Why We Are Preparing 200+ Meals for Our Thru-Hike
When I first started reading Appalachian Trail blogs and books, I was surprised that many people said not to mail yourself resupply boxes.
“You can easily resupply on the trail so don’t mess with mailings,” they said.
“You might not like your prepared food after you’ve been hiking for a while,” they said.
“Don’t bother carrying a stove.”
I even heard a story of a hiker who ate only Snickers bars on his entire thru-hike.
Right now, we are deep into preparing and dehydrating over 200 meals for our AT thru-hike. Why are we making our own food when it’s easy to resupply on the trail? Simply put, we really enjoy our own home cooking. Oops, scratch that. We really enjoy Chris’s home cooking. We hope to exit the trail at least as healthy as when we started, and, since we’re older hikers, we can’t do that on a diet of ramen and Poptarts. And since I’m sensitive to salt, many packaged side dishes (a hiker mainstay) just won’t work for us.
It’s important to note that as oldsters, we have the financial resources and the time to carry out this plan. We recognize this privilege and know that younger hikers, students, hikers with caregiving duties, and all those on a tight budget need to do what works for them. In my younger days, a diet of ramen, Oreos, and mac & cheese would sound heavenly! At age 65, I definitely have different needs.
Our meal plan is based on a simple formula — sauce + carbohydrate + protein + veggies. The sauces are loosely modeled after foods Chris cooks often and we love, such as Italian marinara, Thai curry, and Mexican salsa verde. Carbohydrates could be rice, couscous, noodles, or pasta. Protein might include chicken, beans, or soy curds. Broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and mixed vegetables add color and vitamins.
Purchased powdered coconut milk, butter, milk, peanut butter as well as single-serving oil packets, siracha, and chili sauce are important additives. Mashed potato flakes and various nuts and seeds also add calories and flavor.
Some of our home favorites can be dehydrated with just a little tweaking. We’ve successfully dried and test-rehydrated kra prik chicken with kaffir lime leaves, pasta with meat sauce, and the base for eggs-in-purgatory.
Whole meal recipes from The Hungry Spork by Inga Aksamit and The Dehydrator Cookbook for Outdoor Adventurers by Julie Mosier provide variety and more complex flavors. Each week we’ll also eat a variety of purchased freeze-dried meals that we’ve taste-tested on our shakedown hikes. Of course, we’ll pig-out on zero days in town as well as stocking up on lunch foods such as tuna and chicken packets.
If for whatever reason we need to leave the trail without finishing, well, we’ll have a freezer-full of tasty meals that just need some boiling water to make a quick dinner. Or we’ll simply use them up on section hikes and shorter overnight trips. Although it’s a lot of work, I know we’ll appreciate the effort as we sit on a mountaintop eating our homemade chicken with roasted peppers and salsa verde. Yum!
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