Monday, April 21, 2014

Snacks to Fuel a Hike

Backpackers and food go together. Always. As I plan for my John Muir Trail hike, I have been dreaming about all the food I'm going to eat while dreading the weight adding to my pack and the limited space in my canister.

My plan is simple: bring the highest calorie to weight ratio foods that I'll actually want to eat. I have decided to dehydrate my own meals to be able to control what's in my dinners. I am going to bring a variety of foods to eat throughout the day so I can get up those passes!

For "lunch" I will be eating either a pro bar or some type of peanut butter mixture on tortilla. I will be trying Joe's Ultralight Moose Goo soon and letting you know how that is! I will spend time between breakfast, lunch, and dinner snacking. I will be making my favorite trail mix combo and also eating some of the snacks pictured above.

I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a dietitian. I know what works for me and hope this will get you get you to think about a wider option of food out there!

The snacks I bring are high in nutritional value for their weight, require NO cooking, and can be eaten on the go.

Trail bars:

Look for bars that are calorie dense and high in nutrition. Also find bars you like! Would you pack it for work? I don't like PowerBars so they don't come with me on the trail. Many people have to push themselves to eat after long days on the trail so make things easier on yourself.  Usually the better energy bars are expensive, but worth it, in my opinion. I will be taking Pro Bars, Lara Bars (their Uber line is amazing!) Raw Revolution, Kind, and for my sweet tooth- Sunspire Coconut Bars. These bars natural ingredients, less sugar than some of the more traditional bars and have good nutritional value. The Pro Bars and Organic Vegan Bars are 125 calories per ounce.

Pro Bar Meal (Superfruit Slam)

Calories per ounce: 131
Carbohydrates: 44 grams
Total Fat: 20 grams
Protein: 10 grams

Kind Bar (Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein)

Calories per ounce: 141
Carbohydrates: 17 grams
Total Fat: 13 grams
Protein: 7 grams

 Larabar Uber (Bananas Foster)

Calories per ounce: 163
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Total Fat: 17 grams
Protein: 4 grams

Raw Revolution (Chocolate Coconut Bliss)

Calories per ounce: 134
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Total Fat: 16 grams
Protein: 7 grams

Sunspire Coconut

Calories per ounce: 147
Carbohydrates: 27 grams
Total Fat: 15 grams
Protein: 2 grams

I will also be taking some of the following goodies:

Beef Jerky:

Vermont Real Sticks

These are individually packaged BBQ flavored sticks satisfy my "real food" fix. I will be craving food that has not been dehydrated or freeze dried and these will do the trick. This will also be the only meat I'll be eating on the trail (I'll have tuna too) as I will not be dehydrating my own meat for dinners. The sticks are free of antibiotics or preservatives and have very few ingredients. They are also made in Vermont!

 Dried fruit:

Dried fruit adds fiber, minerals, and vitamins to your diet. They also add much needed variety. They are lower in calories per ounce (around 80 calories per ounce) but are so good paired with trail mix or just to break up your bar eating day. My favorite dried fruits to take are cranberries, mangoes, apples, and apricots. I'm also a fan of fruit leathers. Just make sure you don't over do it on dried fruit or you'll upset your digestion.

Trail mix:

Trail mix is a hiking staple, but try to mix it up! Also, choose the nuts you use in trail mix carefully. Try for the most nutritionally rich, calorie dense variety! I just bought a few bags of almonds, pecans, and walnuts at Trader Joe's that I will be using to make some trail mix along with some m&ms.

Nutritional Content of Common Nuts (1 oz.)

Nutrients per 1 oz. (weight)
Nut VarietyApprox # of nutsCalories (kcal)Protein (g)Total Fat (g)Saturated Fat (g)Mono-
ed Fat (g)
ed Fat (g)
Carbs (g)Fiber (g)
Brazil Nuts619041947632
Macadamia Nuts112002223.5170.542
Pecans19 (halves)200320212643
Pine Nuts1651904201.55.51041
Walnuts14 (halves)1904181.52.51342

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bushwhackin' and Bear Trackin' on Mount Nancy (NEHH)

I decided to spend this year working on the New England Hundred Highest list as I recently finished the New England 67 peaks. Those peaks count toward this list so I don't have a ton to do, especially since I have done a few of the NEHH peaks before.

