Into the Wilderness, Day 1 of My Appalachian Trail Adventure

On June 1st, I drove to DFW to fly to Bangor, Maine, and begin my adventure on the Appalachian Trail. For much of the trip there was cloud cover, but as we flew over Maine, the skies cleared and I could see the coastline. I was astonished to see how much water is in Maine. There are rivers, lakes, and streams everywhere!
When I arrived in Bangor, Phil Pepin, with 100 Mile Wilderness Adventures, was waiting for me. I was relieved, thinking I might have to make a call for a pick up, but he was there…greeted me with a smile and loaded my backpack. He drove me to the 100 Mile Wilderness Camp and set me up in the bunkhouse. On the drive, Mr. Pepin apologized, in advance, for talking so much. He said he hoped I did not mind, and I was polite and answered that it was okay. He spoke incessantly and repeated many of his statements several times. There was no conversation to be had; there was only Mr. Pepin telling me how he accepted Christ as his personal savior and how the town of Monson was unfriendly and tried to jeopardize his business. He elaborated on the mundane details of his business and like a broken record, began this monologue all over again. By the time I arrived at the camp, my nerves were shot and I needed respite. There was no enjoyment to be had of the scenery and no winding down from the plane ride. I began to think something was wrong with Mr. Pepin, but once at the camp, I did unwind and rest a little; however, as soon as I emerged from the bunk house, the monologue began again, although this time it was in the Camp Kitchen and Charlotte was there. Charlotte is a hiker from New York. She met Phil some time ago, and he asked her to work full time as his campground manager. She was very pleasant, and since she was a woman who had hiked the trail in its entirety, I had questions for her. Phil offered to go through my backpack and take out the things that I did not need, and I explained that I needed to go through that process myself as a part of the whole trail experience. He offered again, and again, and again. Each time I told him no. One of my goals was to let go of things in my life which were a hindrance or no longer useful to me, and I needed to lighten my load all on my own. Much later, I learned that Phil told Charlotte, “Now that woman has some serious issues…”
…As I started researching my trip, I was confused as to the logistics of getting to Mount Katahdin. One site I found would get you to Baxter State Park, but I still had to get from Bangor to Medway by bus. Then a shuttle would pick me up and take me to Millinocket for a night and then get me to Katahdin. Whew! I found 100 Mile Wilderness Outfitters, and Phil offered to pick me up at the airport, give me a room for the night and drop me on the steps of the Hunt trail, all for a reasonable price, and I didn’t have to reserve a plane ticket, a bus ticket, a taxi, and then still have to pay for the shuttle for Baxter. All done! Even though I appreciated the services Mr. Pepin offered, I was very put off by his behavior. He was cordial to me, but I was happy to be rid of him once we got to Baxter. When he did arrive at the gates of the park, he took time to chat with the rangers (I felt like it was MY time he was taking) and when I checked in at the ranger station, he lingered and tried to convince me to get a more expensive shelter than the tent site I reserved. This was aggravating as I planned the trip a year in advance and made reservations six months in advance to get exactly what I wanted. This was my adventure, not Mr. Pepin’s.
The most disturbing part of the trip to Katahdin was Mr. Pepin’s new dialogue, which was constant and irritating. He repeated the recital of the previous day’s monologue, but he also added some words of advice, saying he was trying to encourage me. He told me, multiple times, that I was basically fat and out of shape so I should not worry too much if I couldn’t summit Katahdin. He also reminded me of my age (he is older than me) and how with all those factors combined, I might not make it through the woods. Words of encouragement? I was so angry by this constant barrage of belittling assault that once the pick-up pulled in front of the station, I grabbed a day pack and took off. He called out, “Are you heading out now?” Under my breath I said, “Fuck YES!”
Phil Pepin has hiked the Appalachian Trail three times. He is a registered Maine guide, and claims to be the only one in Maine who specializes in the Appalachian Trail. He offers shuttles into towns to get laundry done or eat out. His camp is on the blue blaze to Monson making it very convenient. The camp itself has a rustic charm and it is near the shores of Lake Hebron. Nights are very quiet (or noisy with night noise) and fireflies dance a ballet each evening while loons lull you to sleep. The place is beautiful, and Mr. Pepin’s plans for it are well-thought out. Besides the bunk house and cabins, he has forested tent sites, a shower house and two privies. There are two fire pits for clients to use. It seems to be the perfect place to relax and prepare for the mental and physical challenges of the upcoming hike. It does seem that way.
Hunt trail rescued me from that hideous man. As soon as I was enveloped in the darkness of the green forest, blanketed with moss and misted with the icy waters of Katahdin Stream, I could relax. I let the mental pollution that Mr. Pepin burdened me with drain away into the spongy bog. Day 2 of my trip was underway.

