Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Food Itinerary

As I attempted to find pictures for this post, I realized we have no pictures of us eating while hiking. We are all apparently too fixated on ingesting the food to have taken any pictures. So the pictures in this post are completely unrelated to content and a weird selection of various backpacking pictures over the years.

Green Lakes and Broken Top in the Three Sisters Wilderness


Most of the last couple months has been quite filled with food planning for the Pacific Crest Trail. There are three ways that I know of people planning their food purchases and preparation for long distance backpacking. Some people use a bit of a couple methods, but these are the main three:

Plan A: Wing it, and purchase most of your food along the way. This would leave me completely out of control and a total neurotic freak. It would also probably cause us to be greatly malnourished and blood sugar yo-yoing. For some, it is really great, but not us. The Barracuda likes structure and plans every food choice the night before so that he knows exactly what we are going to eat and when. Perhaps he is a bit too much like me....

Plan B: Save up a stack of money and go for one large, all-out purchasing spree. This eliminates most all the planning sessions into one, rather intense, weekend. Jules prefers this method. However, it means he has purchased a lot of the same food and quickly tired of it. Knowing myself, I think if I tried to plan this way I would have an aneurism from stress and worry about not having enough money, not having enough time, what if I forgot something, etc.

Plan C: Meticulously plan each meal, each food drop, count them numerous times to make sure you know exactly how much of each meal to prepare, fixate, calculate exactly how much each will weigh, panic, look over maps to see where there will be weight and water issues, revise, and then spend months dehydrating and fitting those foods into the usual grocery shopping. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner here! That is me.
Elowah Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. The waterfall was so intense all of our clothing wet out in the less than 30 seconds it took to cross. The sound was deafening. It was awesome.

Food Options
At this point, we have been fiddling with backpacking food for a bit and have figured out a few different meals we really like. Variety is the most important part of any diet, backpacking or not (see this major study, or just Google search about it). I don't know how people can subsist on eating only Lipton noodle dinners, Top Ramen, and synthetic mashed potatoes when they hike. It would just kick my butt! Every morning we eat a trail or granola bar for breakfast. No eating until we are moving is the rule and it is a great motivator for us to be up and out in less than 15 minutes. The sugar gives us a morning rush for the day and makes sure we stop for lunch. Breakfast is always taken care of, but lunch and dinner were up for grabs. First and foremost, I sat down and tried to think up every single possible meal I could easily and quickly rehydrate for us to eat. The list became 9 viable options for dinner and 5 general ideas for lunches.

Dinners
Nachos/Burritos
Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce
Enchiladas
Beef Stew
Beef and Quinoa soup
Salsa Potatoes
Tortilla Chicken Soup
Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes
Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto sauce

Lunches
Salmon and Cheddar Wraps
Hummus with Various Veggies and Fruit
Vegetable Soup
Curried Lentils or Lentil Soup
Flavored Oatmeal

Quick Note: Due to how blood sugar sensitive The Barracuda and I are, we need to stop and actually eat a lunch. If we don't, we go into sugar shock by the end of the day. We just can't pull the mileage without an actual meal. Pop Tarts, candy bars, sugary granola or trail bars, and many other snacks people use as lunch substitutes cause us to spike and bonk really fast. We cannot ride a sugar high, though we will carry goo shots for emergencies. We have tried snacking for lunch a handful of times and the results are downright scary. Our lunchtime meal, from backpacks off to backpacks on, lasts a complete total of 20 minutes (The Barracuda and I actually set a timer when we solo to be sure we don't dawdle.) In many instances, we will eat while we walk using 16 ounce, wide-mouth Lexan jars (featured here if you scroll down) to keep wraps, veggies, fruits and hummus, leftover burritos, or cold pasta salad from the night before. I wake up early, make the food, and we pull it out when we need it. A waterproof lid, highly durable while incredibly lightweight Lexan, food grade, BPA free, completely reusable and non-disposable, and all with a price tag of under 6 bucks! We dig them.

Lastly, when the dogs join us they are going to need extra calorie food mix-ins as well. They cannot physically carry the amount of regular dog food necessary to keep up with their caloric burn. As a result, I am needing to dehydrate their food as well. High calorie dog food glop can be purchased (at an astronomical price), but it contains all sorts of weird things I wouldn't want our puppies eating. So, Optimus gets to rehydrate their high calorie glop as he walks during the day in a specially designated Nalgene bottle.

Guadalupe chasing sandpipers in Long Beach, Washington. The birds swarm and swoop all around you, splitting and regrouping. She doesn't care much for coastal trails, but she loves the beaches.



Mail Drops
The last 4 months have been spent figuring out where each town with a post office is located, which ones we would be stopping at, and what exactly would be in each box we mailed to ourselves. By mailing our food and extra provisions to ourselves along the way, we can keep our backpacks as light as possible. In southern California, I am not going to need winter gloves; the average daytime temperature is over 100 degrees. In northern Washington, I'm not going to need a sun hat; it normally rains solid for 5 days a week. By negotiating mail drops you can send yourself things you think you will need at certain times and send home anything you don't think will be necessary anymore.

