Sunday, October 2, 2016

Wallowa River Figure-8 Trail: 5-Day Menu

What is a "figure-8" trail you ask? A figure-8 trail is when one attempts to do a loop trail, but takes an accidental turn and cuts the loop in half, only to figure this out a day and a half later. Then one decides to double back and complete the loop in the other direction in order to see the part of the trail one thought one already saw. It proves to be a bit of a mind trip, but makes the trip that much more exciting! This has never happened to you, you say? Well, you should try it some time!

This last weekend Max and I took five days for a backpacking trip in the Wallowas in northeastern Oregon. This was some of the most stunning, sweeping scenery I have ever seen. It was also completely different from moment to moment. We traversed mountain meadows, volcanic hillsides, granite slabs, and wandered past brilliant blue alpine lakes. We couldn't even complain that we added about 4.5 miles by doing the figure-8 route on accident (in our defense, the junction was not marked and very easy to misinterpret as there was a big washout!).

And we ate amazingly on this trip. I was never too hungry and never too full and we hit the quantities just right. The whole time I felt like I was burning really clean energy. It's hard to describe but I just felt good. I tried out some new things that I'm excited about.

Usually with our dehydrating, we'll make a full meal ahead of time and dehydrate that. This method has great results - the meal is almost always amazing, and you get to try the finished product before you head out so you know approximately what you'll be eating. But the downside is that it's very time consuming.

We've had a lot of success in the past with variations on the Backpacker's Bounty Soup, where you essentially dehydrate all the vegetables and meat separately, then cook them together in the backcountry and it still melds really well and is super delicious. So I decided to try to expand that to other ideas and do some more "deconstructed" meals so I could spend less time in the kitchen.

Our trip was 5 days, meaning we'd need dinner for 4 nights on the trail so we decided to streamline even more and do 2 different dinners and just alternate them: Easy Salmon Coconut Curry and Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce over Butternut Squash "Noodles." In addition, I brought some grass-fed collagen powder to add to the dinners for a little extra protein and some joint-repairing benefits.

The curry and pasta sauce turned out so dense, flavorful, and delicious, but the squash "noodles" didn't quite turn out how I wanted them to. They were OK as something to serve the pasta sauce over, but I'll need to keep experimenting with the noodle idea.

Curry ingredients on the left and pasta sauce ingredients on the right. About to add some spinach.

Another trick I'd tried before that worked out really well was adding dehydrated vegetable ingredients to an already-made dehydrated meal to stretch it a little further. We had one half-bag of "Sausage Scramble" left in our freezer (the mystery meal that also made an appearance on our San Juan kayak trip) that didn't look like quite enough to feed us both for one breakfast, so I dehydrated some zucchini and summer squash and added that to the mix. That breakfast turned out to be so good! The zucchini and squash added a perfect flavor.

We ate the same thing for lunches and snacks each day so I didn't bother repeating the list in the menus below. We shared one tin of sardines packed in oil, one carrot, one bag of plantain chips, and one landjaeger meat stick each day. We brought one KIND bar (I know...not paleo but so good still!) per person per day, one pint tub of Paleo Cookie Butter for the whole trip, and probably about 5 or 6 cups of store-bought trail mix total.

Day 1: Wallowa River Trailhead to Aneroid Lake (6 miles)

Today we hiked in and the weather was decidedly summer. The sun was out and hot and we were thankful to be in the shade. We found some nettles along the way to harvest and add to our dinner tonight. We got a beautiful campsite right on the lake and even went for a swim!

Breakfast (in the car driving to the trail head)
  • Sardines w/ mustard 
  • Carrot w/ mustard
  • Paleo Cookie Butter
  • Plantain Chips
  • KIND Bar
  • Landjaeger beef stick
  • Trail mix

Day 2: Aneroid Lake to Polaris Pass to Horseshoe Lake (15 miles)

Hiking up and over the pass was an experience. As we hiked up we were treated to views of rounded hills and red rocks, lit up by fiery orange and crimson bushes. It almost looked like a moonscape with trees. Then once we crossed over the pass, everything we could see was sharp, angular granite! It was like we had crossed over into a different world. Then the descent was about 5 miles of switchbacks cutting down a long, steep hillside. By the end we felt like we had been on that same hillside all day long. This is also where we went wrong. Instead of taking the trail south to Frazier Lake, we cut north through the middle of the loop, past 6-Mile Meadow (which we weren't supposed to arrive at until the last day) and on to Horseshoe Lake (which we though the whole time we were there was Frazier Lake). The reason those last 2 miles felt so long was because they were actually 5 miles.

