There’s Someone In My Head And It’s Not Me

Man Crossing Mountain Pass

An interesting phenomenon in the backpacking community is fear mongering on the trail. Even more so, our ability to buy into it so quickly.

Several years ago, we hiked the Buffalo River Trail. The first section of trail had more elevation change than we expected or were conditioned for. As we worked our way up one particularly steep section (for Arkansas), we met a man coming down the hill.

He said, “Just wait until you hit the first hill on the next section!”

As we hiked the relentless PUDS (Pointless Ups And Downs), “THE HILL” began to work its way into our thoughts. We left the trail at the next trail-head rather than face the certain doom facing us on the next section.

Several months later, I returned to hike the next section of trail which included, “THE HILL”. Its daunting presence filled my thoughts as I reached the trail-head. To my amazement, “THE HILL”, was little different from the other hills we climbed.

As I stood victoriously looking over the valley below, I realized how quickly we had let a perceived threat totally defeat us. We had fallen victim to the fear mongers.

Today as I research the route for my next hike, the fear mongers have already left notes for me on Guthook (a navigation app). This time it is a river crossing!

Hikers Crossing The River

For you it may be, snow in the Sierra’s, a mountain pass, bugs, snakes, bears… The list is limitless when we are in the wilderness.

Perceived or real, how can we win the mental battle with fear?

I. EXPECT EXAGGERATION

Its human nature to never waste a good crisis. We have a built-in ability to present the fantastical!

For many, (I’m guilty) stories of our encounters in nature become more dramatic with each telling.

Hikers are like fisherman telling the story of their latest catch, the story grows every time it is told. An ankle-deep water crossing becomes calf deep, knee deep, waist deep, then…

There will be always be situations, like “THE HILL”, where we won’t know the truth until we encounter it ourselves.

II. CONDITIONS CHANGE

Pondering my certain death at the river crossing, I realized, the hiker who left the Guthook note crossed this river in the spring when river levels are high. And… he posted the note a over year ago.

I will be hiking in late summer or early fall which is drought season in Arkansas. I may actually have issues finding water on this hike.

My hike will look very different from the hiker who had issues crossing the river.

III. CONSIDER THE SOURCE

There is an old saying, “There is no substitute for experience!”

I am not presenting myself as an expert, but there are many armchair hikers out there offering information.

How an experienced thru hiker views conditions on a trail will be much different than a weekend warrior (no disrespect intended).

When we know in advance that we may be facing an obstacle, do a little research on how to overcome it. YouTube is our friend in this one.

With my upcoming river crossing, I have learned by watching a few videos, how to cross a swollen stream properly (or when not to). If the crossing looks unsafe where the trail crosses, to check the map and search up or downstream for a safer spot.

There may be a spot where the river widens, or the current is not as swift (or a bridge lol).

IV. IS IT TRUE

Some situations are just not worth the risk, especially on weekend trip. For most of us, the trail will still be there next weekend.

A thru hike will have many different elements than we mortals face on a section hike. A thru hiker can wait a day for river levels to drop or snow to harden in the pass the next morning.

Discretion may just be the greater part of valor. There will be situations where safety is the best choice.

At the end of the day I have adopted the motto: “Don’t let the fear of death keep you from living!” But let’s choose to live!

What fear mongering have you experienced on the trail?

You Are Going To Starve Out There!

Person Walking Alone

Whether you are a thru-hiker, section hiker, ultralight or heavy weight, one constant every backpacker will face is, “What will I eat on the trail?”

Boys Eating Around Campfire

Our challenge is finding something that tastes better than cardboard, can be made from a few ingredients, and requires less than a commercial kitchen to make!

Here are a few trail meals that are light to carry, easy to make and actually taste good!

Dr. Peach

The name came about when I made a shopping list that my wife took to the store. I wrote dr peach on the list for dried peaches. She called me from the store asking what doctor peach was?

This high protein breakfast tastes great hot or cold and is easy to make. Add to a zip lock bag:

1 cup (or more) High Protein Granola Mix.
Sliced Dried Peaches to taste (2-3 per bag).
Chopped Pecans
Brown Sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons Powdered Milk

Just add hot or cold water and breakfast is served! Dr. Peach can also be eaten dry from the bag while walking!

Bacon Cheese Grits

This recipe can be made hot, or cold soaked depending on time or season. I confess, cold soaked grits are nasty!

2 packets of Quaker Instant Grits
¼ cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
3-4 pieces of Bacon Jerky chopped up.
2 tablespoons Powdered Milk (optional)

Add hot water for desired consistency. I like my grits to be almost a solid lump!

