Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Culinary Experiments

In an effort to eat yummy, nourishing food on the trail, I've decided to make my own dinners! 

Tasty freeze-dried or dehydrated meals are difficult to come by if you are a vegetarian - like myself. Also, the astronomical amounts of sodium found in most of the pre-packaged foods is a bit much for me. I know, I know, I need to replenish my electrolytes, but rest assured, my diet provides plenty. 

Nesco FD-75PR Dehydrator
I will use my Nesco Dehydrator to experiment since I have a lot of time 'til I hit the trail. My plan is to place generous portions of my dinners in the dehydrator, let them - well - dehydrate, transfer the food into ziplock bags and let them sit in a shelf for about a month at room temperature. None of the food should spoil, but I'd prefer to be sure now than be surprised at camp after a 16 mile day! 

So far, I've experimented with two of my favorite dishes: black bean spread with grilled onions and seasonings, and yellow lentils with grilled onions and spices. 

Ready for the dehydrator
Black beans (like most legumes) are high in calories, fiber, carbohydrates and protein. I prepare the beans with olive oil which adds more calories and fat (and also has anti-inflammatory properties). 
Yellow lentils are also high in calories, fiber, carbohydrates and protein. The lentils are prepared with olive oil too. 

                          finished product - black beans
finished product - lentils
My plan is to mix the above dishes with either rice, mashed potatoes, buckwheat, noodles (rice noodles are in the dehydrator as we speak), quinoa or couscous to make generous portions of end-of-the-day savory goodness. Many experiments to follow - check back soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


The thru-hiking season is almost upon us. Woo-Hoo!!! 
This means different things to different people. For some, it means scrambling to purchase last minute gear and make arrangements to get down to the California/Mexico border in a month's time. For others  - read trail angels - it means helping hikers through a variety of means, including giving rides, stocking (and re-stocking) water caches, and feeding hungry bellies along the trail. And for the rest of us, it means reading trail journals while crafting the plans for our own thru-hikes (or just passing the time while at our cubicles). 

I happen to fall in the latter category of folks. As such, I will once again attend the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) as a wannabe (organizers' term, not my creation - though fitting), to chit-chat with past, present and future thru-hikers, as well as check out all the new gear, watch trail related movies and attend trail related talks. 

I am very much looking forward to attending the Kick Off party again this year because last year, when I attended this remarkable event for the first time, I got WAY more out of it than I could have ever imagined. I was blown away by the nice, caring, friendly, passionate and courteous people of the thru-hiking kula (Sanskrit for community, or community of the heart). Attending that event restored my faith in humanity, as I was glad to acquaint myself with those people and to know that people like them do in fact exist. They take genuine interest in their fellow hikers and are willing to help out in any way possible. I am very proud to be part of that kula!

As great as those people are, I am also lucky to have another delightful kula in my life - my yoga kula. I am grateful for the people I have met through yoga because they too are very genuine, passionate, benevolent people. 

I truly believe that the people we associate with are an extension of ourselves, and that those same people play a major role in our growth and development. So if you have any plans of thru-hiking the PCT, CDT, AT or any other long distance trail, I suggest you attend events catered to, and for the benefit of, like-minded enthusiasts - and hopefully meet a few wonderful people too. (FYI - if you plan to attend the ADZPCTKO, registration is now open.) If thru-hiking is not for you, consider participating in trail maintenance projects. You will have a chance to meet great people while simultaneously providing a valuable service. And if that's not your cup of tea either, you might want to give yoga a try. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself and whom you might meet. 

“The Koi fish grows in proportion to its environment. If you keep it in a pail of water, it grows only 2 inches. But if you let it loose in the wild it can grow up to 2 feet.” ~Dr. Nido Qubein 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So...why journal?

Usually, when I tell people about my hiking plans, I encounter similar inquiries: Most popular include:
"How many miles?"
"What about the bears, you're taking a gun right?"
"What will you eat?"
"Where will you sleep?"
& on & on.

But yesterday, I was asked, "Why bother journaling; why put in the extra effort?"

After some thought, I realized this was a valid question and my answer to her was worth sharing on this blog.