I had the day off because it was Good Friday so I took advantage of it and headed North! What better time to do a bushwhack then in late April?

The Nancy Pond Trailhead is less than two miles from Sawyer River Road on the left side of 302.

As soon as I arrived at the trailhead I knew it would be an interesting hike. The mucky puddle with snow at that elevation was evidence that I would need a variety of gear. At the base, it was in the high 30s, but I would need some winter gear like snowshoes.

The crossings were very difficult due to the amount of snow melt. Each time I had to carefully evaluate the route I would take and sometimes have to trace my steps. Accompanying the raging water was ice covered rocks. It was a fun challenge!

 The first two miles of the hike are moderate because it is an old logging road and will be easy when the snow melts. As of now, you have to content with soft snow, monorail hiking, and mud.

After the trail begins to climb steadily, with one very steep section in the middle.

Just a little blowdown...

The trail conditions were not ideal in any sense, but the weather was amazing. I enjoyed blue skies and the slightest breeze.

After I entered the Nancy Brook camping area, I stumbled upon some bear tracks. I was hiking solo so I walked along quietly, unsure if I would see a bear. Unfortunately I didn't, but the prints were huge!


I wore my trail runners and had my snowshoes on for part of the hike. I didn't want to wear them for the crossings and at times I postholed. We'll need a few more weeks for the snow to melt.

There was a lot of interesting ice formations hiking between the rocks.

Nancy Pond

Though Mount Nancy is wooded, the views from Nancy Pond and Norcross Pond are spectacular!

Norcross Pond

Soon after Norcross Pond, there is a sign for an "unmaintained path". I have only done a few bushwhacks, but this was definitely one of the easiest paths to find. The 'whack is more of a herd path, being not too difficult to follow.


On the walk out, I spotted the remains of "Lucy's Mill". Mount Nancy is definitely a hike I'd recommend to those looking to do something a little different. I will probably take a hike out to the ponds and back in the summer.

While Mt Nancy is not a 4k, it sits just below the magic number at 3,926 feet, but has a gain of just over 3,000 feet! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

JMT Pre Hike FAQs

I get asked a lot of questions about hiking the John Muir Trail. A lot. Fortunately I love talking about hiking and could do so for hours! This post will include many of the questions I am asked as I prepare for the JMT. Being on the East Coast I encounter a lot of people (hikers included) that don't know anything about the JMT. I've been asked some really wonderful questions and others that make my laugh for various reasons. Being a female, I get asked many questions that make me want to bash my head against a wall, but I will address those questions in a separate post.

Have a question I didn't discuss? Leave a comment and I'll add it to this post!

Where are you hiking?

In short, I am hiking the John Muir Trail, a 211 mile footpath located in California. Parts of the trail overlap with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) that runs from Mexico to Canada. Some of the more well known (and gorgeous) areas the trail runs through include Yosemite, John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, and ends atop the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney.

What about bears? 

I always know what people mean by this, but I think it's funny that people always ask the question this way. In short, there are bears. I am not worried about them as I will store my food and other smelly items like toothpaste in a bear canister. I will avoid camping in areas known to attract bears and will give them space if I see one.

And mountain lions?

Same as above. There have been no reported deaths on the JMT. There are Bobcats sightings in the White Mountains, but no one has freaked out about those...yet. 

Are you carrying a gun?

If I were to carry a gun relative to my pack weight, it would have to be one of those toy water guns you buy at the dollar store. I don't own a gun in the real world and I'm not sure what I'd do with it on a trail! I will also not be carrying pepper spray, bear spray, large knives (I'll have a small swiss army knife) or a bow and arrow in case anyone is wondering.

