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.

Advertisements

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 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 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

ImageImage

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.

Dehydrating Ground Beef for the Appalachian Trail

I could not find any USDA information for the safe storage or dehydration of ground beef. Please note that these instructions are what I do, but you should perform your own research before deciding to do this. Historically, meat has been salted to retard spoilage. Salt absorbs moisture and draws out moisture from meat, which is where the bacteria survive and proliferate. I cannot overstate safety precautions here. Scrub your hands as if you were going to perform open-heart surgery. Sanitize counters, stove-top, sinks, utensils, etc. Throw away old dish sponges near your work area. If this beef is going to be used to make your hiking meals, you want to make sure that nothing survived the processing so that later, a host of “them” will not make you ill. Even so, boil water with the meat, and added salt before using. Never put ground meat that has not been boiled in water into a cozy to sit around absorbing liquid. Be safe.

Dehydrated ground beef, when reconstituted with hot or boiling water, tastes very much like fresh. It is lightweight to pack in meals, and it still contains some nutrition as well as being a protein source. The problem with dehydrating beef is that the process must be done in a sanitary manner, the beef must be thoroughly cooked, and it must be dehydrated to the point you can use the back of a spoon to crush it into a powder. There is no skimping on the process if you want your food to be safe.

To begin, purchase the leanest beef you can find. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t cook well in a skillet, because you are going to wash the fat off of it anyway. Yep, you are going to wash it in boiling hot water….several times. But, before it is washed, it will be broken up into bite-size pieces and fried. Cook the meat, on medium heat, until it is slightly browned. While cooking the beef, bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. (You can use the tap on the hottest setting, but who wants to put chlorine and fluoride into their meat?) When the meat is fully cooked, put it in a colander lined with a cheesecloth. Pour the boiling water over the meat, using a spoon to stir the meat around. Get as much fat off the meat as you can. Rinse the skillet with super hot water (no soap) and dry with a paper towel. With the skillet placed on a medium-high burner, put the rinsed and drained meat back on to cook. Cook until the water has evaporated and the meat is piping hot. Have your next pot of boiling water ready. As soon as the meat is super-heated and the water evaporated, pour the meat into the colander again (new cheesecloth or washed cheesecloth) and rinse again. Do this at least three times, or until the meat no longer has a greasy sheen. The beef particles should look very dull and dry.

Line the bottom of your dehydrator with baking parchment because the crumbs will fall through. On each screen, spread 2 cups of meat crumbles evenly. Don’t worry about the ones that fall through. The clean parchment will catch them. If you use Teflex sheets, it takes much longer to dehydrate. This invites organisms, so dry that meat as quickly as possible, using a higher setting. Once the meat is dry enough that you can pound it to dust with a spoon, let it cool completely. Store in an airtight glass jar with an oxygen absorber until you are ready to use it.

One 1/4 cup serving is enough for an adult. Once you add water back to it, trust me, it will almost double. After all, it is only one ingredient in your meal. A little will go a long way.

If you package the beef with any other ingredients, add salt. If you add more salt than you want to consume, simply rinse the beef before you cook it. Another bath won’t hurt. Seal quickly, and use oxygen absorbers if you have them. A vacuum sealer is better than a Zip Loc for storage.

I have used beef like this many times. It always tastes great. The texture is the same as if you used fresh beef. Some cooking blogs say to add bread crumbs to it so it will rehydrate properly, but I have NEVER had a problem with re-hydration. **I have never used this process with chicken or pork, and will not do it until further study has been done on the safety of this process. Use good judgment and you should have delicious protein meals on the trail.

Chocolate Cherry Chia Seed Pudding, A Powerhouse Snack

Here is a vegan recipe that can pinch-hit for breakfast, a snack, or a dessert. It is easy to make and delicious:

Chocolate Cherry Chia Seed Pudding

1/3 cup black chia seeds

1 tbsp. VitaCherry powdered cherries

1 tsp. raw cacao powder

2 tbsp powdered soy milk

1 tsp raw sugar

8 ounces water + water to soak the seeds

Package chia seeds in one bag and the powders and sugar in another. On the trail, soak the chia seeds in 1/2 cup water for about 20 minutes. (Add water to the baggie and keep on trekking). When the chia seeds are soaked, add water to the fruit powder mix gradually, stirring well. Add the fruit powder to the chia seeds and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Enjoy.

