October 11, 2011

Food on the Trail, Part 2

I almost forgot to include The Bearbag in these pics!  This system of hanging our food in the air to keep it away from squirrels, coons, critters and the occasional bear, soon became obsolete.  I guess because we just got lazy.  Even though some hikers around us actually had their tents ripped and their food bags rifled through by a real live Snickers-addicted black bear, and one kid "Bearpack" had his pack stolen altogether, as the days of hiking piled on one another it became increasingly more important to just collapse into our sleeping bags after dinner than to spend time gazing upwards for that perfect bearbag branch.

Not only was bearbagging a camp chore that cut into our bedtime routine, it also would've seriously hindered the Poptart system that made mornings so much better.  For weeks we would get up in the morning and hop around in the cold morning air, fire up the stove, boil water, make oatmeal and instant coffee (with sugar and tiny shots of creamer that I would pocket from diners and gas stations) and then have to get back in the tent to change into our funky hiking clothes.  In retrospect it was insanely elaborate once we discovered that we could go to sleep with Poptarts in the mesh pocket of our tent, then wake up and eat breakfast together in our cozy warm camp clothes while checking the elevation map for that day's hike.

All that to say, we started with good intentions of directing bears elsewhere and ended by turning our yellow tent into a junk food beacon in the wild.

Happy demonstrates how if he was a bear, he would have no trouble reaching the foodbag of some section hikers at a campsite in Tennessee, a mother-daughter combo who spent their camp time braiding each other's hair.

Camping on Watauga Dam, and still faithful to bearbag.

I decided to feed peanut butter to a worm (or whatever this thing is), and it totally ate it!

One day we were hiking and this Hiker Feed sign sprang from among the bushes.  Someone named...Captain Dan, maybe? opened his home and his kitchen and his lawn to all the hikers passing through.  We sprawled our tents on his yard and feasted on biscuits and gravy the next morning.

This spontaneous, go-with-the-flow way of life is something that is addictive.  I understand why people come off the trail and crave these small departures that stack up to one massive adventure.  Most days you wake up and know you're going to hit however many summits, you need to find cell service on one of them to say hi to your mom, there will be a shelter with a privy in 7.2 miles, and you want to camp that night by a stream the guidebook shows as a good water source.  But what you can't plan are things like hiker feeds and trail magic, in which your predictable day of hiking is disrupted by hot pizza or cold beer or a ride to a movie theatre or a backyard full of burgers and a chance to stretch your soggy feet in the sun.

Brahma's idea of bringing his melted Snickers back to life in a cold stream.

Another great example of an unforeseen oasis in the middle of a "normal" day of hiking: stumbling upon a gas station that also has a grill and just so happens to churn out some killer burgers.

That's right.

This is me in a motel lobby in Daleville, VA, but it could be anywhere on the trail because we did this a hundred times.  Buy a bunch of groceries for however many days til the next town stop, yardsale them on a table somewhere and then try to pack them down into our foodbag.  The foodbag is so heavy you want to cry, so you pull the chocolate-covered pretzels out and start snacking...

Max Patch, North Carolina was a surreal day for us.  Not only did a former thru-hiker camp out on top of the bald and hand out pizza, set up a drum circle and offer organic produce to us '08 hikers, my sister and her husband also showed up and surprised us with a little visit since the trail runs not far from where they live.  We sat in their car and ate oranges.  Or...I should say - I ate the orange in their car and Brahma watched.

Our time in Buena Vista with Mary Lynn was one long series of amazing food, made even more amazing by the scarceness of such things on the trail as bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, pot roast and veggies, and fresh, unpasteurized cow's milk.  

Then there was this lavish spread of food put on by Carl and Scottie, some more friends that took an interest in blessing us with a feast and a hot shower.  Only they also had 600,000-thread count sheets on the guest bed.

1 comment:

  1. I love these posts. I loved following you and Dustan on the trail. This is great nostalgia for your readers, too! :)


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