  • Same as above
  • Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce with Butternut Squash "Noodles" w/ about 2 TB collagen
  • Theo Salted Dark Chocolate

Day 3:  - Horseshoe Lake to Moccasin Lake (3 miles)

Still didn't know that we weren't where we thought we were for all of today. Woke up and started the "5 mile" hike to Moccasin Lake and arrived way earlier than we thought we should have. We ran into some people fishing and asked them what lake we were at and they verified it was Moccasin. We spent a while looking at their topo maps trying to figure out what we'd done, but finally concluded we had just taken a trail that wasn't on the map.

  • Same as above

Day 4: Moccasin Lake to Glacier Pass to 6-Mile Meadow (9.2 miles) 

It somehow donned on us this morning that we had actually taken the cut-off trail and circled around the opposite way than we thought we were hiking. So in order to correct the fact that we hadn't seen half of the trail we'd planned to see, we did the loop in reverse to complete our figure-8. Going over Glacier Pass and dropping down on Glacier Lake was one of the most beautiful parts of the trip. Sparkling aquamarine (or was it aquaalpine?? Sorry I know it's bad but I couldn't resist!) water flowing out into a rushing alpine stream. As we hiked down the valley alongside the river we ran into masses of tiny frogs! The size of a fingernail! We had to hike pretty carefully to make sure not to squash any.

  • Sausage Scramble (w/ added dehydrated zucchini & summer squash)
  • Same as above
  • Beefed-Up Pasta Sauce with Butternut Squash "Noodles" (forgot the collagen tonight :( )
  • Theo Salted Dark Chocolate

Day 5: 6-Mile Meadow to Wallowa River Trailhead (6.4 miles) 

We woke up super early this morning to hike out and do the 8 hour drive back to Eugene. As we hiked out along the Wallowa River, we could really feel the change in season. All the cottonwoods and vine maples were turning color and the entire river valley was painted with fall colors. A big contrast to the heat and greenery we hiked in on. It felt like an appropriate way to welcome the new season!

  • Same as above
  • Mexican food at a restaurant while driving back

Easy Salmon Coconut Curry

This is a different version of curry from my other recipe for Smoked Salmon Coconut Curry that uses all fresh vegetables and is more suitable for car camping or short overnights where weight isn't an issue. This takes more at-home prep for dehydrating the vegetables and makes a perfect backcountry dinner. A couple things I learned while making this meal: celery and bamboo shoots are both so watery that they dehydrate down to almost nothing. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use them! They do add really great depth and flavor, you just have to dehydrate them in bigger pieces. For example, I chopped up the bamboo shoots really tiny, but next time I would just put them on the dehydrator trays straight out of the can. To make this meal even lighter weight, you could use dehydrated coconut milk. I've tried one type of dehydrated coconut milk straight before and it wasn't my favorite thing, but mixed in a meal it might be pretty good. 

For 2 people

For Dehydrating:
2 carrots, thinly sliced in half-moons
2 stalks celery, chopped large
1/2 onion, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped small
1 can bamboo shoots
1/2 bag of frozen peas, thawed
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 5-oz. can of salmon

Additional Ingredients:
1 carton Aroy-D coconut milk
2 TB curry paste
1-2 TB grass-fed collagen (optional)

Spread all vegetables and salmon on dehydrator trays and dry until no longer moist, about 8-10 hours. That's an approximate time, since they will all dry at different rates. For example, peas will take longer than the spinach. There's not really a problem with leaving them in longer if you need to.

To cook in the backcountry:

Soak the vegetables and salmon mixture in a pot with just enough water to cover for as long as possible once you get into camp. The longer the better, but you can also skip this step if super hungry. When ready to cook, add coconut milk, curry paste, and collagen (if using) and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Feel free to add any wild goodies you find, like these nettles! Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!

Beefy Spaghetti Squash 'n' Sauce

This is a great short-cut to awesome pasta sauce in the backcountry. We used jars of store-bought sauce (although if you have a favorite recipe, you can use your own!), threw them into a pot with some ground beef to cook and then dehydrated that. We also dehydrated some extra add-on vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, peas, and onions) to make it more interesting! Super easy prep at home and in the backcountry. The first time I made this I served it with Butternut Squash "Noodles." Basically I just grated raw butternut squash and dehydrated that, then rehydrated it plain by itself to serve the sauce over. Not recommended. The second time, we cooked a spaghetti squash in the oven, scraped it out when it was done, and mixed it with the sauce before dehydrating. Much better! There are also kelp noodles you can find that might work well with this, but I haven't tried those yet. 
Don't those butternut squash noodles look appetizing?