A Town Guide is a book which tells the hiker exactly where (down to the tenth of a mile) each town is located along the trail and what to expect when you get there - are there hotels, showers, grocery stores, ATM machines, gas stations, and most importantly, post offices? Many times the exact hours of the post office are listed along with an address and a phone number. In this way you can directly calculate how many miles you will walk each day, and how many days there are in between post offices. Calculate in an extra meal just in case, and a zero day here and there and you have a basic itinerary for your mail drops. You also have excellent math curriculum for homeschooling. "You want to not starve, you better carry that one Boy!" Perhaps not quite...

We are planning to begin hiking an average of 18.5 miles per day. The Barracuda can already do around 20-23 miles per day easy, but we want to begin slowly. In the end we are thinking 25-27 miles per day will be our average, but by planning around 20 we are safe. Any extra food we can angel to others or at least give ourselves choices and extra calories. Each mail drop will contain one extra days worth of food, except every third mail drop. By making the third mail drop an exact number of days, we can cut down on excess weight. More than likely we will not be needing the extra day and they are just for feasting days of extra calories.



Our Itinerary

Leaving El Campo - 4 days worth of food
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; Tuna and Cheddar Wraps

Dinners: Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Burritos; Cheesy Potatoes

Mt. Laguna - 5 days worth of food
Lunches: Tuna and Cheddar Wraps; Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils; Flavored Oatmeal; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Dinners: Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto; Vegetable Soup; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Cheesy Potatoes with Vegetables; Enchilladas

Warmer Springs - 4 days worth of food (even drop, no extra meal)
Lunches: Tuna and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils

Dinners: Enchiladas; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Burritos; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Idyllwild - 6 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; Tuna and Cheddar Wraps; Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils, Flavored Oatmeal

Dinners: Beef Stew, Beef and Quinoa Soup, Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Tortilla Chicken Soup

Big Bear City - 5 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Vegetable Soup

Dinners: Beef and Quinoa Soup; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Salsa Potatoes; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

WrightWood - 4 days worth of food (Grocery Store, even drop, no extra meal)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; Lentils; Flavored Oatmeal

Dinners: Burritos; Vegetable Soup; Enchiladas; Tortilla Chicken Soup

Agua Dulce - 6 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Vegetable Soup

Dinners: Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Salsa Potatoes; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Beef Stew

Tehachapi - 8 days worth of food (Grocery Store, weight restriction)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; (3) Salmon and Crackers; Lentils; Flavored Oatmeal; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Dinners: Beef Stew; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Enchiladas; Salsa Potatoes

(weight restriction means I will be maxing out my weight limits with food. This is the longest stretch for me to carry food and poundage is getting huge. This means no tortillas for wraps or burritos and no cheddar cheese)

Echo Lake Resort - 4 days worth of food (Grocery Store, even drop no extra meal)
Lunches:(2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; Vegetable Soup; Lentils

Dinners: Burritos; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Tortilla Chicken Soup

Sierra City - 5 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2)Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal

Dinners:Beef Stew; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Enchiladas; Salsa Potatoes; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

Belden Town - 6 days worth of food
Lunches: (2) Flavored Oatmeal; (3) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils

Dinners: Burritos; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Salsa Potatoes; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

Burney Falls Camp Store - 4 days worth of food (Grocery Store, even drop no extra meal)
Lunches:(2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; Flavored Oatmeal; Salmon

Dinners:Beef Stew; Salsa Potatoes; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Enchiladas

Castella - 7 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches:(2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; (2) Flavored Oatmeal, Lentils

Dinners:Burritos; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Beef Stew; Salsa Potatoes; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Enchiladas; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

Kennedy Meadows - 5 days worth of food (even drop, no extra meal)
Lunches:Vegetable Soup; Flavored Oatmeal; Lentils; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps

Dinners:Beef Stew; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Enchiladas; Salsa Potatoes; Tortilla Chicken Soup

Independence - 6 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2) Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Vegetable Soup; Lentils

Dinners:Beef and Quinoa Soup; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Spaghetti with Veggies Sauce; Beef Stew; Salsa Potatoes

Vermillion Valley Resort - 5 days worth of food
Lunches: Vegetable Soup; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Lentils

Dinners:Beef and Quinoa Soup; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Enchiladas

Tuolumne Meadows - 8 days worth of food (Jules' Arrival; Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2)Vegetable Soup; (2)Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; (3) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Dinners:Beef Stew; Burritos; Enchiladas; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Salsa Potatoes; Spaghetti with Veggies Sauce; Tortilla Chicken; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

8 packages of extra calorie dog food

Seiad Valley - 4 days (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2)Fresh Veggies, Fruits, and Hummus; Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Vegetable Soup

Dinners:Beef and Quinoa Soup; Enchiladas; Salsa Potatoes; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

