Tag Archives: re-supply

Tuolumne Meadows to Red’s & Back Again

Just got back from the post office, where I posted a food box off to Red’s Meadow. Seven days’ worth of lovingly dehydrated vegetarian meals, hand-mixed gorp with local raw almonds, the world-famous dodie kakes, 2 kinds of food bars (Rebar & the Active Greens), pease porridge — all the usual, with the exception of dried shrimp in the Indian meals & our standby homemade beef jerkey. Mr. Jack wanted to try a vegetarian backpack for a change — well, except for the 4.6 oz of secchi salami we’ll devour within days of opening the re-supply box.

But there’s something odd about the food I’ve prepared & gathered for this relatively short 14-day backpack.

The food doesn’t weigh as much as it should. It looks like the right amount. It feels like the right amount. All the meals individually seem to weigh about as much as they did last year and although we subtracted the 2 oz of jerky per day, we put 2 oz of some divine olive-oil-roasted & salted almonds right back in. But when I entered all the weights into the spreadsheet & divided out per person per day, I only got 1.08 lbs.

You know that’s not right. Last year we had 1.24 lbs per person & turned out we were a little short. Well, it was cold. This year we have a cozier tent and a heavier quilt. Our days won’t be as long, either, since we are going to try the High Route on the return leg, going mostly cross-country. But we are going to be crossing some snowy passes–I will, in fact, be carrying an ice ax and crampons for the first time in my life–and the ranger Mr. Jack conferred with on the phone mentioned low temperatures in the 20s. That’s cold enough for me to be glad of the improved sleeping situation!

The food puzzle is that I’m not sure where we lost that average 4 oz per day: Are the meals marginally smaller? Did I skimp when measuring out ingredients for the pease porridge? Is the gorp lighter? And the big question: Will we starve this time?

We’re heading up to Tuolumne to pick up our permits when the office opens early Saturday morning. By the time we get to Red’s Meadow we hope to have a clearer understanding of our food situation. At that point, if we need more food, we can raid the food boxes! (Assuming anything there we can eat! If you’ve been in the boxes yourself, you can understand my hesitation about relying on instant oatmeal for much nourishment …)

I keep thinking I’ve just done the math wrong, or written down a wrong weight, but if that is indeed the case, I’ve not been able to find it. I admit I’m tempted to throw another tube of almond butter into the bear bag and if there’s room when we get ourselves all packed up, I just might …

On the other hand, it’s only 15 days of not very strenous hiking, so it’s unlikely anything worse than the hungries will happen, even if we are a bit short on food. And we have plenty of tea even if we don’t have squeeze bacon!

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Eating across the Sierras: < 1.5 lbs of food

Jack & I started our JMT backpack with an average of 1.24 lbs of food per person per day for the first 11 days and about 1.34 for the next 11 days, including the 10 oz of secchi salami Mr. Jack threw into the Muir Ranch re-supply box for “emergencies.”

Aside: In all fairness to Jack, although I whine mightily about his intractable penchant for bringing along salami, I am first in line when he starts slicing it up at the end of a long day. On this hike, as on so many others, the salami did not survive to fulfill its function as emergency rations unless one considers overwhelming desire to consume salami at the first opportunity an emergency!

In addition to the food we packed into our bear canisters—nearly all of which was gone by the time we got to our car, as I mentioned in the introductory blog—I also ate on the trail 3 chocolate-based food bars (avg 1.6 oz each @ 190 calories) given to me by Karen from Vermont and a handful of raw cashews (probably also about 1.6 oz @ about 260 calories) donated by a couple on top of Forrester Pass who were on their way out. She was eating a Snickers bar; I had politely declined to accept any candy.

You’ll notice that our daily food weight is slightly lower than the suggested range of 1.5-2 lbs per person suggested by most backpacking experts. How do we get away with such low food weights? It comes from understanding that all calories are not created equal and planning a menu that optimizes nutritional density and eliminates—as much as possible—empty calories and ounces. Which is not to say we are ever going to give up our tea!

We know this menu works because we’ve used similar food plans in the past

  • In 2008, on the 8-day High Sierra Trail backpack, ending over Whitney Portal (107 miles, 2 passes) Jack lost 5 lbs he was happy to see go, and I lost none, coming home at the 135 I’d left with.
  • In 2007, on the North Lake-South Lake semi-loop (55 miles, 3 passes @ 11,000’+ in 5 days), we came home with no remarkable weight loss.

So why, this year, did Jack lose nearly 20 lbs & I lose just over 5? Maybe it was the considerably longer backpack with many more passes, but I particularly suspect the unseasonably cold weather, particularly the hail storm through which we hiked for nearly 2 hours, including 3 frigid high-water crossings.

Next blog, I’ll provide a sample day’s worth of backpacking food with calorie count and the percentage breakdown of fat, carbs and protein, including a fiber report. First, though, I’ll have to plug all the foods into the Red Elephant’s Daily Plate account over at Mr. Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong.com. Once all the information’s in, we can check details to see how our backpacking food plan compares to yours … and to the experts’ recommendations.