This past week, my friend Seven and I explored some of the further east parts of the sky line trail in the Blue Hills including Rattlesnake Hill and Wompatuck Hill. These hills have great views of the ocean and the city and are very quiet and less travelled as compared with the trails closer to the visitor center on the other side. There was this neat little pond on top of one of the hills that had a steep twenty foot high rock on one side and almost a tiny beach on the other side. The pond was mostly iced over and we spent some time throwing rocks onto it and watching the air bubbles find their way out. We had a pretty magical lunch up on a neighboring hill. Seven surprised me with hot cups of tea. The sky was so blue against the pines. Seven traded me half a tofu burger for one of my hard boiled eggs and I then we shared a sesame candy bar I brought home from NYC last week.
This morning I went back to this magical area by myself at about 7am. I brought my coffee up there and looked out at the sea and listened to a podcast about the various options for how to carry water while backpacking and some reviews on different types of fiters and treatment options. It talked a lot about water bladders which are these bags of water that slide into your pack and have a long tube that you drink out of with a bite valve on the end. It seems very efficient in a lot of ways but I have always been skeptical. I’ve never used a water bladder before and I have been seriously debating whether or not to get one for the Long Trail. They seem like they get all gross inside and you can’t really pour water from your bladder into your cook-pot that easily. Also, what if it punctures in my bag? Granted I tend to be overly concerned about life in general but I was validated by the podcast I was listening to because all my concerns were addressed. Letting go of my nalgene on the other hand feels similar to tossing aside a security blanket. Its just so familiar and so nostalgically outdoorsy. But it makes no sense to carry that extra wait. As far as treatment goes, I recently updated from my 11 oz Katadyn water filter to the 3 oz Sawyer. I am saving 8 ounces by not having the built-in pump. I liked that pump. I debated between the Sawyer and the Sawyer Mini but since I’ll be squeezing all my water thru the thing, I am imagining I won’t have the patience to wait for a slower flow. I also got a platypus bag to replace squeeze bag that comes with it since they are known to tear easily. I’ll be reusing a lightweight water bottle from the convenient store for drinking out of. Thats what I saw all the kids doing on the AT this summer. Nobody pumps water anymore. There’s also been some improvements in treatment tablets. This is also appealing but then there is the grit factor and sometimes you have to strain the water anyway.
After my peaceful morning hike, I came home and decided to dust off a borrowed dehydrator and fire it up for the first time. I’ve been flippin thru the pages of “Lip-Smackin Vegetarian Backpacking”; a cookbook given to me by Travis. It has fun and creative hiker meal ideas with instructions on how to prepare the meal before you hit the trail and then how to put it together once you are on the trail. My first experiment is chili. I cooked up a pot of vegetarian chili inspired by a recipes from “Isa Does It”. I then mixed in some leftover spaghetti from the fridge and poured it onto a couple of dehydrator trays and its drying right now! When its done it will be all dry and crispy. Next weekend I am planning to do a big hike in the Blue Hills and I’m going to bring my stove and pot and try rehydrating it for lunch and see how I like it. I plan to do a bunch of experimenting over the next 6-8 weeks and then once I’ve managed to get some recipes together that I like and that work well, I am going to start drying meals and packing them up for my month on the trail.
Meal planning for a month feels overwhelming. I can’t even imagine trying to plan for the AT and other much longer hikes. I know a lot of people just go to the supermarket and throw some processed foods together along the way. I am sure that would happen to me after the first month or two if I were hiking for six or more. I just really like to eat vegetables and I don’t want to live on freeze dried noodles for a month if I can help it. I can definitely eat some of that but if I can add a little more nutrition and flavor and color to my meals I know my body and overall being will appreciate it.