I love to hike. In years past, friends and I would hike virtually every weekend in the spring and summer (and often fall and winter too). I’m a middle-of-the-pack hiker, faster than a casual hill-climber, but slower than some of my super-speedy friends. Usually, we all end up at the top at around the same time, and enjoy a rest, a snack, and maybe a sip of celebratory whiskey or bite of chocolate.
One beautiful day, on our annual climb of Mount St. Helens, I found myself lagging horribly. I couldn’t keep up; I could barely keep trudging upward. Now, Mount St. Helens makes for a very long day of climbing on snow, and I certainly expected to be feeling worn out by the time we hit the summit, but this was different. I did the only thing I knew to do–I sat down and started eating.
It worked! After I scarfed probably 300 calories of nuts and energy bars, I was ready to roll. I still felt like less than the strong hiker I thought I’d become, but I felt better, made the summit, and had an awesome time glissading down the mountain.
(Yes, I’m sipping whiskey at the summit and, yes, that’s a man in a dress behind me–it’s a St. Helens tradition for Mother’s Day climbers to dress up like moms.)
Lesson learned: I now eat constantly on the trail. Ok, not constantly, but consistently–50 or 100 calories every 15-20 minutes, if I’m being diligent.
So, what’s a whole-foods vegan to eat when convenient trail food so often consists of gels, high-fat/high-cal trail mix, and highly processed energy bars? I experimented a bit on Friday when I hiked for the first time in a couple of months. It was a rare sunny day, and my friend Carla thoughtfully invited me along. Here’s what I brought:
1. Fruit salad – this was a bit annoying because it required a rigid container, a fork, and a zip bag to keep the juices out of my pack. That means it took up a decent amount of space. I’d do it again for a day hike lunch, but not for a climb like St. Helens, when every ounce of weight just adds to the difficulty.
**I changed it up this time and added frozen berries instead of fresh strawberries–I was out of fresh strawberries and I thought maybe the frozen stuff would keep it cool on the trail. It worked, but I was glad for the extra bag–all the fresh fruit ended up deliciously purple, and juice was running everywhere.
(This is like food porn, isn’t it? I’m literally drooling.)
2. Banana – This was the best. I ate half a banana on our first rest break, then stuck the other half in my easy-access waist pouch so I could munch on it along the way. I am often amazed by how perfect this food is. No prep required! If I were going on a longer hike, I’d cut a banana in two or four pieces, keeping the peel on, and stick the bits in various pockets. Easy 25-50 calorie munchies!
3. Homemade trail mix – I didn’t make this, but I meant to! I love the combo of (fairly equal parts) dried cranberries, dried apple rings, and raw unsalted almonds. I avoid this when not on the trail because the calories can pile up, but it’s great for those beautiful days on which I actually want MORE calories quickly (I love that!). It’s the perfect mix, and full of the good stuff.
This was a quick hike, so not too much fuel was required. We meant to do 3000 feet, but we hit some scary big cat prints in the snow after 2000 feet or so. We were just two gals and no one else was on the trail, so we turned back. Still, we got a workout in, and totally deserved a beer in the sun.
I’ve got a much bigger hike scheduled in a couple of weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on more trail food experiments! I might actually plan ahead this time.