chocolate covered fruits: https://www.ohnuts.com/buy.cfm/bulk-chocolate/covered-dried-fruit

This blog may be adjusted as my tastes change, but is meant to be a general framework for anyone interested in sending things to me on trail. Most  pictures above are linked to a website for easy purchase, and are particular favorites so you can’t go wrong with them. If they are not linked, it is just there to give you an image to look for at the grocery store. That said, if you know of a similar product, that’s fine too. Variety is important! Have fun with it!

Thanks again! XOXO

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