4 packages extra calorie dog food

Hyatt Lake - 4 days (even drop, no extra meal)
Lunches: (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Vegetable Soup; Flavored Oatmeal

Dinners: Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Burritos; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Beef Stew

4 packages extra calorie dog food

Crater Lake Lodge - 4 days worth of food
Lunches:(2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Dinners:Salsa Potatoes; Beef Stew; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Enchiladas

4 packages extra calorie dog food

Cascade Summit - 7 days worth of food
Lunches:(2) Flavored Oatmeal; (3) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Vegetable Soup; Lentils

Dinners:Burritos; Enchiladas; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Beef Stew; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

7 packages of extra calorie dog food

Olallie Lake - 4 days worth of food (even drop, no extra meal)
Lunches:(2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Flavored Oatmeal; Lentils

Dinners:Enchiladas; Salsa Potatoes; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Tortilla Chicken Soup

4 packages of extra calorie dog food

Cascade Locks - 6 days worth of food (Grocery Store)
Lunches: (2)Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Hummus; (3) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils

Dinners:Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Vegetable Soup; Enchiladas; Beef and Quinoa Soup; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

6 packages of extra calorie dog food

White Pass - 5 days worth of food
Lunches:(2)Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Vegetable Soup; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce; Lentils

Dinners:Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Burritos; Beef Stew; Tortilla Chicken Soup; Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes

Snoqualmie Pass - 5 days worth of food
Lunches:Vegetable Soup; Lentils; Flavored Oatmeal; (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps

Dinners:Cheesy Vegetable Potatoes; Spaghetti with Veggie Sauce; Beef Stew; Enchiladas; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce

Stehekin - 4 days worth of food
Lunches: (2) Salmon and Cheddar Wraps; Lentils; Vegetable Soup

Dinners:Tortilla Chicken Soup; Burritos; Beef Stew; Tortellini with Veggies and Pesto Sauce


Sun setting over cloudline in the Cascades on Nesmith Point. Definitely one of the most incredible things and incredible hikes I have ever seen or done.


That list is a combination of umpteen hours planning, dehydrating, and nutritional research. It feels really good to have finalized. With impending post office closures in some of the small towns and a couple changes to ownership, a few shifts might need to be made, but at this point the food will stay the same. We've been acquiring it all slowly but surely. By adding 50 dollars to each months groceries, we've been able to fit in darn near most of it. A couple of items (like packaged salmon/tuna and bulk boxes of trail bars) are going to be topped off with extra PayPal funds. In general, the food for all of us cost of just under 600 dollars. By spacing it out, the blow wasn't quite a hard, and it looks like we might just pull it off. Three quarters of it is already weighed, measured, packaged, and dehydrated. Now we just have to figure out where to put all of it!

6 thoughts:

Mel said...

When I was a Wilderness Ranger in the Sierras, I'd eat a dry bagel almost everyday for lunch. I didn't eat a bagel for a year after that. The only way I can explain it is that I was 20 years old. And I ate a ton of pizza and ice cream on my days off. I spent most of that summer thinking about food....I could have used a better plan--like this one!

Mel said...

I know i should have written "Sierra" instead of "Sierras." Old habit.

Granola Girl said...

I still say Seirras too. Somehow I don't think the mountains probably care all that much :)

E said...

The list of towns looks like a great opportunity to learn - everything from geology to history included there.
Good luck with the trip!

Dicentra said...

Great post!! I'm a sucker for all things food.

Do you know about coconut creme power? 120 cal/oz. You can find it at Asian markets. Add it to cereal, hot chocolate, curries, lentils... YUM!

I'm going to post this on the OPW page on FB. Very helpful post for PCT planners.

artpredator said...

My former husband and I did the CA section of the PCT in 85 and the OR/WA section in 87. We planned it all out all by ourselves--there were no resources like today (there was no internet!) Often we hiked more than planned so we could have "Double Dinners" and get into town sooner to retrieve our food box!

As you can imagine, it was really different back then! It will be a lot easier physically for your family in 2012.

Of course it's the psychological challenges that are crucial. I tell people who say they want to do it to load up their packs and walk a track for 20 miles...then go back and do it again two more days and if they still want to do the PCT, they've got what it takes!

I'll be curious to see how your breakfast after being on the trail goes! We ate ours in bed most mornings...

My son is 8 and we plan to do the PCT when he is 11 (and I am 53!) in 2015. It would be my 30 year anniversary of doing the PCT and I plan to include the hike in my dissertation for Community, Liberation, and Ecopsychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

I think the biggest challenge for him will be not having friends or kids his age along the trail to play with. The second biggest challenge will be having to stay ON the trail--there just isn't the time/energy for fanciful excursions like we have when we're hiking or camping.

We live on the coast between Santa Barbara and LA if you need a place to stay on your way to Campo.

And it might be possible for us to connect along the way--maybe Reds Meadow? or even Wrightwood or Big Bear. I would love for my son to meet your son.

Post a Comment