Refried Beans on the Trail, with no Added Fat!!

Packing food for the trail that contains fat is a recipe for disaster, because fats go rancid quickly. Even an oxygen absorber will not prevent it. My son Andy and I experimented for days, making refried beans that have no added fat, but still have an authentic Mexican taste. We use a ton of spices (thank you Emeril for that!) but it makes a huge difference in the taste. These beans only need to be re-hydrated with water for a bean recipe you can use for burritos, dip, or to thicken soups and stews. Hint: Only use 1 tbsp dry bean powder to thicken a soup. It takes a lot of preparation to make, but the recipe is worth it. When portioning, use scant portions because 1/4 cup of dried powder makes a full adult serving. The bean packets weigh next to nothing, but sure provide a hearty meal. Here is the recipe:

A&L’s Dehydrated Refried Bean Powder
For Long-term Food Storage or hiking

Ingredients:
Large bag of pinto beans (very large)
2 very large onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. coarse black pepper or more
4 tbsp. Light Grey Celtic Salt
2 tbsp. savory or more
1 cup Julio’s Seasoning or MORE. Taste after blending

Sort and wash beans. Soak for 4 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse. Divide the beans into two bowls.

In a pressure cooker, cook the first portion of beans, filling the cooker to the fill line with water. Do not add any spices at this point. Turning the burner on high, wait until steam is released and the knob is rocking before you turn the heat down to 5. Once the heat is turned down to 5, cook the beans for 60 minutes. At the end of cooking time, release the pressure immediately by putting the pressure cooker in a sink of cold water and run water over the lid. Cook the second batch of beans.

While the second batch of beans is cooking, blend the beans and all their juices to make a paste. Add the spices, except for the pepper to one blender of beans and mix thoroughly. Add blended beans to a large stockpot and stir to incorporate all the spices into the beans. Sprinkle the pepper on top and stir in. In a skillet with 1 cup of water, cook onions until translucent.
When the second batch of beans is pressure-cooked, blend them and add to the mix. In one blender batch, pour all the onion and blend it in well. Stir all the blended beans together, mixing very well. Taste for seasoning.

On dehydrator Teflex sheets, spread 3 cups mixture on each sheet, smoothing. Dehydrate on high until crumbly. Dehydrate all the beans and then using a food processor or a Ninja, powder the beans**.

Seal the bean powder in serving-size bags. For each person ¼ bean powder reconstituted with ½ cup hot water is a serving.

After rehydrating, you can heat the beans in a skillet, and pour melted Velveeta over for a bean dip.

**It is very important to blend the dried bean mixture to a powder so it will rehydrate properly.

On the Trail: Top this refried bean mixture with Honeyville Cheddar Cheese shreds and a little picante. Delicious! Take 2 tbsp of Masa Trigo and you have a burrito.

Fresh Bread on the Trail

Hiking with fresh food is not a reasonable option unless you can consume that food in a day or two. Rhizopus stolonifer, aka bread mold can spoil bread very quickly. So how can you have bread on the trail? Simple. Masa Trigo… Make a flat bread. Two packed tablespoons of Masa Trigo in a small bag, turns into a large tortilla when a little water is added. Use your Nalgene bottle to roll it out on the back of one of your pans (I have Trangia bowls for that) and voila! you have fresh bread. Here is a breakfast recipe where a tortilla might come in handy:

Sausage & Egg Trail Burritos

2 packed tbsp. Masa Trigo flour tortilla mix + water for mixing
¼ cup Ova Easy egg crystals + 1/3 cup water for mixing
1 pkt. Each: salt & pepper
¼ cup Honeyville freeze dried sausage + ½ cup boiling water
2 1 tbsp. packages Honeyville freeze dried cheddar cheese.
2 1 ounce pkgs. Picante sauce

Mix tortilla mix with just enough water to make stiff, bendable, dough. Cover. Meanwhile add water to egg crystals, and water to sausage to reconstitute. Divide tortilla dough into two small balls and begin rolling them out into a 6” tortilla. Roll very thin. On a hot non-stick pan, bake tortillas until lightly browned. Set aside and keep warm. Pour extra water off sausage and put into skillet with 5 drops of oil. Stir, constantly over high heat until browned. Add eggs and allow them to set slightly before moving around in the pan to scramble. Add cooked eggs, sausage and 1 tbsp cheddar cheese to each tortilla. Top with salsa.