Thursday, January 7, 2021

Dehydrated Lasagne on the Trail

What to eat on the trail? How many of us have asked that question before heading out on a multi-day trip or even a thru-hike. I hiked the Appalachian Trail on Ramen, Mac N' Cheese, Oatmeal, and Snickers bars. Yeah, it got old. By the time I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2003, I started adding dehydrated vegetables to my meals, giving them a bit more nutritional content and a more complex texture. When I hiked the Continental Divide Trial in 2009, I pretty much got things dialed in, eating a dehydrated meal two out of every three nights. One of the best meals I had on trail was homemade lasagna.

Leftover Lasagna and Dehydrator
Lasagna goes in there!

Dehydrated Lasagna
Dehydrated Lasagna
Here's how I did it. Cook any lasagne recipe that you have (sometimes the boxes have a recipe on the side), and after it is finished, let it cool it down. Might as well have a slice to eat while it is warm - nothing like a freshly made lasagna. Anyway, put it in the refrigerator, and let the entire lasagna congeal. Slice it in 3/4 - 1" slices after it is cold, and then put it in a food dehydrator. The dehydration process will take about 18-20 hours, which is longer than other dehydrating other foods like refried beans or even bananas.

Now comes time to package your lasagna. I have one of those Seal-A-Meal devices, which I bought at an Albertson's in San Francisco. It works, but they are noisy, and foods that get jaggedy and sharp can puncture the plastic wrap. Yes, when dehydrating lasagne, it is important to package it carefully, so that the dried pasta does not puncture the seal. I've found that it is sometimes best to wrap the lasagne in a layer of regular Saran Wrap to soften the jagged edges from puncturing the seal-a-meal packaging. My friend, Stormy, told me that she and her partner ran their dehydrated meals through a food processor and blender to prevent punctures in their seal-a-meal wrappings. She ate what she described as "power mush,' saying that they had all the flavor, but the consistency of mush.

On trail, it is a good idea to pull out the lasagne at the beginning of the day, and add just a slight amount of water. Allow the lasagne to absorb the water, and kind of let it stew on the outside of your pack all day. Be sure the lasagna is not going to leak out its water, and furthermore be careful with how it is situated in your pack - trust me, you don't want lasagna water running all over your pack!

When it is time to cook, add more water, but not a lot more. I know that's vague, but I don't bring measuring cups with me in the backcountry. Still, rehydrating your lasagna is just going to best left to your own judgment. I personally don't like to eat my lasagna as a stew, so I carefully monitor how much water I put in my cook pot. Only a little bit of fuel (good reason why it is ultralight!) should be used to heat up the lasagna. Stir briskly in the pot, so it does not burn the bottom of your pot, add a bit more water if needed, and enjoy!

Lasagna in the Cook Pot
Cooking Lasagna

The lasagna will not have the exact same consistency as if you pulled it out of the oven, but it's close. Just a reminder, it's freaking lasagne on the trail! Enjoy it while everyone else eats their Knorr with tuna or an over-priced Mountain House meal in a heavy-duty plastic packaging. Treat yourself well out there. Eat right, and happy hiking!

Freefall Enjoying Lasagna
Happy Hiker Eating Lasagna

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Herman Creek - Nike Terra Kiger Review Part 1

Several years ago, I hiked a loop with my buddy Allgood, taking the PCT out of Cascade Locks up to Wahtum Lake, and back down the Herman Creek Trail. It's a great trip! One of my favorite memories from that trip was camping overnight at Cedar Swamp on the Herman Creek Trail. I got out of Portland this past weekend to get back up there to re-visit this quiet, beautiful, dense cedar grove, and escape the hustle and bustle of my urbane existence.

Herman Creek Trail Sign

Herman Creek Trail Sign

I also just got a pair of Nike Terra Kiger trail runners, and I promised my client, who works for Nike, that I'd give them a thorough review, to see how they perform as a shoe for the long distance hiker. I've tested and reviewed gear before for Mountain Hardwear and Salomon, and am always interested to see what other stuff is out there. I still trend towards wearing LaSportiva Wildcats (love the shoe!), but I feel the need to expand my awareness to what else is out there. I've not owned a pair of Nikes in maybe 27-years, so it's been a long time since the swoosh was spotted on my feet.

