at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Back-PACK-ing: Food, Fears & Packing Woes

Tonight I am prepping for my very first week-long backpacking trip coming up in just a few days!  We leave on Saturday to drive to Copper Harbor, at the tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  From there, we take a ferry on Sunday morning to Isle Royale National Park.  Once we land on the island, we are taking a “water taxi” to another part of Isle Royale so that we don’t start off in the same place as everybody else.  We’ll likely just set up camp and do some exploring that day.  We have Monday through Friday all day to hike and explore (we have a quasi-planned route), and by Saturday afternoon we must make our way back to the ferry. 

To date, I have only done weekend backpacking trips, which haven’t been much of a challenge to pack for.  This trip is proving to be more difficult on several counts.  If you recall my recent packing challenges from my trip to Colorado, you’ll remember that I do have a slight tendency to over-pack (ahem, be sure I’m well prepared for…whatever).  Over-packing is not a good habit for a backpacker.  Especially when going longer than a couple days.  First, there is the issue of clothes.  I know I’ll need to re-wear things, but by the third day in a shirt, it’s really going to stink.  I’m not sure what opportunities we will have to wash our clothes, but I’m hoping there are some.  The weather there is also very unpredictable, so I’m trying to bring enough layers that I can handle colder temperatures, but that I’m no over heated in long sleeves all day while hiking.  I’m also bringing my newly purchased pillow-coat…if I don’t end up needing a coat, I just turn it inside out, and it’s a pillow!
Secondly, there is the issue of food.  I like to eat.  When I hike I get hungry, and I like to eat a lot.  If I feel like I don’t have enough food, I feel even hungrier.  That’s just the way it goes.  So, I may have over-done it a bit on the food.  I will probably end up dwindling this down a bit, but here’s a look at the types of food I’d like to bring:
I did not want to get bored eating the same things everyday, so I tried to spice things up a bit.  Oatmeal really is a good backpacking breakfast, because it’s fairly light-weight, it’s filling, it warms you up in the morning, and it’s good fuel for your body.  I am not a big oatmeal eater to begin with (it’s a texture thing), but I decided if I made my own oatmeal and added fun stuff to it, I could probably do that for breakfast all week (and it’d be better for me than Pop Tarts).  So, here’s what I ended up making:

Base Mix:
I made enough oatmeal for both Tom and I to have some each morning we’ll be there.  I started off with this base mix, then took 1 cup at a time and mixed other things into it for each day.

-          6 cups quick cooking oats
-          3 tsp. cinnamon
-          1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
-          1 tsp. salt

Fun Oatmeal Blends
For these blends, I basically just tossed a handful or so of each of the ingredients into 1 cup of the base mix.  I then divvied each mix up into two baggies, one for me and one for Tom.
-          Dried Blueberries / Pecans
-          Dried Cranberries / Almonds / White Chocolate Morsels
-          Dried Cherries / Walnuts / Dark Chocolate Morsels
-          Mixed Berry & Nuts (dried berry mix, walnuts, pecans, almonds)
-          Brown Sugar & Spice: 2 Tbsp. brown sugar and a couple dashes of Allspice
-          Spiced Blueberry Pecan: dried blueberries, pecan pieces, pumpkin pie spice

Trail mix really can be a good snack while you’re hiking, but I tend to get bored of it before too long.  To help prevent this, I mixed up a variety of trail mixes, using some of the same ingredients from my oatmeal mixes.  Again, I divided these into baggies for Tom and me.  Here are the mixes I made:

 -        Dried Cherries, Dark Chocolate Morsels, Walnuts
-          Rice Chex, Pretzels, Reese’s Pieces, Pecans
-          Peanuts, M&Ms, Dried Mixed Berries
-          Dried Cranberries, Walnuts, White Chocolate Morsels
-          Pretzels, Yogurt Covered Raisins, Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds

Hopefully that will keep me from getting tired of eating the same things each day.  We are also bringing hot dogs to cook the first night, and this will be the first time I attempt to bring cheese and summer sausage…which I think I will be craving after just a short while.  Along with everything else in the mix, I think I am more than set on variety and quantity.  I’ll try to do a better job of determining my daily rations tomorrow!

some stuff I'm hoping is going in Tom's pack!
The problem with packing for a backpacking trip is two-fold: weight issues and pack size issues.  I suppose these are the same problems you have while flying, but here I don’t get a carry-on, and my maximum size bag is only as big as my pack (a good sized but not overly large women’s pack).  Right now, my pack seems to be pretty much filled with clothes and food alone.  Hopefully Tom doesn’t want me to carry too much of the actual gear ;)   
Plus, it’s not like I can just pay a fee if my bag is too heavy.  Well, I will pay a fee…it will take its toll on my body!  The unfortunate thing is that we no longer have a scale in our home, so I will be guessing on weight and just be judging by how the pack feels on my back.  The good news is that if food is a good chunk of my weight, my pack will be getting lighter each day!!

I am very excited for this trip, as it is something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time.  The island is supposed to be beautiful, and we should finally get our chance to see a moose!  Of course, one of my biggest fears for the trip is being charged by a moose…or attacked by a pack of wolves.  At least there are no bears on the island.  But if you want to know what my biggest fear really is…

For my fellow RA Friends & Supporters

My biggest fear is having an RA flare-up while on the island.  I’ve had flares in my feet while backpacking before (though at the time I was naïve enough to think that maybe that’s just how feet are supposed to feel after a long day of hiking…sharp, intense pain with every step you take?), and it was not fun.  Still worthwhile, mind you, but it makes for a difficult day.  And, it’ll be harder with a larger group, because I don’t want to slow everyone else down.

I’m trying my best to preempt a flare, though.  To start with, I’ve scheduled my Enbrel so that I will take it the day we leave for the island and the day after we get back to the mainland.  That way I don’t have to miss or be late for any of it.  I also requested a small burst of prednisone from my rheumatologist, who suggested a 10-day plan: 10mg/day for the first five days, then 5mg/day for the second five days.  I will start this on Saturday to get it into my system and will take it through the Monday after we get back.  I haven’t taken any steroids since 2007, but they worked wonders in short doses like this for me before; I’m hoping they will again.  I am bringing my Naproxen, as well, and will try to remember to take that twice each day to cut down on any inflammation.  
My Preemptive Strike: Secret Energy Pills...or, at least anti-inflammatory pills. Take that, RA!!
Whew.  It’s been a while since I took this many drugs, but I want this to be a good experience.  So far this week I’ve only had noticeable inflammation in my fingers, so hopefully I’ll be able to start out on the right foot (literally)!  If you think of it, say a prayer for no flaring joints on this trip – particularly my feet & knees.

Oh, but the good news is…the boys agreed to carry me if I get stuck in the middle of the island, unable to walk.  We figured they could create “litter” of sorts to carry me on like a princess.  Hmmm…a “bad” day might not be so bad afterall!

So, look for some awesome pictures of our beautiful Great Lakes State coming soon. Until we return…au revoir! 

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!