For 2 people

1 jar pasta sauce
3/4 lb. grass-fed ground beef

2 cups baby spinach
8 large mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bag frozen peas, thawed
1/2 onion, chopped small

1/2 a large spaghetti squash, seeded

Put cut spaghetti squash face down on an oiled baking pan. Put in the oven at 350 F for about 45 minutes, or until a fork pierces it easily. Remove from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the spaghetti guts to mix in with the sauce and meat when it is finished.

Combine ground beef and pasta sauce in a sauce pan over medium heat on the stove. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is done. Stir in spaghetti squash. Spread sauce mixture on dehydrator trays and dry for 8-12 hours at 155 F.

Spread the spinach, sliced mushrooms, thawed peas, and chopped onions on dehydrator trays and dry 8-10 hours. The normal vegetable setting is about 135 F, but if you want to save time you can do it with the pasta sauce at 155, or do the pasta sauce at 135 (it will just take longer for the meat).

To rehydrate:

Throw it all in a pot, add water until just covered, and let it soak for as long as you have. When ready to cook, bring to a boil (you might have to add more water after soaking) and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit for another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Warrior Sisters Camping Trip

Most of my friends are amazing women. Women who inspire me every day with how strong they are, both mentally and physically. For example, two of my friends, Rachel and Sam, started a free, all-women's self-defense non-profit organization called Warrior Sisters. They created it from the ground up without even knowing that much about self-defense before they started. Now in it's third year, Warrior Sisters trains about 20 women each week at their regular ongoing women's classes, and has regular 6-week cycles for teens. The organization has also expanded and has active chapters in Tulsa, New York, and British Columbia. Sam, Rachel, and I, along with two of our other friends, Elizabeth and Becky, all volunteer as organizers and trainers. It's an overall amazing, community-oriented organization and has helped so many women transform how they carry themselves in this world, and armed them with the ability to defend themselves verbally and physically from the daily onslaught of patriarchy that we as women always face. If you feel so inclined to participate or donate, please follow the link above!

These are badasses.

In addition to training together, we also love just hanging out together because there's something so powerful about being with a group of strong women. Last June, before I took off for my summer job, we were all able to get out for an overnight camping trip together at Fall Creek in Oregon. It was the end of the school year (3 of us are also teachers) and it was that time! Time to head out side, get rained on, change a tire in the mud, have a mouse eat through your food that you thought was safe in the truck, attempt to go barefoot running in the rain on gravel, and do some dipping in some pretty frigid early-summer water. We got a little bit of sun, too. And we had some really great fires and delicious food!

Pineapple Chicken Casserole over rice
For dinner one night, I brought along one of the meals I'd dehydrated a while ago and stuck in my freezer. A new recipe, too! It's a Pineapple Chicken Casserole and it's the most elaborate recipe I've created myself without basing it off another recipe. And it turned out just how I wanted it to! We ate it over rice to stretch it a little further since there were five of us, and the recipe I made was only for four people. But if you follow the quantities in the recipe it should be enough for 4 people to eat without rice. Everyone loved it! 

Pineapple Chicken Casserole

I love pineapple. It adds a perfect type of sweet to a savory meal to make the flavor more complex and more satisfying. Eating well in the backcountry is all about packing in the flavor where you can so you don't go crazy eating the same flavors over and over again. The coriander also adds a nice complementary flavor. 
It's always a little difficult to not eat the entire pan while I'm putting it on the dehydrator trays!
For 4 people (or 2 meals for 2 people)
3 TB coconut oil
1 large white sweet potato, diced
1 large onion, diced
5 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups green beans, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground chicken (or turkey) breast
1 14-oz can crushed pineapple in juice (no sweetener added)
1/4 cup coconut aminos
1 TB ground coriander

Preheat oven to 350.
If your coconut oil is not already liquid, put it in a large (13x9) casserole dish and put it in the oven while the oven is heating to melt it. This will make it easier to coat the veggies with it.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables, remembering that smaller pieces means easier to dehydrate and easier to rehydrate.
Once the oil is melted, take the pan out of the oven, add the sweet potato, onion, carrots, green beans and garlic, and stir to coat with the oil.
Return pan to oven and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until all of the veggies are mostly soft and cooked through.
When veggies are mostly cooked, add ground chicken, crushed pineapple with about 1/2 of it's juice, coconut aminos, and coriander. Stir to break up the chicken into smaller pieces.
Return to oven and cook another 15 minutes, or until all of the chicken is cooked through and you can no longer see any pink meat.