For those who have not been up the Herman Creek Trail #406 from the trailhead parking lot, all I can say is get ready to get the heart pumping. The climb up is a steady, monotonic ascent through dense forest, some of which burned up in September of 2017. The burning and scarring on the trees is quite noticeable on this hike, and apparently worse on the Nick Eaton Trail, and signs indicate that this trail is damaged and difficult to hike. Still, it seems like the fire in 2017 might have made this stretch of forest heartier and healthier in the long run, since it consumed a lot of the thick understory. That said, I am no forest expert!

burned trees

Large Burned Tree

An old burned tree

Back to the climbing. Yes, this trail will get the legs burning if you push it, and I did. I brought my dog, Lucy, with me on this hike, and I was trying to keep pace with her, since she was on leash ahead of me. The climb meandered in and out of gullies, and thankfully crossed many small flowing streams or rills, where I (or my dog) could catch my breath and get a drink water. 

Dog standing in a stream

Lucy cools off and drinks from this stream

As I continued my ascent, I noticed how comfortable my feet were in these Nikes. What's more is that I noticed how well they gripped the trail's tread. The Terra Kigers do not have the traditional black rubber sole with a space alien pattern of yellow or red coloring the bottoms. Instead, the soles are red and white, with some good knobby lugs on the bottoms, which provide an excellent grip on dirt, rocks (wet and dry), and roots. Nike says that these shoes feature Multi-Surface Traction, boasting "Multidirectional traction lugs in the forefoot and heel (that are) are made from high-abrasion rubber for enhanced grip on descents and ascents. A rubber pod at the midfoot helps deliver wet-surface traction." I never once felt the soles slide out from underneath my feet. These are good shoes. 

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 6 Trail Running Shoes

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 6 Trail Runners

After 7-miles of charging uphill, I made it to my destination: Cedar Swamp. There are plenty of cedars up here, and they are huge trees. Some trees have seen the axe (or chainsaw), but for the most part, this grove of trees has been spared large swaths of cutting. The terrain is not really that swampy, but a nice flowing stream provides water through the flat areas best for camping. Still there were bugs up here! Tired from the couple hours of hiking, I pitched my tent, made dinner, and snuggled with my dog for the night.

Dog and massive cedar tree

Lucy stands in front of a huge cedar tree

After all the ascending the day before, I could look forward to how well the shoes were going to hold up on the now steady descent. Again, I was very impressed with their traction. My feet also honed in on the cushioned ride I was experiencing on the trail. I was not feeling any rocks or nubs on the tread. If anything bothered me about the shoes it was that my toes felt more confined than they did the day before, but I chalk that up to feet swelling from the 7+miles of hiking I did a day earlier. As a side note, the shoes I got are a full size larger than my 8.5 shoe size. I usually go a size larger whenever I buy new shoes, and I know that Nike has a reputation for making a snug shoe. As this is a long-range test, I will be curious to see how the The Terra Kigers feel on my feet over a multi-day trip.

Balancing on a slick rock in my Terra Kiger 6 shoes

The trip back to the car seemed effortless, and the downhill hike was quite perfect in terms of grade. The trail never felt too steep going downhill, and I got to see many of the gullies and waterfalls that I saw the night before. Lucy regained all her energy after her good night's rest. I met several trail runners going up to where I camped, and some were doing the loop over to the Pacific Crest Trail, and taking the connector back to Herman Creek. One thing that has to be mentioned in they age of COVID-19 is that 9 out of 10 hikers had a face covering ready to mask up when they came towards me. The hiking community is wonderfully thoughtful and respectful about trying to prevent the spread of the virus. I wore my mask as well!

masking up for COVID 19

A bandana or a Buff is a good thing to wear when meeting other hikers on trail

I hike again next weekend. Not sure where I am going, but I will be with my buddy Allgood for the adventure. Lucy, of course, will make the trip too. She is in training with me for a longer hike in August, so she will be seen again. Anyhow, more demands (high mileage and different terrain) will be placed on these Terra Kigers. On my next trip, I will get them wet, and see how long they take to dry out. Let's see how they respond!

Oh... here's a video from my hike this morning.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Five Questions with Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa

ALDHA-West had its Gathering on August 27-29 down at Camp Augusta, near Nevada City, California. I had the chance to attend the event, and take a few minutes to interview my good buddy Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa. This is my second five questions format video (the first was with Uncle Johnny!), and I think I will produce more of these going forward. Anyway, I thought it would be good to do this as a tribute to Allgood, since he is finishing his tenure as the President of ALDHA-West.