The cheese will keep for several days under most conditions.

Speed Breakfast

While not truly a breakfast by most standards, this is a quick way to get up and walking on a cold or rainy morning.

1 packet Carnation Breakfast Essentials
2 packets Instant Coffee

Add both ingredients to 12-16 oz of water in your water bottle and shake!

You could also down a bag of Dr. Peach while walking and sipping!

Dry Mix in a Ziplock Bag

Sundried Tomato Tuna Couscous

½ cup of dried Couscous
1 package of EVOO Sundried Tomato Tuna
1 sliced Avocado
Fritos to taste.

Add the couscous to your cold soak jar along with enough water to fully cover the couscous. Allow it to soak for 20-30 minutes before adding the tuna and avocado.

This recipe can also be made using hot water instead of cold soaking. If you are making it hot, add the tuna along with the water.

Slice the avocado into small chunks. Don’t cut the avocado before you are ready to use it because it will turn a very nasty brown color.

Top it off with a chunk of cheese and you are a trail gourmet!

Hot Spicy Chicken Red Beans Rice

Feeling a little Cajun on the trail? This is one of my favorite recipes.

½ cup Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice
1 package Starkist Creations Buffalo Spice Chicken
Fritos to taste.

Add the red beans and rice to your cold soak jar along with enough water to generously cover the mixture. I would recommend 3-4 hours of cold soaking. I usually prepare the mixture at my lunch break and let it soak until dinner time.

Just add the chicken, Fritos and an optional chunk or two of cheese and dinner is served!

Zatarain’s makes several different varieties of rice so take some time to experiment!

Leave a note below and share your favorite recipes for the trail!

Is Cold Soaked Couscous And Tuna Really A Romantic Dinner?

I asked a Facebook group, “What’s the coldest weather you have cowboy camped in.” The answer was, “Minus 28 in an ice cave.”

And I was wondering if I could risk it at 30 degrees…

Most of us are mortal so we will never be found outside at 28 degrees below zero!

How do we get our backpacking fix when every outdoor option involves death by hypothermia?

Other than a trek in New Zealand (its summer there), here are a few options to fill our time.

Try New Recipes

What spouse would not be thrilled with a romantic candlelight dinner complete with cold soaked couscous and tuna!

Let’s use this time to step our food game up a notch. A little work on Google will reveal offerings like Andrew Skurka’s Peanut Noodles or Coconut Cashew Curry.

If you carry a stove and canister, you may find some stoveless options that will work for you when the weather warms up. I actually like cold soaked couscous and tuna!

Are there new ingredients you could add to your current recipes that will move them to the trail gourmet level?

And… where the heck can you get the precooked, dehydrated pinto beans that Jupiter likes?

Learn A New Skill

For instance, how does Erik Normark build a campfire on a frozen lake? Even more important, why would you ever want to camp on a frozen lake?

Fire on a lake

YouTube is our friend on this one!

Maybe you have thought about using a tarp on the trail instead of a tent. There are hundreds of videos on setting up a tarp on trail.

Maybe it’s time to forsake Guthook and learn how to read and triangulate your position on a topographical map. Even better than YouTube would be taking a class through a local outfitter if you have one near you!

How about building a soda can alcohol stove and learning how to use it? Just not in the kitchen trying new recipes!

Ask the question, “Will this work for me?” Then look for opportunities to test or practice on a local trail or in the great outback (yard)!

Practice Consistency

Spread a clean tarp on the floor (because your spouse will not want all your dirty stuff on the carpet).

Separate your gear into systems, cooking, sleep, clothing etc. Think through how you will use each system on the trail.

Pack, unpack, re-pack until you feel comfortable doing it before you have coffee!

Think through questions like, “Is this item quickly accessible if it is raining? Could I find this in the dark? Is this item in the wrong system?”

Practice until you can find something in your pack with your eyes closed!

While it seems like a silly exercise, those who have successfully completed a through hike have one thing in common, a simple system that can be replicated daily over an extended period of time.

Research A New Trail

I stumbled across one of my favorite trails while doing research on another trail.

Where are the trail heads? What is the water situation? If the trail is longer, what about resupply? What additional skill sets will I need to hike this trail?

Most trails have a wealth of information available to us online.

Facebook has a multitude of groups dealing with specific trails. I  have about five groups that I enjoy sharing and receiving information from.

Just watch out for fear mongering with social media! Don’t assume someone else’s experience, make your own!

Leave a comment below if you have ideas for hibernation days!