Tuesday, July 31, 2012

JMT Food Food Food - Part 2 - Dinner & Cooking

This is by far my favorite post because I LOVE food. I love talking about food, preparing food, cooking food and eating food! (Confession alert - sometimes I even enjoy shopping for food too.)

Although not restrictive off trail, my plant-based whole (unprocessed/minimally processed) food diet requires more effort while the backcountry. It is primarily for this reason I've been experimenting with my own dinners since March. The meals I've prepared for my hike are guaranteed to be super tasty, filling, nutritious and minimally processed.

my backcountry kitchen
Before I get into specifics, I'd like to mention that I've decided to go stove less. That's right, no cooking for me on the trail. No stove + no fuel = no hot water & no hot meals.

You're probably thinking, "What will you do, then?"
I will simply add water to my meals a couple hours before dinner, and as they slush around in the container and rehydrate, they will be lukewarm when I'm ready to chow down.

I experimented with this method during my Memorial Day trek through the Angeles National Forest. It worked amazingly well so I'm sticking to it. This decision also means less bulk because I will be carrying fewer items, less work at camp after a long days hike and no chance of burning a hole in the sleeve of my down jacket (again).

Ok, back to food. So what will I be eating exactly?

Well, I cooked, dehydrated, and vacuum sealed 17 dinners.

17 minimally processed, calorically dense, scrumptious, good-for-you dinners
My dinners range from rice noodles with veggies and (dairy-free) basil pesto; to garlic mashed potatoes with eggplants, carrots, bell peppers, bok choy, onions, herbs and spices; to orzo with portobello mushrooms, squash, red peppers, mung bean sprouts, onions, garlic, herbs & spices.   

To share with you the process of getting to the final product you see in the photo above, I want to show you how I made my orzo with veggies dinner. 

After making two generous servings of food in a large pan,

I transfered it onto two dehydrator trays.

After about 12 hours at 135 - 145 degrees, the orzo and veggies were fully dehydrated.

After cooling down for 30 to 45 minutes, the orzo & veggies then made their way into a small container for a stint in the Magic Bullet.

Lastly, I placed the orzo and veggies into a pre-cut Foodsaver bag and vacuum sealed it.

There you have it. One delicious, healthy, ready-to-eat 7 ounce dinner guaranteed to be devoured on the trail.

Interested in making your own food like I did? Here are a few tips:

1. If you are considering making your own dinners for your hike, DO IT! You will thank yourself on the trail for taking such good care of yourself. Having said that, I don't know if this is something I would consider doing for a lengthy hike like the PCT, but for a two week adventure, it's totally doable.

2. If you have a Nesco FD-75PR dehydrator like I do, two trays of food (pre-dehydrated) will produce one 7 ounce dehydrated dinner. 

3. Minimize bulk and grind down thorny edges using a food processor. This dinner a) would not fit into my 750 ml container had I not ground it down, and b) would have probably put a hole in the vacuum sealer bag like four other dinners did prior. Save yourself the repetitive work and excessive waste and grind your meals down slightly, being mindful to leave some texture to the food instead of turning it into mush - unless that's what you prefer.

4. Be careful when using ready-to-eat rice. I purchased instant brown rice from Trader Joe's and ruined a few dinners. Mind you, it was my fault. I didn't dehydrate the rice prior to incorporating it with my dehydrated veggies. All three meals containing the instant rice puffed up like balloons a few days after I vacuum sealed them and were ruined. Lesson learned!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below.

Happy Trails!

Friday, July 27, 2012

JMT Food, Food, Food - Part 1 - Breakfast & Lunch

What do most hikers think about more than anything else on the trail? Food of course!

In this post, I'd like to discuss my strategy for breakfast and lunch/snacks. (For my dinner plans, please see part two.)

For breakfast, I love eating Nature's Path cereals. I can eat them every day and not grow tired of them. The FlaxPlus Granola and Ancient Grains Granola are both very delicious. To make them even tastier, more flavorful, and more calorically dense, I add two tablespoons of my custom nut mix (email me for more info if interested), a nut butter, and sea salt.

As for lunch, while on the trail my body prefers smaller snacks every hour or so instead of larger meals; therefore bars are my preferred foods during the day.

backpacking snack foods
Larabars, Probars, Raw Revolution bars, Amazing Grass bars, Rise bars and Pure Organics bars are minimally processed, super tasty and provide me with plenty of calories and variety. Getting bored of these foods should not be an issue as I planned my meals in a specific rotation to avoid eating identical bars two days in a row.

Continue to part two where I discuss my home-made dinners & my strategy for on trail cooking.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

John Muir Trail Resupply

Well folks, in two weeks time, I'll be in Yosemite National Park picking up my hiking permit!! I know I'm getting ahead of myself but I'm getting super excited with every passing minute.

Day dreaming about the future is nice (especially when it promises adventure & novelty), but it's great having "chores" such as getting my resupply packages together that bring me back to reality.

bear proof food canister (left), homer bucket (middle) for 2nd resupply, and large Priority Mail Flat Rate Box (right) for 1st resupply 

resupply package 1

Label me loco but I really enjoy this particular task. Setting myself up to succeed and avoiding headaches on the trail turns tedious tasks into creative, problem solving puzzles. For example, in the above photo, notice the number "9" written on the plastic bag.

I place each day's food in separate bags and number them. Then I pack the bags into the resupply boxes with the lowest number first. This way, when I open the package at my resupply location, I can transfer the bags directly into my food canister without having to figure out which bag is for which day. Simple, effective, awesome.

resupply packages & their contents

7 days worth of food crammed into my bear can

Also, figuring out how much tp I'll require for a particular section of trail (luckily I have previous knowledge to draw upon for this one), whether or not to include junk food to break the monotony of trail food at resupply points (which I will be doing), and testing to see if a 7 day food supply will fit in my bear can are all fun stuff I've been contemplating and testing.

Good times I tell ya.

Well, the fun will end when I take my packages to the post office and ship em off in the morning. No matter, I'm sure I'll find some other way to amuse myself ;)

Besides, shipping my resupply packages makes this hike that much more real. And, I won't have to think about whether or not I've packed everything any longer.

If you are planning your own thru-hike, I highly suggest checking out Boston & Cubby's entry on trail journals.  These ladies were gracious enough to share their knowledge & expertise regarding resupplies with the world. THANK YOU LADIES!!

Now I just need to figure out how to make my boxes stand out from the crowd like they did. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

JMT Resupply & Itinerary

Less than 30 days to go!!!

I'm almost done making all 16 of my dinners, my lunches are almost complete, and soon I will be preparing and packaging my breakfasts. 

By next week, this will all be done - at which time I will publish one or two posts (with many pictures of course) about the foods I will be eating on the trail. 

For now, please check out my updated itinerary and food plan below. I've broken it down into 3 segments. 

Segment 1 is from Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park to the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office (also located within Yosemite National Park) - where my first resupply package will be waiting for me. 

Segment 2 is from the Post Office to my arrival at Muir Trail Ranch.

And Finally, Segment 3 includes my stay at the Ranch and the final stretch of the trail - culminating at the summit of Mt. Whitney and the not-so-kind-on-the-knees 11 mile ramble down to Whitney Portal.

One more thing - many details are not finalized yet - including how many nights I will stay at the Ranch, when I will ship my resupplies, the type of camera I will purchase and use on the trail, which battery pack will keep my electronic devices charged, and a few other details. 

I'm not stressing out over any of this as I have it all written down and refer to it whenever I have some free time. It's all coming together really well. What's more important is how calm I am throughout this entire process.