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Backcountry Grub

20 J0000009UTC 2011

Snowmass Mountain (14,092) and Snowmass Lake

I’ve been vacationing. This once meant walking the polished white streets of Dubrovnik, standing in front of Prague’s astronomical clock or snorkeling off a boat in Turks and Caicos. But, for now, it means something equally (or more) beautiful and much closer to home. We went to the mountains.

My husband and I packed up for a six day, six night adventure in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, wedged between scenic Crested Butte and Aspen, CO. Wilderness Areas are my favorite because they only allow foot traffic, human, equine and canine. No vehicles, hunting, computers, phones or the like. Just us, the dogs and the wilderness. I was in charge of the food.

Mountain House food

Some backpackers, for the sake of ease and weight, opt for $10-a-piece freeze-dried meals. This is expensive and does a number on the gut as some of it ends up rehydrating in your stomach. Plus, we were going gluten, dairy and corn free, so R.E.I. lost us there. I made the meals myself, bagged them myself– and then my loving partner carried them.

Here’s what I learned about nutrition while backpacking– long, hard days, long miles, high exertion, heavy packs, hot sun, high elevation.

1. I get really, really hungry. I don’t want a granola bar. When I am out there and my body hurts and I am dealing with blisters and four 12,500 foot mountain passes, I want fat and protein more than sugar and sugar.

Day Three when I almost bonked out of existence

2. I bonk easily and hard. Before Frigid Air Pass on day three I thought I was going to dissolve under my pack and cry myself into a nap from which I might never wake up. This does not get one up and over a pass. Enter sugar and electrolytes. I’m pretty sure my husband fed them to me.

3. Food = Mood. Out there everything is so basic and raw. You carry everything you need on your back, live in a thin shelter and travel on your feet. You are subject to the elements, the bear in the next valley and the skeletons in the closets of your own mind. If you are not hydrating often and eating well, everything is worse than it seems and you act worse than you are. In a pair or group, this is not a good move.

4. Eating is communal. Eating our Annie Chun’s noodles and broth every night in camp was our favorite time of day. We shared our ‘high and low’ from the past 12 hours, swatted mosquitos and told jokes. Backcountry cooking is an adventure in itself. Let’s just say the pantry is less than fully stocked.

5. Fat and protein, fat and protein, fat and protein. It’s easy for us to get enough carbs. Oatmeal, bars, dried fruit, rice noodles– that’s all sugar, all carbs. Getting enough of the dense stuff to fuel, build and repair through the night was the key.

My Food Faves from Our Trip:

Me. In a pot.

1. Beef Jerky. Hands down, no exceptions. I wish we would have packed way more. We buy the good stuff with no added crap in it. It’s pricey, but worth it.

2. Sardines. We ate these and the oil they were packed in on the world’s worst gluten free English muffins and it was amazing. The kind of fuel you get from a tiny fish far surpasses any granola on the planet.

3. Tart Green Apples. We packed two and ate them in the first two days, but they were fresh produce, eaten with delicious peanut butter.

4. Chocolove Bar. Cherries and chilis. This improved my mood, energy and maybe even libido one night. Too bad we were so stinky.

5. Clif Shot Bloks. These chewy wonders saved my butt every day. I don’t even care how processed they are (although they do use organic sugars and fruits/veg instead of food dyes). I learned through their usage that I may have a greater electrolyte issue than most people. Something to look into.

Alpine Meadow off Buckskin Pass

We completed our 40 mile, 8000 foot (elevation gain/loss) trip in 5 1/2 days with extra food on hand, two extremely tired pups, 5 blisters, 1 busted trekking pole, high spirits and a great sense of accomplishment. Staggering into Carbondale, we bought tons of fresh produce (mostly greens) and a big pack of uncured bacon.

If ever you wish to embark on a backcountry adventure, I will be more than happy to share any tidbits and food tips with you. Just be sure to pack the sardines.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. malia permalink
    20 J0000009UTC 2011 9:38 am

    informative AND hilarious! love!

    • 20 J0000009UTC 2011 9:43 am

      Thanks, Malia. It was quite a ride. It’s all jerky and bloks from now on.

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