Appalachian Trail Preparations: Food

One of the most time-consuming things about planning our thru-hike is the food preparation. Because we want to eat healthy, wholesome, vegan food, we will probably not be able to resupply by shopping in the trail towns, like many thru-hikers do. Therefore, we need to cook, dehydrate, and package all of our meals before we leave. We need over 200 dinners alone!

An added complication is that hiking 15-20 miles a day over rough terrain for six months gives your metabolism a little bit of a kick, so we are planning for at least 3,500-4,500 calories a day. So those 200 meals have to have a lot of calories, and larger than normal portions!

My parents have agreed to help us with our mail drops, which means they will send boxes of food to trail towns where the post office will hold them until we get there to pick them up. We will stay out on the trail for 5-7 days at a time, then hike out of the woods into a nearby town to pick up our supplies.

M, the cooking guru that he is, plans and cooks most of the meals. M slaves over a hot stove all day, creating delicious, bean-based entrees, which we cool, then put in our dehydrator for 12-18 hours, until it is completely dried out. Then we vacuum seal it. We will serve these entrees over instant brown rice, whole wheat noodles or whole wheat couscous - which we have tested and seem to be relatively fast-cooking.

Here is a list of what we've made so far:
3 Bean Chili
Red Beans and Rice
Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce
Lentil Curry
Spinach and Chickpea Curry
Cincinatti Chili
Refried Beans

For lunch we have white bean, black bean and chickpea hummus. For variety, we will probably also get some peanut butter. We will probably eat this spread on a tortilla or pita bread.

Breakfast is still up in the air. We haven't found a powdered soy milk that is palatable yet. I prefer Clif bars, but they are rather expensive at around a dollar a bar. I am probably going to buy some bulk granola from Frankferd Farms or in the trail towns along the way.

For snacks throughout the day, we will eat nuts and dried fruit and vegetables. For desert and an added calorie boost, we are going to buy a couple of cases of Peanut Chews and those sesame snacks - those are about the only high-cal vegan candy bars we've found so far.

To cook on the trail, we will use our can stoves, which M is also working on. These burn denatured alcohol, which is relatively easy to find in stores along the way, a good thing - since you can't put it in the mail!

So far, I think we have a pretty good variety of food, and we are about halfway done with our food preparations.


Musings on Motivation

I spent the last two and half years enmeshed in the intensive atmosphere of Teach For America. If you are not familiar with the culture of this organization, I can sum it up by telling you that one of the Core Values of TFA is "Relentless pursuit of results." Emphasis on the relentless. In some ways, this is a good thing. TFA corps members take on challenging classrooms. While the bureaucrats and the academics are still bickering over the best way to teach reading, TFA teachers say, I don't care what it takes, my students WILL read. And so they do.

I worked all the time, and there were always other corps members working more than me. Through exhaustion and failure, we just kept going.

I am currently reading Walking Home: A WOman's Pilgrimage On the Appalachian Trail. This is a story, as much about personal growth, as it is about walking 2,000 miles. Just when despair is about to set in, and sometimes after it already has, something or someone intervenes, boosting Kelly Winters' mood and motivating her to continue her journey.

I have always believed that inner strength is what keeps me motivated - that my own passion for my work and stubborn refusal to accept failure motivates me to keep going in the face of hardship. How will that play out when we begin hiking?

J Peezy - at it again

If you have not heard Steeler linebacker Joey Porter's apology for comments made to the media, please listen to it right away. I don't want to give it away.

I love this guy because he unabashedly insults other players, shamelessly pays the fines the NFL levies on him, plays hard on Sundays, and consistently makes big defensive plays. Actions speak louder than words. I wouldn't have him babysit my kids, but as a linebacker, he's great.

Joey Porter also has his own television show, which I caught for the first time last season.

We're already tagged...now the animals?

If I am any kind of activist, I am a food activist, with a rather selfish approach, as I mainly care about the quality of the products that I put into my body three to five times a day. This was one of the driving forces behind choosing a strict vegetarian diet (no dairy, no eggs, no fish - almost vegan were it not for my affinity for leather hiking boots).

Could tagging farm animals protect consumers? Small farm advocates say no, for two reasons. One, while registration into the system is free, the tags that go onto the animals will cost $2-3 a piece. Two, small farmers don't need a system to track sick animals back to their farm, because they pay attention to the animals while they are ON the farm, and keep them healthy.

Large chain grocery and discount stores buy questionable meat because they are generally not in the position to look their consumer in the eye. When your customer is a VISA credit card number and not a name and a face, you don't really care if you are selling them meat laced with feces. If your customer is your neighbor, you tend to be more careful, because there are a greater repercussions for selling them bad product.

We don't need tags, we need to know the people who grow our food.


Appalachian Trail Introduction

March 1, 2007 is our target start date for the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few pieces of introductory information for those of you not familiar with our endeavor.

The Appalachian Trail is approximately 2,165 miles long and runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

We are attempting a thru-hike, which means we intend to walk the entire length of the trail in one season. It will take us between 6 and 7 months.

Several thousand people usually start thru-hiking every spring, but only a few hundred make it. (One website estimates a 12% success rate.) In addition to the thru-hikers, many other people visit the trail each year for day hikes and section hikes.

We will each carry backpacks that contain everything we need to eat, sleep, stay clean (relatively), and stay dry and warm (again...relatively), in the outdoors. We will carry about 5-7 days of food at a time, and restock by hiking off the trail, into nearby towns. I want to keep my pack weight around 25 pounds and M may just slightly more.

At the beginning of our hike, we plan to walk about 10 miles a day. After a few weeks, we will walk between 15 and 20 miles a day.

I am doing a fair amount of reading, both about the logistics of a thru-hike, as well as the folklore, flora and fauna of the regions we will be passing through. My next post will include some recommended reading.