Let cool about 20 minutes, then spread on dehydrator trays covered in parchment paper and dehydrate 8-12 hours at 150 F, checking several times during this process to break up clumps and turn over. More dehydrating directions found here.

To rehydrate:

Throw it all in a pot, add water until just covered, and let it soak for as long as you have. When ready to cook, bring to a boil (you might have to add more water after soaking) and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot with lid and let sit for another 5-10 minutes. Open and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Lukewarm Springs Camping Trip & Paleonola Review

What's better than hot springs in the middle of winter? Lukewarm springs!

Back in October, Max and I visited Wall Creek Warm Springs (right there in their name they admit they're not hot) outside of Oakridge, Oregon. Although we had been warned by a guidebook that they were definitely not "hot" springs, we decided to check it out because I am definitely not afraid of less-than-hot water. Our plan was to hike nearby Blair Lake and then stop by the springs on the way back. The day we chose was a rainy, cold, wet day and got pretty soaked. We worried on the way to the springs that it wouldn't actually do a sufficient job of warming us up, but we were pleasantly surprised that they were actually quite close to being hot, and we stayed in for a long time, soaking in the sulfur, steam, and old growth trees alongside a rushing creek. There was no one else there, and there was definitely some magic to that little piece of old growth forest.

Warming our hands after packing up in the morning.
So naturally, when we started planning a camping trip with our friends Sam and Dillon, we suggested the warm springs as a destination. Maybe they weren't as hot as Deer Creek or Cougar hot springs, but they were pretty darn warm. What I didn't take into account was the massive amounts of rain we have been getting the past couple months which filtered through the ground and diluted the pool. We arrived excited to have a little soak in the pool before we cooked dinner. Max was the first in, and yelled to the rest of us on the bank, "It's cold!" I didn't believe him. I thought he was overreacting. I tip-toed down the bank and waded in as well. Yikes. Definitely cold. Sam and Dillon joined us, and we were all shivering pretty quickly. But I am way too stubborn in these situations. I love being in water, and I was holding out hope that maybe, juuuust maybe, it would spontaneously warm up. And if it didn't, I would just have to enjoy the temperature it was. Max and Dillon were out in a couple minutes but Sam and I stubbornly stuck it out, trying to find the "hot spots," and digging our feet into the rocks where the heat was bubbling up.

Needless to say we were more than ready for a hot dinner when we got back to our campsite. We built a fire and roasted grass-fed hot dogs for dinner. We used our cast iron (we don't travel light when car camping) to reheat some stir fry cabbage and carrots we had cooked beforehand. I really don't think anything can beat hot dogs roasted to crispy perfection on a fire.

In the morning we woke up to a delicious breakfast of Paleonola with raw goat milk! I've experimented with making my own paleo 'nola's (grain-free granola), but I think Paleonola takes the cake over all the versions I've made so far. My favorite part about it was that there is so much variety in the ingredients! It's not just coconut flakes and almonds slivers like a lot of 'nolas. The Original flavor has almonds, pecans, pepitas, honey, walnuts, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cranberries, and coconut. I also love what a variety of flavors they have in their line-up: Original, Chocolate Fix, Maple Pecan, Apple Pie, PiƱa Colada, and Pumpkin Pie. I taste-tested the Original and Maple Pecan flavors and, although they tasted pretty similar in flavor to me, they were both so delicious that neither bag lasted more than a day.

It was super filling, especially with goat milk or coconut milk on it. One thing we noticed is that it is easy to feel like you're not eating a lot because it's so dense for its volume. There are supposed to be 10 servings in a bag, but we split one bag 4 ways and it didn't seem like a whole lot of food, even though it was almost 500 calories each (without the goat milk). On the other hand, this does make it perfect backpacking food, because it's so dense. Max and I also ate some pre-cooked hamburgers because I never feel like I've actually had breakfast until I eat some meat. This breakfast kept me super full for the rest of the day and I only had a few snacks until dinner.
Sam and Dillon loved it, too!

