Alaskan Bushcraft Cooking on the Trail
When you picture the ideal backpacker meal, what comes to mind? Some of you might manifest an avocado hummus wrap while others jump to the classic, yet questionable, ramen bomb.
Well, my friends, I’m here to place your traveling taste buds on a journey. Visualize Alaskan salmon and moose as your choice of protein, and fresh garden-grown vegetables for nutrients. Your body would have the strength to take that next step on the trail.
I met Jenn and Lyle early in my AT journey. They were at Gooch Mountain Shelter with a large crowd from the bubble. I spotted their friendly demeanor early in the evening. Blaze and I were fortunate enough to camp with them the following night. We bonded over old songs, tales from our homes, and that staple that holds all hikers together: food. That’s when we saw what food they had prepared for their thru-hike:
- Pork taco mixes
- Salmon Curry
- Salmon alfredo
- Moose lentil soup
- Moose spaghetti with squash
- Veggie soup with ham
- Moose jerky
- Moose stew
This is just a sampling of the deliciousness they had waiting in their resupply boxes. Every dish had been dehydrated and stocked with vegetables. I was blown away. Lyle handed me a stick of moose jerky and I was truly impressed. Jenn said it had taken her nearly a year to prepare all this food for their thru-hike.
Why this method?
I asked Jenn why they chose to go with home-grown veggies, meat they’d hunted themselves, and resupply boxes exclusively. She said the food is better quality this way. Store bought meals like Backpacker Pantry have unnecessary amounts of sodium and other ingredients. With this method, Jenn and Lyle can control the nutritional content of their food. Since they have access to protein-dense food like salmon and moose, it makes sense to utilize it.
Another unique facet to their setup is Jenn and Lyle’s twig stove. I watched Jenn and Lyle pile tiny twigs in this can to cook their moose stew for dinner. This was indeed a team effort. But Jenn says that it has gotten easier with practice.
They chose the twig stove to use fewer fuel canisters. The twig stove utilizes the resources around them (twigs) and cuts down the use of propane canisters, making it better for the environment. This also is a huge benefit for their budget. Jenn says they simply scoop up dry leaves and sticks at the campsites and keep them in a little Ikea bag for when they need them. Thus Lyle has now earned the trail name Twigs.
Jenn and Lyle live in Anchorage, AK. Jenn is a retired ICU nurse and Lyle is a retired oil field worker. They spend their free time working in the garden, taking care of chickens, and (of course) hiking.
Like everyone else, Jenn and Lyle’s thru-hike has not been all sunshine and salmon. Rain and cold has gotten to them more than once or twice. Lyle threw his back out at Gooch Mountain Shelter. And Jenn is struggling with plantar fasciitis, like so many other hikers.
Jenn says she really appreciates the number of people who keep encouraging them to keep going. As people, we can really underestimate the power of a team of cheerleaders when we’re doing something like a thru-hike. Trail magic has been a great motivator for them. Jenn also appreciates the camaraderie in the hiker community seen day after day.
We’re all going through the same experiences and we all want each other to succeed, enjoy it, and support each other. It’s a powerful feeling for sure.
Why the AT?
Jenn said they chose the AT because they heard about it in their 20’s. It has been a long-term goal of theirs and they are finally doing it!
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Great post. Most long distance hikers give in to the craving for junk foods. Often it comes down to this phrase: “My body will burn it off.” But no. Full stop. That’s not how metabolism works. Don’t take it from me. Do your own research. And listen to Jenn & Lyle. They’re on to something. Perhaps with a little too much moose protein (there should be more vegetable sources of protein). But they’re still basically on the right track. Don’t be that thru hiker who completes the trail with a massive sugar addiction that carries over to post-trail life and leads to post trail depression, diabetes, gout, and misery. Just a little well meaning advice from a successful triple crowner. Happy Trails!
Your great best of luck to you you can do it all it’s just a few hills you got this !!
When I was backpacking in the Andes I was invited to a Peruvian picnic where the locals cooked a pot of papas con queso, potatoes and cheese, with a few other vegetables thrown in over the tiniest twig fire I ever saw. The woman cut the vegies very small and stirred the pot the whole time. The man fanned the fire with his hat all through the process. I foraged for twigs and the pickings were really slim. Whenever I found a few the man broke them down very small and fed them to the tiny flame. It was a group effort, slow food, and it was one of the best meals I can recall. They didn’t even have a stove. Only a few rocks, artfully placed to hold the pot. There was no forest fire danger because there was no forest.
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