What will you eat?

I am in the process of dehydrating my own meals for dinners. I will eat mainly oatmeal or granola in the morning and lots of small meals throughout the day to stay properly nourished. I will be adding more of my meal prep, but here's my first meal: dehydrated chili

What are you doing about water?

Drinking a ton of it! There is so much water along the JMT that I won't have an issue. I made an inline filtering system using a Sawyer Mini to make quenching my thirst even easier.

How much toilet paper are you bringing?

None! There are a number of reasons for this including having to pack out toilet paper (didn't think about that part, did you?) I will be using a pee rag and most likely wet wipes for poop. I will say the word poop. My reasoning? Just read the book Everybody Poops and you'll understand. Now that you've read the word poop four times, I think we can move on :) I will be writing more about hygiene and female related questions on a separate post.

You're going by yourself? Why??

Yes. I really enjoy hiking with others, but really like hiking solo as well. I can choose to hike with others when the opportunity arises on the trail, but I can have the freedom of hiking by myself as much as I want. I can start as early as I want, take 40 minutes to take one decent photo, hike further or set up camp early, and no one has a say but me.

Finding a partner with enough experience, the right gear, vacation time, and get the same permit is tough. I also would have to find someone who hikes at the same pace as me as well as someone I could stand for over two weeks. It's a lot to think about. I think I'll be able to put up with myself for that time.

Made by another hiker. Pretty accurate!

So you're not hiking with your fiancé?

I will be! We will be flying into California the week before my hike and we will head to some beautiful parts of California, including some trails! He will then see me off at the trailhead and catch his flight home. It's my dream to hike the John Muir Trail and I'm not forcing it on anyone else. He isn't as obsessed as I am about hiking and I would still like to get married after all!

How many miles are you hiking each day?

I will have some variety, but I will average 14 miles per day. I have a couple 10/11 mile days and a couple 17/18 mile days which is based on the terrain, altitude gain, and pack weight. Check out my proposed itinerary here.

Will you see anyone else?

Definitely. There is a permit system to limit the amount of hikers in certain areas and I will be hiking in wilderness areas, but there are plenty of people who will be hiking the trail. It is hard to say for certain, but I may see dozens of people one day, but not a soul the next. Hiking North to South, which is the more popular route, I would most likely run into someone if I stopped long enough. 

What if you get hurt?

I am trained in Wilderness First Aid and have been hiking long enough to take care of the small issues. I will have a small first aid kit with me and know what to do in situations that could be dangerous such as thunderstorms. If I encounter a more serious situation, I will be carrying a Spot GPS messenger which I can use to send an SOS for emergency rescue.

What about men?

Being a woman, many people automatically think I should be worried about men on the trail. I'm more worried about Marmots stealing my food. I've heard many times hiking in the Whites, "There are no assholes above 4000 feet." While I have seen the rare miserable person being dragged up a mountain, once you get away from the trailheads and hordes to people, you'll be fine. No one is going to get a permit to hike the JMT, kill you, put in a whole lot of effort to get rid of the body, and then hike back into town. Alleys are way easier.

Where will you sleep?

I have a Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis tarp I will be sleeping in every night on the trail. I may occasionally sleep under the stars!

Why the JMT?

I have always wanted to hike a long distance trail and as of now a 2000+ mile journey is not in the picture. I was contemplating this trail or the Long Trail in Vermont. Having time this summer I decided I would make the trek to California because Vermont is so close to me that I could always section hike the Long Trail. I looked at hundreds of photos of the JMT as well as watched documentaries including Mile...Mile and a Half which was my final push to do it!

Photo credit: The Muir Project

Monday, April 7, 2014

Freezer Bag Cooking: Chili

When it comes to eating on the trail, there are a thousand ways to do it. You could go minimalist and pack only no-cook meals, stock up on Mountain House pouches, or you could be stuck doing dishes. Another option is called freezer bag cooking (FBC) where you dehydrate your own food and cook them in freezer bags. You simply measure out the water you'll need, bring it to almost a boil, pour it in the bag, and let it rehydrate.