If you are looking for a grain-free, paleo breakfast or snack option, Paleonola is the way to go!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mirror Lake Overnight & Heather's Choice Review

Last weekend, Max and I took an overnight backpack to Mirror Lake, near Mt. Hood Oregon. It was gorgeous:

We started at the Sno-Park across from Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and had to hike a mile or two back along the side of the road, since the Mirror Lake Trailhead is closed in the winter. Our first day was gorgeous and sunny, although a little windy. We arrived mid-afternoon at the lake, which was covered in snow, but we had an amazing view of Hood in the background. It was still very breezy, with more forecasted wind for the night, so we found a great campsite in the shallow, wide tree well of a fir tree on the shore. We pitched our tent, and then scavenged some firewood from what looked like it had once been a firepit, now just a 4-foot hole in the snow. We used the wood to set up a little cooking area, and some steps leading out of the tree well. The snow was very powdery, and did not lend itself well to permanent formations, but we were still able to make a nice camp for ourselves. The trail, a very popular one, was crowded through the afternoon, but as the sky morphed from light blue to pink to purple to dark blue, the numbers thinned until it was just us, alone next to this beautiful lake.

We cooked up a quick dinner of True Primal canned soup (reviewed here) with heaps of butter, and sat back to watch the silhouette of Hood in front of its changing backdrop. An essential piece of winter camping gear I bring with me is a pot coozie. It's made out of a foam sleeping pad that I fitted to my little pot, and it keeps food from freezing solid before you take your third bite. We didn't linger very long since the wind felt like it was whipping right through our clothes, and we were in bed by 6!

Overnight some thick clouds blew in on the very persistent wind, shrouding Hood and making it very cold! We woke up to a gray day, with thin wisps of snow snaking across the frozen lake. I pulled out the small can of coconut milk I had snuggled with in my sleeping bag to keep thawed for breakfast, bundled up, and went out in the cold. For breakfast, we had Maple Pancake Paleonola (review here!) with half of the small can of coconut milk each, along with some small bite-sized pepperoni salamis.

Then we headed up the trail towards Tom, Dick, and Harry, a rocky peak above the lake. The first part of the trail was packed and easy to follow, but as we got into the more treeless slopes, the trail had been blown away. Neither of us own snowshoes and we decided not to rent them to save money, and also get the amazing fitness benefits of post-holing in waist-deep snow, so we dug in and started across the little bowl directly above the lake. It was quite deep and we really had no hope of getting to the peak without snowshoes, so we just chose a high point and got a great view of the hills around us.

When we got back to camp, it was the highlight of the day! I had gotten a packet of Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder from Heather's Choice Meals for Adventuring a couple weeks ago, and I was dying to try it!  The reason I was dying to try it is because Heather makes some of the most inventive backpacking food I have ever seen (other meals include Chipotle Cherry Chili made with quail, and Dark Chocolate can you get bored in the backcountry with meals like that???). AND as if that wasn't enough, she is dedicated to using sustainable ingredients, like the 100% grass-fed elk in her Elk Shepherd's Pie. They're also conveniently packaged in zip-pouches that you can pour boiling water into to rehydrate, meaning you don't even need to get your pot dirty! Cuz let's be honest, who actually cleans their pot in the backcountry, and, as good as that Smoked Salmon Chowder was, who wants their tea to taste like it? So, we busted out the package, and followed the directions. Pour in boiling water, reseal, wait 20 minutes. Max kept it inside his down jacket to make sure it wouldn't cool off, and in the mean time, we each enjoyed a Lime Black Pepper Packaroon. If there's anything I'm a sucker for, it's interesting and new flavor combinations, and this combo was a hit with both of us. They were frozen solid, so they were a little bit of work to eat, but this was probably better, because I couldn't wolf it down in two hungry bites without breaking my teeth.

Lime Black Pepper Packaroons!
Then we boiled some grass-fed hot dogs, and slathered them with some frozen mustard-sicle (still delicious!), and waited... But not for long. We shared a 1-serving packet and it was so dense, it filled us both up alongside the hot dogs. And the flavor was out of this world. There is definitely nothing compromised for the quality of these meals, and you can taste it. There was a great balance of all the ingredients and flavors, and was hearty and warming on a really cold day. The only thing was it was still a little crunchy because we didn't wait the full 20 minutes. I couldn't tell if it was also affected by the cold weather cooling it off too quickly for a proper rehydrating, but we probably could have fixed this by cooking it a little in the pot first, like we often do with our own dehydrated food. But overall, I couldn't have asked for a better meal! I highly recommend you check them out!

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder!


  • Veggie Stir-fry with Ground Pork (at home)
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 2 grass-fed hotdogs w/ mustard
  • 1 or 2 oz. raw cheddar cheese
  • 4 rings dried pineapple
  • 1 bag of plantain chips
  • 1/2 a Bison Bacon Cranberry Epic Bar
  • 1 can True Primal Beef & Vegetable Soup
  • 2 TB butter


  • dried apples
  • 1/2 a Bison Bacon Cranberry Epic Bar
  • macadamia nuts
  • Trail mix & more Paleonola (in the car)