One of the most painfully tedious and annoying things about preparing for the PCT is figuring out the food situation. Not only do you have to prepare in advance for five months of hiking, but if you're trying to mail drop food to yourself (like I am) you have to pre-buy, pre-package, pre-sort, and pre-label every breakfast, lunch and dinner you're going to eat for @160 days. That's.... a lot.
This is one of those moments where I would literally pay someone lots of money to arrange all my meals for me and have them shipped to me on the trail, just so I wouldn't have to do it. It is a royal pain.
And because I don't want to do it, I keep putting it off. But apparently fueling your body for a 2,650 mile hike is... um... slightly important. (So they tell me.)
Since I'm trying to save some money by doing a lot of my food prep before I leave, I have to suck it up and just spend the time it takes to get everything organized and prepped. Hopefully doing it now means less stress about food on the trail, too.
Granted, I know I could be making way more of a big deal of this than I am. I'm in envy of Bacon Bit's amazing PCT food spreadsheet, which I could never reproduce even if I wanted to. I have a more lackadaisical approach, which involves a lot of cerebral prep, such as: "I'm hungry for a chocolate chip granola bar. Maybe I should buy 50 of them, while I'm at the store. Just in case." And then I proceed to go to awesome grocery stores like WinCo and get lost in the bulk food bins, shrieking, "TWO BUCKS FOR A POUND OF COCONUT?! DONE!" And wind up with more coconut than I could ever want in a lifetime. (P.S. - is that even possible?!)
Such was my afternoon when I came home with $150 worth of bulk foods but no real rhyme or reason to why I bought it. Case in point: somehow I left WinCo with fourteen dried pasta sides, two boxes of PopTarts, two pounds of dried bananas, a 24-pack box of Ramen, and 28 packets of instant mashed potatoes. I blame the potato thing on Tanner. He said, "how many should I get?" and I said, "I don't know." And he said, "ok, I'll get four of each." I said, "ok," not realizing that there were seven different flavors of potatoes. I have a feeling I'm going to really hate potatoes.
Once the shopping bit was done (more or less) I dug my dehydrator out of the closet and got to work dehydrating all kinds of fruits and vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, carrots, onions, apples, mangos, bananas (this was before I realized it was waaaay easier to just buy them in bulk at Winco). My favorite thing to dehydrate is green and red peppers. One, because it's fun to see those huge slices of peppers turning into tiny little colorful trinkets, like pieces of candy, and two, because dehydrating them for two days straight makes your whole house smell like pizza. Mmmm.
Then I put together the little snacks and dinners in ziplock bags. So many ziplock bags.
I tried my best to create little meals that had a variety of dried veggies and spices in them, since I know my options on the trail will be limited to the pre-packaged pasta dinners you can buy at the convenience stores. Some of my favorite backpacking meals come from a book written by a couple of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. They're quick, easy, and taste delicious after a full day of hiking. My favorite is one of the simplest, for vegetable curry:
Mix in one large ziplock:
1.5 cups of minute rice
1.5 tsp curry
In a smaller ziplock:
2 oz dried vegetable soup packet
In another small ziplock:
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup coconut
Place the smaller ziplocks in the larger one and zip together with cooking instructions.
When in camp: boil 2 1/4 cups of water with the soup packet. Add rice/curry mix and simmer until cooked. Add raisins and coconut on top.
I write the instructions to each of my meals on a small scrap of paper and then include it with my ziplock packages.
After the ziplocking, there were Priority USPS boxes to fold and tape and fill with food. I printed off the shipping labels for all the places I'm sending food drops, and wrote down how many days I'd be hiking in between each one, so I'd know how much food to pack. My entire kitchen was filled with foot-high stacks of food bags, and once I got them sorted into boxes, all that food only filled five of them. FIVE! That only accounted for 30 days worth of food. That left 130 days to figure out. NOW can I pay someone to do the rest for me? ...Please?
Looks like I'm going back to WinCo tomorrow.