Congratulations Allgood on your six years of service to ALDHA-West! Your dedication and leadership has transformed the organization to meet the needs of the long distance hiking community.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

First Post In Nearly 7-Years

Ker-splash! Yesterday, I made a splash back into the world of blogging with my post about pooping in the woods. I've been gone from this blog for a while. Try 7-years! Not that I have been totally away from doing this blogging thing, since I made a few posts on my other blog back in 2016.  Still, there's this blog, and I started it back in 2007 when blogging about long distance hiking and thru-hiking was becoming a thing, so I'd like to think I was part of a hiker digital revolution back in the day.

Climbing Baden-Powell in 2003 on the Pacific Crest Trail
I started this blog when I was getting a certification in Integrated Marketing from San Francisco State University. I took a social media class, and part of the exercise was to create a blog about something I was passionate about. Of course, I chose long distance hiking and the name Distance Backpacker, because I had to come up with a unique name on the spot (I think was taken at the time, and if you click the the link, it's still there with no meaningful content. Who the hell is sitting on that?!). Anyway, this blog was created for a class project, and I ran with it for 5-years posting content on a semi-regular basis.

My content at the time was sometimes pretty random. I'd post something about a gear idea, or I'd write about a fire closure, or a hiking trip I took with my niece in Colorado. As I look back on my posts, I think it's good to post trip reports, and gear ideas, but I don't think it's necessary to make posts about trail closures and fires. Organizations like the PCTA and the Appalachian Trail conservancy got that pretty well handled.

I am going to blog more about my expertise, knowledge, and experience in long distance hiking. I've been doing it for 20-years now, and you know, I've got some wisdom to share with the world. Dare I say that I am an authority on the subject? Hell yeah! Granted, I am kind of an old fossil when it comes to all the latest gear companies, apps, and innovations, but I am pretty much still in the know on what is cool, and what people are using these days.

Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa would be a good interview!
Still, I don't think this blog should be concerned so much on gear and innovations as it should be about the people who are involved in the hiking culture, long distance hiking wisdom, and long trails. I've had some ideas swimming in my head, and I plan to do a few interviews (like I've done before with Uncle Johnny (RIP) and Billygoat), continue with trip reports from sections I am re-hiking on the Triple Crown and other trails, and share the knowledge, thoughts, and ideas swimming in my head.

I will re-commit here on the blog, and see where it goes. I am not sure how much traffic this blog will get, but as they say, "content is king on the internet," and I am sure that people are still reading and not just looking at the pictures only. It's good to be back, and dammit, I have something to say!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Pooping in the Woods

Using the Deuce of Spades #2

One of the newest pieces of gear that I carry with me is the Deuce of Spades #2. My friend Allgood turned me on to using the Deuce on a few trips, and now I am sold on its use. The Deuce can be ordered at, and comes in three different weights: Deuce #1 weighs in at .45 ounces; Deuce #2 is .6 pounces; and Deuce #3 at .97 ounces. Deuce #1 is light duty, or where soil conditions make digging easy (think sand). Deuce #2 (model I am demonstrating here) might be used in woods like the Pacific Northwest where soils may have some small roots, but soil is somewhat loamy. Deuce #3 might be used in soils that are more compact or dense. The Deuce is made from "aerospace grade 7075-T6 aluminum" according to their website, comes in a range of colors, and ranges in price from $18.95 for the #1 to $24.95 for the #3. My #2 cost $19.95.

Leave No Trace ethics asks that poop be buried in a 6" to 8" deep cathole that is also 4" to 6" wide. The Deuce of Spades make this digging pretty easy. The serrated leading edge of the trowel cuts through the top surface of the soil, and can carve out small roots that get in the way of digging a hole. Remember trying to use one of those cheap Coghlan orange plastic trowels? Digging and removing soil was difficult, the size and shape did not match ultralight hiking gear, and weighs 2-ounces. The Deuce is lightweight, and its wide, curved shape is ideal for removing soil quickly and easily. 

On a recent trip to Indian Heaven Wilderness in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, I used the Deuce#2 for disposing my waste. Below is a video I made on using the Deuce to bury poop.

