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.

 

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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.

Chewbacca Legs on the Appalachian Trail, Andy’s Take on my Gear List

While discussing the essential gear I need to take on the trail, and keeping in mind that I have to carry all of it, I told my son I wasn’t going to take a razor. Why would I shave my legs at all? I’m going to be free in the great outdoors, and there is no audience I could offend with lycanthropic legs. He responded.

My son, Andy, AKA Willis, has a very warped sense of humor, which might be indicative of his upbringing. Anyway, in his humble opinion I should definitely take a razor. Why? Reasons are varied; he tries to look at all angles. First, he is afraid that I will summit some mountain and fellow hikers will mistake me for Chewbacca. If they are Star War’s fans, I might get kidnapped and taken to some convention in Las Vegas. Cryptozoolists might mistake me for a female bigfoot, and the Smithsonian would no doubt want me on ice. Star War’s enthusiasts might also think I’m an Ewok, since I’m short. Another convention kidnap. He isn’t afraid other humans will think I’m a Hobbit, because they aren’t real and they don’t wear hiking boots from REI.

He isn’t the least bit afraid for me, for ANY other reason. After all, I did live in Baghdad during the war. He is not afraid I will get lost, or tumble off the summit of Katahdin. He knows I have the gear to purify water. He helped me choose a bug net so he isn’t afraid of West Nile Virus. He is afraid; however, that I will look like Chewy.

Andy is my eldest son. He is currently in college and lives with me. You could say one of his favorite hobbies is tormenting me. He notices when I put my keys in the refrigerator. He laughs when I get lost in the town I was reared in. He remembers where I put absolutely everything because he knows he will have to find it. He also has a remedy for when I truly get on his nerves.

There is a newspaper ad, believe it or not it is true, for a free haircut when you place a family member in a particular nursing home. I’ve seen the ad; it is real. Anyway, when Andy gets a little frustrated with me, he has a habit of asking me, “Mother, do you want me to go get that free haircut?”

He will be glad to be rid of me for a while, but how do I know he isn’t worried?

Every piece of gear I have, he has tested. Even when my water purification system came in, he immediately poured tons of dirt in a water pitcher, filled it to the brim, and started pumping water in my brand-new Nalgene bottle. Then, he inspected it and tasted it himself. He knows it works.

I couldn’t afford a GPS, so he ordered all the maps of the AT, from Katahdin to Springer. He made sure he not only had my itinerary, but a PDF of my guidebook. He chose my cell phone. He bought my solar charger and made me demonstrate that I can use it.

He made sure I know how to tie the right knots.

He cinched up all the parts on my backpack to make sure it fit correctly. He checked zippers. He took my paracord for my bear bag and threw it, hanging my food in the tree in our front yard.

He ordered me “not to graze on the trail,” and to drink enough water.

He showed me how to use my trekking poles as a weapon.

Andy and I have switched roles. He is more like the parent and I am more like the child; however, I know I called him names, but I don’t think I ever called him Chewy.