I'm going hiking.
Next week I'm heading out into the Sierras with the intention to walk from Donner Pass to Mt. Whitney. And then continue on, if I feel like it. It's been a long, hard year full of... well, mostly just waiting to get back on the trail. Now the time is here and I can hardly believe it. I have no words.
But I have lots of words about food. I am a much wiser resupply-box-maker at this point in my life than I was just a few years ago. The number one lesson I learned about packing food from our thru-hike last year is not to pack too much! We were constantly overloaded with food, mostly due to pre-hike stress and an uncertainty about how much, really, are we gonna eat. It worked out great for hikers behind us who happily accepted our stale, homemade date bars and dehydrated curry.
This time around, I've got more of a 'laissez-faire' attitude about my food boxes. Whatever happens to jump into box #4 is what I'm going to eat for that section. And if it's not enough, I'll buy some tortillas and Clif bars from the gas station. No big deal. Plus, my mom will probably send chocolate.
Okay, but nutrition is important. I'm not gonna walk 400 miles on Clif bars and tortillas. Here is what I've actually packed to cover my bases.
Breakfast includes homemade granola (full of oats, nuts and seeds), alternated with oatmeal. I like to add dried fruit like strawberries or cherries (pictured below) to my morning cereal. Then there's the good ole mocha! Organic, non-GMO, powdered soy milk with hot chocolate powder, mixed up with some Starbucks instant coffee. Delish.
The possibilities here are endless. Of course, there are the bars - Luna bars, Pro bars, Fig bars, random Grocery Outlet bars, sesame snaps. In addition, pictured here are dried apples and strawberries, peanut-butter pretzels (addictive), and a bar of chocolate. Snack options not pictured here include trail mix, dried mango and cherries, figs, dates, apricots, Clif bars, corn chips, etc.
Plus, a chocolate coconut-milk-treat to drink in town.
For me, hot lunch is an every-other-day type thing. I like soup like Split Pea or Corn Chowder, or random noodle soup. Looks like my noodle soup here will include year-old-soba noodles (leftover from one of last year's over-flowing resupply boxes) with perhaps some miso flavoring or a half cube of vegetable broth. Then I'll throw in those dehydrated zucchini and cabbage pieces. Mud likes to add peanut butter and coconut cream to thicken it up a little, then he calls it Pad Thai.
For a quick, no-cook lunch, I'll supplement this with some tortillas from the gas station at whatever town. Then I can spread the chocolate-hazelnut butter on the tortilla, maybe throw some nuts or dried fruit on top, and wrap it up. I'll probably also mix my instant hummus with water and spread that over another tortilla.
Dinner is just the best! No question. Here, we have 5 homemade dehydrated meals, plus some herbal tea. These meals include two vegetable curries with brown rice, lentil-sloppy-joe fixings with brown rice, a bean, rice and sweet potato meal, and then a noodle with butternut squash sauce meal.
Then I'll probably have some chocolate for desert.
And that's it! I'll keep you updated along the way to let you know how my 'less is more' resupply strategy is going. My intention is to write blog posts more frequently (and better!) than last year. So we'll see how that goes. And yes, I'm going by myself. And yes, I'll be fine. And yes! I'll be writing trip reports for an up-and-coming website called Sidewalk.
Most people today are walking around with a huge fiber deficiency, and they don't even know it. Why is this important? You may ask... Well, our digestive tract is made specifically to be able to breakdown tough substances like fiber. It's long and full of enzymes and bacteria that want to get the most out of everything we consume. Eating fiber is like a work-out for your gut, it keeps it strong and able to work hard. But the benefits of fiber aren't limited to digestion, there are benefits to the rest of your body too.
Take cholesterol, for example. You've probably seen the Cheerios commercial where they tell you that eating Cheerios will help lower your cholesterol. It's because cheerios are made out of oats, and oats have fiber! An even better way to lower your cholesterol is to straight up eat the OATS! Here's how it works. Cholesterol floats around in your blood stream, periodically coming back to the liver to be repackaged. When the liver notices there is too much cholesterol, it sends some out in the form of bile, which goes to the gallbladder for storage. When you eat food, the gallbladder releases some of this bile, which also has digestive enzymes in it. So, say some oatmeal makes its way through your stomach and into your intestines. It gets all mixed up with bile, digestive enzymes, and cholesterol. The fiber from the oatmeal binds onto the cholesterol and clings to it all the way down. Eventually, you poop out the fiber and cholesterol leaves your body with it. What's even cooler is that this happens not only for cholesterol, but other toxins as well! This includes excess hormones like estrogen, which can play a role in developing breast cancer. All the extra, toxic stuff gets sent out by the liver, but if there isn't enough fiber in your diet, it will just get reabsorbed into your body. Fiber helps to keep your body clean and functioning smoothly.
The next great thing about fiber is that it serves as food for the bacteria in your gut. Your gut bacteria is working hard to break down fiber long after you're done with your meal. A byproduct of this happy bacteria having something good to munch on is a substance called propionic acid, a short-chain fatty acid that gets absorbed in the colon. Once absorbed, it works in the bloodstream to do some pretty cool things. First, it goes to the liver and talks to an enzyme that's involved in the process of making BRAND NEW cholesterol, telling it not to make quite so much. This results in even less cholesterol in your bloodstream. Second, propionic acid has a way of slowing down the rate of gastric emptying, meaning food stays in your stomach a little bit longer at the next meal. This leads to a slower absorption of glucose and subsequently more stable blood sugar and insulin levels. This is especially good for people who are diabetic or have problems with insulin resistance.
And there's more!! Fiber is found in things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. These just happen to be THE most nutrient dense foods around. They're the only foods that have not only high levels of vitamins and minerals, but also special health-promoting components called phytochemicals. These compounds have been shown to be protective against a wealth of common diseases including alzheimers, cancer and depression. The more of these plant-chemicals we can eat, the better. By keeping our digestive tract happy and healthy (through eating lots of fiber!) we're better able to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat, allowing them to do their job inside our bodies to protect us from disease and help us recover faster from everyday activities (like climbing mountains). So really, why would you eat anything BUT fiber-rich foods?
The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Here's a sample day of food that's easy to make and will give you even more than the recommended amounts.
(find the recipe for Lentil Artichoke Stew here!)
So don't be fiber deficient! Eat oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, potatoes (with the skin!), sweet potatoes, whole grain sprouted bread, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, zucchini, kale, squash, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, corn, apples, oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. Eat plants!
Last year on our thru-hike we arrived at Donner Pass after walking for several days through a smoky haze. In fact, we were walking straight into a fire. This is what it looked like.
We hitched down to Truckee for lunch and after a few hours the PCTA reported that the trail was closed due to fire from exactly where we got off. So we had to skip 80 miles between Donner Pass and Echo Lake.
"It'll just be a great excuse to come back." Mud says, about all the sections we had to skip because of fire.
So, last weekend I went back with Sprout. We only had time enough to hike ten miles down the trail, spend the night, and hike ten miles out, but it was well worth the drive. After a windy ridge walk and seeing smoke from yet another fire billowing in the distance, we settled down for camp in the most beautiful of rock fields. The rock-tree combination is always one of my favorite things. It marks the transition between the forest and the high Sierras. The rolling, gentle boulders strewn about the hillside contrast perfectly with the poignant, pointy pine trees. It's the best of both worlds - high alpine granite and the protection of forest.
Sprout spent the evening watching chipmunks and I cuddled up next to a rock with a book until the sun set. We could've stayed for ever. But alas, there's work to be done back in the city.
Until next time...
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