PCT Food Review: Campo to Julian

Seventy-seven miles on the PCT in the books! I’m pain-free, feeling strong and enjoying what each new day brings! So here goes… PCT food review one week after being on trail. 

 Restaurants

Campo/Lake Morena

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We did not spend a significant amount of time exploring the area but the Oakshore Malt Shop appears to be the only location to purchase a hot meal. The potato and egg burrito was ENORMOUS and quite tasty! Several hikers in camp gave the bacon cheeseburger and fries a thumbs up!

Mount Laguna

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The Pine House Cafe and Tavern will be the first thing you see as you enter Mount Laguna. After putting in a twelve mile day in the heat, I couldn’t passing it up! Pine House is the only restaurant in Mount Laguna and has extended PCT season hours to include breakfast and lunch. Be sure to time your entry into Mount Laguna accordingly if you’re hoping for a fresh meal. The veggie frittata and cheese/fruit plate were great!

Julian

There’s no shortage of restaurant options in Julian! I did pick up the free slice of strawberry rhubarb pie offered by Mom’s Pie’s. Don’t pass this one up! My time in Julian was short so I’m not able to comment on other establishments.

Resupply Options

Campo/Lake Morena

With the exception of a gas station or two the Oakshore Malt Shop is the only resupply location. Typical thru hiker dry goods and toiletries are available. Was a bit surprised by the handful of Paleo Meals to Go found at the cash register. Otherwise, fresh produce is not available. There is a register for PCT hikers if you ask for it.

Mount Laguna

The Laguna Mountain Lodge and Store  is the only resupply option available with food limited primarily to hiker friendly dry goods such as ramen, Knorr sides, chips and tortillas. I was able to purchase a single serving container of yogurt and a brick of cheese with fresh produce not available. The food seemed a bit pricey but expected this to be the case for a small establishment. There is a register for PCT hikers at the end of the counter near the front door.

 Julian

Again, my time in Julian was limited but was told that the Julian Market and Deli carries many thru hiker friendly items. When I arrived on April 1st, the Julian Gold Rush Days festival was in full swing with the town being quite busy. Keep this in mind in future years as lodging was limited and quite expensive. Thru hiker rates quoted in Yogi’s book were not honored.

Water Report

Yellow Rose Spring camping area at Kitchen Creek

I have made an attempt to post the availability of water along the trail as pics are posted to my Instagram account but highly recommend using the PCT Water Report google sheet. The Guthook’s app has also proven to be quite helpful. Generally speaking, I’ve never carried more than two liters of water at a time. My practice is to keep one full liter bladder in my pack and carry a one liter Smartwater bottle with a Sawyer Squeeze  attached. When passing a water source, I quickly refill the Smartwater bottle with dirty water and drink from the filter as if it were a straw. No need to spend time filtering water into a clean bottle. This method has reduced my pack weight substantially! I do recommend purchasing spare o-rings for the Sawyer Squeeze as I’ve found that they fall out and/or deteriorate quickly. They can be purchased at a local hardware store.

Meal Planning and Hiking Performance

This is what you’ve all been waiting for!

As expected, I continue to fine tune my total caloric intake with most of the homemade meals prepared being great successes! Talk on the trail is definitely food focused as mentioned in numerous thru hiking forums, books and blog posts. The consensus among hikers thus far as been that lack of appetite is concerning and effecting hiking performance for some. I have yet to meet a hiker that has consumed 100% of the food packed, including myself. Most hikers freezer bag cook and pack tortillas, Knorr pasta or rice sides, peanut butter, trail mix and pop-tarts. Gasp! Many share that they wish they could consume healthier meal options.