I was meeting up with a few gals that will also be doing the JMT this summer and we brought some meals to try out. Not having made a FBC meal before, I don't have everything you might need like a cozy for efficiently re-hydrating your meal.

I have a Nesco Dehydrator and decided to try out making a vegetarian chili. I cut out parchment paper to size (I cut it a little smaller to leave some space for air around the perimeter) and cut a hole in the center. I read some people use a non-stick spray, but I didn't and I had no issues.

I poured on the chili and spread it out so it was even. I used put one serving on the tray. I set the dehydrator to 135 degrees and came back seven hours later.

I gave it another 30 minutes as the corn was not 100% dry. I was able to lift off most of it in small sections and then I crumbled it in the bag. The parchment paper was completely free of food and can be reused.

I then put the contents in a freezer bag, broke up the pieces, and then labeled the bag. I just wrote that it was veggie chili, one serving, and to add one cup of water. It looks like cereal (with corn...) if you look quickly!

We all tried the chili and it was a winner. It rehydrated well and had a nice kick to it. I'll definitely be making it for the trail!

I did notice the beans got a little mashed in the process, but it tasted really good. I was a little uncertain about how the FBC would turn out, but I love that I can have a say in the ingredients and nutritional value of the food I will be eating on the trail.

After our get together, I stopped at Trader Joe's and got a couple meals I'm going to try out. I got a Vegetable Biryani meal which is great and Japanese style fried rice with veggies that was highly recommended. I will also be trying some spaghetti and veggies and quinoa. I love my veggies and will most likely crave them on the trail.

I am planning on doing mostly oatmeal or granola in the morning. Ann gave me some powdered milk to try out so I will be doing that soon! I love mixing in fruits and nuts into my granola so I will get creative for the trail.

Lunch will consist of no cook snacks as I will be eating throughout the day. I will add a post of my various lunch options I plan on packing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LighterPack: Gear List Builder

To all the over planners, spreadsheet nerds, and gram weenies: welcome.

I have been using the John Muir Trail as an excellent excuse to buy new gear. I've been searching the web for the lightest, yet efficient gear (without breaking the bank!) and am well on my way to having everything I need for the trail this summer.

Along the way, I found LighterPack. I use an excel spreadsheet to create gear lists. I also make spreadsheets for practically everything, but I discovered I could have a spreadsheet with photos and a pie chart!

LighterPack is a free web based program where you can list all your gear for a specific trip.

You manually add in the categories, each item, its description, and weight. You can choose from a variety of measurements (pounds, ounces, grams, etc) and then have it totaled.

I love the fact that you upload your own photos and can click the shirt icon to add it to the "always worn" category. It will then separate those items from your pack weight.

The pie chart above is an easy visual to see what you carry the most of. My bear canister weighs so much! I am not completely done with my packing list, but it's interesting to see the options as I go.

You can also click on each category and it will also visually show you which item weighs the most. For example, in my "sleep system" category, my Western Mountaineering bag and Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis shelter are my two biggest items, but the total for that category is just over three pounds.

Do you have a planning tool that you love? Share it in the comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mountains Are Calling: Songs on my hiking playlist

If I'm using my GoPro on a hike, I spend time choosing a song that captures my adventure. I decided since I will be hiking the John Muir Trail solo that I will take an mp3 player to use occasionally on long stretches or at night in my tent. Below is a sample of some of the songs I will include. They are either songs that I associate with being outside or are just a lot of fun to listen to.  


What would you include on your hiking soundtrack? Leave a comment below!



