Friday, 7 September 2012
It is obvious by now that I am not very good at updating a blog. But in my defense, the half hour each day that I may spend writing a blog is spent on a midday nap or throwing a frisbee. Both extremely rewarding activities and time well spent i say. To make up for the absence of a coherent, well written blog, I will tell a long rambling story about eating and weight loss on the trail. It's probably not the best way of explaining my travels, but a better idea than describing the daily pattern of: hike, eat, sleep for every day over the last month.

Eating butter

At tuolmene meadows (mile 940) I had a break from the trail for a day with my old roommate Brina who is now a ranger in Yosemite national park. I had just come out of a few weeks in the high Sierra where we climbed a mountain pass a day on average, often over 12,000 ft in elevation.

reasons why we walked slow in the Sierra

Weighing myself after a good night down in el portal, i found that i had lost 50lbs over 940 miles since the start of the trail. I wondered how it had all gone and had a little bit of a freakout as 200lbs was my minimum planned weight before the trail, and is the lightest i have been since i was in high school. Although we had no snow through the Sierra (one of the lowest snow years on record), we still took our time and soaked in the amazing scenery everyday. That meant walking 15-18 mile days on average. We had planned to go a bit faster each leg but got sucked in by a lake swim or two each day, a trout dinner, or a beautiful campsite with a campfire that we couldn't pass up. This meant we sometimes had to stretch our weekly food allotment out a bit longer, which is a problem when you are starting to get the hiker hunger. The hunger (as it is commonly called) for me feels like a constant craving for food, but for none of the types of food i have in my food bag. No food i cook or snack on can ever satisfy me, and i am weary not to eat to much each break for fear that i will run out of food for the week. I am constantly hungry apart from the 30 minutes after dinner, and usually then i feel sick for eating too much too fast. The foods i mostly crave are fish and chips, home made lasagne, steak and kidney pies and marmite. Shit damn elusive marmite!

shirt buttons trying to escape on day 1

badass homeless ex offender ginger redneck santa on day 100 something

We as thru hikers have to eat constantly all day and have a big meal of rehydrated crap at night to account for all of the calories we burn each day (5000-6000), which is almost 3 times the daily average human. To carry enough food for 3 normal people to last for 7 days is a serious undertaking, and a considerable amount of weight to carry on our backs for a week. To get around carrying all that weight we get the most calorie dense foods we can find (ie olive oil, peanut butter, butter), and supplement our pasta, potato, rice, tortilla or bagel meals with extra calories. It is called the calorie to weight ratio. But what happens when you go to far with this idea, and turn the supplement into part of the main course?

After my freakout in tuolmene a suggestion came from Brina that i should supplement my diet with butter. Stuff olive oil, what could be better than delicious butter on the trail. I packed out some sticks of butter and began to add it to my meals at night. Unfortunately I am not a great packer of food and my butter melted during a hot day. A packing system of broccolini and butter in the same brown paper bag to save on weight is not a great idea. I ended up having to add most of my weekly butter, and all of my weekly fresh vege ration to one meal of tomato pasta. It was edible but unbearably rich.

The next leg from nth kennedy meadows (mile 1018) i decided I would also use butter at lunch to double my butter calorie supplement. My plan was to make fresh pb and j sandwiches on white bread for a week. Day 1 problem was the cold, and I realized spreading refrigerated butter with a plastic teaspoon onto a piece of bread in my dirty hand does not work. By day 2 i realized my method of bread packing by tying the bag the exterior of my pack is also inadequate. A freely swaying bag of bread on a pack is a beautiful sight to behold but when you rest with your back on against a rock using the bread as a cushion, the exterior bread packing method does not work. Even though my butter was warm and my spoon was ready to spread, I had no slices of bread to make sandwiches with. The best method I could think to make lunch with my 4 ingredients was to mash a wad of fresh coarse white breadcrumbs into a ball with my dirty hands, and wipe the pb, j and butter on to third of the ball each. The result was a little tasty trail appetizer, though a little gritty. Although not butter related, it is important to note that rodents may enter a bread bag freely when it has many holes. Bread bags are not resistant to sharp branches. However nice it is to see wildlife on the trail, rodents are different. They may leave small brown presents for you and may have to be manually removed from the breadbag if they cannot find an exit. By the end of the week my taste for trail appetizers had diminished slightly and I also learned the best way to produce rancid butter is to leave fresh butter in a ziplock bag out in the california sun for a few days.

By lake Tahoe (mile 1094) I had put on 7lbs. 7lbs of pure saturated fat. The butter diet was over and had been trumped lately anyhow by the trip patented "eat till you feel like you wanna vomit" diet. I tried to apply this diet to every meal. Although a very extreme diet (which most probably contributed to the previous 7lb weight gain), over the next 4 days without butter, I lost 4lbs.

cheesy broccoli rice, a crucial part of the eat till you feel like vomiting diet

By mile 1335 i decided it was time to revive the butter diet. In Chester I purchased the ingredients for trail appetizers but replaced sliced bread with hot dog buns for added bread stability, and left the jam out of the mix to save time. What could be better for lunch for a week than a buttered bun with crunchy peanut butter spread on it. This leg I carried a tub of butter so it wouldn't go rancid in a ziplock. In my haste I selected a butter with added olive oil and what I did not know is that this particular butter mix is a liquid at room temperature. On my first lunch out of town, i was relegated to dipping pb hot dogs into a tub of melted butter. Melted butter in large quantities coats the inside of your mouth with a film of dairy grease. It is similar to the feeling after eating the fat off a big rump steak, but tastes like butter, not steak. Water alone cannot remove the grease film and with the absence of a soda to cut through grease, whiskey was the prudent option. Whiskey will never let you down.

pb hot dog with butter dip, the final straw

The story and picture above a
explains why I have decided to no longer carry butter on the trail. 200 calories of olive oil in my breakfast protein shake will do as my calorie supplement from now on.
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