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Hiker’s Chili & Beans for the Appalachian Trail

When I created this recipe, I didn’t have equivalent ingredients for a home-cooked chili with meat, so I simply guessed at portions of ingredients. At first the chili was too sweet, so I cut the sweetness with mustard. By the time this was simmering on the stove, all three of my dogs were salivating, looking up at the stove top, and begging for a VEGETARIAN meal (if you skip the cheese). I shared with them, and they loved it. My son, who swears he is a carnivore, tried it too, and remarked how meat-like it was. He was willing to eat this meal too. So here it is, my chili & bean recipe, so easy to make on the trail, and so hearty and delicious you will not miss meat on the trail.

 

Hiker’s Chili & Beans
1/8 cup Augason Farms Beef Flavored Vegetarian Meat Substitute
1/8 cup Augason Farms Taco Flavored Vegetarian Meat Substitute
¼ cup Harmony House dehydrated pinto beans
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated onion
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated tomato dices
1 tsp. Harmony House dehydrated red and green bell peppers
2 tbsp. Harmony House tomato powder
1 tbsp. Williams Chili Seasoning
1 tsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. dry ground mustard
¼ tsp. granulated garlic
¼ tsp. blackening spices
¼ tsp. coarse black pepper
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 tbsp. Honeyville cheddar cheese shreds

Combine all ingredients except water and cheddar cheese shreds in a bag and seal with an oxygen absorber. Seal cheese. On the trail, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Pour over chili ingredients and allow all the dehydrated vegetables to completely rehydrate. (I do this in the morning for a noon meal). When chili is completely rehydrated, place pot over medium heat until heated through. Sprinkle cheese on top.

What Hiking Trail Blogs Tell You

I have been planning my thru-hike for a year now. During this past year, I have read blog after blog and watched every video on YouTube that has anything to do with the Appalachian Trail. Most blogs that I have personally read, are full of information. They tell you distances between point A and point B. They tell you that a titanium spork weighs x amount of ounces. Blogs are so full of information that essays or books could be written on the information therein. My blog will not give you that kind of information. My AT guide from Miller gives me some of that information. Blogs have given me the rest. Let’s not forget the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and all the information they have to offer….information is everywhere.

Blogs also tell you something about the writer. When a blogger knows every minute detail about a product and the manufacturer, he/she might be doing gear reviews professionally. When a blogger takes nothing but ultralight gear, we can assume that he/she has loads of cash hidden somewhere because cuben fiber is prohibitively expensive. It also probably means that the hiker is going to hike his trail fast.When a hiker snaps on his headlamp for night-hiking, he isn’t interested in the views. When he is constantly booking a room for a zero day, he isn’t all that interested in the trail. These videos and blogs have intrinsic value. We can learn a lot from them, and I have. I even enjoyed the videos from bloggers whom I felt should probably never started the hike in the first place because of the constant complaining in their work. Still I found value and have watched these videos over and over.

What many hiking blogs don’t tell you is precisely what I want to know about. They don’t tell you what it feels like, looks like, smells like, tastes like. . .They don’t show you how they set up their camps and how they cooked their meals when they ran out of fuel. They don’t tell you if the hair stood up on the back of their necks when they encountered a bear. They don’t let you experience the severe weather with them, and describe in detail what it was like to hunker-down in a small stand of trees with hurricane-like weather coming from Cape Hatteras in the Carolinas….You don’t hear them tell you that at the end of the day, they are so hungry they could eat the leather off their soles, only to discover that they are wearing Vibrams and cannot eat them!! You might see photos that express their delight, but they don’t tell you what it was that delighted them in the first place. You can’t experience what it is like to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded in fog, and not able to find the blazes on the trees, because they don’t tell you. This is what my blog will do. Serious hikers need not read my blogs. The only thing I am going to take seriously is safety.

I want the experience, not the trophy. Lie #1 I WANT THAT PIECE OF PAPER THAT SAYS I HIKED 2000 + MILES! Okay, so I want the experience, plus the paper, otherwise some of my family will think I’m telling a tall-tale and will not believe me.

If I have to ford a stream, I want you to experience it with me, not only in a video diary, but in words. I will share my secrets, my trials, and triumphs. If you only follow along, we will never be lonely, and like good friends, we will chat along the way, and discover the trail and all it has to offer, together.

 

Holiday Meals on the Appalachian Trail

Hiking the AT, the PCT, or the CDT means you will possibly be on the trail for months. No reason not to celebrate the holidays! Here are my recipes for a Thanksgiving or Yule dinner that is sure to please.

