Dinner for 6 (months)

Looks just like the dehydrated hummus!

Looks just like the dehydrated hummus!

The problem with enjoying our free subscription to Food & Wine while planning our food for the PCT is we are going way to gourmet. Whereas many thru-hikers survive off Ramen noodles, beef jerky and candy bars for 6 months we have a vast array of nutritious and delicious foods. Carbs include four different types of noodles, bulgher wheat, and quinoa flakes… flavoured with teriyaki, pad thai, marinara, or garam marsala, among others. We have a selection of 10 different dried vegetables and the most amazing assortment of 15 some dried fruits. When on a long backpacking trip you want light, non-bulky high calorie foods that don’t need refrigeration and won’t get crushed or bruised easily. And if you’re cooking, quick one pot meals are ideal. All our dinners are instant – just add boiling water and wait 5 or 10 minutes.

Some thru-hikers buy most of their food at towns along the way, others (like us) prepare their food ahead of time and mail it to locations along the trail (resupply points). We’ll be mailing 27 boxes during our journey. Many of the small “towns” the PCT passes by have nothing more than a tiny (and often overpriced) general store & post office, so we decided to post food so we could save money, have more variety & backpack-friendly foods, spend less time hitchhiking to far-away towns to shop at unfamiliar shops & just in general have one less thing to worry about when on the trail. Which of course means that right now we’re stressing PLENTY about food.

We’ve been dehydrating everything imaginable non-stop for months now (peanut butter smelled amazing but didn’t dry out, hummus looks like parched dessert earth before we pulverize it, but tastes amazing), we’ve scoured the internet for the best deals on freeze-dried veggies & butter powder (Honeyville), plus filled countless shopping carts with bulk purchases from Costco & our fave Korean supermarcado Grand Mart.

I cannot begin to convey to you the complications & calculations involved in buying, preparing & packaging food for breakfast, lunch & dinner for 2 for 208 days. We have numerous Excel spreadsheets detailing all the food we’ve bought, what we’ve packaged, how many servings we need of how many ounces… ahh! It’s really frying my brain. We could fill an entire math textbook with word problems about PCT food packaging.


The scariest part is, all of our food calculations are based on estimates and assumptions….

Estimating we’ll go at a certain pace so it will take us 6 days to get to the next town and we’ll need 6 days of food. Hoping that our 4000 calorie diet will be adequate. And that we’ll be able to fit all our food into our bear bags during a long wilderness stretch in the High Sierras. Or that enough snow will have melted for us to enter the High Sierras almost a month before the day set by ultra light weight thru-hike guru Ray Jardine. But for now, I’m not going to think about snow. I’m just going to focus on distributing the 200 little mayo packets we bought into our resupply boxes.

Winter to Spring in a Week

snowSNOW :: Last Monday we got over a foot of snow… everything was transformed into a winter wonderland. I was captivated by the blue shadows the trees cast on the serene snow. The snow gave Dan and I a chance to practice “self arrest” with our ice axes. Self arrest is basically jamming a special ax into the snow or ice to stop yourself from sliding down a mountain. It’s an important skill to have when crossing steep snowfields. And since Dan & I are starting the PCT a month or two before most thru-hikers, we could encounter a LOT of snow. So it’s a good thing we got some practice in the trecherous snowy mountains of Reston. Yeah…

SPRING :: But less than a week later it was sunny and 70!  Over at Dehydration Station we discovered that Plum Sauce takes ages to dehydrate and then becomes as sharp as glass. Seriously, I have a Hoisin cut on my finger!  And drying spinach made the entire house smell like wet dog. Let’s just hope it doesn’t taste like wet dog. We even managed to escape PCT planning to see some friends (including two adorable babes!) and catch up with my bro Sammy who was home for spring break.


dan-to-the-rescueWILDERNESS FIRST AID – Dan and I recently did an intensive Wilderness First Aid course in preparation for hiking the PCT. It was a bit worrisome, however, that anything beyond a paper cut or minor bruise seemed to be need for evacuation. Trouble breathing? Evacuate! Altered Mental Status? Evacuate! (And stop eating wild mushrooms). Thank goodness we’ve got search & rescue coverage through the American Alpine Club! But let’s just hope nothing beyond blisters happens, because I was grossed out enough by the ketchup our “victims” had smeared on their body as blood. Yep, the course included running around in the woods at 10pm on Friday night in 20°F weather, frantically attempting to help pretend victims and remember which bone was the tibia and which was the fibula. Fun times!

applesDEHYDRATION STATION – Meanwhile, Dan has been working almost non-stop at our Dehydration Station. Dan and my dad built a massive food dehydrator a month ago and it’s working wonderfully! With backpacking, you want things to be as light as possible and water is heavy, so drying foods makes them much lighter (and less bulky). Dan’s dehydrating fruit, veggies, sauces, beans… and making the most delicious fruit leathers. With flavours like coconut-cranberry we’re thinking we should bring along extras and sell them to fellow thru-hikers who have been subsisting for months on ramen noodles and raisins.

DRIVE, BIKE, WALK – This weekend we had epic transportation issues. Friday the car a friend of the family had so generously loaned us broke down. The oil was low, so we added more and it seemed good to go….. and then it broke down again. Thankfully, we had our bikes in the car so we continued our journey on bike…. until a shot rang through the air… not not a gun shot, just my bike tire being blown. But with a bit more love, we got the car working, until it sputtered to a stop….. repeat 5x and you have an idea of our Saturday. Thankfully, in between waiting in the car to be rescued by amazing car owner friend, we got to some cool exhibits at the Art Museum of the Americas. So the moral of the story is don’t drive, don’t bike – walk! So it works out quite well that we’re planning on doing just that to get from Mexico to Canada.

 Hyperbolic Nature: New Hampshire Fall (detail), 2008