My reasons for journaling are as follows:
First and foremost: I want to share my adventure with my family, friends and others who are interested.
Second, but perhaps even more important - I want to expose as many people to Nature as possible. The more people exposed to the outdoors, its beauty & its benefits, the better chance we have of preserving our wild places! I encourage my friends, loved ones and everyone I meet to get 'out there' and explore. And if that's not their cup of tea, to appreciate the importance of Nature and help preserve it by being members of (or contributing to) organizations that do - such as:

Third: Perhaps my style and approach to life & hiking may help and inspire others with their own journeys. When I read trail journals, I resonate with certain people, their outlook and their style more than others. So, I figured why not have another resource out there for people?

And lastly: Many months ago, when I first considered journaling, thoughts of the result of my trip constantly consumed my mind. I would obsess day & night over meaningless internal dialogue such as, "What if I don't finish the hike? Everyone will know" and other senseless, energy consuming speculations that crept into my head. To put a stop to the chatter, I knew I needed to breathe, take a step back and examine the reasons why I want to do this hike. After doing so, it became very clear that the results aren't important. Realizing that being fully present in the current moment is all that matters, and frankly is all that there is, re-instilled in me the fact that taking action now - even if those actions are very small steps - is the only way to make progress and get to where I want to be - which is on the trail! After becoming aware of this, I logged on to blogger and created what you see now ;)

"Don't let your body or your mind get ahead of your breath." ~Joy Stone

Friday, March 2, 2012

The bear can dilemma

Most conversations that have to do with backpacking in the High Sierras usually include some mention of bear-resistant canisters.

I own a Bearikade Weekender and I am very happy with it. It is very spacious and quite sturdy (makes a great seat too). So what's the downside? Well, although it is the lightest bear-resistant canister on the market at 31 ounces, it weighs almost as much my backpack (38 ounces), which happens to be my heaviest piece of gear.
Bearikade Weekender (left), Bearikade Expedition (right)

As of this post there are no lighter weight options for Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. But, there may be hope for the future. Ursack, makers of lightweight bear-resistant food sacks may have their products - made with 'bullet proof' fabric - approved for use in the aforementioned parks soon. That's because Ursack has submitted their food sacks to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) for testing.

The Ursack S29 model (with the aluminum insert) performed successfully in 2011 for two hours in the hands of a grizzly bear at the Grizzly Discover Center. The S29 weighs 7.3 ounces (and the optional aluminum insert weighs 10.8 ounces), making it a very attractive alternative to 'conventional' bear-resistant canisters. At $67.89 for the Ursack S29, and $18.11 for the aluminum liner, this lightweight, 650 cu. in. alternative is also a great deal - especially if you backpack in bear country often.

Personally, I wouldn't think twice before buying the Ursack because not only would it shave 13 ounces off my base pack weight, but I'd actually pocket some $$ from the sale of my bearikade.

Any updates from Ursack or the National Parks will be posted here!

Happy Trails :)

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

What a difference a year makes!

The beautiful High Sierra mountains are known for their predictable weather patters and tame summers, making them a popular destination for outdoor and adventure activities.

But these last few years have been anything but ordinary. In the winter months of 2010 - 2011, the Sierra Nevadas were blanketed with ~200% more snow than average, making the 2011 hiking season one for the ages. Even in late July lakes in the High Sierras were still frozen over, with many of them never fully thawing out during summer.

This winter however, is a far cry from last. It is one of the driest so far in history, with the High Sierras receiving only 30% of the average annual snow fall to date. As with most things, this turn of events does has a silver lining. A ferocious wind storm ripped through parts of the High Sierras the week after Thanksgiving, leaving many blowdowns in its wake. Many trails and other recreational areas in the Inyo National Forest (and neighboring forests) were affected. If the snowpack had been anywhere near average (or above average), crews wouldn't have had the opportunity to assess the damage until after the snow melt was well underway - around April of this year.

Whether wet or dry, imo, the High Sierras will continue to be a top tier destination for hikers, backpackers, climbers, skiers, snowshoers, anglers, sightseers, and photographers for many generations to come.

Traveling south on the JMT approaching Forester Pass. July 21, 2011