Thursday, November 17, 2016

Notes From The Appalachian Trail Part 8: Eating Right..Sort of

One thing I learned way before we left on this trip, and that was it required a lot of preparation. Just the thought of walking off into the wilderness, bringing everything you could possibly need, in a area where the weather predictions were notoriously incorrect, was a little daunting. How much clothing would I need to stay warm? How much water did I need to carry? And most importantly, how do I make sure that I won't starve to death?

The good news was I had seasoned veteran hikers to help me figure all of this out, and for the most part, those two guys were right on. The exception was the food part which was actually a little sketchy for my liking. I'm bigger than either Paul or Chase and normally have a larger appetite, so when Paul told me I only needed 2lbs of food per day and gave me the list of food to bring, I was already thinking about doubling that list. Paul also smokes, and I remember from my old days of smoking, if you offer a smoker a candy bar or a cigarette, they will take the cigarette every single time. Paul was making sure he had enough smokes while I was making sure I had enough food.

Paul and Chase own a vending machine business, so I was a little suspicious when I noticed that the food shopping list had things like Pop Tarts, Snickers bars, Oreos, and Cheezits. I questioned this and was told that through research they had found that these foods provided the proper nutrition while being easy to pack and weighed little. We were going to have a whole menu of food that basically was stuff that I never eat at home. It didn't sound awful, eat junk food and lose weight? Who would turn that down?
On my side, I had my wife, the Whole Food lover and one that knows how to make healthy stuff taste good. She made up a big supply of trail mix that would have cost over $20 a lb just for the ingredients. That trail mix ended up tasting better than any bag of cheezits ever eaten. Unfortunately, I ended up having to share it with my other two companions.

Another mainstay of our diet was Mountain House freeze-dried dinners, which by the way, were excellent, although an expensive way to go. For about $7 a bag (you can get them in the camping section of Walmart), I had expected to add hot water to a bag of powder, and then eat some kind of soupy mixture that tasted like lasagna. The real experience was that it totally WAS lasagna, just a little bit less than I wanted, but at $7 a bag, one was all I was going to get. Of course the best part of Mountain House food, was the form of entertainment I offered to Paul and Chase the second night when they sat giggling after I found that I had eaten my whole bag of "Chinese Stir Fry" without removing the little silicon bag that is supposed to preserve freshness. I did think that the stir fry tasted a little funny.

The first day, we had been joined on the trail by a band of young folks from Tampa. Some of them were very experienced and some seemed like they were on their first trip like me, so I was very interested in seeing how we all did. We took some different side trails and somehow ended up at the same place to camp that night. When we arrived, they had tables, chairs, a fire and what smelled like T-Bone steaks cooking on the fire.

We set up our little camp on the other side of the stream and warmed up our little bags of freeze-dried foods like real backpackers, scoffing at these city-slickers, bringing chairs on the AT! They did not seem too unhappy about having carried all of that stuff up the trail and actually seemed much happier than we were. Truthfully, at that point I was wondering about going over to their team and seeing if they were planning on s'mores later.

That, did not happen. What did happen was Paul took about two bites of his food and ran off to find a nice place to puke everything up. Yes, the leader of our group, the one who knew where we were going, how to find water, how to find the truck...he was getting violently ill, and I suddenly realized that in my role as team-worrier, I was getting ready to peak....we certainly were not going to make it out of this...

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