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Granite & Terrapin Flyer
Begins: Apr 15, 2010
Date: Sat, Feb 6th, 2010
Entry Visits: 2,376
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Granite and I are hanging around the house with Segue (AT Pine Grove Furnace - Cornwall 2007, AT Bear Mt. to Katahdin 2008, AT Springer - Harper's Ferry 2009, 75 remaining miles pending) who has come up to visit from NJ for the weekend. We're getting food ready, talking about and ordering gear, thinking about ordering our plane tickets, and generally getting ourselves all worked up about starting our hike. Segue's caught the fever and has started preparing on his own, so we're comparing notes and making plans. We met Segue-To-Maine in New Jersey on our 2007 AT thru-hike, and a lifelong friendship ensued. Better even than the memories are the friends we make along the way - just one more unexpected reward from long-distance hiking.
We have about 55 days to get our necessities into approximately 25 food mail-drop boxes, a rotating gear pile for occasional gear changes, and two cubic feet apiece of pack space. Oh, and pack our 1000 square foot apartment's contents into a storage pod by March 31st. Erik has been cooking every day, loading the dehydrator trays, and vacuum sealing meals for 5 1/2 months worth of dinners. This is an elaborate and unnecessary process. We could rely on the lightweight food we could purchase from grocery stores along the way, but we'd rather eat homemade shepherd's pie than Lipton Noodles, so we feel that the nutritional boost will be worth all the effort and planning. We have 110 meals completed, and 40 to go. Our menu so far consists of the shepherd's pie mentioned above, chili, chicken pot pie, beef & barley stew, beef & bean burrito, white bean stew, turkey lentil dal, and pork fried rice. We're thinking about a few more to increase the variety.
The process involves coming up with what is essentially a one-dish meal, working out a recipe that we like, and cooking it up in 3-5 gallon batches. The resulting glop is spread on fruit roll-up trays in our dehydrators, then slowly dried over 48 hours. The slabs of caked dry food are dumped into a big kettle and broken up into packable stuff with a potato masher. We then measure out 200-300 grams of it (depending on the meal) and shrink wrap it with our vacuum sealing machine. These meals should keep for at least a year. You can see some of the sequence in the five photo links in the upper right hand corner of this entry.
We're using ground beef, turkey, or sausage in some cases. The stew beef and the shredded chicken we've used in other dishes needed to be chopped finely in our food processor before mixing in. All the veggies are diced by the food processor as well. The small size allows for faster and more thorough dehydration and rehydration. All these meals will be cooked on our single burner backpacking stove so short cooking times will save fuel and we'll have shorter wait times for the all important full belly at the end of the day. The prospect of having home-cooked meals with real meat and vegetables is making us actually look forward to our trail meals. As an example, our Chicken Pot Pie contains: shredded chicken, chicken broth, butter, flour, milk, sherry, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, carrots, onions, celery, peas, parsley, rutabaga, and broccoli. We'll cook up a half batch of Bisquick biscuit mix as a mock crust on the trail. Most of our other meals already contain grains, with the exception of the shepherd's pie, which we'll combine with instant mashed potatoes cooked in a separate pot. For a comparison, here's a link to the alternative we used for our AT thru hikes: http://www.amazon.com/Lipton-Noodles-Stroganoff-4-Ounce-Packages/dp/B00099XOSC#nutrition-facts If you've examined the ingredient list for the Lipton Noodle dishes, you might see why we felt malnourished and unreasonably fatigued after five months of such fare. That's why we're so invested in making our food ahead of time and planning our mail drops.
Mail drops are resupply packages. We'll prepare boxes to cover 5-7 day stretches, on average. These will be mailed to post offices in towns along the trail, general delivery. The postmasters are accustomed to hikers needs and will hold packages for up to three months. We'll go to towns to pick up our food, supplement with food from local grocery stores, take showers, do laundry, catch up on email, and perhaps spend the night in a soft bed. Many towns on the trail have hostels that are specifically geared toward the PCT thru-hiking community. Some local residents are so enthusiastic that they generously give time and assistance to folks along the way, whether it be a ride to the store, a free meal, or assistance with gear repair. They are aptly named Trail Angels. Trail Angels are responsible for supplying water caches for hikers in Southern California, where streams are few and far between. Many of these folks are people who've hiked before, or dream of hiking in the future, and they're all part of the fluid trail community.
Time to get back to gear discussions. Look for our gear list as it is gradually updated.
Granite & Terrapin Flyer
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org
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