Hiking performance and timing of meals: 

Based on my sensitivity to inadequate caloric intake, I quickly learned after bonking on the morning of day three that I have to force myself to eat even when not hungry. Timing of the breakfast meal plays a huge part in how I feel in the morning. If I wait to eat breakfast with others, that’s too late and it takes several hours for me to recover fully from hitting the “low”. Fine tuning my snack regimen has also proven to be tricky as I initially hoped to rely on hunger which failed miserably. Scheduled 150 calorie snack breaks, much like my trail running fueling strategy, seems to be working well. Caloric content of meals has been dialed in to roughly 1000 calories each in order for me to feel the best. This might consist of one of the following:

  • One 1000+ calorie meal
  • Lower calorie meal and a beverage
  • Leftovers from the previous meal with additional snack items meeting the 1000 calorie goal.
Daily intake:
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Four day food supply picked up in Mount Laguna

Intake has varied significantly from as little as 1600 calories to as much as 4500 calories. This correlates mostly with the amount of time spent on trail and mileage covered in a single day. As daily mileage continues to increase, I expect my intake to be more consistent with the 5000 calorie goal. After spending one week on the trail, a two day supply of food remains in my pack due to lack of appetite and meals consumed in town.

Meal successes and failures:

For the most part, all of the meals have rehydrated well as much time was spent fine tuning the recipes prior to my trek. This hasn’t been the case for all hikers on trail. I attempted to rehydrate a bean dip that was offered to me. Unfortunately, the dip was the consistency of a broth-based soup and essentially inedible. Money and calories down the drain! An inadequate amount of olive oil was packed in my daily menu bags on a few occasions with the meals being inedible or less desirable. This will be easily remedied by my resupply help adding more oil to those daily meal bags prior to shipping in the future.

Favorite meals:

Tri-berry granola – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, shredded coconut and cashews with NIDO (whole milk powder) for a total of 1100 calories!

Granola with milk is my go to breakfast in the morning. I can consume it immediately after waking up without leaving the tent with the goal of preventing the morning low. This will not be the case later on as I do not endorse eating in camp while in bear country. For now, this seems to be working well. When purchasing meals in town, fruit and vegetables have been my go to as I miss fresh produce the most.

Preferred cooking method:

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I primarily cold soak meals which is new for me as there are days that I just don’t feel like cooking. Adding cold water to the lunch meal before leaving camp in the morning works great! Hot beverages, however, have been truly enjoyed on cold mornings and nights. In one instance, I was hunkered down in an outhouse as a way to hide from 80 mph winds. Drinking hot spiced vanilla milk made the night a little better.

Flavor preferences and dislikes:

No significant changes noted thus far. My intake is purely based on cravings at the time versus the meal plan that was designed for the day. Due to the plethora of water available this year, I do not focus on choosing meals based on water required for meal prep as expected. Other hikers have shared that they consume the heaviest meals first, even if it’s not something they desire at the time, to lighten the load. Food plays such a role in my overall well being that I haven’t practiced this method. Maybe I will in the future when ten day hauls become more of a concern.

Personal Experiences and Growth

The California sunshine, meeting new thru hikers, conversing with the locals and the beauty of the trail itself are everything I dreamed the PCT to be. Although the day before starting my trek was quite emotional, each day since has been nothing but a wonderful experience. The most notable occurrence since starting the trip is my newly found ability to stop and fully take in my surroundings. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the trek, my strategy is to approach each day as a day hike. So far, so good! Daily mileage continues to build with no aches or pains to report. With ongoing fine tuning of my meal planning strategy, I foresee Manning Park in my not so distant future.

Until next time…

Consider following my Instagram account as daily details about homemade meals consumed and how I’m feeling physically are posted.

 

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Comments 2

  • Nicole : Apr 3rd

    Nice, well rounded article Aaron. Looking forward to seeing more (as you are able!) from your trek.

    Reply
  • Cynthia Waldman : Apr 14th

    I really enjoyed meeting you and talking to you in Palm Springs. I learned so much from our chat. I wish you the best on your trek and with your business afterward. I posted the picture I took of you on Instagram and tagged you.

    All the best,

    Cynthia

    Reply

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