Hiker’s Chicken and Dressing
1 3-ounce package Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast
½ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb-Seasoned Stuffing
1/8 cup Honeyville freeze-dried sausage
½ tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated celery
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated onion
Coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. dried cranberries.
½ cup boiling water (or more)
Few drops cooking oil
Individual pie tin (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby)
4” square of foil

Seal dehydrated vegetables in a bag. Seal cranberries in another. Seal stuffing, chicken bouillon, and pepper in another bag, using an oxygen absorber. Seal freeze-dried sausage in another bag. On the trail: rehydrate freeze dried sausage by adding 1/8 cup water to the bag. Fully re-hydrate celery and onion by adding ¼ cup water to the bag. Using a few drops of oil, simmer re-hydrated vegetables and dried cranberries in a pan until hot and slightly browned. Add boiling water and stuffing packet. Fluff and mix well. Add chicken and sausage and mix well. Put chicken and stuffing in the pie pan and cover with foil. Using the larger Trangia bowl, bring 4-6 ounces of water to a boil. Put pie tin down in water, making sure water does not bubble into pie tin. Cover and allow to heat through.

Serve with Hiker’s Cranberry Chutney and Hiker’s Holiday Whipped Potatoes

Hiker’s Cranberry Chutney

2 tbsp finely chopped , dried cranberries
1 tsp VitaCherry powdered cherries
1 tsp. chopped Harmony House freeze-dried pineapple
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. broken walnuts
Water for reconstituting

Seal fruits and sugar in one bag and walnuts in another. While you are cooking your Chicken and Dressing above, add very hot water to fruit, and knead back and forth until well mixed. Add walnuts.

Hiker’s Holiday Whipped Potatoes

1/3 cup Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes
2 tsp. Meyenburg goat milk powder
1 tsp. dehydrated sour cream
1 tsp. powdered butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup water

Seal all ingredients except water. On the trail, bring water to a boil. Mix in dry ingredients and remove from heat. Put pot in a cozy for 2 or 3 minutes, then fluff.

 

Hiker’s Polenta with Tomatoes and Marinara

This meal takes some simmering, and then some cozying, but is worth the extra time to make it. It will fill you up and leave you satisfied. If you want to use vegetable bouillon instead of chicken, you will have a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal on the trail. Here is the Recipe:

Hiker’s Organic Polenta with Marinara
1 cup water
¼ cup Organic Polenta
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp. dehydrated tomato dices
1 tsp. powdered butter
Pinch garlic powder
1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Pinch coarse black pepper

Marinara Sauce:
1 tsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp Harmony House dehydrated bell peppers
6 tbsp. Harmony House tomato powder
Pinch garlic powder

Package polenta, tomato dices, and chicken bouillon, in one bag; powdered butter, garlic and black pepper in another. In a third bag, seal Parmesan cheese. Finally put all sauce ingredients in a small bag and seal. Seal all ingredients with an oxygen absorber.

On the trail: Bring water, tomato dices, and chicken bouillon to a boil. Add polenta, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir in powdered butter, garlic powder and black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes and remove pan to a cozy for 10 minutes. While water is boiling, add hot water to Marinara sauce packet and allow vegetables to rehydrate. While polenta is in the cozy, heat the marinara through. When polenta is ready, serve with Marinara and Parmesan cheese.

Hiker’s Mexican Corn

Here is a vegetable recipe that makes a very good soup base. Add a 3-ounce package of Sweet Sue Premium Chicken Breast, or 1/4 cup dehydrated ground beef. Cut up some peppered jerky to throw in. The secret to having vegetables on the trail that taste good is to make sure they are well re-hydrated before you boil them. When I first tested this recipe, I added 1/8 tsp of red pepper, and although I like food hot and spicy, that much red pepper is a little too spicy. If you add chicken, try adding 1/8 tsp of chicken bouillon for a flavorful and hearty Mexican soup.

Hiker’s Mexican Corn
3 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated corn
1 tbsp. Harmony House diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Harmony House bell peppers
1 tsp. Harmony House chopped onion
½ tsp. Harmony House jalapeno dices
½ tsp. powdered butter
1/8 tsp. Tones Taco Seasoning
pinch cumin (I like more)
pinch ground red pepper
Salt, and coarse ground pepper
½ cup hot water or more

Package all vegetables and spices in one bag, and seal bag with an oxygen absorber inside. On the trail: Add hot water to the bag to rehydrate vegetables about 15 minutes before cooking. Bring vegetables and water to a boil, reduce heat and put in cozy for 10 minutes. Goes great with Hiker’s Refried Bean Burritos.