I recommend adding the Deuce of Spades to your hiking gear arsenal. It works! It's lightweight! And, it does a great job of disposing of your poop properly. Buy one now!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weight Savings Idea: Fuel Bottle

This might be splitting hairs here, but I just discovered another way to save weight for a hike, and it is with fuel bottles. Normally, one carries an old plastic water bottle, which might weigh an ounce.  Or, one will carry a plastic fuel bottle, which is provided as a part of one's stove kit, like the one I got when I bought a Caldera Cone  from Trail Designs (see pic).

Caldera Cone Fuel Bottle
Another fuel bottle to consider is a mylar package with a screw top, like the Buddy Fruit package that is pictured just below.  I got this idea from Heesoo, a 2012 PCT hiker I met in Washington.  He managed to get a whole bunch of these 3.2 ounce packages, and mailed them (fuel inside) to himself. By the way, if you are wondering, yes, it is legal to send alcohol fuel in the mail, due to the low flashpoint (see postal regulations here).

Mylar Package Fuel Bottle
Mylar Package Fuel Bottle

This bottle has about 4-meals worth of fuel in it (larger packages can be found in the baby food aisle in your grocery store). When I say 4-meals, I am talking about boiling enough water to rehydrate a meal that I prepared beforehand - of course, another way to save weight - and not for preparing food at a steady boil for 8-10 minutes. I'd say that the bottle weighs maybe a half ounce, or perhaps less. And I'd guess that the cons to this contaner are durability, and trying to get fuel in the small mouth of the bottle; the latter can be mitigated by including a small plastic funnel in one's bounce box.

Anyway, I've just included this fuel bottle in my cook kit, and am eager to try it out next time I am on the trail. What are your thoughts on this idea?

** A few days after I posted this, I heard from Heesoo. He says, "The fuel bottle idea was mainly to fit the fuel bottle inside my cook pot. With the chopped caldera cone, I can get the cone, four+ days of fuel, stove,and lighter in the cook pot. I like having it all contained in one spot instead of having a 1L pot and another ~1L container for the cone, fuel and stove. The squeeze fuel bottle does have durability issues. It can develop pinhole leaks where the bottle repeatedly flexes."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Them Darn Aqua Mira Bottles

Cracked Aquamira Bottle
Cracked Corner on Aquamira Bottle
I've been using Aquamira for nearly 10-years. Yep, I am a big fan of the stuff. In 2003, I was sponsored by it's parent company, McNett, with 7 packages for my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. I never had a problem with water borne illnesses on that entire hike. I continue to use it exclusively on day hikes and long distance trips.

If I have one beef with Aquamira, it's their bottles. First of all, they are big. There's more than enough of the parts A and B bottles to treat enough water for 700+ miles on a typical thru-hike. Second of all, the corners of the bottles are prone to cracks. I was just a victim of a cracked bottle on the PCT back in April. I hiked to a small creek south of Pacific Mountain, and could not squeeze anything out of the part B bottle. This was on the first day of my trip, and like an idiot, I brought no back up water treatment.  Yep, I'd be dipping and sipping for the rest of the trip.

Apparently, I chose the right water sources, as I have had no effects from giardia or cryptosporidium. That said, I felt naked without water treatment for the rest of my hike.

Small Bottles Included
At the most recent Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff, I walked over to the Gossamer Gear booth, and saw that they had a really cool alternative to carrying the square Aquamira bottles. They were selling smaller, round-shaped bottles, in which Aquamira can be transferred. Duh! How come I haven't thought of this one earlier? One bottle has a yellow top to avoid confusion between the Part A and Part B bottles, are easily filled, and hopefully are more puncture resistant than those ridiculous square, plastic bottles.

Gossamer Gear sells these small bottles when you order their Aquamira kit from them for $16.00.  I would imagine that one might be able to get these small bottles at a chemistry supply company or even a dollar store, but one might as well get the bottles from them.

Be careful when filling these bottles up. Here's what Gossamer says on their website: "We recommend using the opaque mini dropper bottle for the Part A, and labeling it with a permanent marker as such. This is because the Part A solution is more photo-sensitive. We include a clear mini dropper bottle for the Part B, because this allows you to monitor the amount of solution remaining in your kit."

Hats off to Gossamer Gear for a simple, but great ultralight solution!