On the trail | TheUnion.com

On the trail

Laura Petersen
Special to The Union

Peak baggers and lifetime backpackers gathered around the table to learn how they could expand their culinary experience on the trail beyond instant mashed potatoes, GORP and commercially packaged freeze dried meals.

"It would be nice to branch out and have more options," said Jenny Godwin, a young woman who has been backpacking since high school and came to the class to expand her breakfast repertoire of oatmeal and instant coffee.

Kathi Simonsen has been backpacking every weekend since 1986.

"I usually hike from dawn to dusk and don't have time to cook," she said. Packaged Mountain House meals are the norm, but Simonsen, like the rest of the group, wanted something healthy.

Helen McDermott spends her wilderness time horse packing. She prefers the simplicity of meals that require nothing more than adding hot water so she can spend her time being present when out in nature.

"I really hate all the packaging, that bothers me," she said, adding the pre-packaged foods are typically too salty or sweet.

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Earlier this month, Genevieve Mack, a massage therapist who keeps a kitchen in a shoebox while traveling, presented a class for BriarPatch Co-op's cooking series called "Meals on the Go."

Mack says making backpacking foods at home taste better and can be more nutritious than store bought varieties.

"We are such an outdoorsy and health conscious community. Why stop being a foodie just because you are hundreds of miles away from your kitchen and the nearest restaurant?" she asked.

In a couple hours, the group of outdoors people learned they could depart from bland, expensive store bought meals and create their own gourmet backpacking and travel food.

An avid gardener and food preserver Mack found home in the kitchen as early as 4 years old. These days, when she isn't cooking nutrient-dense foods for her clients with special dietary needs, Mack says she is preparing food for herself.

With her nine-tray Excalibur dehydrator, she turns her nightly dinners at home into a backpack ready dehydrator meal for the trail at a later date.

She first developed a knack for creating nutritious meals on the road when traveling in India, Bali and Malaysia and backpacking around Southern California's Deep Creek Hot Springs.

"After a full day of exploring, I enjoy and rely on nourishing, organic, satisfying-to-all-my-senses food to recharge me for the next day ahead," she said.

Books like "Backpack Gourmet" by Linda Frederick Yaffe and "A Fork in the Trail" by Laurie Ann March got her started. Soon she was making the recipes her own by adding spices and ingredients for flavor.

When preparing food for the trail and road from her kitchen at home, Mack considers variety and richness of taste without the fuss of cleanup. Low fuel consumption — 'just add hot water meals' or 'fresh is best' — is a must.

When traveling, she carries her favorite staples: Mung beans and a cloth nut bag for sprouting, fresh ginger root to aid in digestion and spice up meals, apple cider vinegar for making quick salads, almonds for direct protein, sun dried tomatoes, seaweed, cacao for a shot of antioxidants, coconut oil for cooking and body care, nutritional yeast for B Vitamins and to "cheese up" recipes, Celtic salt, quick cooking quinoa, Matcha tea for gentle caffeine, and all kinds of green powders – from blue green algae and wheat grass to spirulina tablets and dried kale.

By the end of the class, Mack and her students had a plate of made-from-scratch food — a fresh beet and carrot salad and rehydrated Thai Tofu Stir Fry, Bruschetta and White Bean Dip and Celebration Brunch.

"I took the class because I want to be able to bring along more filling meals for myself out on the trail, without having to add a lot more weight to my pack. It was incredible to see the transformation in the dehydrated foods we brought to a boil during class. Soon my plate had a three-course meal on it that was in jars minutes before. I'm inspired to try some of my own dehydrator magic soon," said Godwin.

Mack makes a point of choosing organic meat, vegetables from the garden, quality cooking oils and grains free of genetically modified ingredients — food choices commercially prepared dehydrated meals may not consider.

"One thing you can be certain about is that you know what you are eating," she said.

Meals on the Go Recipes

By Genevieve Mack

Bruschetta and White Bean Dip

28 ounce canned crushed tomatoes

15 ounces white beans

6 cloves garlic

2 – 3 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons Italian seasoning

¼ cup parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, process beans with lemon juice and garlic. Add tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Taste.

Adjust seasonings if necessary, then spread out in one cup amounts on dehydrator sheets of food dehydrator for approximately four hours. Serve with crackers.

Morning Egg Nog Coffee

1 Tablespoon vegan powdered egg mixed in 2 ounces of water

2 Tablespoon powdered coconut milk

1 Tablespoon instant coffee

1 Tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

6 ounces of hot water

(Mix up large batch of ingredients, label bag 5 Tablespoon mix/ 8 ounces water)

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at 530-913-3067 or laurapetersen310@gmail.com.

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