Hiker’s Savory Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheese

When you have a meal that is rather lean, with not much starch, it is nice to add a starchy vegetable as an accompaniment.  Trying to have an entree and mashed potatoes with gravy is not very likely, so making a stuffed baked potato without the skin to stuff it with, is an option. Here is my hiker’s recipe for un-stuffed mashed potatoes.

Unstuffed Mashed Potatoes with Broccoli & Cheese (1 serving)
1/3 cup Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes
1 tbsp. Harmony House dehydrated broccoli
1 tbsp. Meyenburg goat milk powder
1/8 tsp. Wyler’s chicken bouillon
½ tsp. powdered butter
1 tbsp. Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese shreds
1/3 cup or more water*

Combine mashed potatoes, goat milk, chicken bouillon and powdered butter in one packet and seal. Seal a packet with 1 tbsp. broccoli and another with 1 tbsp. cheddar cheese.

On the trail: Rehydrate broccoli first by adding water to the bag and allowing it to steep for about 15 minutes. Bring the 1/3 cup water to a boil. Stir in potato packet and remove from heat immediately. Add rehydrated broccoli and stir. Put pot in a cozy for 3 minutes. Remove from cozy and fluff with a fork. Top with cheddar cheese. *You may need up to 1/2 cup of boiling water, so prepare.

Hiker’s Barbeque Beef Sandwich (for lacto-ovo vegetarians)

BBQ Beef Sandwich (Adapted from Augason Farm’s Recipe)
1 cup Augason Farms Vegetarina Meat Substitute Beef
4 tsp. beef bouillon
¾ cup water (per serving) or more
Worcestershire sauce a few drops per serving
8 tbsp. Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese Shreds
Divide beef substitute into four equal ¼ cup servings. Add 1 tsp. beef bouillon to each bag. Prepare four small bags with 2 tbsp. each of cheddar cheese. Seal one bag of meat, with one bag of barbeque sauce and one bag of cheddar cheese.

Barbeque Sauce Packet Adapted From Martha Stewart’s Spicy Barbeque Sauce: Makes 4 servings
3 tbsp. Harmony House Dehydrated Onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp allspice
10 tbsp. Harmony House tomato powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 cup dehydrated apple cider vinegar (Nuts.com. has this)
¼ tsp black ground pepper
Mix all the dry ingredients well and divide into four equal portions. Seal with an oxygen absorber.

Bring water to a boil. Add bouillon, barbecue packet and beef substitute. Lower heat to a simmer until meat is heated through. Top with Honeyville Freeze-Dried Cheddar Cheese.

**Lacto-ovo Vegetarians omit the beef bouillon.

Camp Kitchen

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There are minimalist hikers for a reason. Gear is heavy to carry, and carrying it up steep grades and back down again isn’t easy. Minimalist hiking appears to be for someone who has a goal to hurry and finish a trail. I have no intention of setting such a goal.My goal is to yawn and stretch in the morning and then do whatever I want. If I see an interesting blue blaze, there I will go. My hiking plan includes taking the time to experience life on the Appalachian Trail. It requires a little stealth to see wildlife, but it also requires that I observe and take my time. I intend to take my time. I also intend to cook some of my meals. I don’t mind carrying a little extra weight so that I can do that.

We will see how important it is to carry this weight once I’m on the trail. I may send half of it ahead in a bounce box. I might send half of it home. I love to cook, and food cooked outdoors just tastes better to me. If I send my little camp kitchen home, you can say, “I told you so,” but if it works out fine, I will share my videos of how I prepare my home-made recipes.

Hiker’s Sloppy Joes

Everyone loves Sloppy Joes. The best method for cooking Sloppy Joes at home is a slow-cooking process. It seems the longer they cook, the more sweet and savory they become. Here is a trail recipe that is best cooked soon after leaving a town because it requires that you purchase a bun from a restaurant and get a teaspoon of Worcestershire from them as well. Cracker Barrel does sell a five-ounce bottle of Worcestershire, but every restaurant along the trail will surely have it. Here is the recipe:

Hiker’s Sloppy Joe Recipe

3 tsp. Harmony House chopped onion
2 tsp. Harmony House chopped green pepper
¼ cup Auguson Beef Flavored Vegetarian Meat Substitute
3 packets Heinz® Tomato Ketchup
3 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Coarse salt and coarse black pepper to taste
Honeyville freeze-dried cheddar cheese

Before leaving town, put all ingredients, except the cheese, into a leak-proof pot and add ½ cup water. Slip the pot inside a cozy and allow the ingredients to rehydrate on the trail. (I put my ingredients into a Ziploc bag and slip the bag inside my Stanley pot)

On the trail: Empty the Ziploc into your cooking pot and bring the mixture up to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Pile mixture on your absconded bun, and sprinkle cheese on top.