Eddie Vedder: Tuolumne


Radical Face: Welcome Home

The Tallest Man on Earth: Wild Hunt




 Grizzly Bear: Ready, Able




Fleet Foxes: Blue Ridge Mountains



Postal Service: Such Great Heights


Radical Face: The Mute

Fitz and the Tantrums: The Walker 



Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home



Eddie Vedder: Hard Sun 



Portugal the Man: Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue

M83: Midnight City


The Mountain Goats: Tallahassee

Of Monsters and Men: Mountain Sound

Sigor Ros: Saeglopur

Woods: Pushing Only's

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Start of Spring: Trail Breaking on Isolation

I was just on Isolation this January, but I needed to go back. I am working on hiking the NH 4ks in each season and needed a little revenge. Last time I missed the bushwhack and had to try for it again. The Rocky Branch Trail is the only trail I know of that is shorter in winter because of the Engine Hill Bushwhack. Once the snow melts, the 'whack becomes muddy and seldom used by hikers.

I started up the trail about 8:45 with my snowshoes on. I knew I would wear them the whole day as we just got a storm the other day and no recent trail reports had been posted since then. I was lucky, though, as Random Group of Hikers were on the trail that day with a group of nine.

I was on a mission to make it to the Engine Hill Bushwhack this time. With a group ahead I knew it would be extremely difficult to miss, but it still felt further in than I remembered!

Rocky Branch is a moderately steep trail. It never gets terribly steep, but doesn't give you too many breaks either! There are a couple blowdowns, but none that you can't duck under!

Once you make it to the Dry River Wilderness sign, you are almost at the turn for Engine Hill. There was a lot of snow accumulation between January to March!

I made it! I was so happy to see this tree. I had heard from others that this year's route wasn't much shorter than sticking to Rocky Branch, but it does bypass the major stream crossings and it is a gorgeous area!

Hiking through the birch glades was glorious! I didn't think it could get any prettier, but then it started snowing!

About halfway up the 'whack we ran into Random Group of Hikers. Michael was actually making his way under a blowdown that you have to crawl under. From the start of the trail to the bushwhack I didn't have to do any major trail breaking. I made sure to even out the trail with each step I took. After a little more hiking on Engine Hill, we came to the intersection of Davis Path. There was at least a foot of new snow up there and it was difficult to determine which left we had to take. Monica checked it out on her GPS and we made the decision. We were definitely on Davis Path now.

Once you reach Davis Path from the bushwhack, the summit is not very far. Approaching the summit you will run into a steep but brushy section. We made a couple of attempts at finding the right path. Two hikers went up one path and the rest of us headed a little further down to try another approach. The ascent was difficult in January, but with at least a foot of new snow, finding the right route was only half the battle.

Some left their packs to make the climb up easier. I kept my pack on and found a section that had some study roots and trees. I threw my treeking poles up and pulled myself up the slope.

Once atop, we took a quick break as it was cold and we had a long trek back to our cars.
I don't know him ;)

 On the descent we headed back to Engine Hill and finished off with Rocky Branch. Going through the birch glades there were wind gusts so strong you had to brace yourself as it would kick up all the new snow. About halfway through the bushwhack, me knee started to hurt from my injury on my Wildcats/Carter Dome hike. At first it was just a little sore and I thought it was tired after a long hike. It felt fine on Owl's Head last weekend so I thought I was good to go. About a mile or so from the end, I was in immense pain. Every few steps it would feel like a knife was cutting into the bottom of my kneecap. I took it slow and used my poles. Shahzad was a lifesaver on this hike. The snow was too soft to sled down and my knee hurt the most on the steep descents. We used my little butt sled and connected a gear tie to the loop of his trekking pole and he pulled me on the steeper sections. Standing up and down was painful, but it helped me with the worst sections. I've never felt so much pain in my knee. Off to the doctors I'll go! We finished at 6:20 which was over an hour later than I expected to be done. With the trailbreaking and route finding on Davis Path and my knee, it made for a long day. I made it, though! One more hike on Isolation and I'll have done it in all four seasons! Next time I'll be revisiting Glen Boulder.